The Vicksburg Campaign
OPERATIONS IN MISSISSIPPI--JANUARY TO JULY, 1863 --FEDERAL FORCES AT YOUNG'S POINT--EXPEDITIONS NORTH OF VICKSBURG--ORGANIZATION OF CONFEDERATE FORCES--GRIERSON'S RAID--GRANT AT BRUINSBURG--BATTLES OF PORT GIBSON AND RAYMOND--PLANS OF JOHNSTON AND PEMBERTON --BATTLE OF BAKER'S CREEK--BIG BLACK BRIDGE --SIEGE OF VICKSBURG--PEMBERTON'S CAPITULATION.
Maj.-Gen. U.S. Grant assumed command of the military forces on the Mississippi in January, 1863, after McClernand, the successor of Sherman, had returned from an expedition to Arkansas Post, and he brought to the aid of the army which had met defeat at Chickasaw Bayou the forces he had withdrawn from northern Mississippi.
The Federal commander reported that the defenders of Vicksburg had thoroughly fortified the bluffs from Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo down past Vicksburg to where the bluffs recede from the river. He landed his force mainly at Young's Point, and then set about experimenting in the hope of finding, amid the flood of water which filled the river bayous and swamps, some dry and practicable landing-place which might serve as a desirable base of operations. He was compelled to abandon a plan to land at Milliken's Bend and turn the Confederate fortifications at Haynes' Bluff, by the flooded condition of the intervening country.
Two ways of approach from the north to the Yazoo remained, one through Yazoo Pass, the Coldwater and the Tallahatchie, and one through Steele's bayou and Deer creek. An expedition of four gunboats under Commander Smith, and 6,000 men on transports under General Ross, was sent to try the first, and Admiral Porter and Grant in person made a reconnoissance on Deer creek.
Work was also resumed on the old canal begun by Butler's order, and a brigade was set to work clearing out a channel by way of Lake Providence and the Tensas, and digging a second canal to open up a passage by way of Willow and Roundaway bayous. These last three passages were desired to carry the army to a safe landing-place below Vicksburg without the danger of passing the guns of the forts.
Meanwhile, to experiment on running the batteries, the ironclad Queen of the West, under Commander Ellet, Who won notoriety by the first bombardment of Vicksburg, was sent down with orders to destroy a Confederate vessel before Vicksburg. He ran past successfully, but failed to injure the steamer, and then made a cruise down the river, capturing two Confederate steamers; but on going up Red river his boat was taken in very neatly by Gen. Richard Taylor. The captured ironclad, manned by Confederates, and assisted by the Webb, then attacked and sunk the Indianola near Palmyra Island. Col. Wirt Adams, Mississippi cavalry, made an ineffectual attempt to raise the latter vessel to add it to the Confederate navy. Grant's work on the canal was soon checkmated by Pemberton, who strengthened the fortifications at Warrenton.
The expedition down the Coldwater and Tallahatchie, led by the powerful ironclad Chillicothe, was met by General Loring, who constructed Fort Pemberton with cotton bales, covered with earth, on the narrow neck of land just west of Greenwood, and obstructed the Tallahatchie with a raft and the sunken steamer Star of the West. The Federal gunboats began an attack March 11th, but Loring, with some Louisiana troops and the Twentieth and Twenty-sixth Mississippi, easily held his ground. The Federals were to have made a grand attack on the 16th, but a few well-placed cannon shots put the Chillicothe out of action. A day or two later, Colonel Wilson, the Federal engineer in charge, reported that "His Excellency Acting Rear-Admiral Commodore Smith left to-day for a more salubrious climate, very sick, giving it as his opinion that the present force of gunboats could not take the two rebel guns in front." But before the expedition had returned to the Mississippi it was reinforced by General Quinby with part of his division, and the entire force came back to renew the attack on Fort Pemberton, which was meanwhile reinforced by Gen. D. H. Maury with Featherston's brigade and six guns. This second attempt resulted in nothing but a bombardment of the fort during three days, and on the night of April 4th the Federals again retreated. In meeting the first attack Col. D. R. Russell, Lieut.-Col. W. N. Brown, and Capt H. Cantey of the Twentieth, were mentioned for skillful service. CoL A. E. Reynolds and Major Liddell did enterprising duty during the second attack.
About the middle of March Admiral Porter, supported by Sherman's army corps, attempted to open up a passage by way of Steele's bayou, Black's bayou, Deer creek, Rolling Fork and Sunflower river, into the Yazoo. Col. S. W. Ferguson, with 250 sharpshooters, and a battery under Lieut. R. L. Wood, first met the expedition at the mouth of Rolling Fork, on Deer creek, and engaged the gunboats on the 20th. He was soon reinforced by General Featherston's brigade, and Major Bridges took command of the sharpshooters. The fighting continued on the 21st with small loss to the Confederates, and then Porter withdrew and abandoned the expedition. At the same time Gen. S. D. Lee was active in the work of fortifying lower Deer creek, and prepared to strike the enemy in the rear if opportunity offered.
Thus the attempts to reach Vicksburg from the north were cleverly foiled, and Grant was restricted to such approaches as he might find west of the river to obtain a foothold on Mississippi soil. Unfortunately the forces of the Confederacy in Texas and Arkansas were not employed to check the movements in that direction as a few determined men had done along the line of the Yazoo.
During these early months of 1863, there had been frequent raids in northern Mississippi from the Federal posts in Tennessee and Corinth, and to meet such inroads, the Confederate cavalry being insufficient, Rust's brigade and two regiments under General Buford were transferred from Port Hudson to Jackson. General Chalmers, as soon as he had recovered from his wounds received at Murfreesboro, was given command of the Fifth military district of Mississippi, comprising the two northern tiers of counties, but with such troops only as he could obtain by concentrating the various small commands scattered throughout that region.
On March 11th, General Bowen and his brigade were ordered to Grand Gulf, to fortify that point, commanding the entrance to the Big Black river, and hold the approaches west of the river. Three days later Farragut, in the lower Mississippi, attempted to run the batteries at Port Hudson, but got only two boats through and lost one'. These two continued up the river. past the Grand Gulf batteries March 19th, and communicated with Grant from below Vicksburg, whereupon Porter sent down the Switzerland and Lancaster. The first got past with some damage, but the Lancaster was blown up. During the passage, the Hartford, one of Farragut's boats, moved up and engaged the batteries at Warrenton, where General Barton was then in command.
On April 4th, Grant notified the Washington authorities that he had decided to send the fleet past the Vicksburg batteries, while the troops would be conveyed by small boats and barges through the bayous in Louisiana to Warrenton or Grand Gulf, "most probably the latter."
He had put one division on Deer creek, just above Lake Washington, to cut off Confederate supplies in that direction.
Rosecrans and Bragg were assuming hostile attitudes in Middle Tennessee, and Grant and Pemberton were both being called upon for help. A movement of transports on the Mississippi led to a rumor that Grant was about to abandon his campaign and transfer his army, part to Corinth and part to reinforce Rosecrans; and under the influence of these reports Pemberton, on April 13th, put the brigades of Tilghman, Rust and Buford under orders to march to Tullahoma with all dispatch, and Vaughn's brigade was held in readiness.
But the Federals were steadily pushing on through the Louisiana bayous to turn the left flank of the Vicksburg line. General Osterhaus, of the Federal army, made a reconnoissance by boat to New Carthage, through the bayous, early in April, with 54 men and a howitzer; had a skirmish with Bowen's outposts, and from the Louisiana shore gazed upon the plantations of Joseph and Jefferson Davis, which he reported as "a very tempting view." On April 2d, McClernand occupied Richmond, La., and during the following two weeks moved part of his corps to New Carthage, skirmishing as he advanced with the force which Bowen had thrown across the river under Col. Francis M. Cockrell. On April 8th, Bowen telegraphed Pemberton, asking if he should cross the river with his entire command in case the rumors of the heavy advance of Federals in Tensas Parish proved true, and fight them. To this Pemberton, still deceived by the demonstrations on the Yazoo and the movements of boats to and from Memphis, replied that he did not consider the advance of the Federals in that quarter of such importance as to justify Bowen running the risk of being cut off by the Federal fleet.
