It had now become apparent that the Confederates could not be dislodged except by a siege or starvation.
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
The failure of this attempt did not, however, cut off all hope of carrying the place without resorting to the laborious process of a siege. The troops were permitted to rest for a while; roads were opened along the lines of investment, and to the new bases of supplies at Chickasaw Landing and Warrenton; provisions and ammunition were brought forward, and everything was got in readiness for a new trial. At 6 P.M. of the 21st Grant issued orders directing that at 10 A.M. the next day a general attack should be made along the entire line and particularly on all the roads leading into Vicksburg. In pursuance of these instructions the troops moved forward at the appointed time, but, owing to the broken ground over which they were compelled to march, it was soon found to be impossible to move either in well-ordered lines or in weighty effective columns.
As before, officers and men from right to left did their best. Sherman’s troops reached the parapet of the works in their front, and planted their colors upon them, but could not cross. Logan’s division of McPherson’s corps, headed by Stevenson’s brigade, made a gallant and orderly advance, but the position they assailed was the strongest part of the line, and they were compelled to fall back, after losing heavily. Lawler’s brigade of McClernand’s corps, remembering their success at Big Black River bridge, dashed forward in handsome style, and at one time seemed about to add a new victory to the number already inscribed upon their tattered colors. Sergeant Griffith, with a handful of men from the leading regiment, actually crossed the parapet and captured a number of prisoners, but the regiment found it impossible to follow him. After holding on at the ditch of the works for several hours, they were compelled to fall back.
This partial success was magnified by McClernand into the capture of “several points of the enemy’s intrenchments.” He therefore called upon Grant for reinforcements, expressing his confidence that with them he could take the city. Grant, from his headquarters, had witnessed the attack along McClernand’s front, and therefore doubted the propriety of sending reinforcements, but, fearing that he might underestimate the advantages which had been gained, he reluctantly consented to send one of McPherson’s divisions, and instructed that officer accordingly. He also informed him and Sherman of what McClernand claimed to have done, and directed them to renew the attack. McPherson sent Quinby’s division from his left, Boomer’s brigade leading. The attack was renewed again, and this time with still more disastrous results. The gallant Boomer was killed, and the list of casualties throughout the army largely increased. Simultaneously with the land attack Admiral Porter attacked the river-front, both from above and below, but, although he used ammunition without stint, he could not silence the enemy’s guns.
It had now become apparent that the Confederates could not be dislodged except by a siege or starvation. Grant therefore determined to try both. He sent to West Tennessee for all the troops that could be spared there. Halleck, with great alacrity, gathered all that could be dispensed with in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and sent them forward. Herron’s division of the Thirteenth, Lauman’s of the Seventeenth, Kimball’s and Sooy Smith’s of the Sixteenth Corps under Washburn, and the Ninth Corps under Parke, were brought forward in succession as fast as steamboats could be found to transport them; so that within a fortnight the besieging army was more than seventy-five thousand effective men. In order to prevent the escape of the garrison, Grant completed the investment of the lines, established batteries on the peninsula in front of the city, and stationed a force at Milliken’s Bend. For the purpose of rendering his own lines secure, he caused all the roads leading toward the Big Black to be obstructed by felling trees in them.
Sherman with a corps of observation, consisting of about twenty thousand men, drawn from the investing force, and further strengthened by the Ninth Corps, was thrown out to the northeastward for the purpose of watching the movements of Johnston, now threatening the line of the Black River with more than twenty thousand men. Sherman established a strong line of detached works, extending from a point near Bridgeport on the Big Black, by the way of Tiffinton and Milldale, to the Yazoo; Osterhaus kept watch over the Big Black below the railroad crossing; while Washburn established a strongly fortified camp on Sherman’s left, at Haines’s Bluff.
During all this time the siege operations were pushed steadily forward night and day; parallels and trenches were opened at every favorable point; batteries were built and cavaliers erected; heavy guns were borrowed from the navy and mounted on commanding points; roads were made; siege materials were prepared; mines were sunk; towers for sharpshooters were built; every means that ingenuity could devise was brought to bear upon the work in hand. Wooden mortars were made for throwing grenades and small shells; and sharpshooters were kept constantly on the watch for the luckless Confederates who might show themselves above their works. So accurate and destructive was their fire that after the first four or five days every Confederate gun was silenced, and, when the place was finally taken, hundreds of men were found in the hospitals, who had been wounded in their hands and arms while raising them above the parapet to ram cartridges.
Immediately after the assault of May 22d McClernand issued a bombastic order of congratulation to his command, claiming for them most of the honor of the campaign, and indirectly censuring Grant and casting unjust reflections upon Sherman and McPherson. These officers protested to Grant, sending him a copy of the order, which they had cut from a newspaper. This was the first information Grant had received of the existence of such an order, McClernand having failed to transmit directly to him a copy as required by regulations. Grant inquired of McClernand whether the newspaper copy was correct, and, if so, why he had not complied with the rules of the service in forwarding it to army headquarters. McClernand’s answer was defiant in the extreme. Grant, therefore, relieved him from command, and assigned Ord to the Thirteenth Corps. This secured entire harmony throughout the army.
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