The Mississippi Marine Brigade

RobertP

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BothSidesNow

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Sep 25, 2013
My GGGrandad was in the 76th Ohio Inf. Regt. and then "recruited" to the Mississippi Marine Brigade. Please don't dismiss his service as "trouble", as the story that passed down in my family was that 1. He never really felt like he was an authentic veteran due to the "uniqueness" of the Brigade, and 2. When he told people the name of the Brigade ("Mississippi") that he had fought in, many people thought he had fought for the South (not!!!!!!!!!!!!) :nah disagree:
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
A piece I did on this unit a few tears back:

The Mississippi Marine Brigade - Introduction
Guerilla and partisan warfare played a significant role in the Civil War. While much of this type of conflict was between the Union and Confederate sympathizers of the Border States there was also a concentrated effort made against standard Union military operations in areas controlled by Federal forces as well. The groups participating in this type of action generally fell into two categories:
1. Individuals or small groups of "bushwhackers" that operated without government authority.
2. Partisan Rangers who were constituted of local groups that were recognized and supported to some extent by the government.
These irregular forces created enough havoc in the Union ranks that it has been estimated that nearly one third of all Union troops were involved in protecting areas away from the primary battle lines. The severity of the problem created a separation between Lincoln's early policy of conciliation and the desire of the military leaders in the most endangered areas for more stringent measures. Eventually the problem grew large enough to require some alternative response to be considered. Regular units were detailed to counter-guerilla duty. Among the first to draw the duty was Colonel George Crook and his 36th Ohio. Crook had some experience in this field fighting Indians in the Northwest and saw the need for continuous and aggressive small unit actions to wear down the guerillas. He wisely gathered intelligence and used local Unionist to assist his efforts. The 13th Indiana also saw counter-guerilla duty in Western Virginia and proved innovative in its approach. It abandoned the main supply routes, replaced the conventional supply train with pack mules to keep pace with their off the beaten path tactics, and developed a six man patrol system that spent 10 -12 days in the field searching for potential trouble spots. Despite some local successes the problem continued to grow and saw the development of units specifically designed for this type of warfare. In Tennessee three regiments of "Gillem's Cossacks" rose from the Unionist population, George Kirk raised two regiments in North Carolina for the same purpose, the Loudoun County Rangers were raised in Virginia, and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry was originally raised for the counter-guerilla warfare. These units had mixed success but demonstrated the growing concern over the guerilla/partisan problem.
The situation in the west was no different. The vulnerability of the long supply lines created serious problems for the Union commanders there. Riverine operations were particularly exposed to constant guerilla harassment from the shorelines. The need for some type of deterrent was clear. The constant interdiction of river traffic by irregular forces led to the creation of the Mississippi Marine Brigade. The following will be a short history of the unit and some of its operations, followed by an assessment of their effectiveness in the first large scale counter-insurgency effort of the United States military.