On the 15th, Cockrell made a considerable demonstration against McClernand at James' plantation, and discovered the great strength of the movement; and on the night of the day following, Grant's plan was revealed beyond doubt by the passage of the Vicksburg batteries by seven gunboats and three empty transports, with the loss of one vessel. This detachment joined the three gunboats already below Warrenton. Pemberton now hastily recalled the brigades sent to Bragg, and notified the Trans-Mississippi commander that "the enemy is cutting a passage from near Young's Point to Bayou Vidal, to reach the Mississippi river near New Carthage. Without co-operation, it is impossible to oppose him."
The troops under command of Lieut.-Gen. John C. Pemberton in April, 1863, were organized as follows:
Maj.-Gen. Carter L. Stevenson commanding.
First brigade, Brig.-Gen. Seth M. Barton--Five Georgia regiments: Fortieth, Forty-first, Forty-second, Forty-third and Fifty-second.
Second brigade, Brig.-Gen. E. D. Tracy, Col. I. W. Garrott, Brig.-Gen. Stephen D. Lee--Five Alabama regiments: Twentieth, Twenty-third, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, Forty-sixth.
Third brigade, Brig.-Gen. Thomas H. Taylor, Brig.-Gen. Alfred Cumming--Five Georgia regiments: Thirty-fourth, Thirty-sixth, Thirty-ninth, Fifty-sixth, Fifty-seventh.
Fourth brigade, Col. A. W. Reynolds--Four Tennessee regiments: Third, Thirty-first, Forty-third, Fifty-ninth.
Artillery--Waddell's Alabama battery, Botetourt Virginia battery, Hudson's Mississippi battery, Cherokee Georgia battery, Third Maryland battery.
Cavalry--Van Dyke's company.
Maj.-Gen. Martin L. Smith commanding.
First brigade, Brig.-Gen. W. E. Baldwin--Seventeenth and Thirty-first Louisiana; Fourth Mississippi, Col. P. S. Layton; Forty-sixth Mississippi, Col. C. W. Sears; First Mississippi light artillery, battery E, Capt. N.J. Drew; Mississippi Partisan Rangers, Capt. J. S. Smyth.
Second brigade, Brig.-Gen. J. C. Vaughn--Sixtieth, Sixty-first, Sixty-second Tennessee; First Mississippi light artillery, battery I, Capt. Robert Bowman; Fourteenth Mississippi light artillery battalion, Maj. M. S. Ward, batteries of C. B. Vance and J. H. Gates.
Third brigade, Brig.-Gen. Stephen D. Lee, Brig.-Gen. F. A. Shoup--Three Louisiana regiments: Twenty-sixth, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth; First, Eighth and Twenty-third Louisiana heavy artillery; First Tennessee heavy artillery, two Tennessee batteries; Vaiden artillery, Company L, First Mississippi light artillery; sappers and miners.
MAURY'S (FORNEY'S) DIVISION.
Maj.-Gen. D. H. Maury commanding to April 15th; then Maj.-Gen. John H. Forney.
First brigade, Brig.-Gen. Louis Hébert--Third Louisiana; Thirty-sixth Mississippi, Col. W. W. Wither. spoon; Thirty-seventh Mississippi, Col. O. S. Holland; Thirty-eighth Mississippi, Col. Preston Brent; Forty-third Mississippi, Col. R. Harrison; Seventh Mississippi battalion, Capt. A.M. Dozier; Appeal battery, Arkansas; Tobin's (Tenn.) battery.
Second brigade, Brig.-Gen. J. C. Moore--Thirty-seventh Alabama; Forty-second Alabama; Thirty-fifth Mississippi, Col. W. S. Barry; Fortieth Mississippi, Col. W. B. Colbert; Second Texas; Bledsoe's battery.
Other forces--Sengstak's battery; Mississippi cavalry, Col. Wirt Adams; Waul's Texas Legion, Lieut.-Col. L. Willis; Pointe Coupée artillery; First Tennessee cavalry, Col. J. G. Stocks. Mississippi State troops, Brig.-Gen. John V. Harris: Fifth regiment, Col. H. C. Robinson; Third battalion, Lieut.-Col. T. A. Burgin.
Maj.-Gen. John S. Bowen commanding.
Bowen's brigade, Col. F. M. Cockrell--First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Missouri infantry; Guibor's, Landis' and Wade's Missouri batteries; Grayson's company Louisiana heavy artillery, at Grand Gulf.
Green's brigade, Brig.-Gen. M. E. Green--Catterson's and Bayne's Arkansas battalions of sharpshooters: Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-first Arkansas infantry; First Missouri cavalry and Second Missouri cavalry battalion, dismounted; Dawson's and Lowe's Missouri batteries; Escort, Captain Savery's company Western Rangers.
Maj.-Gen. W. W. Loring commanding.
Tilghman's brigade, Brig.-Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, Col. A. E. Reynolds--Fifty-fourth Alabama; Eighth Kentucky; Sixth Mississippi, Col. Robert Lowry; Twentieth Mississippi, Col. D. R. Russell; Twenty-third Mississippi, Col. J. M. Wells; Twenty-sixth Mississippi, Col. A. E. Reynolds, Maj. T. F. Parker; Capt. Jacob Culbertson's Mississippi battery; Capt. J. J. Cowan's Mississippi battery; Captain McLendon's Mississippi battery.
Featherston's brigade, Brig.-Gen. W. S. Featherston --Third Mississippi, Col. T. H. Mellon; Twenty-second Mississippi, Lieut.-Col. H. J. Reid; Thirty-first Mississippi, Col. J. A. Orr; Thirty-third Mississippi, Col. D. W. Hurst; First Mississippi battalion sharpshooters, Maj. W. A. Rayburn; First Mississippi light artillery, battery C.
FIRST MILITARY DISTRICT, HEADQUARTERS COLUMBUS.
Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ruggles commanding.
Third Mississippi battalion State troops, Maj. W. A. Hewlett; Fifth Mississippi regiment State troops, Col. H. C. Robinson; Mississippi State cavalry, companies of Capt. D. C. Gillelyn, Capt. J. E. Johnson, Capt. W. C. Martin; Mississippi State Rangers, Capt. Isham J. Warren; Second Tennessee cavalry battalion, Lieut.-Col. C. R. Barteau; Owen's and Thrall's Arkansas batteries; Rice's Tennessee heavy artillery; Hewlett's Alabama Partisan Rangers.
FOURTH MILITARY DISTRICT, HEADQUARTERS JACKSON.
Brig.-Gen. John Adams commanding.
First Choctaw battalion, Maj. J. W. Pierce; First Mississippi battalion, Maj. W. B. Harper; Fourteenth Mississippi, Col. G. W. Abert; Company C, Fifteenth Mississippi infantry, Capt. P. H. Norton; Bolen's and Terry's Kentucky cavalry companies; Third Mississippi brigade, State troops, Brig.-Gen. J. Z. George, at Grenada.
FIFTH MILITARY DISTRICT.
Brig.-Gen. James R. Chalmers commanding.
First Mississippi cavalry, Partisan Rangers, Col. W. C. Falkner; Third Mississippi cavalry, three companies, Col. John McQuirk; Eighteenth Mississippi cavalry battalion, Maj. A. H. Chalmers; Mississippi State troops, Capt. Samuel Matthews; Mississippi cavalry companies, Capts. J. Y. Smith, Sol. G. Street, J. F. White; cavalry battalion State troops, Maj. G. L. Blythe.
On April 1st, Stevenson's division had 681 officers and 9,795 men present for duty; Smith's division, including Hébert, 600 officers and 6,421 men; Bowen's division (then Forney's), 395 officers and 4,169 men; Loring's division, including Moore, 549 officers and 6,678 men. Adams had 53 officers and 378 men; Chalmers, 82 officers and 780 men; Ruggles, 152 officers and 1,809 men.
This shows a grand total fighting strength in Mississippi, exclusive of the southern district, of 2,512 officers and 30,030 men. The" aggregate present, "exclusive of the southern district, was 41,107; "aggregate present and absent," or total enrolled, 55,590.
