The fall of Vicksburg
BY JEFFERSON DAVIS
After General J. F. Johnston had recovered from the wound received at Seven Pines, he was on November 24, 1862, by special order No. 275, assigned to the command of a geographical department including the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina. The order gives authority to establish his headquarters wherever, in his judgment, will best secure facilities for ready communication with the troops of his command; it provides that he "will repair to any part of said command whenever his presence may for the time be necessary or desirable." While the events which have been described were occurring in Pemberton's command, he felt seriously the want of cavalry, and was much embarrassed by the necessity of substituting portions of his infantry to supply the deficiency of cavalry.
These embarrassments and the injurious consequences attendant upon them were frequently represented. In his report he states, after several other her applications for cavalry, that on March 25th he wrote to General Johnston, commanding department, "urgently requesting that the division of cavalry under Major General Van Dorn, which had been sent to the Army of Tennessee for special and temporary purposes, might be - returned." He gives the following extract from General Johnston's reply April 3d to his request:
In the present aspect of affairs, General Van Dorn's cavalry is much more -needed in this department than in that of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and can not be sent back as long as this state of things exists. You have now in your department five brigades of the troops you most require, viz, infantry, belonging - to the Army of Tennessee. This is more than a compensation for the absence of General Van Dorn's cavalry command.
To this Pemberton rejoined that cavalry was indispensable, stating the Baldwin's' positions where the enemy was operating on his communications, andthe impossibility of defending the railroads by infantry. Referring to the - -advance of the enemy from Bruinsburg, Pemberton, in his report, makes -the following statement:
With a moderate cavalry force at my disposal, I am firmly convinced that the -federal army under General Grant would have been unable to maintain its communication with the Mississippi River, and that the attempt to reach Jackson and Vicksburg would have been as signally defeated in May, 1863, as a like attempt from another base had, by the employment of cavalry, been defeated in December 1862
General Pemberton commenced, after the retreat of Bowen, to concentrate all his forces for the great effort of checking the invading army, and on the 6th telegraphed to the Secretary of War that the reinforcements to him were very insufficient, adding: "The stake is a great one; I see nothing so important." On May 12th he sent a telegram to General J. E. Johnston, and a duplicate to the President, announcing his purpose to meet the enemy then moving with heavy force toward Edward's Depot, and indicated that as the battlefield; he urgently asked for more reinforcements: "Also, that three thousand cavalry be at once sent to - operate on this line. I urge this as a positive necessity. The enemy largely outnumbers me, and I am obliged to hold back a large force at the ferries
on Big Black." This was done to prevent the foe's passing to his rear. Large bodies of troops continued to descend the river, land above
Vicksburg, and, to avoid our batteries at that place, to move on the west side of the river to reinforce General Grant. This seemed to justify the conclusion that the main effort in the West was to be made by that army, and, supposing that General Johnston would be convinced of the fact if he repaired to that field in person, as well as to avail ourselves of the public confidence felt in his military capacity, he was ordered, on May 9, 1863, to "proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces, giving to those in the field, as far as practicable, the encouragement and benefit of your personal direction. Arrange to take, - for temporary service, with you, or to be followed without delay, three
thousand good troops," etc.
On the 12th, the same day General Pemberton had applied for reenforcements, he instructed Major General Stevenson as follows:
From information received, it is evident that the enemy is advancing in force on Edwards's Depot and Big Black Bridge; hot skirmishing has been going on all the morning, and the enemy are at Fourteen-Mile Creek. You must move with - your whole division to the support of Loring and Bowen at the bridge, leaving Baldwin's and Moore's brigades to protect your right.
-In consequence of that information, Brigadier General Gregg, who was near Raymond, received cautionary instruction; notwithstanding this, he was attacked by a large body of the enemy's forces, and his single brigade, with great gallantry and steadiness, held them in check for several hours, and then retired in such good order as to attract general
admiration. Meantime, bodies of the enemy's troops were sent into the - interior villages, and much damage was done in them, and to the defenseless, isolated homes in the country.
General Johnston arrived at Jackson on May 13,1863, and telegraphed to j. A. Seddon, Secretary of War, as follows:
I arrived this evening, finding the enemy in force between this place and General Pemberton, cutting off the communication. I am too late.
