Expedition from Helena to Grenada: Part 2

The massive expedition that left Delta was headed by Brigadier Generals Alvin P. Hovey and Cadwalader C. Washburn. Alvin Hovey was born on September 6, 1821 at Posey County, Indiana. During the Mexican War he served as a First Lieutenant in the 2nd Indiana Regiment. After returning home he practiced law and was involved in politics. When the Civil War broke out Hovey was commissioned colonel of the 24th Indiana Infantry. After Shiloh he was promoted to brigadier general on April 28, 1862. For a time General Hovey was in command at Memphis before being assigned to the Department of Eastern Arkansas in Helena.

General Alvin P. Hovey

Cadwallader C. Washburn was born April 22, 1818 in Massachusetts. After moving to Wisconsin he got involved in the flour and lumber industry. When the Civil War started Washburn became colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry and was promoted to brigadier general on July 16, 1862. General Washburn was ordered to Helena by Major General Samuel Curtis, commander of the Department of Missouri, to help plan an expedition into Mississippi as had been suggested by General U.S. Grant.

General Cadwallader C. Washubrn

Their plan was to make a dash upon the railroad near Grenada, Mississippi and create a diversion in favor of General Grant’s movement south toward Vicksburg.

Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton had been placed in command of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana in October 1862. He took over a massive department that was threatened from different sides and, to defend this area, he had fewer than 50,000 men. About half were stationed as defenders at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and couldn’t be moved. The rest were facing off against the federal army in North Mississippi or scattered around the state. His main opponent was Major General Ulysses S. Grant who was given the task of capturing Vicksburg. He had rose to prominence after the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. Grant’s plan was to move south out of West Tennessee and follow the Mississippi Central Railroad with about 45,000 men. He wanted Generals Hovey and Washburn to threaten the flank and rear of Pemberton so the Confederates would be confused.

Generals Hovey and Washburn amassed a commanding force to move against the scattered Confederates facing off against the Federal threats.

General Washburn’s cavalry command consisted of about 2,000 horsemen and 8 small cannons. He divided up his men in two brigades.

First Brigade under the command of Colonel Hall Wilson of the 5th Illinois Cavalry

  • 1st Indiana Cavalry 300 men under Captain Walker 4 howitzers
  • 9th Illinois Cavalry 150 men under Major Burgh
  • 3rd Iowa Cavalry 188 men under Major Scott
  • 4th Iowa Cavalry 200 men under Captain Perkins
  • 5th Illinois Cavalry 212 men under Major Seley

Second Brigade under the command of Colonel Thomas Stephens of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry

  • 6th Missouri Cavalry 150 men under Major Hawkins 4 howitzers
  • 5th Kansas Cavalry 208 men under Lt. Colonel Jenkins
  • 10th Illinois Cavalry 92 men under Captain Anderson
  • 3rd Illinois Cavalry 200 men under Lt. Colonel Ruggles
  • 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry 225 men under Lt. Colonel Sterling

General Hovey’s infantry command consisted of about 5,000 men and 14 field pieces. He divided up his force in two brigades.

First Brigade under Colonel William Thomas Spicely of the 24th Indiana Infantry

  • 11th Indiana Infantry
  • 24th Indiana Infantry
  • 28th Iowa Infantry
  • 30th Iowa Infantry
  • First Iowa Battery light artillery

Second Brigade under Colonel William E. McLean of the 43rd Indiana Infantry

  • 43rd Indiana Infantry
  • 46th Indiana Infantry
  • 24th Iowa Infantry
  • 31st Iowa Infantry
  • Third Iowa Battery light artillery

After landing at Delta on Thursday, November 27th, the cavalry under General Washburn pushed ahead along Moon Lake and camped about eight miles from the river on the Lindsley Plantation. According to his report, he took no tents or baggage and three days rations. They would live off the land. At daylight on Friday he broke camp and the command marched 35 miles to the West Bank of the Tallahatchie River, just below it’s junction with the Coldwater. As the cavalry advanced they captured several couriers and learned that General Pemberton had been notified already of their advance. It was dark by the time the Union cavalry made it to the Coldwater river.

General Washburn learned there was a force of rebel cavalry encamped at the mouth of the Coldwater and a large number of slaves had been impressed to build fortifications and blockades for the road. These men belonged to the 28th Mississippi Cavalry. He decided to surprise them and ordered the 1st Indiana cavalry forward with their small guns. Once deployed he ordered the Hoosiers to dismount and quietly move forward to the bank of the river. Captain Walker soon came in sight of their camp fires on the east bank of the river and could see large numbers of men moving about. They were laughing, talking, singing and enjoying themselves. Suddenly the night air and merriment ended when the First Indiana let go a volley and all four cannons fired. The startled Mississippians quickly fled leaving horses and equipment behind.

General Washburn chose to camp on the western side that night as he waited for the infantry under General Hovey to arrive. A pioneer company was put to work building a bridge across the Tallahatchie. This bridge would be completed by 4 p.m. on November 29th just as the head of the infantry column approached. Knowing that he needed to move quickly, Washburn dashed across the bridge and moved toward Grenada.

Next article deals with General Hovey’s march from Delta to the mouth of the Coldwater River at the Tallahatchie.

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