Within 18 days Grant had won five battles; taken 40 field-guns, many colors and small arms, and nearly 5000 prisoners; killed or wounded 5200 of the enemy; separated their armies, in the aggregate nearly 60,000 strong; and captured one fortified capital city.
Continuing Fall of Vicksburg,
our selection from A Campaign Life of U. S. Grant by Charles A. Dana and by James H. Wilson published in 1868. The selection is presented in a series of installments for 5 minute daily reading.
Previously in Fall of Vicksburg.
Place: Vicksburg, Mississippi
This put an end to the campaign in the open field. Pemberton immediately abandoned his camp on the Big Black, and retreated in disorder to Vicksburg. Johnston had gone in the direction of Canton, but did not attempt a diversion in Pemberton’s favor, though he might have fallen upon Sherman’s flank and harassed him considerably.
During the night four floating bridges were built across the Big Black by the troops under the direction of the engineer officers. McClernand built one out of the ruins of the railroad bridge, near the railroad crossing; McPherson built two farther up the river, one of timber obtained by pulling down cotton-gin houses, the other of cotton-bales rafted together; while Sherman made his of the india-rubber pontoons. After nightfall Grant rode up the river to see Sherman, whom he found at Bridge port engaged in crossing his command. The two commanders crossed the bridge and seated themselves on a fallen tree, in the light of a pile of burning fence-rails, and had a friendly conference, while the eager and swift-marching men of the Fifteenth Corps filed by them and disappeared in the darkness. Grant recounted the results of the campaign and detailed his plans for the next day, after which he returned through the forest to his own headquarters.
On the next day, May 18th, the army marched by the various roads to the rear of Vicksburg, and after slight skirmishing drove the Confederate pickets inside of their works. Communication by signal was opened at once with the gunboats and transports lying above Vicksburg, and measures were taken to establish communications with Yazoo River. The enemy had already evacuated Haines’s Bluff, and the navy took possession of the place, and proceeded to burn the gun-carriages, camps, and stores, and to blow up the magazines. This, however, was done in mistaken zeal, and inflicted an actual damage upon the Federal army rather than upon the enemy.
Within these eighteen days Grant had won five battles; taken 40 field-guns, many colors and small arms, and nearly 5000 prisoners; killed or wounded 5200 of the enemy; separated their armies, in the aggregate nearly 60,000 strong; captured one fortified capital city; compelled the abandonment of the strong positions of Grand Gulf and Haines’s Bluff, with their armament of 20 heavy guns; destroyed the railroads and bridges; and made the investment of Vicksburg complete. In doing this McPherson’s and McClernand’s corps had marched an average of 156 miles, while Sherman’s had marched 175 miles. During this time the united strength of these three corps did not exceed 45,000 men. There is nothing in history since Hannibal invaded Italy to compare with the surpassing boldness and vigor of the generalship displayed by Grant in conducting this campaign.
The Confederates, though badly beaten, were at last concentrated within the fortifications of Vicksburg, and availing themselves of its great advantages they were enabled to make a protracted and desperate defense. In order that the reader may have a definite understanding of this position and the difficulties that still remained for the Union army to overcome, let him imagine a plateau two hundred fifty feet above the surface of the Mississippi, originally level, or sloping off gently toward the Big Black, but now cut and seamed in all directions by ravines from eighty to a hundred feet deep, with steep sides made more difficult by a heavy growth of fallen timber, which the Confederates had cut down for the purpose of encumbering the ground and giving them fair range upon troops trying to advance over it. These ravines leading into three creeks flowing into the Mississippi, one just above Vicksburg, another within its limits, and the third entirely below it, were divided by high and difficult ridges, along which had been thrown up a series of open and closed redoubts, armed with artillery and connected by single and double lines of well-constructed rifle-trench for infantry. The entire line, including three miles of river front, was nearly eight miles in extent, for the defense of which the Confederate General had something more than twenty thousand effective men.
Grant’s army was posted in the following order: Sherman’s corps, composed of Steele’s, Blair’s, and Tuttle’s divisions, held the right, extending from the ridge road around to the river; McPherson, with Logan’s, Crocker’s, and Quinby’s divisions, held the center on both sides of the Jackson road; while McClernand, with Carr’s, A. J. Smith’s, Osterhaus’s, and Hovey’s di visions, held the left, extending well around to the south side of the city. The ground had been reconnoitered in front of the different divisions, and although seen to be exceedingly difficult it was not regarded as impassable. Grant had been informed by his cavalry that Johnston was gathering a strong force on the east side of the Big Black with which to fall upon his rear, and knowing that Pemberton’s army must still be in considerable disorder, if not actually too much demoralized to make a determined resistance, he decided upon an assault of the enemy’s line.
Accordingly he issued orders for all the field-batteries to open fire upon the enemy’s works at half-past one, and that at precisely two o’clock the entire army should move to the attack. These orders were promptly obeyed; the batteries poured forth an incessant fire for more than a half-hour at close range, dis mounting and silencing nearly all the enemy’s guns; and promptly at the time appointed the infantry sprang cheerfully forward, confident of sweeping over the works as they had done at the Big Blackbridge. Steele, Blair, Logan, and Carr made fair headway, but the Confederates replied with spirit and with deadly effect. The ground was too much broken and encumbered with fallen timber and regular abatis; no order could be maintained among the troops, though every effort was made to carry them forward even in disarray; but it was impossible. The Thirteenth Regulars, Eighty-third Indiana, and One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Illinois planted their colors on the parapet, but officers and men alike perceived their inability to do more, and suspended the attack. The National loss was considerable, with no adequate gain except a more advanced position and a better understanding of the ground in front of the works.
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