THIRD MILITARY DISTRICT, HEADQUARTERS PORT HUDSON.
Maj.-Gen. Franklin Gardner commanding.
Maxey's brigade, Brig.-Gen. S. B. Maxey--Louisiana regiments: Fourth and Thirtieth; Tennessee regiments: Forty-second, Forty-sixth, Fifty-fifth, Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, Fifty-third; Burnet's sharpshooters; Fenner's battery; Capt. Calvit Roberts' Mississippi battery.
Gregg's brigade, Brig.-Gen. John Gregg--Tennessee regiments; Third, Tenth, Thirtieth, Forty-first, Fiftieth, Fifty-first; Chinn's Louisiana battalion; Seventh Texas; Bledsoe's Missouri battery; Brookhaven Mississippi battery, Capt. J. A. Hoskins.
Beall's brigade, Brig.-Gen. W. N. R. Beall--Arkansas regiments: Eleventh, Seventeenth, Twelfth, Fourteenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-third, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Eighth battalion; Thirty-ninth Mississippi, Col. W. B. Shelby; batteries B, F, K, First Mississippi light artillery.
Rust's brigade, Brig.-Gen. Albert Rust--Thirty-fifth Alabama, Ninth Arkansas, First Confederate battalion; Twelfth Louisiana; Fifteenth Mississippi, Lieut.-Col. J. R. Binford; Chust's and Ilsley's companies, Pointe Coupée artillery; Hudson's Mississippi battery, Lieut. J. R. Sweany.
Buford's brigade, Brig.-Gen. A. Buford--Twenty-seventh and Forty-ninth Alabama; Fourth and Sixth Alabama battalions; Tenth Arkansas, Third Kentucky, Seventh Kentucky, Watson's battery.
Cavalry--Ninth Louisiana battalion; three Louisiana companies; Mississippi battalion, Maj. W. H. Garland; Mississippi battalion, Lieut.-Col. C. C. Wilbourn; Mississippi companies, Capts. G. Herren, W. V. Lester, T. C. Rhodes, V. L. Terrell, T. R. Stockdale; Ninth Tennessee battalion.
Heavy artillery--First Alabama, Twelfth Louisiana battalion, First Tennessee battalion.
The return of this district for the above organizations showed present for duty 1,366 officers, 14,921 men; aggregate present, 20,388; aggregate present and absent, 26,728.
The two brigades of Rust and Buford were ordered to Jackson early in April, and subsequently were attached to Loring's division, mainly in Buford's brigade of that division. Later in April Gregg's brigade was also sent to Jackson. These additions probably increased the fighting strength in northern Mississippi on May 1st to 40,000 men, according to the returns.
On April 15th, General Stevenson reported that "Gen. S. D. Lee has returned fully impressed that the enemy is in force here (opposite Vicksburg). The troops at Lake Providence have been moved down. He has information that they will make an effort on our left, up Bayou Pierre in rear of Grand Gulf. Their concentration at Richmond and New Carthage indicate that intention. Our force opposite Grand Gulf has checked them. If they are removed, enemy can move down levee to Saint Joseph, nearly opposite Bayou Pierre." It thus appears that there was among the Confederate commanders a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the situation. Bowen visited Colonel Cockrell, and, believing he could hold a strong position without immediate danger and check the Federal advance, suggested this to Pemberton, at the same time indicating his readiness to withdraw Cockrell if so ordered. The withdrawal was peremptorily ordered and executed on April 17th. At the same time the Sixth Mississippi, First Confederate battalion, and one field battery, were sent from Jackson to reinforce Grand Gulf, and Green's brigade from Vicksburg.
During this period considerable excitement was caused by the raft obstruction of the Yazoo at Snyder's Mill giving way and opening the channel. Further up the river, near Greenwood, the indefatigable Capt. I. N. Brown had been constructing a little fleet of cotton clad gunboats, to aid in the defense of the Yazoo line. The raft was soon replaced, and gradually fear of a Federal attack in that quarter was allayed.
On the night of April 22d, six more gunboats and a lot of barges ran past Vicksburg to New Carthage. While these ominous preparations were being made, Confederate forces in the interior of the State were held back from the threatened points by General Grierson's raid from La Grange, Tenn., through the entire length of Mississippi to Baton Rouge. Grierson started out, April 17th, with l,700 cavalrymen, demonstrations being made all along the Federal line from Corinth to Memphis to conceal the purpose of the expedition. There was no adequate cavalry command to meet Grierson, and the infantry which sought to intercept him was of necessity too slow in motion. Van Dorn's cavalry corps was with Bragg, and the various cavalry companies in Mississippi were mostly scattered. As it was, however, Grierson was compelled to make his trip with such celerity that he did not find time to do much damage. After sending a detachment which skirmished at New Albany, he reached Pontotoc, where he burned a mill. He then sent back about 200 men with some prisoners captured at New Albany and went on south to the road leading to Columbus, where he detached about 500 men under Col. Edward Hatch to strike the railroad at West Point, raid southward to Macon, if possible, and on his return to take Columbus and destroy the government works.
This extensive program Hatch soon found impracticable. On reaching Palo Alto a few hours later, he was attacked by Col. C. R. Barteau, with the Second Tennessee battalion and the commands of Col. J. F. Smith, Maj. W. M. Inge and Capt. T. W. Ham, and was so roughly handled that at night he started back toward Okolona. Barteau made a vigorous pursuit, but was unable to come up with Hatch until near Birmingham, when he attacked and drove the Federals across Camp creek after a fight of about two hours. They burned the bridge behind them, and Barteau's ammunition being exhausted he gave up the pursuit. Grierson was given a grateful relief from Confederate attentions by this diversion, and moved on to Louisville, destroying some property at Starkville, and a shoe factory on the road. One company,under Captain Forbes, dashed to Enterprise and demanded its surrender, but the place was held by Generals Buford and Loring. The raiders then passed through Louisville and Philadelphia without resistance and, reaching Decatur April 24th, struck the Southern Mississippi railroad and destroyed a few locomotives and cars, and a considerable quantity of firearms and military stores in the vicinity of Newton Station. At Garlandville, according to Grierson's report, he "found the citizens, many of them venerable with age, armed with shotguns and organized to resist an approach. As the advance entered the town these citizens fired upon and wounded one of our men. We charged upon them and captured several." After passing this place Grierson decided to cross the New Orleans ;railroad at Hazlehurst and join Grant at Grand Gulf. He destroyed military stores at Hazlehurst and Gallatin; but on advancing from the latter place was met at Union Church by Capt. S. B. Cleveland of Wirt Adams' regiment, and on the next day Colonel Adams appeared at his front. Thus foiled in his movement toward Grand Gulf, Grierson fell back through Brookhaven, burning some bridges on the railroad and appropriating horses along the road as he fled rapidly toward the Louisiana line, pursued by Adams as far as Greensburg, La.
During the same period General Chalmers was occupied in northwestern Mississippi with an infantry expedition from Memphis, under Col. George E. Bryant, Twelfth Wisconsin, supported by Gen. W. S. Smith. At Hernando, on the evening of April 18th, Col. W. C. Falkner attacked the enemy, and a severe engagement followed in which' Falkner lost about 40 killed and a proportionate number wounded and captured, while the Federal loss was considerable. Bryant then advanced toward Coldwater, but was defeated by Chalmers' command reinforced by Colonel McCulloch, Maj. G. L. Blythe attacking in the rear, and fell back to Hernando and thence to Memphis.
On April 25th a Federal detachment went down the west side of Lake Saint Joseph from Bayou Vidal, and pushing away a detachment of Trans-Mississippi cavalry under Maj. Isaac F. Harrison, made its way to Hard Times landing, building bridges for the army to follow. On the 29th Grant had 10,000 soldiers in transports at Hard Times, and Porter was sent against the batteries at Grand Gulf with seven ironclads. A fierce artillery battle raged throughout the forenoon of the day, ending in Porter's repulse. Thereupon Grant immediately disembarked his troops and marched them to De Shroon's landing; and in the following night the gunboats made another attack on the Grand Gulf batteries, under cover of which the empty transports were run past. Grant was now beyond the last Confederate fortifications on the south, and on the 30th of April he was safely on shore at Bruinsburg, below Bayou Pierre, with 20,000 men.