Forming the Brigade
The concept of a mobile force of mixed combat arms troops borne by modified river boats belonged to BG Alfred W. Ellet Jr. The commander of the Union's brown water ram fleet had grown disenchanted with the routine duties that were assigned to the surviving rams by the end of 1862 and wanted to move on.
Wanting to be more actively engaged in the war effort along the river Ellet proposed the formation of the Mississippi Marine Brigade as a means to subdue guerilla activity along the inland waterways. The idea was accepted by Admiral David Porter and forwarded to Washington for consideration. Desperate for a means to secure extended lines of communication the idea found favor at the War Department. When personal recruiting efforts for his new force lagged Ellet petitioned his old ram fleet benefactor, Secretary of War Stanton, for authority to recruit convalescents from the Union hospitals around St. Louis. As before, Ellet's radical proposal appealed to Stanton and in December of 1862 he granted the requested permission. Ellet immediately sent two recruiters, CPT James Crandall and CPT William Wright, to scour military hospitals in hopes of filling the unit with recovering soldiers announcing in a recruiting poster that recruits could "become famous in the annals of the Mississippi River warfare." Pvt. Allan McNeal, writing to his father from the hospital in St. Louis on 15 January 1863, noted the excitement caused by these recruiting efforts. He explained that there was "some excitement about volunteering on board of a fleet" and describing that "they got about 50 out of this hospital." McNeal, himself, was unconvinced and told his father that "I have no notion of going in to it." Many others remained unconvinced as well. Despite promises of "no hard marching" and "no carrying knapsacks” and a $100 recruitment bonus the two men failed to attract the necessary manpower to establish the unit. With the idea of the innovative new unit threatened by lack of personnel Stanton again came to the rescue. Responding to a request from Ellet that active duty soldiers be assigned, Stanton used his authority to transfer the 59th Illinois, 63rd Illinois, and Company K 18th Illinois (previously on ram boat duty) to service in the brigade. The recruited men and transfers gathered at Benton Barracks in St Louis to begin their training as "horse marines" under the tutelage of LTC George Currie.
Ellet, meanwhile, concentrated on the other necessary component of his plan; the boats needed to transport the unit. CPT James Brooks, with financing made available through the War Department, was able to purchase seven large steam packets at Louisville and New Albany for a total of $350,000. Five of the new craft, Autocrat, B. J. Adams, Baltic, Diana, and John Raine, were significantly modified for the expected duty. The boats were stripped down to carry 125 cavalry and 250 infantry each. They were given expanded fuel capacity by enlarging the coal bunkers, the boilers were encased in heavy timbers, the pilot houses were clad in boiler plate, and a crane operated gangway capable of disgorging the mounted troops two abreast was fitted out. Of the two remaining boats, the E. H. Fairchild was to serve as a supply vessel and the Woodford as a hospital ship.
On 21 February 1863 all arrangements, except the retrofitting of the Woodford, were complete. The Brigade was mustered for review by Ellet at the Fairgrounds. A total of 527 infantrymen, 368 cavalrymen, and 140 artillerymen stood inspection in standard army uniforms with a distinctive hat complete with a wide green band trimmed with gold lace signifying the special service on which they were about to embark. While still considerably short of the recruiting goal the Mississippi Marine Brigade was declared ready to begin operations.
 
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1SGDan

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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Early Missions
On March 13th, 1863 four of the Mississippi Marine Brigade boats, Autocrat, Adams, Baltic, and Diana departed St Louis to report to Admiral Porter at Milliken's Bend. The Raines remained behind with the Woodford to continue recruiting efforts and to tend to a outbreak of small pox that further depleted the Brigade numbers. The trip got off on a disquieting note as two men deserted and another committed suicide in the bizarre fashion of wrapping himself in his blanket and diving into the river. These losses were rapidly replaced from an unexpected source. As the flotilla passed Eunice, Arkansas the Auotcrat was waved ashore by a group of disaffected Confederate conscripts. Of the fifteen men encountered six decided to join the Brigade.
At Young's Point, Ellet found that Porter had departed on an expedition into Steele's Bayou and reported to General Grant. During the delay created by waiting for Porter's return Ellet authorized the rams Switzerland and Lancaster to attempt a run of the Vicksburg batteries in a mission that proved disastrous for the boats. Alerted to the possible dangers of their new assignments by the outcome of this operation some of the Marines began to have second thoughts about the duty they had signed on for. The idleness, cramped living arrangements, poor rations and the possibility of unexpected danger led to a coordinated revolt aboard the boats. An uprising at the mess tables and disruption of the officer’s quarters led to violence amongst the members of the Brigade that required armed suppression. Order was final restored and disciplinary action taken that resulted in four men being placed in leg irons with a 20 pound ball attached.
This series of events led Porter, upon his return, to write to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to complain about Ellet and the Brigade. In the message Porter stated that General Ellet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade were "adverse to harmonious action." He further suggested that control of the brigade should be turned over to the Army and General Grant. The matter was tabled however as operations around Vicksburg grew in intensity. Reluctantly Porter gave Ellet another opportunity by sending the Brigade off to Greenville, Mississippi to subdue frequent artillery attacks on Union shipping there. A convoy that included two of the remaining rams, Monarch and Lioness, was assembled and chugged off on the new mission. They ran into trouble when the Monarch, snagged and the recovery effort came under fire from a small Confederate battery from a unit commanded by Colonel S. W. Ferguson. When a cavalry detachment was put ashore to search out the battery they also came under fire and retreated immediately to the safety of the boats. Despite specific orders from Porter to "proceed to Greenville and take possession of that place", Ellet opted to move his fleet down the river to Lake City, Arkansas on the opposite side of the river. A disorganized scout of the area ended with little more accomplished than destruction of a local mansion. Ellet again disregarded Porter's instructions to "please communicate with me frequently" and did not file a report concerning the events at Lake City. It was another in the growing list of grievances that local commanders would have with Ellet. The Mississippi Marine Brigade never made an effort to get to Greenville and on April 5th a boat carrying new orders from Porter found the wayward unit at Lake Village. Porter sent instructions for the brigade to move to the aid of MG William S. Rosecrans on the Tennessee River. Included in the instructions was a reminder that "dispatch is the great object just now."
 