In the order assigning General Johnston to the geographical Department of the West, he was directed to repair in person to any part of his command, whenever his presence might be for the time necessary or desirable. On May 9, 1863, he was ordered to proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces in the field.
When he reached Jackson, learning that the enemy was between that place and the position occupied by General Pemberton's forces, about thirty miles distant, he halted there and opened correspondence with Pemberton, from which a confusion with consequent disaster resulted, which might have been avoided had he, with or without his reinforcements, proceeded to Pemberton's headquarters in the field. What that confusion or want of co-intelligence was, will best appear from citing the important part of the dispatches which passed between them. On May 13th General Johnston, then at Jackson, sent the following dispatch to General Pemberton, which was received on the 14th:
I have lately arrived, and learn that Major-General Sherman is between us, with four divisions at Clinton. It is important to reestablish communications, that you may be reinforced. If practicable, come up in his rear at once beat such a detachment would be of immense value. Troops here could cooperate. All the troops you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all-important.
On the same day, the 14th, General Pemberton, then at Bovina, replied:
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication. I moved at once with whole available force, about sixteen thousand, leaving Vaughan's brigade, about fifteen hundred, at Big Black Bridge; Tilghman's brigade, fifteen hundred, now at Baldwin's Ferry, I have ordered to bring up the rear of n column; he will be, however, from fifteen to twenty miles behind it. Baldwin's Ferry will be left, necessarily, unprotected. To hold Vicksburg are Smith's and Forney's divisions, extending from Snyder's Mills to Warrenton, numbering effectives seven thousand eight hundred men. . .. 1 do not think that you fully comprehend the position that Vicksburg will be left in; but I comply at once with your order.
On the same day General Pemberton, after his arrival at Edward's' Depot, called a council of war of all the general officers present. He placed General Johnston's dispatch before them, and stated his own views against the propriety of an advance, but expressed the opinion that the only possibility of success would be by a movement on the enemy's communications. A majority of the officers present expressed themselves favorable to the plan indicated by General Johnston. The others, including Major General Loring and Stevenson, "preferred a movement by which the army might attempt to cut off the enemy's supplies from the Mississippi River." General Pemberton then sent the following dispatch to General Johnston:
Edward's DEPOT, May 14, 1863.
I shall move as early to-morrow morning as practicable, with a column of seventeen thousand men, to Dillon's, situated on the main road leading from Raymond to Port Gibson, seven and a half miles below Raymond, and nine miles from Edwards's Depot. The object is to cut the enemy's communication and to 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. At this point your nearest communication would be through Raymond.
The movement commenced about 1 P. M. on the 15th. General Pemberton states that the force at Clinton was an army corps, numerically greater than his whole available force in the field; that-
The enemy had at least an equal force to the south, on my right flank, which would be nearer Vicksburg than myself, in case I should make the movement - proposed. I bad, moreover, positive information that he was daily increasing his strength. I also learned, on reading Edwards's Depot, that one division of the
- enemy (A. J. Smith's) was at or near Dillon's.
On the morning of the 16th, about 6:30 o'clock, Colonel Wirt Adams, commanding the cavalry, reported to General Pemberton that his pickets
were skirmishing with the enemy on the Raymond road in our front. At
the same moment a courier arrived and delivered the following dispatch
- from General Johnston:
CANTON ROAD, TEN Miles FROM JACKSON,
May 15, 1863, 8:30 o'clock A. M.
Our being compelled to leave Jackson makes your plan impracticable. The only - 'node by which we can unite is by your moving directly to Clinton and informing me, that we may move to that point with about six thousand.
Pemberton reversed his column to return to Edward's Depot and take the Brownsville road, so as to proceed toward Clinton on the north side of the railroad, and sent a reply to General Johnston to notify him of
- the retrograde movement and the route to be followed. Just as the reverse movement commenced, the enemy drove in the cavalry pickets and - opened fire with artillery.