Bowen at Grand Gulf, with the brigades of Cockrell and M. E. Green, was being reinforced by Tracy's and Baldwin's brigades; but these commands were all small in numbers, and his aggregate of effective men was but a little over 5,000. He already had part of Green's brigade posted on the direct road to Bruinsburg on Bayou Pierre, as well as on the Big Black, and he now sent General Green with a detachment of 450 men, and the Sixth Mississippi, under Col. Robert Lowry, to occupy the roads from Bruinsburg to Port Gibson, and soon reinforced them with Tracy's brigade. He was threatened on all sides, above and below.
During the night of April 30th McClernand was skirmishing with Green; and at 1 o'clock a.m., May 1st, he made an attack in force, which Green repulsed. But the Federal lines were spreading out and threatened to envelop the little Confederate force. At sunrise the fight was renewed and became general, and the Confederates were gradually pushed back. The Sixth Mississippi, by a gallant charge upon a Federal battery, succeeded in holding back the tide a little while, and Baldwin's brigade came up and formed a line in the rear, to which the Confederate advance was withdrawn. The Federal right approaching the Natchez road the Third and Fifth Mississippi charged in that direction, routed the enemy, and by a desperate fight saved Bowen's entire command from being flanked and captured. The Confederates kept up the fight during the day, making what Grant pronounced a very bold defense and well carried out, holding the 20,000 Federals in check until evening, when they withdrew across the bayou and burned the bridges. In this battle of Port Gibson, the Mississippi troops engaged, aside from the Sixth regiment, were mainly in Baldwin's brigade, which reached the field exhausted by a long march, fought on the left, retired through Port Gibson at nine o'clock at night, and fell back toward Willow Springs. The Fourth regiment, under Lieuten-ant-Colonel Adair, bore the severest part of the conflict. The casualties of Bowen's little army in this battle were 60 killed and 340 wounded. Among the killed, unfortunately, was Gen. E. D. Tracy. The Federal loss was much more severe--131 killed, 719 wounded and 25 missing; but they were compensated to some extent by capturing 387 men, mainly from Green and Tracy. Bowen held his position on Bayou Pierre during the next day, but was not reinforced. Generals Loring and Tilghman arrived the following night, and it being decided that the position could not be held, Grand Gulf was ordered abandoned and Bowen's forces withdrew across the Big Black river at Harkinson's ferry. McPherson's corps followed, and was stoutly resisted en route, but on May 3d encamped at the ferry.
On the 6th Sherman landed at Bruinsburg and increased the Federal army to about 33,000 men. With this strength, hearing Banks could not reach Port Hudson immediately, Grant abandoned his plan of holding Grand Gulf as a base and operating southward first against Port Hudson, and determined to cut loose from his base of supplies and with his whole force, subsisting from the country, attack Vicksburg from the rear. This meant much to the planters in that part of Mississippi. Grant supplied his army with three days' rations of hard-tack, coffee and salt, and as for the rest, in his own words, "Beef, mutton, poultry and forage were found in abundance. Quite a quantity of molasses and bacon was also secured from the country. Every plantation had a run of stone, propelled by mule power, to grind corn for the owners and their slaves. All these were kept running while we were stopping, day and night; and when we were marching, during the night, at all plantations covered by the troops."
Pemberton's plan of campaign was to defend Vicks. burg first and last, leaving Jackson to be defended by Adams, reinforced from Port Hudson and from the other departments. He expected to hold the Big Black river and fight Grant at Edwards on the Jackson railroad or at the river bridge, a few miles west, and at those points massed his main strength. He also, throughout the campaign, believed that Grant would attempt to maintain a line of communication with Grand Gulf, which could be broken, compelling Grant to retreat as in the previous year from Oxford. He posted forces on the Warrenton and Hall's ferry roads, and on the Baldwin's ferry road, and such cavalry as could be obtained, under Col. Wirt Adams, was ordered to harass the enemy and report his movements. Pemberton was confirmed in his expectation of a battle at Edwards by the apparent movements of his antagonist, who threatened Edwards with McClernand's corps. But at the same time Grant sent Sherman's corps to Clinton, and McPherson's to Raymond. On the 11th, General Tilghman, stationed at Baldwin's ferry, reported that the enemy was pushing back his skirmishers; and Pemberton, in anticipation of a battle at Edwards, ordered Gen. W. H. T. Walker, who had been sent with his brigade from Bragg's army to Jackson, to join Gregg, the united force to strike the Federal rear after battle was joined.
General Gregg with his Tennessee brigade, about 3,000 strong, reached Raymond from Jackson on the evening of the 11th, and found the people in consternation on account of the news of a Federal advance. He was advised of the approach of the enemy by his cavalry pickets, but not informed of his numbers, and was led to believe by the orders from Pemberton that it was only a marauding excursion. The Federals arrived and opened an artillery fire at 10 o'clock, May 12th. Gregg moved forward to support his pickets, and presently, judging that only one brigade was before him, disposed his regiments to make an attack both in front and flank, hoping to capture the enemy. His men advanced and drove back the first lines before them, but soon perceived that they were assailing overwhelming numbers. The fight was kept up gallantly for three hours against Logan's division, supported by the remainder of McPherson's corps, and then Gregg withdrew in good order, the retrograde movement being gallantly covered by a few companies of Kentucky cavalry and Captain Bledsoe's battery. The battle of Raymond was reported by the Federals as a very considerable affair, and they had to mourn the loss of 66 killed, 339 wounded and 37 captured. The Confederate loss was also severe, 73 killed, 251 wounded, and 190 missing, among the killed and wounded being a number of gallant officers. Gregg, reinforced by 1,000 men under Walker, encamped that night five miles from the battlefield, and on the 13th fell back to Jackson, where the remainder of Walker's brigade increased the force to 6,000.
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston arrived at Jackson on the evening of the same day, and assumed chief command in the State. He sent a note to Pemberton which was delivered on the morning of the 14th, containing these words- "I have lately arrived and learn that Major-General Sherman is between us with four divisions at Clinton. It is important to re-establish communications, that you may be reinforced. If practicable, come up on his rear at once. To beat such a detachment would be of immense value. The troops here could co-operate. All the strength you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all important."
Grant, immediately upon being informed of McPherson's success at Raymond had abandoned his plan of attack on Pemberton and began a movement of his entire army to strike the Confederate force at Jackson before it could be reinforced from other quarters. Consequently McClernand withdrew from before Edwards, and sent part of his corps to Clinton and part to Raymond, and an immediate attack on Jackson was ordered by Sherman from Clinton and by McPherson from Raymond. This was all done on the 13th, and at nine o'clock, on the same morning that Pemberton received the order to march against Sherman at Clinton, McPherson and Sherman were attacking the pickets at Jackson.
On receiving the order from Johnston, Pemberton replied that he would at once move his whole available force, about 16,000, from Edwards, leaving Vaughn's brigade, about 1,500, at Big Black bridge, and 7,500 men under Smith and Forney on the Vicksburg river lines. Tilghman's brigade, about 1,500, would follow in rear of Pemberton's column.
But before this movement was executed, Pemberton held a council of war, in which, he says, "a majority of the officers present expressed themselves favorable to the movement indicated by General Johnston. The others, including Major-Generals Loring and Stevenson, preferred a movement by which the army might attempt to cut off the enemy's supplies from the Mississippi river. My own views were strongly expressed as unfavorable to any advance which would separate me farther from Vicksburg, which was my base. I did not, however, see fit to put my own judgment and opinions so far in opposition as to prevent a movement altogether, but believing the only possibility of success to be in the plan of cutting the enemy's communications, it was adopted." Pemberton thereupon ordered an advance toward Raymond, intending to strike the main road at Dillon's, about ten miles from Edwards, and he sent a message to Johnston informing him, stating as his object "to cut the enemy's communications and force him to attack me, as I do not consider my force sufficient to justify an attack on the enemy in position or to attempt to cut my way to Jackson." He also expressed a wish that Johnston would unite with him at Raymond.