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1SGDan

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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Tennessee Interlude
The requested speed of action for the trip to Tennessee was not forthcoming. The Brigade spent the next ten days at Cairo, Illinois and Memphis reportedly coaling and finding Tennessee River pilots. The unexpected delay caused Ellet another rift with a superior officer. He failed to coordinate with MG Stephen A. Hurlbut, District Commander at Memphis, who was involved in the coordination of the assets necessary for the Streight raid. Unclear of the exact status of Ellet's command Hurlbut believed that he deserved the courtesy of a report from The Mississippi Marine Brigade commander and asked BG Grenville Dodge to reprimand Ellet for failing to do so. The tardy unit also irritated the local Naval commander, Lieutenant Commander Leroy Fitch, who had two gunboats tied up awaiting the Marine Brigade arrival. Finally on the 15th of April Ellet arrived at Fort Henry.
The first mission for Ellet's fleet was the transport of 1250 mules intended for use in the Streight Raid from Fort Henry to Eastport. Another two days were spent loading the stubborn creatures aboard the boats. Unloading the cargo proved equally challenging. The mules conducted an uprising of their own and stampeded down the gangways and into the nearby forest. More time was lost rounding up the mules and as a result of the cumulative delays the expedition started well behind schedule.
With the unsavory task of transporting the mules finally out of the way, BG Dodge decided that the brigade could assist in his planned movement in support of the Streight raid by making a demonstration at Savannah, Tennessee. The Savannah episode proved to be another disappointing performance by Ellet's men. The boats departed Eastport, leaving the town in flames, and moved not to Savannah, but toward Clifton. Detachments were sent out on both sides of the river and the fleet made its way slowly up the river destroying production capacity, collecting horses, and seizing cotton. The lackluster affair was highlighted by the sinking of the tug Cleveland, which was accidentally rammed by the Diana. The stricken vessel was raised by the sailing master on the Autocrat but the lost time allowed the river to fall to dangerous levels for navigation. It was decided to return with little accomplished for their efforts.
The voyage back down the Tennessee required the passage of shoals created by the confluence of the Duck River. The boats would not be able to execute any evasive maneuvers while traveling this section of the river. This fact was well known by a local Confederate commander, Major R. M. White of the 6th Texas Cavalry, who placed an artillery battery to take full advantage of the situation. As the parade of boats made the passage of the shoals they were pounded by the Confederate guns. A brief response was mustered from the boats but they could not stop to dismount soldiers while in the treacherous waters. The Autocrat was severely battered and the Diana somewhat less so. Finally on the far side of the shoals the signal was given to land the boats and download the cavalry. The sight of a powerful force emerging from the boats and the appearance of the timber-clad gunboat Lexington with guns blazing caused the 6th Texas troopers to have second thoughts about the engagement and they retreated hurriedly. "Several times the Marine cavalry overtook and had a brush with the rear guard of the escaping column." The chase lasted about 12 miles until the Marines arrived at the home of LTC Thomas Woodward where they found a feast laid out in anticipation of the capture of the boats, that were mistakenly thought to be unarmed supply vessels. The running skirmish ended there as the Marines ate the feast and helped themselves to a well-stocked pantry. The first real combat experience for the brigade left 9 Confederates dead and Major White mortally wounded with a loss of two Marines, SGT Cavender, Co H Inf., and PVT Winchell, Co A Cavalry and another who had his foot amputated by an artillery round.
The falling waters in the Tennessee River gave Ellet a perfectly good excuse to head back to Cairo to make repairs and await further orders. The brief battle in Tennessee had given his men some confidence and he wanted to give them an opportunity to use it. He avoided Porter and requested orders directly from Stanton asking "what course to pursue?"
 
