47th Indiana Volunteers
On August 11, 1862 a brief, but deadly battle took place on the the line between Tunica and Coahoma counties in Northwest Mississippi. Company A of the 47th Indiana Volunteers consisting of forty five men and thirteen cavalry were attacked by an unknown number of Confederates at Brown’s gin. The Union soldiers were under the command of Captain Albert Moorhous and Lieutenant Hiram Moorhous. The brothers and their men were sent out on the afternoon of the 11th from Helena. After a quick boat ride across the Mississippi River, they landed and marched about twelve miles southeast of Helena to the plantation owned by Captain Issac Brown. Using a slave from one of the plantations, they finally managed to find the Brown place about 9 o’clock. Once there, Captain Moorhous deployed his cavalry on picket duty to look out for the enemy. The Northerners found cotton hidden in two places and more stored at the gin. Since it was too late to move the cotton, Captain Moorhous divided his men up into three posts.
Tunica County 1871
The men were ordered to sleep with their cartridge boxes on and guns by their sides. Lieutenant Moorhous was left in charge at one post and the captain divided the other two under his command. The cavalry took their turn on picket duty first, the infantry then, and the cavalry going back at about 3 o’clock in the morning.
Unknown to any of the Union men, a group of Confederates had come together to attack them at the gin. These men were led by Captains William J. Floyd and William L. Maxwell of the 2nd Mississippi Partisans. Although divided into companies, this was a loose organization made up of local men. According to Captain Brown, there were at least three of these companies operating around the Yazoo Pass in Northern Coahoma County in 1862. They came together in southern Tunica county that night and moved to surround the camp where Lieutenant Moorhous was in charge.
Partisan Rangers formed over much of the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions.
Lieutenant Moorhous had 21 members of Company A with him along with 12 cavalry. The dozing cavalry were on guard and his infantry were fast asleep on the cotton bales as the rebels sneaked up and surrounded the camp. Armed with double barrel shotguns and hunting rifles, they waited for the signal to attack. Suddenly a single shot rang out and the partisans rushed in firing. Privates Elijah Thraikill and Issac Johnson were instantly killed. John W. Higgins and Thomas Rowney were mortally wounded. Smith Johnson received two balls in his leg. Allen Miller was wounded in the arm. Michael Hodgson was shot in the neck. Issac Hodgson was also wounded. Smith Ralston was hit by bullets in the thigh and shoulder blade. Samuel Tote was wounded in the thigh. John Thomas and Jonas Ingle were also slightly wounded. Charles Morgan was taken prisoner. Lieutenant Moorhous was slightly wounded and captured. All of this took place in about three minutes according to Captain Moorhous, who rushed to the defense of his surrounded men with the rest of his command. As the remaining members of the 47th attacked, the Mississippi Partisans quickly withdrew. They had suffered only one wounded man
The Battle of Brown’s gin was a small battle in the much larger American Civil War, but it was an example of how vicious the fighting was in the Delta around Helena. There was no quarter and it turned neighbor against neighbor. Civilians were caught in between and it changed the direction of the Delta for years to come.