Johnston, meanwhile, discovered soon after ordering Pemberton to attack Sherman at Clinton, that the latter intended to attack him (Johnston) at Jackson; and at 3 a.m. on the 14th, General Gregg, having been informed that Jackson must be evacuated, was ordered to hold back the Federals until Gen. John Adams should prepare his train and retreat on the Canton road. At 3 a.m. Gregg marched out for this purpose toward Clinton, while Colonel Colquitt, with Gist's brigade, supported by Walker's, took an advanced position on the Raymond road. The Federal attacks were made almost simultaneously by McPherson on the Raymond road and Sherman on the Clinton road, but they were both held back, the troops behaving with the utmost coolness and courage, until 2 o'clock p.m., when the trains being on their way from the city, the Confederates withdrew in good order. There was much spirited fighting and the Federal loss was 42 killed, 241 wounded and 7 missing; the Confederate loss 17 killed, 64 wounded and 118 missing.
Johnston now sent a second message to Pemberton (May 14th), saying: "The body of troops mentioned in my note of last night compelled Brigadier-General Gregg and his command to evacuate Jackson about noon to-day. The necessity of taking the Canton road at right angles to that upon which the enemy approached prevented an obstinate defense." He also stated that, being reinforced by the brigade of Gist, from Beauregard's department, and Maxey's brigade, he hoped to prevent the enemy from drawing provisions from the east, and continued: "Can he supply himself from the Mississippi? Can you not cut him off from it? and above all, should he be compelled to fall back for want of supplies, beat him? As soon as the reinforcements are all up, they must be united to the rest of the army. I am anxious to see a force assembled that may be able to inflict a heavy blow upon the enemy. Would it not be better to place the forces to support Vicksburg between General Loring and that place, and merely observe the ferries, so that you might unite if opportunity for fighting presented itself. If prisoners at Jackson tell the truth, the force at Jackson must be half Grant's army. It would decide the campaign to beat it, which can be done by concentrating, especially when the remainder of the eastern troops arrive; they are to be 12,000 or 13,000." This apparently approves Pemberton's move against Grant's communications. But Pemberton did not receive the letter until two days later.
On the next morning, after the above second message to Pemberton was sent, Johnston, then ten miles north of Jackson, received Pemberton's notice of a move toward Dillon, and answered: "Our being compelled to leave Jackson makes your plan impracticable. The only mode by which we can unite is by your moving directly to Clinton, informing me, that we may move to that point with about 6,000. I have no means of estimating the enemy's force at Jackson. I fear he will fortify if time is left him. Let me hear from you immediately."
Pemberton started out from Edwards toward Raymond on the morning of the 15th, Loring in advance with the brigades of Featherston and Buford, and Bowen following with the brigades of Cockrell and Green. Stevenson, with the brigades of Lee, Barton, Cumming and Reynolds, left Edwards in the evening. The road southeast from Edwards makes a Y before reaching Baker's creek, one branch going on toward Raymond and the other turning off toward Clinton. As the high water had destroyed the bridge and made the ford impassable on the Raymond road, the army was forced to take the Clinton road across the creek and then, after reaching Champion's Hill, it marched in column down a transverse road until Loring's division reached the Raymond road again. Night now came on and the army bivouacked in this position. On the morning of the 16th Pemberton received Johnston's third message, announcing the evacuation of Jackson and conveying the impression that Grant intended to keep his main forces there, and he immediately ordered the column to march in inverse order, Stevenson in front, eastward toward Clinton. But just as this movement began, Federal artillery opened on Loring.
Johnston's first message had been sent in triplicate, and one of the couriers, a traitor, had delivered it to Grant on the evening of the 14th. Consequently the Federal commander, leaving Sherman to destroy Jackson as a railroad center and manufacturing city, hurried McClernand and McPherson toward Bolton. On the night of the 15th, when Pemberton's army was in bivouac beyond Baker's creek, Hovey's division was on his flank at Bolton, with Carr and Osterhaus and the advance of McPherson's corps near at hand, while Smith and Blair were not far from Loring on the Raymond road. All of these troops had orders to move with the utmost expedition to prevent any junction of Pemberton and Johnston. It was the advance of Smith's division, early on the 16th, that first warned Pemberton of his situation.
Not regarding the early attack on Loring as more than a reconnoissance, Pemberton at first ordered a continuance of his movement toward Bolton, and Reynolds' brigade was detailed to protect the wagon train. But the demonstrations of the enemy soon becoming more serious, the line of march was transformed into a line of battle. The position on the transverse road happened to be a strong one, covering the approaches of all the Federal troops. Col. Wirt Adams, with his cavalry, had been skirmishing in front of Reynolds. Lee's brigade came up about 7:30 a.m. and most of Reynolds' brigade was sent toward Edwards to protect the train, and no longer participated in the fighting. Tilghman's brigade, which had been in the rear, was stationed before the bridge on the Raymond road. The position which Lee took involved him in heavy skirmishing, and the enemy developed toward his left flank, threatening the Clinton road into Edwards. Stevenson brought up Cumming to Lee's right, and Barton to the right of the latter.
According to General Stevenson's report, "the enemy, in columns of divisions, moved steadily around our left, forcing it to change direction to correspond, and their movement was so rapid as to keep my line (a single one) in constant motion by the left flank." Finally Barton was sent to support Lee, who was fighting at the critical point. "About half past ten," according to Stevenson's report, "a division of the enemy in column of brigades attacked Lee and Cumming. They were handsomely met and forced back some distance, where they were reinforced by about three divisions, two of which moved forward to the attack, and the third continued its march toward the left, with the intention of forcing it. The enemy now made a vigorous attack in three lines upon the whole front. They were bravely met, and for a long time the unequal conflict was maintained with stubborn resolution. But this could not last. Six thousand five hundred men could not hold permanently in check four divisions, numbering from their own statements 25,000 men; and finally, crushed by overwhelming numbers, my right gave way and was pressed back upon the two regiments covering the Clinton and Raymond roads, where they were in part rallied. Encouraged by this success the enemy redoubled his efforts and pressed with the utmost vigor along my line, forcing it back. At this time (about 2:30 p.m.), Bowen's division, Green on the right and Cockrell on the left, arrived, gallantly charged the enemy, supported on the left by a portion of Cumming's and Lee's brigades, and drove them back beyond the original line. In the meantime the enemy had continued his movements to our left, and fell upon Barton in overwhelming numbers. He charged them gallantly but was forced back, and the enemy following up his advantage cut him off entirely from the rest of the division. It was here the lamented Maj. Joseph W. Anderson, my chief of artillery, fell in the fearless discharge of his duty. Here, too, the gallant Ridley [Samuel J. Ridley, captain Company A, Withers' light artillery], refusing to leave his guns, single-handed and alone, fought until he fell, pierced with six shots, winning even from his enemies the highest tribute of admiration."
Barton, when cut off, crossed Baker's creek in rear of the battlefield and took position near Edwards, where he was joined by many of Cumming's men. Loring, meanwhile, had been ordered up with his division, but remained facing McClernand's division on the Raymond road, both the two officers incurring the criticism of their respective commanders for inaction. Buford's brigade arrived about 4 p.m., but then the enemy had taken the Edwards road and turned upon him two captured batteries. These Withers opened upon from a ridge opposite, and silenced them. Featherston also came up, and was put in position to cover the retreat which was now ordered.
Major Lockett having provided a new bridge, and the ford being now passable on the Raymond road, the retreat was made that way, Tilghman's brigade covering the movement from McClernand. While engaged in this service the gallant Marylander was killed. After Lee had crossed, Bowen formed to cover the passage of Loring from the Federals, who had crossed the creek on the road direct from Champion's Hill and threatened to cut off the Confederate retreat. Bowen reported that he notified Loring to hurry, but according to the latter the enemy commanded the crossing before he could reach it, and consequently, abandoning his artillery, Loring took his troops down the creek to find another ford, and finally turned back and, marching all night, reached Dillon's at 3 a.m. Thence he went to Crystal Springs and united with Johnston at Jackson.