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1SGDan

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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Austin, Mississippi
The growing possibility of success at Vicksburg after the landings at Bruinsburg led Stanton to order Halleck to send the Mississippi Marine Brigade back to that area. During the move down the river the E. H. Fairchild, the brigade's quartermaster vessel, came under fire from two shore batteries in the vicinity of Austin, Mississippi. Another boat, the Bostonia, was also reported being robbed by guerillas, burned, and the crew captured at Austin on the same day. Ellet was determined to take action against such activity and issued middle of the night orders for the Autocrat, Diana, and B J Adams to return to Austin.
At dawn on 24 May the boats landed at Austin and disgorged the cavalry into the streets of the sleepy village followed by a column of infantry. A quick search of the academy buildings, suspected of being the center of the guerilla operations, found nothing. However, Ellet reported that at the wreckage site of a "small trading boat" information was obtained from a local black man that the responsible guerillas had fled inland. In a rash move Ellet ordered Major James Hubbard, the cavalry commander, into the countryside in pursuit without coordinating support from the infantry.
The local Confederate commander, Colonel W. F. Slemons with about 800 members of the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry and 2nd Mississippi Partisans, used scouts to track the movement of the Union troopers and developed a plan to capture them. He allowed Hubbard's column to outdistance the infantry and set a trap at Beaver Dam Lake. When Hubbard arrived there he found no indication of enemy presence and decided to countermarch back to town. As the column was reversing itself the well hidden Confederates opened fire from an unexpected direction. The suddenness of the attack threw the Union column into a confused retreat to the closest available cover, a ravine near the bayou. Outnumbered nearly four to one and trapped against the water Hubbard found himself in a very poor tactical position. Slemons understood the advantage he had gained and sent a request to Hubbard to that he surrender. Hubbard refused the request and the two sides fought it out for two hours without a significant change in the situation.
Ellet, with the infantry, was drawn to the site of the fight by the sound of the Confederate artillery (Quitman Light) and double-quicked to the assistance of the trapped troopers. As the infantry closed in on the battle General Ellet and his staff, with three or four orderlies galloped forward to overtake the advance. The command party ran into a small rear guard detachment of Slemons' troopers that set an ambush for them from a "clump of bushes". At about one hundred yards they initiated the ambush with a "heavy volley". The fire knocked down several of the horses but did not injure any of the group. The Confederates "galloped away at once" but the brief exchange of fire alerted Slemons' to the presence of the relief column and he decided to break off the fight rather than get trapped between two enemy forces. Just as Hubbard's men were exhausting their ammunition the Union infantry pushed the Confederates away saving the day for Hubbard's command. The fight at the lake cost the brigade two killed and nineteen wounded. The departed Confederates reported three killed, twelve wounded and three missing.
The Combined Union column opted not to pursue the fleeing Confederates and returned to Austin. Here, Captain Isaac Newell, whose company had been left to guard the boats while the remainder of the command went off in pursuit of the Confederates, drew the task of searching the village. After the first search party returned drunk after being supplied "old rye" from a pail doled out by a local, Newell personally led a second group into town to continue the search. The search found "nothing of importance and no considerable capture contraband was made." but Ellet ordered the village fired. Despite pleas from his senior commanders that it was unnecessary Ellet insisted the village be burned at 1600. "With a sad heart" Newell torched the town. As the fire consumed the buildings a loud explosion was heard and Ellet reported that a store of Confederate ammunition had been destroyed.
 