-The continuance of the movement was ordered, when, the demonstrations of the enemy becoming more serious, orders were issued to form a line of battle, with Loring on the right, Bowen in the center, and Stevenson on the left. Major General Stevenson was ordered to make the necessary dispositions for protecting the trains on the Clinton road - and the crossing of Baker's Creek. The line of battle was quickly formed in a position naturally strong, and the approaches from the front well covered. The enemy made his first demonstration on the right, but, after a lively artillery duel for an hour or more, this attack was relinquished, and a large force was thrown against the left, where skirmishing be-came heavy. About ten o'clock the battle began in earnest along Stevenson's entire front. About noon Loring was ordered to move forward and crush the enemy in his front, and Bowen to cooperate. No movement was made by Loring; he said the force was too strongly posted to be attacked, but that he would seize the first opportunity to assault if one should offer. Stevenson soon found that unless reinforced he would be unable to resist the heavy and repeated attacks along his line. Aid was sent to him from Bowen, and for a time the tide of battle turned in our favor. The enemy still continued to move troops from his left to his right, thus increasing on that flank his vastly superior forces. General: Pemberton, feeling assured that there was no important force in front of Loring, again ordered him to move to the left as rapidly as possible. To this order, the answer was given that the enemy was in strong force and endeavoring to turn his flank. As there was no firing on the right, the order was repeated. Much time was lost in exchanging these messages. At 4 P. M. a part of Stevenson's division broke badly and fell back. Some assistance finally came from Loring, but it was too late to save the day, and the retreat was ordered. Had the left been promptly supported when it was first so ordered, it is not improbable that the position might have been maintained and the enemy possibly driven back, although his increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night to save our communications with Vicksburg unless promptly reinforced. The dispatch of the 15th from General Johnston, in obedience to which Pemberton reversed his order of march, gave him the first intelligence that Johnston had left Jackson; while -making the retrograde movement, however, a previous dispatch from Johnston, dated "May 14, 1863, camp seven miles from Jackson," in-formed Pemberton that the body of Federal troops mentioned in his dispatch of the 13th had compelled the evacuation of Jackson, and that he was moving by the Canton road; he refers to the troops east of Jackson as perhaps able to prevent the enemy there from drawing provisions from that direction, and that his command might effect the same thing in regard to the country toward Panola, and then asks these significant questions:
Can he supply himself from the Mississippi? Can you not cut him off from it? 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. . .. If prisoners tell the truth, the force at Jackson must be half of Grant's army. It would decide the campaign to beat it, which can only be done by concentrating, especially when the remainder of the eastern troops arrive. They ate to be twelve or thirteen thousand.
From Pemberton's communication it is seen that he did not feel his army strong enough to attack the corps in position at Clinton, and that he hoped by the course adopted to compel the enemy to attack our force in position. Whether the movement toward Dillon's was well or ill-advised, it was certainly a misfortune to reverse the order of march in the presence of the enemy, as it involved the disadvantage of being a tacked in rear. As has been described, the dispositions for battle were promptly made, and many of the troops fought with gallantry worthy of all praise. Though defeated, they were not routed.
Stevenson's single division for a long time resisted a force estimated by him at "more than four times" his own. In the afternoon he was reinforced by the unfaltering troops of Bowen's division. Cockerell, commanding the First Missouri Brigade, fought with like fortitude under like disadvantage. When Pemberton saw that the masses assailing his left and left center by their immense numbers were pressing our forces -back into old fields, where the advantages of position would be in his adversary's favor, he directed his troops to retire, and sent to Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman instructions to hold the Raymond road to protect the retreat. General Pemberton says of him:
It was in the execution of this important duty, which could not have been confided to a fitter man, that the lamented General bravely lost his life.
He was the officer whose devoted gallantry and self-sacrificing generosity were noticed in connection with the fall of Fort Henry. This severe -- battle was signalized by so many feats of individual intrepidity that its roll of honor is too long for the limits of these pages.
-- Though some gave way in confusion, and others failed to respond when called on, the heroism of the rest shed luster on the field, and "the main body of the troops retired in good order." The gallant brigades of -- Green and Cockerell covered the rear.
The topographical features of the position at the railroad bridge across the Big Black were such as, with the artificial strength given to it, made it quite feasible to defend it against a direct approach even of an army as much superior in numbers to that of Pemberton as was that of Grant; the attack need not, however, be made by a direct approach. The position could be turned by moving either above or below by fords and ferries, and thus advancing upon Vicksburg by other and equally eligible mutes. From what has already been quoted it will be understood that - General Pemberton considered the occupation of Vicksburg vitally important in connection with the command of the Mississippi River. and the maintenance of communication with the country beyond it. It was therefore that he had been so reluctant to endanger his connection with that point as his base. Pressed as he was by the enemy, whose object, it had been unmistakably shown, was to get possession of Vicksburg and its defenses. the circumstances made it imperative that he should abandon a position the holding, of which would not effect his object, and that he should withdraw his forces from the field to unite them with those within the defenses of Vicksburg. and endeavor, as speedily as possible to reorganize the depressed and discomfited troops.