Thus Loring's division was lost to Pemberton, except a part of Lowry's regiment, under Maj. J. R. Stevens, which had become accidentally attached to another command. The army train was saved by Reynolds' brigade, which was compelled to cross the Big Black at Bridgeport. There was no lack of heroic fighting in this disastrous battle on the part of the Confederates, and it may be said that the disparity of numbers did not necessarily involve so decided a defeat, provided the Confederate strength had been put on the battlefield, which was where Stevenson was. The Federal forces opposed to Stevenson were the divisions of Hovey, Logan and Crocker, and their strength, according to Grant, was 15,000 men. Stevenson confronted them until 2 o'clock, with no serious discomfiture, with 6,500. One of his brigades was guarding the train, and Bowen and Loring were not sent up till afternoon, Bowen alone arriving at 2:30, when it was evidently too late, and Featherston and Buford not until 4 p.m. The men in these commands demonstrated their readiness to fight as soon as they were permitted to reach the field. But it must also be remembered that two of McClernand's divisions were threatening the right of the army, and would have cut off its retreat. Tilghman alone was sufficient, it appears, to hold them back, but that could not have been known beforehand.
Col. William T. Withers, commanding the First Mississippi light artillery, and chief of field artillery, was greatly distinguished in the battle; and the companies of his regiment engaged did gallant duty. Lieut. Frank Johnston was in immediate command of a section of the guns of Company A, Withers' artillery, and served them with great effect against the enemy when approaching in overwhelming numbers. In the early part of the day, at the first of the fighting, Johnston's section and Ratcliff's, the latter commanded by Allen Sharkey (who was subsequently killed in the general assault by the enemy during the second week of the siege of Vicksburg), were to the right of Champion's Hill. They were next moved to the left and supported the celebrated charge of the Missouri brigade. Thirty-nine out of forty of the battery horses of Lieutenant Johnston's section being killed, the guns had to be abandoned, of course, and about nine men, including Lieutenant Johnston, escaped and reported at Big Black that night. Of the services of Withers' First light artillery regiment in this fight, Major-General Loring said: "Upon the approach of W. S. Featherston's brigade, in rapid march, a considerable force of the retreating army having been rallied behind him, the enemy, who was advancing upon the artillery, fell back in great disorder, Colonel Withers pouring in a most destructive fire upon him. It was here that we witnessed a scene ever to be remembered, when the gallant Withers and his brave men, with their fine park of artillery, stood unflinchingly amid a shower of shot and shell the approach of an enemy in overwhelming force after his supports had been driven back, and trusting that a succoring command would arrive in time to save his batteries, and displaying a degree of courage and determination that calls for the most unqualified admiration." Company G, First Mississippi light artillery, Capt. J. J. Cowan, served with the division of General Loring. He was compelled to abandon his guns, but being supplied with others he continued to serve in this division with gallantry and efficiency till the close of the war. Company B, Capt. A. J. Herod; Company F, Capt. J. L. Bradford; Company K, Capt. George F. Abbey, served in defense of Port Hudson. The remaining six companies of the light artillery served during the siege of Vicksburg and were distributed along the line. Almost all the artillery horses of the companies engaged were killed in the battle of Champion's Hill, and nearly all the guns fell into the hands of the enemy.
The loss of Stevenson's division at Champion's Hill was 233 killed, 527 wounded and 2,103 captured; also 11 cannon and 2,834 small-arms. Bowen's division lost 65 killed, 293 wounded, 242 missing, and saved its artillery. Tilghman's Mississippi brigade lost 5 killed, 10 wounded, 42 missing; Buford's brigade lost 11 killed and 49 wounded; Featherston's brigade 2 wounded and 1 captured. On the Federal side the main loss was sustained by Hovey's division, which lost a third of its numbers. The total Federal loss was 410 killed, 1,844 wounded, 187 missing.
Pemberton said: "Had the movement in support of the left been promptly made when first ordered it is not improbable that I might have maintained my position, and it is possible that the enemy might have been driven back; though his vastly superior and constantly increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night to save my communications with Vicksburg." On the other hand, Grant declared: "Had McClernand come up with reasonable promptness, or had I known the ground as I did afterward, I cannot see how Pemberton could have escaped with any organized force."
The Confederates had fortified the bridge where the railroad crosses the Big Black with a tête-de-pont on the east side of the river, and this was occupied by Vaughn's brigade, about 4,000 men, when the troops arrived from Baker's creek during the night of the 16th. Bowen's division was also posted in the works, and Stevenson's division was sent west of the river to Mount Alban. The fortifications were strong and defended by twenty pieces of artillery. Yet Pemberton did not desire to hold it longer than to enable Loring, whom he had not heard from, to come up. While waiting, morning (May 17th) arrived, and with it an attack from the enemy, who had followed rapidly and now made a charge against that part of the works held by Vaughn's brigade, which broke in confusion. Green and Cockrell were then compelled to retire with much celerity across the bridge, using the steamer Dot, which was swung across and used as an additional bridge. Some of the men, possessed by panic, swam across the turbulent river, and others in the attempt were drowned. The bridge and steamer were then burned under the direction of Major Lockett, and Federal pursuit was checked, the Twenty-third Alabama remaining on the opposite bank all day. The Federals captured 18 guns and 1,751 prisoners, and lost in killed and wounded 276 in this affair.
Captain Ridley having been killed at the battle of Baker's creek, First Lieut. C. E. Hooker had command of the battery, consisting of Lancaster's section under the command of Lieutenant Lancaster, and Hooker's section under the immediate command of Lieutenant Johnston. A shot from the enemy's artillery stationed immediately in front of Robert Smith's house, struck the axle of the gun under command of Lieutenant Johnston, throwing the gun from the trunnion bed and igniting some loose ammunition near by and severely wounded Lieut. Frank Johnston and Privates Henderson, Smith and William R. Hooker. There being but 4,000 supporting infantry left to defend the guns, and the attack being made by Grant's entire army, it was of course but a question of time when the guns would have to be abandoned and retreat made by the men to the west bank of the Big Black river, whose bluffs, here 100 feet high, approached to the margin of the river, where two guns, one a 9-pounder north of the railroad and the other a 6-pounder south of the railroad, held the entire Federal army in check for a whole day, the main body of the army having retreated to the defenses of Vicksburg. Lieut. C. E. Hooker, in command of Company A of Withers' artillery regiment, was severely wounded in the artillery attack made by the Federal troops all along the line on Friday, the second week of the siege, losing his left arm, and Wm. T. Radcliff, next in command, took charge of the company until the surrender.
After the affair at Big Black bridge Pemberton immediately withdrew his remaining forces to the Vicksburg lines, and before night work was begun preparing the fortifications on the !and side for a siege. Moore's brigade was brought back from Warrenton; the defenses at Snyder's Mill and the line of Chickasaw Bayou were abandoned, and all stores that could be quickly transported were sent to Vicksburg. The rest, including the heavy guns, were destroyed. On the morning of the 18th the troops were disposed as follows: Stevenson's division occupied the line south of the railroad, Barton on the river front and in the forts adjacent, Reynolds next to the Hall's Ferry road, Cumming on the left center, and Lee, with Waul's legion, on the left up to the railroad. The next two miles of intrenchments, running north, were held by Forney's division, Moore next the railroad and Hébert on the left. The north line to the river, a stretch of a mile and a quarter, was held by Martin L. Smith's division, Shoup on the right, Baldwin next, and Vaughn and Harris and the detachment from Loring next the river. The river defenses were under the command of Col. Edward Higgins. The upper batteries from Fort Hill to the upper bayou were manned by the First Tennessee artillery, Col. Andrew Jackson; the center batteries by the Eighth Louisiana battalion, Maj. F. N. Ogden, and the Vaiden light artillery, Capt. S. C. Bains; and the lower batteries by the First Louisiana artillery, Lieut.-Col. D. Beltzhoover. Bowen's division, about 2,400 strong, was held as a reserve, reducing the force. in the trenches to a little over 16,000 men, according to General Pemberton's report.
The line of defense on the land side consisted of a system of detached works, redans, lunettes and redoubts on the prominent and commanding points, with the usual profile of raised field works, connected in most cases with rifle-pits. The chief engineer in charge was Maj. Samuel H. Lockett. As the siege progressed the usual traverses were added, mines were dug and obstacles of various kinds were made in front, such as abatis, palisades, ditches and entanglements of pickets and telegraph wires.