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1SGDan

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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Vicksburg
The Mississippi Marine Brigade finally made its way to Young's Point on 29 May and Porter, acting on a request from Grant, ordered them to occupy Haines Bluff until relieved. Pemberton, completely overestimating the size and combat power of the brigade, saw the move as a threat to the water batteries located nearby and ordered BG John Bowen to send BG Green's brigade and a regiment from MG Martin Smith's command to protect the vulnerable artillery. Porter also ordered Ellet to use his fleet to support the movement of reinforcements into the area from Memphis.
Ellet disembarked only his infantry force at Haines Bluff. The cavalry was taken to Marion, Arkansas where they conducted raids into the countryside. Ellet reported that the raids netted seven prisoners and wagon loads of contraband. When the brigade boats returned with the fresh troops on 8 June they were disembarked at Young's Point. This was a change to the original plan caused by the Confederate attack of Milliken's Bend. Grant was concerned that the force, estimated to be 4000 men, could somehow manage to help Pemberton's trapped command escape across the river and sent some of the new troops, BG Joseph Mowers' brigade, to harass Confederate MG Walker's men. Once Mowers men were landed Ellet's brigade was essentially unassigned to any real responsibility and it freed Ellet to conduct operations of his own design.
The first of Ellet's plans included the infantry company of Captain Newell (Company A) who had been furnished with Spencer repeating rifles. Interested to see what the capabilities of the new weapon was, Ellet had the men attempt to dig a rifle pit on the peninsular at De Soto Point. The effort created an immediate reaction from the Confederate water batteries across the river and the effort was quickly abandoned. The levee, however, formed a natural shield and allowed the men to move freely along it to find advantageous firing positions and then move before they could be targeted by the artillery. The target of these infantrymen was the water detail that came down to the river each day to draw water for the Vicksburg defenders. As the water detail neared the river on the morning of 14 June the Spencer’s opened fire. Even at this extreme range the sound of shots drove the detail from the river. Pemberton could not be without water so an artillery barrage of thirty minutes followed in an effort to drive the pesky sharpshooters away. Repeat performances occurred throughout the day as every time the water train approached the river they would be engaged by Ellet's men followed by yet another artillery barrage. The whole affair probably amounted to little more than an annoyance that wasted valuable ammunition on both sides.
Ellet had also sent his cavalry off on a scout of Richmond, Louisiana in search of Walker's Confederates. On the 14th Major Hubbard reported finding the enemy and a plan was put together at a conference between Porter and Grant aboard the Black Hawk. Ellet was directed to act in concert with Mowers' brigade in a two pronged advance against Richmond. On the morning of the 15th the Marines reinforced by the 15th Minnesota began the march from Duckport. The movement had been observed by Walker's scouts and he established a well hidden line of skirmishers to greet them about two miles outside of Richmond. The initial attack stopped the column and Walker aggressively attacked with the 18th Texas despite being badly outnumbered. The attack pushed the Marines and Minnesotans back onto Mowers' approaching column and the fight became an artillery duel. As the batteries pounded away at each other the Union infantry maneuvered around the Confederate position and managed to dislodge them. As they retreated they burned the bridge behind them. Mowers' men rebuilt the bridge but the Union commanders opted not to pursue and satisfied themselves with burning the town. The total Union casualties were reported as one killed and 11 wounded.
Back at the levee LTC Currie had conducted a reconnaissance and discovered a large smelting operation that was turning spent Union shells and scrap into ammunition for the Confederate guns. He asked for and received permission from Porter to try and mount the 20 pound Parrot rifle from the B. J. Adams into an emplacement on the peninsular to knock out the foundry . From the 19th to the 22nd a gun pit was constructed, casemated with railroad iron, camouflaged and the gun hauled in and mounted. Despite being constantly under return fire the position proved effective. On the 25th Paxton's Foundry and shop were destroyed by twenty rounds from the Parrot. On the 26th the position grew to two guns with the addition of a 12 pound howitzer from the brigade's artillery detachment. The position remained intact and harassed the Vicksburg defenders until the surrender.
 
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1SGDan

Captain
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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Affair at Goodrich's Landing
As the surrender of Vicksburg became a foregone conclusion the emphasis of operations shifted to the Louisiana side of the river. Ellet's cavalry had maintained patrols in the area and reported that an informant had warned of another attack on Milliken's Bend. On 27 June the attack took place, not at the expected location but at Goodrich's Landing about ten mile up river from Milliken's Bend.
Two regiments of black volunteers from the 1st Arkansas and 10th Louisiana under the command of Colonel William Wood occupied a "very good little fort" there but had unwisely sent two companies out to an exposed position at a lesser fort. Confederate Colonel William Parson's cavalry took advantage of the situation with his Texas cavalry and captured the entire lot. The 1st Kansas Mounted Regiment was sent by BG Hugh Reid to lure the Confederate troopers back into a trap. The well laid plan was ruined when the John Raine arriving with a portion of the Mississippi Marine Brigade fired on them warning them away. Yet another Union commander was irritated by the actions of the brigade.
On 30 June the entire Marine Brigade was assembled and with the assistance of Wood's regiments set off in search of the elusive Parsons. Ellet anticipated a short action and failed to provision the column with either food or water. After a march of five miles it was determined that they had taken the wrong road and a countermarch was ordered. In the vicinity of Tensas Bayou Ellet halted the infantry column so they could satisfy their hunger at a blackberry patch while the cavalry continued ahead. When Major Hubbard reported that the cavalry had located the Confederate force nearby Ellet could not get his men to respond to his movement order. By the time the infantry column was finally reassembled the Confederate troopers had made good their getaway and burned the bridge behind them. Although Ellet claimed that his marines had pushed Parson's force away they had actually been ordered back by MG Richard Taylor and had left without a fight.
Eventually Ellet sent three companies across the remains of the bridge to pursue the departing enemy. What they discovered on the chase would lead to much controversy. Parson's men left a trail of destruction that included burned cotton gins, slave quarters, and the charred remains of slaves killed in the wanton destruction. In a letter published in the St. Louis Democrat LT S. F. Cole also stated "that numerous charred skeletons of the white officers of the negro troops were found, in some cases nailed to trees and slabs and evidently burned alive." LTC Samuel Nasmith, of the 25th Wisconsin, confirmed the killings in his report of the expedition stating "the rebel atrocities committed...were such as the pen fails to record in proper language." The column returned to the landing and on 1 July the brigade loaded the boats and departed for Young's Point to rest his troops. There brief stay left most of the regular units in the area unimpressed. LTC Nasmith complained bitterly about lack of cooperation from Hubbard and called the brigade "entirely worthless” and “a positive injury" to the operations in Louisiana.
 
