The Battle of McLeod’s Mill occurred on December 10, 1864, and was part of the much larger Pascagolua Expedition or “Davidson’s Raid”, which traversed much of South Mississippi in early December 1864. The goal of the campaign was to destroy and sever the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, weaken the defenses of Mobile, and divert Confederate resources away from General John Bell Hood’s army outside Nashville.
Under the command of Brigadier General John Wynn Davidson of Virginia, a four thousand strong Calvary force, departed Baton Rouge on November 27, 1864 divided into two main columns.
After crossing miles of swamps and fighting brief skirmishes at Columbia and Monticello, Davidson’s forces arrived at Augusta, Mississippi, near the Leaf River, on December 8. Upon Davidson’s arrival receipt of certain intelligence made him alter his plans. An excerpt from Davidson’s official report provides
“The day after my arrival at Augusta I found Mobile papers containing full accounts of our strength and design and our daily progress and marches were telegraphed to Meridian Where Gen. R. Taylor had his headquarters, and to Mobile. "
As a result Davidson decided to divide his command, sending elements of the 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry, 1st Louisiana Cavalry, and a detachment of the 11th New York Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. Asa Gurney north via Leakesville to destroy telegraph lines and a bridge on the Mobile and Ohio at State Line near the Alabama line, while he continued on toward Farley’s Ferry.
On the same day, December 8, the Confederate Col. Robert McCullough’s Brigade along with Leonidas Willis’ Texas Battalion of Cavalry were ordered to Leakesville and Buckatunna, Mississippi, to protect telegraph lines and the vital M & O Railroad
Leaving behind the 1st Louisiana to cover in the event of a retreat at Leaf River, Gurney struck out the morning of December 9th with around two hundred and fifty men of the 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry and a squadron of the 11th New York Cavalry, more well known as, “Scott’s 900”, They reached the Chickasawhay River where they encamped that night.
After crossing the river the next morning around 7:00, Gurney continued the march toward State Line by way of Leakesville. Around noon they encountered Confederate fire from about one hundred to one hundred a fifty men. This was the Confederate advance guard, part of the 2nd Missouri and Willis’ Texas Battalion, who had been sent out from the main body of around fifteen hundred men. Willis Texas Battalion was led by Lt. Col. Leonidas Willis, and consisted of six companies. Willis was attached to the Second Brigade of Colonel Robert McCulloch with his Second Missouri Cavalry Regiment.
During the ensuring Battle of McLeod’s Mill, one Union soldier stated the lead flew faster than he had ever seen before. The Confederates kept falling back to their main body. Finally, Lieutenant Albert Westinghouse, in command of the first squadron, was ordered to draw sabre and make a charge, which took them past the mill.
Westinghouse in the vanguard spurred his horse and shouted to his men to “follow me, “ all the while swinging his sabre overhead. Westinghouse was shot in the stomach while making the charge and died shortly thereafter. Three charges were made against the Confederates after they had fallen back on their main body. The Union detachment soon realized they were now facing superior numbers with the advantage interior lines of communication, and therefore abandoned the mission. After withdrawing from the engagement, the Confederates did not follow in pursuit.
When the fight concluded, three soldiers from the 2nd New York were killed, including Company B’s 1st Lt. Albert Westinghouse along with Sergt. Theodore Moss and James Woods of Company A. After this struggle, two days later, Gurney rejoined Davidson’s main column. According to different accounts around fourteen or fifteen Confederates were killed along with several being taken prisoner by the withdrawing column.
The Battle of McLeod’s was the most significant battle or skirmish that occurred during Davidson’s three hundred mile long raid deep into Confederate territory. While there were subsequent skirmishes led by Major Seth Pierre Remington of “Scott’s 900” near Pascagoula none resulted in additional deaths.
Soon after arriving at the Pascagoula Sound and making diversionary feints toward Mobile, Davidson’s Raiders were disembarked by awaiting Union warships and transported back to New Orleans.
Particularly noteworthy participants were 1st LT Albert Westinghouse who was the elder brother of future inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse, and Major Seth Remington, who was the father of renowned western painter Fredic Remington.
Map Of The Battle: