Report of Col. W. S. Featherston, Seventeenth Mississippi Infantry
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 539-540
HEADQUARTERS CAMP PETTUS, July 24, 1861
SIR: In obedience to the order of General D. R. Jones, I beg leave to submit the following report of the action taken by the Seventeenth Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers in the attack made on the enemy’s camp near McLean’s Ford on the evening of the 21st instant:
General Jones’ brigade, composed of the Fifth South Carolina and the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Regiments of Mississippi Volunteers, marched to the field in the order of their position in line. Colonel Jenkins’ regiment, holding the right, was placed in the front; Colonel Burt’s in the center; and the Seventeenth, holding the left, was in the rear.
On entering the field where the enemy were encamped we found their batteries planted and pointing in the direction of our entrance upon the field. We marched up a ravine some two or three hundred yards until we reached the foot of the first hill occupied by the enemy, where we entered the field. Here we were halted, and the South Carolina regiment formed into line of battle on the right, and the Eighteenth Mississippi immediately on the left of the South Carolina regiment. These regiments were thrown into line near the foot of the hill as perfectly as the ground would permit, where they were somewhat protected against the enemy’s batteries by the hill in front. These regiments covered the whole line of battle, and the Seventeenth Regiment could not be formed in line of battle in rear of the other two, owing to obstacles presented by the ground.
Very soon after we were halted the firing commenced, and the order to charge or advance was given immediately on the right. The two regiments in front marched very promptly and gallantly up the hill, in the direction of the enemy. I immediately ordered the Seventeenth to advance, and standing at the head of the column ascended the hill, directing the right wing to the right and ordered the left to incline to the left, so as to form a line of battle in the rear of the Eighteenth Regiment. This order was promptly obeyed by every company in my command. The Eighteenth Regiment, in our front, advanced until they reached the ravine which separates the two hills occupied by the enemy. Here they were halted by the ravine in front, which at that place could not be crossed without great difficulty, if at all. Standing thus exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy’s artillery and musketry, and being unable to advance, they fell back. The Seventeenth Regiment advanced to the edge of the ravine, and the right wing was ordered by me to fire after it was unmasked by the Eighteenth. This order was promptly obeyed. The left wing did not fire at all, and was not ordered to do so. Standing thus, unable to advance, and exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, the Seventeenth fell back with the Eighteenth Regiment. This advance was made by all three of the regiments under a very rapid fire from the enemy’s batteries, as well as from their sharpshooters, and was checked only by the obstacles in their pathway. After falling back beyond the reach of the enemy’s batteries the regiments were reformed and the order given to them to return to their camps.
The orders communicated to me by General Jones before entering upon the field were that my regiment was held rather in reserve, but required to sustain the other two, and I was to exercise my own discretion in doing so. I thought at the time, and still think, that in making the charge the other two regiments required the support of mine, and so ordered it.(*)
All of which is respectfully submitted.
W. S. FEATHERSTON,
Commanding Seventeenth Mississippi Volunteers
F. G. LATHAM,
*Nominal list of casualties shows 9 killed and 10 wounded.