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1SGDan

Captain
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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Changes
Following the surrender of Vicksburg the brigade fell into a period of idleness. Sickness filled the hospital boat, Woodford, and Ellet found it a perfect time to grant leaves. To take up time with the rest of the command Ellet conducted a number of unauthorized raids that ired both Porter and Grant. The good feelings that followed the surrender of the city quickly dissipated. Porter continued his attempts to rid himself of the troublesome command and Grant noted that the conduct of the brigade was "bad." He wanted the boats moved to the Army quartermaster department for use in moving men and supplies and the men converted to conventional forces under a new commander. Secretary of War Stanton, however, did not agree and ordered Halleck to reject the proposal. By late August the continual complaints and requests from Grant to shift the command to his control finally won over Stanton. The control of Ellet's command shifted to the Army with the proviso that they not be broken up as Grant suggested.
The first order from Grant sent the brigade on its strangest mission and probably one of the strangest missions of the war. With orders not to open his instructions until they had landed Grant sent the brigade to Port Gibson. On arrival there the orders were unsealed. The brigade was to round fifty of "the most aristocratic women" and return them to Vicksburg. The marines travelled out to the nearby plantations and ordered all the women to report or the houses would be burned. Amongst "great weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth" the women were herded aboard for the journey to Vicksburg. When the women were handed over the marines discovered that they were to be used as bargaining chips to secure the freedom of "a number of northern school teachers" that had been captured by Confederate troops. The negotiations lasted about thirty days before the exchange was conducted.
When LTC Currie returned from his 60 day leave he found Ellet gone and Major Hubbard in charge. Currie was discouraged by the lack of activity and ordered the boats to patrol the river from Greenville, Mississippi to Napolean, Arkansas. He also decided to mount the remaining infantry on confiscated mules. The increased number of animals required extensive retrofitting of the boats for more stable space.
The first chance to test the new mounted men came on 9 September when CPT Edward Hughes' mounted infantry was sent out near Bolivar Landing to scout the area. They returned in less than an hour dragging a stage coach behind them with four gentlemen aboard. When the coach was searched $1.2 million in Confederate currency was discovered. Also found was a draft for $1 million more from a Louisiana bank. The money turned out to be , as the captives admitted, the payroll for General E. Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi Department. Another paymaster was captured shortly thereafter denying Smith's troops a total of $3,252,340 in pay. The brigade was ordered to Vicksburg on 24 September so that the boats could be used as transports, as Grant had requested. The Marines enjoyed garrison duty until 18 Oct.
 
