Young's Point, January - July 4, 1863
In the spring of 1863, as Grant's forces marched south through Louisiana and crossed the river into Mississippi, Young's Point, LA, served as a vital supply depot for the Union army. On May 9, during the Union offensive, Lt. General Pemberton telegraphed Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, "You can contribute materially to the defense of Vicksburg and the navigation of the Mississippi River by a movement upon the line of communications of the enemy on the western side of the river....To break this would render a most important service." Pemberton's request, however, fell on deaf ears. Smith, more concerned with developments in his own department, hesitated to act, and it was not until June 7, as the siege lines around Vicksburg tightened, that Confederate forces of the Trans-Mississippi Department launched an attack against Milliken's Bend and Young's Point in an attempt to destroy Union supply enclaves in Madison Parish, and force Grant to loosen his grip on Vicksburg.
Directed by Smith to "do something" on behalf of the beleaguered Vicksburg garrison, Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, in command of the District of Western Louisiana, launched a three-prong assault against the Union enclaves in Madison and East Carroll Parishes — Milliken's Bend, Young's Point, and Lake Providence.
As the rugged veterans of Brig. Gen. Henry E. McCulloch's Brigade battled the Federals at Milliken's Bend, their fellow Texans of Brig. Gen. James M. Hawes' Brigade moved against Young's Point. Provided with local guides and intelligence reports from Taylor, Hawes' Brigade, 1,400 strong, left Richmond (south of Tallulah) at 7 p.m. on June 6. The brigadier later wrote, "I found these guides inefficient and useless to me." Lack of reconnaissance led the brigade to consume seventeen hours to march eleven miles because the men had to halt for 4.5 hours at Walnut Bayou due to a washed out bridge, and scouts had to search for a suitable crossing point. Instead of arriving at dawn as planned, the brigade reached the vicinity of Young's Point at 10:30 a.m. Hawes recalled, "After taking position in the woods, I found about 500 of my men rendered unfit for duty from exhaustion, occasioned by the excessive heat. About 200 of these 500 had to be carried to the rear."
Informed that his men could approach the Federal camp through woods, Hawes was shocked as his command marched onto an open, level plain that he stated was "destitute of trees and brush, in full view of a large camp of the enemy, situated below Young's Point, about 1-1/2 miles distant from my lines." As the Texans advanced across the fields, they saw Federal reinforcements arrive by transports supported by gunboats. Realizing that the chances for success had disappeared, Hawes ordered his troops to retire, resulting in Confederate efforts at Young's Point ending in failure.
Did You Know?
Thomas O. Selfridge, captain of the USS Cairo, commanded three boats which sank during the war. Each began with the letter "C"-Cumberland, Cairo, and Conestoga. The coincidence was noted after the Conestoga sank, and Selfridge was assigned to the USS Osage, which survived to the end of the war.