Grant's army had been increased to about 43,000 by the arrival of Blair's division during the battle of Baker's Creek, and he was anxious to establish a base of supplies. His first movement, therefore, after crossing the Big Black, was to send Sherman to the Yazoo, and that general had the satisfaction on the 18th of standing on the bluff where Lee had defeated him in the previous winter. Smith's division, occupying some advanced works, had some brisk skirmishing with Sherman, but was withdrawn to a stronger line in the following night. On the 19th there was constant and heavy skirmishing on the Graveyard road, and the investment being completed Grant ordered an assault, believing Pemberton's men had not recovered from the recent disasters. But in this he was mistaken, and the Federals were hurled back by Forney's left and Smith's right with considerable loss of men and two stand of colors. During the 20th and 21st, the Federals kept up an artillery and sharpshooting fire, and strengthened their position; but otherwise were quiet, waiting for the opening of their commissary line, which was completed on the night of the 21st. Another feature of the siege inaugurated at noon on the 20th, was the bombardment of the city by Porter's fleet of mortars. To all of this the Confederates made but slight response, already husbanding their ammunition.
On the forenoon of May 22d a tremendous and incessant fire was opened by the Federal artillery and gunboats, and this was followed by an assault by the whole Federal line, Sherman against Smith, McPherson against Forney and McClernand against Stevenson. The divisions of Smith and Forney repelled these determined assaults from 11 a.m. until evening, though the Federals succeeded in getting a few men into the exterior ditches at various points of attack. Gen. S. D. Lee's line was assailed with vigor. The enemy was allowed to approach within good musket range, when every available gun was opened upon him with grape and canister, and the men rising from their trenches poured volley after volley into the foe with so deadly an effect that he fell back, leaving the ground covered 'with dead and dying. In one angle of the works about sixty of the enemy effected a lodgment and planted two colors on the parapet, but were driven out and the flags captured by two companies of Waul's legion. In this assault the Federals lost the major part of their killed and wounded while before Vicksburg, the grand total of which was 4,233. This assault satisfied the Federal army. Grant blamed the loss of life to McClernand, and soon afterward sent that officer home. On the 24th the besieging army commenced their regular approaches and soon had possession of a line of hills on the main roads, not exceeding 350 yards distant from our salient points. On the same day the first Federal mine was begun on the Jackson road, but the workers were dislodged with hand-grenades. On the evening of the 25th there was a short truce to permit the Federals to bury their dead, which had lain between the lines two days.
The siege now began and the monotonous course of bombardment by the Federals from their 200 cannon on the hills, the guns of the fleet, the mortars on the boats and the batteries on the Louisiana point opposite, and the incessant sharpshooting, which was to continue until early in July. There were occasionally sudden bursts of activity which gave a change from the regular program. On the 27th the monitor Cincinnati engaged the upper batteries at short range, but was a wreck in forty-five minutes under the skillful fire of the Confederates. A detachment of the lower fleet was at the same time repulsed by Beltzhoover. The 28th and 29th were signalized by the arrival through the Federal lines, in some mysterious way, of Lamar Fontaine and another courier, with nearly 40,000 caps, which Johnston had been asked to send. Johnston also sent a message that he was expecting reinforcements, upon the arrival of which he would move to the relief of the beleaguered army. Caps continued to arrive with Courier Walker and Captain Sanders, and frequently messages were sent back and forth between Pemberton and Johnston.
May 26th to June 4th an expedition under Gen. Frank Blair of Missouri marched from Grant's lines to Mechanicsburg, for the destruction of Confederate supplies which might be available for Johnston. He reported: "I used all we could and destroyed the rest. We must have burned 500,000 bushels of corn and immense quantities of bacon. I destroyed every grist-mill in the valley and drove away about 1,000 head of cattle. I brought with me an army of negroes equal to the number of men in my command, and 200 or 300 head of mules and horses. Brought in 30 or 40 bales of cotton and burned all the balance found." Col. Wirt Adams and Gen. John Adams, who met his advance column and drove it back at Mechanicsburg, reported still more destruction.
Early in June the Federal works had been pushed up very close, especially in front of Lee and Forney, and the Federal mines crept still closer, particularly toward the Graveyard redan, the Third Louisiana redan on the Jackson road, and the lunette on the Baldwin's Ferry road. The Confederates threw up new lines of defense behind these points and countermined. On the 19th of June the Federal works on the Graveyard road were within twenty feet of our redan. Pemberton made another appeal to Johnston: "My men have been thirty-four days and nights in trenches, without relief; and, as you know, are entirely isolated. What aid am I to expect from you? The bearer, Capt. G. D. Wise, can be confided in."
At this moment the army of Northern Virginia was advancing into Pennsylvania; Bragg's army was facing Rosecrans before Chattanooga,. and General Gardner was besieged at Port Hudson. The only relief obtained from the Trans-Mississippi forces was an expedition under Maj. Gen. J. G. Walker against Young's Point and Milliken's Bend in June, which destroyed all the sources of Federal supplies in that quarter. Harrison captured Richmond and defeated the enemy's cavalry June 6th; but H. E. McCulloch was repulsed from Milliken's Bend on the 7th. Johnston continued to promise some relief, to save the garrison at least, and there was talk of cutting out, supported by an attack by Johnston. It was promised that General Taylor, with 8,000 men, would open communication from the west bank of the river; but nothing came of it.
Grant's statement of his condition on June 14th was this: "I had now about 71,000 men. More than half were disposed of across the peninsula, between the Yazoo at Haynes' Bluff, and the Big Black, with the division of Osterhaus watching the crossings of the latter river south and west." This half of the army was under Sherman after McClernand was relieved, and its duty was to watch Johnston.
On June 25th the first mine explosion occurred under the salient of the Third Louisiana redan on the Jackson road, which the Federals considered the most formidable on the line. The time of explosion of a ton of powder under this work was set for 3 p.m., and as that hour approached the incessant fire from the Federal lines dropped off and there was a strange quiet, followed soon by the dull, earth-shaking explosion of the mine. Instantly a terrible outburst of cannon and musketry opened from the Federal lines, and a charging column entered the crater. But they got no farther, for the Confederates were ready and opened such a withering fire that it was instant death for one of the enemy to show his head. Not only that, but shells were lighted and thrown over the parapet to explode among the Federals, causing a terrible loss of life. The Federals held the crater, however, built a shed to keep off the shells, and then the mining was resumed on both sides. Six men of the Forty-third Mississippi, engaged in countermining at the time of the explosion, were buried alive.
On June 22d Pemberton sent a message to Johnston, saying: "If I cut my way out, this important position is lost and many of my men too. Can we afford that? If I cannot cut my way out, both position and all my men are lost. This we cannot afford." He then proceeded to suggest that Johnston propose to Grant to pass the army out with arms and equipage and surrender the town. "This proposal would come with greater prospects of success from you, while it necessarily could not come at all from me." "While I make this suggestion, I still renew my hope of your being, by force of arms, enabled to act with me in saving this vital point. I will strain every nerve to hold out, if there is hope of our ultimate relief, for fifteen days longer." To this Johnston answered June 27th, and conveyed the discouraging news that Gen. Kirby Smith, who was expected to assist on the west side, had fallen back. Johnston felt encouraged to hope that something might yet be done to save' Vicksburg. But he refused to open negotiations with Grant, saying: "Negotiations with Grant for the relief of the garrison, should they become necessary, must be made by you. It would be a confession of weakness on my part which I ought not to make to propose them. When it becomes necessary to make terms, they may be considered as made under my authority."
On the 28th Pemberton received a communication signed "Many Soldiers," containing these words: "Our rations have been cut down to one biscuit and a small bit of bacon per day, not enough scarcely to keep soul and body together, much less to stand the hardships we are called upon to stand. If you can't feed us, you had better surrender us, horrible as the idea is, than suffer this noble army to disgrace themselves by desertion. This army is now ripe to mutiny unless it can be fed." This communication probably did not represent "many soldiers" in truth, but it is valuable as indicating one of the factors of the situation.