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1SGDan

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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Return to Goodrich's Landing, Natchez, and more raiding.
Shore duty for the marines ended on 18 October with an alert to "get ready to go back on board the boats." At the request of BG John Hawkins, commander of the District of Northeast Louisiana, the brigade was ordered back to Goodrich's Landing as reinforcements against another rumored Confederate strike there. On 19 October the Adams, Baltic, Fairchild and Horner unloaded the marines and a single company of cavalry with one artillery piece were sent out to feel for the enemy.
This small band was badly dispersed after tangling with a band of guerillas commanded by John Jarrette and failed to return as expected. LTC Currie sent the entire cavalry party out on a search that eventually found the lost troopers but accomplished little else. During the five day search Ellet returned from leave and upon the return of his cavalry loaded the command back onto the boats and moved up to Griffith's Landing, Mississippi. The brigade conducted more raids here that included a few minor scrapes with local guerilla bands. Reacting to the burning of a Union supply vessel, Allen Collier, Currie personally led a patrol to the home of CPT William Montgomery, the local partisan chieftain. After allowing the removal of clothing and a few other articles the house was burned in retaliation. Montgomery, not surprisingly, called the act "cowardly" but his wife took a more pragmatic view stating that "This is no more than I expected when I heard what my husband had done."
The next center of activity for the Mississippi Marine Brigade was Natchez where BG Wirt Adams was expected to attack "with a considerable force." On 5 December the brigade once again departed Vicksburg to reinforce a threatened Union garrison. After rushing ashore on the following morning the cavalry found none of the expected enemy presence east of the city. It would become a regular pattern of chases and near misses with the "wily Adams" that produced nothing in the way of significant confrontation. The effort was abandoned as the threat diminished and the brigade returned to the usual routine of raiding operations. The most interesting episode during this time was the fight for a wagon train of confiscated cotton.
On 14 March, 1864 near Rodney the brigade was directed to the haul by a local, acting for a reward. The train of 25 wagons was loaded and prepared to make camp at Red Lick. As the teams were being unhitched another gentleman appeared to warn the commander, Major J. R. Crandall, that a trap was being set by local forces under Major Roberts. The Federal officers met and decided to race for the safety of the boats than remain and face a standing fight. After traveling two difficult miles in the growing darkness and light rain the train fell victim to "as well planned and executed and ambush...made during the war."
In classic fashion the Confederate troops allowed the advance guard to pass and then threw a hasty obstruction across the road. When the main body of the train, escorted by Company D of the Cavalry, reached the obstacle they came under fire from elevated positions on both sides of the road. The troops caught in the kill zone quickly regained their composure and returned fire. Two messengers were sent; the first to recall the cavalry advance and the second to hustle the trailing infantry up to support the beleaguered train. The courier heading for the cavalry was cut down but the advance responded to the sound of gunfire and returned on their own. All were captured but one man. Several of the captured men made good an escape but twelve men remained prisoner. The tide finally changed with the arrival of the infantry and the ambushers were driven off but not before they set the loaded wagons on fire. The loss of the cotton was coupled with the loss of the captured men, one mortally wounded and six seriously wounded, and seventeen lost horses.
 
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1SGDan

Captain
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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
The Final Chapter
After briefly supporting the Banks' Red River Campaign with the Autocrat, Baltic, Diana, Raine and a portion of the cavalry the Brigade was ordered to once again patrol the Mississippi between Milliken's Bend and Goodrich's Landing to cover for the units that had departed on Sherman's Meridian Expedition. The separation of the boats for use as individual resources spelled the de facto end to the brigade. In June and July of 1864 the last actions of the brigade took place in raiding Greenville and with the support of the 52nd USCT again at Rodney, Mississippi. Neither operation produced anything of importance.
In August the new commander of the District of Vicksburg, MG Napoleon Dana, reacting to complaints of corruption, ill-disciplined behavior, personnel irregularities and unauthorized actions ordered Ellet to prepare "descriptive rolls" for his entire command. The Brigade was disbanded against Ellet's protest and consolidated as the Marine Regiment under a new commander. The Mississippi Marine Brigade was no more. Ellet's vision of a hard hitting, mobile strike force never materialized and accomplished little of the original promise that encouraged Washington authorities to allow its formation.
The failure of this concept can blamed on three primary reasons:
1. Lack of Oversight
The inability of local commanders to get control of the Brigade because of its unique position with Washington left Ellet to act as he wanted when he wanted. Without a command presence and operational oversight from local authorities the Brigade very quickly forgot its primary mission - to pose a military threat to the Confederate partisans and para-military operations in the area - and instead became little more than cotton raiders.
2. Poor Leadership and Troops
This cannot be emphasized enough. The troops here were selected from the poorest available men. The leadership was even more suspect. Without a doctrine to guide the new concept the leaders and men were free to act as they saw fit. This type of unrestrained activity requires the highest order of training and discipline from both the men and their officers. The Mississippi Marine got neither.
3. Failure to Adhere to the Founding Principals
Instead of confronting the Confederate threat in the area of operations, as they were designed to do, the Brigade often found reasons to do exactly the opposite. Ellet often used his command to raid inland, usually without authorization, away from the enemy even though they made their presence clear.
Finally the Brigade was a loose cannon for the local commanders. Unable to get control of Ellet and his men they filed protests and negative reports about their operations from the very beginning of their existence. Eventually even the stoutest supporter had to see their failures. The end of the Brigade was a direct reaction to their own actions. They aggravated everyone they came into contact except the enemy they were built to confront. Counter-insurgency efforts by the United States military learned some valuable lessons here. Unfortunately most concerned what not to do.
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Bibliography

