Colonel Manning F. Force of the 20th Ohio Infantry Recalls the Battle of Raymond Mississippi

Col. Manning F. Force, 20th Ohio Infantry

Col. Manning F. Force, 20th Ohio Infantry

On May 12th, 1863, during  Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign, the Union Army’s 17th Corps under the command of Major General James B. McPherson approached the town of Raymond, Mississippi.  Brigadier General John Gregg  deployed his single 3000 man Confederate brigade south of the town along a stream called Fourteen Mile Creek in an effort to stop the Federals, who had two divisions or about 10,000 men.

Gregg was an aggressive fighter but was acting on inaccurate intelligence regarding the size of the approaching Union force . “A dispatch from the lieutenant-general commanding intimated that the purpose of the enemy was supposed to be an advance upon Edwards Depot, and I inferred from it that it was possible that the force in front of me was a brigade on a marauding excursion”  Gregg wrote in his official report. “I was strengthened in this opinion by my scouts, who reported that the force they had seen was about 2,500 or 3,000. It was absolutely necessary for me to await their coming, or to fall back without knowing whether the force of the enemy was superior or inferior to my own.” Interestingly, McPherson overestimated Confederate strength and reported the enemy to be “about 6000 strong” in his after action report. Despite the differences in numbers, the Battle of Raymond was a hard earned victory for the Union against a smaller, tenacious Confederate force.

Colonel Manning F. Force  commanded the 20th Ohio Infantry regiment of Brigadier General Elias S. Dennis’ Brigade in Major General John Logan’s division.   The 20th Ohio was heavily engaged in the Battle of Raymond, mostly fighting against the 7th Texas Infantry.  Several years after the war, Force recalled the fighting at Raymond that day:

On the 12th of May, the Seventeenth corps marched on the road toward Raymond, Logan’s division leading, Dennis’ brigade in advance.  The Thirtieth Illinois was deployed with a skirmish line in front, on the left of the road, the Twentieth Ohio in like manner on the right. About noon we halted; the Twentieth Ohio in an open field, bounded by a fence to the front, beyond was forest and rising ground. An unseen battery on some height beyond the timber began shelling the field. The Twentieth advanced over the fence into the woods. The First Brigade came up and formed on our right.

All at once, the woods rang with the shrill rebel yell and a deafening din of musketry. The Twentieth rushed forward to a creek and used the farther bank as a breastworks. The timber between the creek and the fence was free from undergrowth. The Twentieth Illinois, the regiment next to the right of Twentieth Ohio, knelt down in place and returned the fire. The enemy advanced into the creek in its front. I went to the lieutenant-colonel, who was kneeling at the left flank, and asked him why he did not advance into the creek. He said “we have no orders.” In a few minutes the colonel of the regiment was killed. It was too late to advance, it was murder to remain; and the lieutenant-colonel withdrew the regiment in order back behind the fence. I cannot tell how long the battle lasted. I remember noticing the forest leaves, cut by rifle balls, falling in thick eddies, still as snowflakes.  At one time the enemy in our front advanced to the border of the creek, and rifles of opposing lines crossed while firing. Men who were shot were burned by the powder of the rifles that sped the balls.

In time the fire in front slackened. We ceased fire and advanced. The ground rose into a hill beyond the creek; dead and wounded were found where they had fallen or crawled behind trees and logs.  We emerged into open ground upon a hill top, and were greeted by cheers of the brigade below at the crossing of the creek. The enemy was in retreat. A battery covering its rear opened fire upon us. I made the men lie down behind a ridge, and the exploding shells sprinkled them with earth while the first sergeants were making reports of casualties. Notwithstanding the admirable protection of the bank of the creek, twenty per cent of the regiment was killed or wounded.

Manning F. Force, “Personal Recollections of the Vicksburg Campaign”. In Sketches of War History 1861-1865:  Papers Read Before the Ohio Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Vol. 1.

The victory at Raymond came at a cost of 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing.  Most of these casualties were from Logan’s division; the other 17th Corps division under the command of Major General Marcellus M. Crocker was only lightly engaged.  Forces’ 20th Ohio lost 10 men killed and58 wounded.  Gregg’s Confederate infantry regiments  had 73 killed 252 wounded and 190 missing.  His cavalry and artillery did not report their losses.

Colonel Force was promoted to brigadier general in August of 1863.  He was shot in the face and seriously wounded at the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864, and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery that day. Though his wound was thought to be fatal, Force returned to action in October and participated in General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea and Campaign of the Carolinas.  After the war, he returned to his pre war occupation as a lawyer.  He served as a judge, wrote law books, and was in charge of the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home in Sandusky, Ohio from 1887 until his death in 1899.

Additional Sources:

Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders
by Ezra Warner

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. XXIV Part 1

The Vicksburg Campaign Volume II by Edwin C. Bearss

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