On July 1st another mine was exploded under the same redan, which resulted in its complete demolition, leaving only a vast chasm. Nine men who were countermining were lost, and a large number of those manning the works were killed and wounded. But no attempt was made to enter the works.
The report of General Stevenson presents a faithful picture of what the Confederate soldiers endured during this period. "I cannot find words sufficiently strong to express the pride and gratitude afforded me by the dauntless spirit with which officers and men encountered all the dangers, and by the unmurmuring endurance with which they bore up for forty-seven sleepless days and nights under all the hardships incident to their position. Confined, without a moment's relief from the very moment of their entrance into the fortifications of the city, to the narrow trenches; exposed without shelter to the broiling sun and drenching rains; subsisting on rations barely sufficient for the support of life; engaged from the earliest dawn till dark, and often during the night, in one ceaseless conflict with the enemy, they neither faltered nor complained; but, ever looking forward with confidence to relief, bore up bravely under every priva-tion-saw their ranks decimated by disease and missiles of the enemy--with the fortitude that adorns the soldier and the spirit that becomes the patriot who battles in a holy cause."
"During the day," said General Lee, "there was a perfect rain of minie balls which prevented any one from showing the least portion of his body, while at night, on account of the proximity of the enemy, it was impossible for the men to leave their positions for any length of time. After about the tenth day of the siege the men lived on about half rations, and on even less than that toward its close." Various experiments were made in improvising food, such as pea-bread, which was promptly abandoned. Mule and horse meat were tried, but did not meet with favor. Not until the last days was a ration of mule meat actually issued.
The patriotic citizens of Vicksburg also had their sufferings, though few met with casualties. The rain of bombs and shells was terrifying; but women and children soon learned to walk the streets while the shells were falling. When the houses became dangerous or wrecked, shelter was taken in caves in the hill. The food of the citizens was even more meager than that of the soldiers, but in some way they survived.
On July 1st Pemberton addressed a letter to each of his division commanders, stating that unless the siege were raised or supplies thrown in, it would shortly become necessary to evacuate; and he 'asked that he be informed of the condition of the troops and their ability to make the marches and undergo the fatigue incident to such a movement. Each of the generals replied that the men were so worn out that only a part could escape, if marching alone was what they were called on to do. The spirit of the men was unbroken, but their strength was exhausted. Generals Smith and Bowen added to their replies a recommendation to capitulate at once, in the hope of getting favorable terms.
Stevenson's brigade commanders reported thus: Barton, that his command was suffering greatly from fever, half of those on duty being under treatment; Cumming, that about half his men were fit to take the field; Reynolds, that a third of his men might be able to march; Lee, that his brigade was in tolerable condition and he considered them equal to the task of evacuating.
To the proposed surrender there were at least two dissenting voices among the generals, that of Baldwin, who was in favor of holding the position, or attempting to do so as long as possible; and that of S. D. Lee, who declared that it was not yet time to surrender, and it was not practicable to cut a way out, but he still had hopes that Johnston would relieve the garrison.
On July 3d General Pemberton sent General Bowen with a note to Grant proposing an armistice for several hours with a view of arranging terms for capitulation, and he suggested the appointment of three commissioners on each side.
Grant replied that his only terms were unconditional surrender, and that commissioners were therefore unnecessary, adding: "Men who have shown so much endurance and courage as those in Vicksburg will always challenge the respect of an adversary, and I can assure you will be treated with all the respect due to prisoners of war." But there was a conference on the lines at 3 p.m. between General Pemberton, accompanied by General Bowen and Capt. L. M. Montgomery, and Grant and seven officers. Grant showing no disposition to recede from his demand for unconditional surrender, Pemberton declared he would not accept it. Then Bowen and Montgomery and Federal Generals McPherson and Smith went to one side, with the acquiescence of their superiors, to agree on a recommendation, which was that the Confederate troops should march out with the honors of war, with their arms, colors and field batteries, the Federals to take the fortifications, siege guns and public property remaining. This was promptly rejected by Grant, and the conference broke up, Grant promising to send in a statement of the terms he would give. This, which Pemberton received at 10 o'clock that night, was to the effect that one Federal division would march in as a guard and take possession in the morning; as soon as all the garrison were paroled, they could march out, the officers taking side-arms, but the rank and file leaving all their arms.
Pemberton's council, waiting in that mournful night, accepted these terms in the main, but proposed as an amendment that they should evacuate the works at 10 a.m. marching out with colors and arms, and stacking them in front of the works,. after which Grant should take possession. Grant replied substantially that, if Pemberton's desire was to march the men out at 10 o'clock and stack arms and then march back to remain until paroled, he had no objection. So it was settled, and Vicksburg was surrendered July. 4, 1863.
This ended the memorable siege of Vicksburg. The Confederate troops, though few in number, had successfully repelled the efforts to take the city from the front by the navy. The effort to take it by descent through the Coldwater and Sunflower rivers and bayous failed. The gallant defense made at Fort Pemberton and all along the line by Generals W. W. Loring, Stephen D. Lee, Ferguson and Wirt Adams, has been recited in these pages. The attempt by General Sherman in his bold attack at Chickasaw Bayou, his fearful repulse and heavy loss---all demonstrated how hard it was, indeed, almost impossible, successfully to attack the city, even with superior numbers, from the river front. When General Grant commenced the landing of his force at Young's Point, in full view through glasses from Vicksburg, it clearly demonstrated that he had determined to surround the city, land his troops below Vicksburg and assail it from the rear. The feint on Snyder's Bluff seemed to have deluded the Confederate commander at Vicksburg. The troops at Snyder's Bluff were finally sent to reinforce the gallant Bowen at Port Gibson; but when they had marched half way they were met by the news that Bowen had been defeated there and Grant had made a successful landing of his forces on the eastern bank of the river and was rapidly marching into the interior, and these forces were ordered back to Vicksburg. Had Bowen been reinforced in time by the guns and troops at Snyder's Bluff, and had made his resistance to Grant's army at the crossing of the river, it may be that the fall of Vicksburg would never have been recorded in history.
On the 14th day of June, 1863, General Grant admitted he had 71,000 men. In a subsequent letter, published in Vol. XXIV, part 3, War Records, General Grant said, "I have this day received 8,000 men in addition to those already received." Hurlbut was in command at Memphis, and shipped transport after transport crowded with troops to reinforce General Grant at the siege. It may safely be said that in addition to the overwhelming numbers with which he met General Pemberton at Champion's Hill and Big Black, his forces after he laid siege to Vicksburg had been increased at least 40,000 men. General Grant believed up to within a few days of the surrender of Vicksburg that Joseph E. Johnston would attack him at Snyder's Bluff, crossing at Messenger's or Byrdsong's ferry on the Big Black north of the railroad.
As proof of this, on page 428, Vol. XXIV, part 3, War Records, is found the following letter:
Near Vicksburg, June 22, 1863. General Parke: Sherman goes out from here with five brigades, and Osterhaus' division subject to his order, besides. In addition to this, another division, 5,000 strong, is notified to be in readiness to move on notice. In addition to this I can spare still another division, 6,000 strong, if they should be required. We want to whip Johnston at least fifteen miles off, if possible.
U. S. GRANT.
This shows how full-handed he was in men, for he had the entire besieging garrison at Vicksburg in addition to the great army which Sherman took out to meet Johnston. The letter above referred to bears date June 15, 1863, and says: "A portion of.the Ninth army corps, about 8,000 strong, has now arrived, and will take position, etc." All this shows that it is no unreasonable assertion to say that Grant had 100,000 men in the siege at Vicksburg.
The parole lists indicated 29,491 men in the Vicksburg lines, of whom 23,233 were privates. Of these 3,084 were paroled in hospital. The men were marched out after being provisioned, and it was at once apparent by their painful and tedious progress that they could not have escaped from the siege. They were taken to Demopolis and there went into camp as paroled prisoners under charge of their own provost marshals.
Port Hudson, La., had been invested May 24th and surrendered July 8th, and now the whole course of the Mississippi was in the hands of the United States, except such occasional attacks as steamers might expect in passing through a hostile country.
Source: Confederate Military History, Vol. 7, Chapter IX
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