OR's
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies
Volume 23
Ellet, Alfred; Welles, Gideon; Stanton, Edwin
Volume 24
Porter, David; Fitch, Leroy; Ellet, Alfred; Streight, Abel;
Volume 25
Porter, David; Ellet, Alfred; Welles, Gideon
Official Records of the War of Rebellion
Volume 23
Hurlbut, Stephen; Dodge, Grenville, Rosencrans, William; Streight, Abel; Warren, William; Goodman, W. A.
Volume 24
Halleck, Henry; Chalmers, James; Ellet, Alfred; Grant, U. S.; Hurlbut, Stephen; Porter, David; Mower, Joseph; Nasmith, Samuel, Walker, J. G.; Reid, Hugh
Volume 30
McPherson, James; Stanton, Edwin
Volume 31
Currie, George; Porter, David; Adams, Wirt; Ellet, Alfred; Gresham, Walter

Books
United States Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941, Andrew J. Birtle, Center of Military History, 1998
A Savage Conflict - The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War, Daniel E. Sutherland, University of North Carolina Press, 2009
Ellet's Brigade - The Strangest Outfit of All, Chester G. Hearn, Louisiana State University Press, 2000
History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade, Warren D. Crandall & Isaac D. Newell, Buschart Brothers, St. Louis, 1902
In the Saddle with the Texans - Day-by-day with Parson's Cavalry 1862-1865, Edited by Anne J. Bailey

Internet Resources
http://www.brownwaternavy.org/mmb/mmb.htm
http://www.augustana.edu/Library/SpecialCollections/special/Messler/mess8a.html
http://ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/library/essays/missmarinebrigade.cfm
http://www.kinyon.com/iowa/iaroster06/mississippi.htm
 

BothSidesNow

Cadet
Joined
Sep 25, 2013
"They are deserving all praise. Every officer and man of the little force is reported to have acted with the most distinguished bravery, and prompt obedience to orders."--Gen. Ellet
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
Great summary, Top.

I was thinking about this just the other day, actually, when I bumped into a book about the Seawolves in Vietnam. I was doing a bit of mental comparing and contrasting between the "rotary winged cavalry" and the Civil War "horse marines." The analogy isn't as close as I'd like, but there are some interesting points.
 

ExNavyPilot

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2010
Location
Chesapeake, VA
Great series. The roster of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery indicates that one of its privates transferred into the "Mississippi Squadron" while the battery was on garrison duty at Murfreesboro between the Stones River and Tullahoma campaigns. It took me a while to figure out what was going on; I initially pictured him acting as a cannoneer aboard one of the river gunboats. Your series, 1SGDan--excellent as usual--gives a great history and analysis of the unit.
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
MJF
To quote the US Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941:

Perhaps the most remarkable counter-guerilla unit was the Mississippi Marine Brigade, an amphibious organization created in November 1862 in response to guerilla attacks on federal shipping along the Mississippi River. Over the course of the next two years the "marines" led an active life, skirmishing with rebel guerillas, conducting raids, and participating in conventional operations. Although effective, the unit was troubled by morale and discipline problems and soon developed a reputation for robbery and arson as it steamed up and down the Mississippi burning towns, destroying plantations, and carting off loot. Some of the destruction was authorized in line with the Army's tough retaliatory policies, but the brigade exercised little discretion in picking its targets. Moreover, the units special boats were costly to maintain and considerations of economy and reputation eventually led the Army to disband the marine brigade in 1864.

Given this summary in an official Army history I find it difficult to associate them with any of the special units of today. The modern units are smaller and are models of morale and discipline.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
Oh, no doubt that the implementation of the concept was very flawed. 'Discipline is the soul of an Army,' and even more so for special units. But the concept of operations is very interesting.
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Oh, no doubt that the implementation of the concept was very flawed. 'Discipline is the soul of an Army,' and even more so for special units. But the concept of operations is very interesting.

True! This is what led me to investigate the unit in the first place. Ultimately, a poor execution of a good idea.
 

CW3O

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 17, 2010
Location
Massachusetts
Well done piece of writing on an obscure and overlooked part of the Civil War. The struggle over an appropriate and effective counter-insurgency strategy continues to this day. In my mind the difficulty resides in the fact that the center of gravity for the insurgents is not ground to be held or large battles to be won, but simply the infliction of casualtities on the enemy. How to counter such an objective? Hearts and minds, has not proven to be successful. The answer to this problem continues to ellude military thinkers.
 
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