Colonel Benjamin W. Johnson's Report on Fort Desperate - Page 1
When the Confederate forces surrendered at Port Hudson, the officers were sent to Union prisons, and the enlisted men were paroled and released. Colonel Benjamin W. Johnson, the commander of the Confederate forces defending Fort Desperate, was sent to the Custom House in New Orleans, which was being used as a prison. On September 12, two months after the surrender, Col. Johnson was ordered to write an after-action report describing the battle from his perspective. His fascinating report provides a detailed look into the fighting and hardships experienced by the Fifteenth Arkansas Regiment and the other units under his command at Fort Desperate during the 48 day siege. This vital section of the Confederate line was never breached by Union forces, despite constant bombardment and repeated attacks by vastly larger forces.
The report was found online in the LSU Digital Archives, in the form of images of the handwritten pages, and a transcription for each page The LSU transcription was found to contain many errors, and was edited extensively to provide a more accurate portrayal of the original report. The resultant transcription does not correct misspellings and grammatical errors, except where needed for clarity. The transcriptions are shown alongside the images of the original pages.
Prison No 8 "Custom House"
September 12th 1863
T. F. Willson ¹
Captain & A.A.G
I humbly submit in persu-
ance of orders the following as a brief report
of the part taken of my command in the
late defense of Port Hudson La.
On the morning of the 21st of May last,
I was ordered by Brig. Gen. Bealle ² to change
my position on the breast works on the center
of the line and to report to Col. Steadman ³.
Col. Steedman then informed me that Major
Gen Gardner had ordered me to take the position
around and to the south of my rear encamp-
ment. Said position was to commence
at the foot of the creek near the steam-mill,
moving from there due south and around
the crest of the hill on the west side thereof,
upon which my camp was located. Around
said camp on the north, thence south east
across said creek again, and to the east of
the hill between my camp and that of Col. Shelby's.
The length of this line was at least three
fourths of one mile. My command was to
¹ Captain T. Friend Willson was the Assistant Adjutant-General at General Gardner's Port Hudson headquarters.
² Brig. General William Beall was the commander of the center of the Confederate lines, and Johnson's superior up until May 21st.
³ Colonel I. G. H. Steedman was named commander of the left wing of the Confederate lines on May 21st, and became Johnson's immediate superior. At this time Johnson was moved to the position that would become "Fort Desperate".
Colonel W. B. Shelby commanded the 39th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, which occupied the extreme left of the Confederate lines.