One of the immediate results of the retreat from Big Black was the necessity of abandoning our defenses on the Yazoo, at Snyder's Mills;
this position and the line of Chickasaw Bayou were no longer tenable. All stores that could be transported were ordered to be sent into Vicksburg as rapidly as possible, the rest, including heavy guns, to be destroyed. During the night of the 17th nothing of importance occurred. On the morning of the 18th the troops were disposed from right to left on the defenses. On the entire line one hundred two pieces of artillery of different caliber, principally field guns, were placed in position at such points as were deemed most suitable to the character of the gun. Instructions had been given from Bovina that all the cattle, sheep, and hogs, belonging to private parties and likely to fall into the hands of the enemy, should be driven within our lines. Grant's army appeared on the 18th.
The development of the entrenched line from our extreme right was about eight miles, the shortest defensible line of which the topography of the country admitted. It consisted of a system of detached works, sedans, lunettes, and redoubts. on the prominent and commanding points with the usual profile of raised field works, connected in most cases by rifle pits. To hold the entire line there were about eighteen thousand five hundred infantry, but these could not all be put in the trenches, as it was necessary to keep a reserve always ready to reinforce any point heavily threatened.
The campaign against Vicksburg had commenced as early as November, 1862, and reference has been made to the various attempts to capture the position both before and after General Grant arrived and took command in person. He had now by a circuitous march reached the rear of the city, established a base on the Mississippi River a few miles below, had a fleet of gunboats in the river, and controlled the navigation of the Yazoo up to Haines's Bluff, and was relieved from all danger in regard to supplying his army. We bad lost the opportunity to cut his communications while he was making his long march over the rugged country between Bruinsburg and the vicinity of Vicksburg. Pemberton had by a wise prevision endeavored to secure supplies sufficient for the duration of an ordinary siege, and, on the importance which he knew the administration attached to the holding of Vicksburg, he relied for the cooperation of a relieving army to break any investment which might be made. Disappointed in the hope which I had entertained that the invading army would be unable to draw its supplies from Bruinsburg or Grand Gulf, and be driven back before crossing the Big Black, it now remained only to increase as far as possible the relieving army, and depend upon it to break the investment. The ability of the Federals to send reenforcements was so much greater than ours that the necessity for prompt action
- was fully realized; therefore, when General Johnston on May 9th was ordered to proceed to Mississippi, he was directed to take from the Army of Tennessee three thousand good troops, and informed that he would find reenforcements from General Beauregard. On May 12th ' dispatch was sent to him at Jackson, stating, "In addition to the five thousand
men originally ordered from Charleston Beauregard, about four thousand more will follow. I fear more can not be spared to you." On May - 22d I sent the following dispatch to General Bragg, at Tullahoma, Tennessee:
The vital issue of holding the Mississippi at Vicksburg is dependent on the success of General Johnston in an attack on the investing force. The intelligence from there is discouraging. Can you aid him?
To this he replied on May 23, 1863:
-Sent thirty-five hundred with the General, three batteries of artillery and two thousand cavalry since; will dispatch six thousand more immediately.
In my telegram to General Bragg, after stating the necessity, I submitted the whole question to his judgment, having full reliance in the large-hearted and comprehensive view which his self-denying nature would take of the case, and I responded to him:
Your answer IS In the spirit of patriotism heretofore manifested by you The need is sore, but you must not forget your own necessities.
On June 1st General Johnston telegraphed to me that the troops at his disposal available against Grant amounted to twenty-four thousand one hundred, not including Jackson's cavalry command and a few hundred irregular cavalry. Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, replied to him stating the force to be thirty-two thousand. In another dispatch, of June 5th, the Secretary says his statement rested on official reports of numbers sent, regrets his inability to promise more, as we had drained our resources even to the danger of several points, and urged speedy action. "With the
facilities and resources of the enemy time works against us." Again, on
the 16th, Secretary Seddon says: -
If better resources do not offer, you must hazard attack.
-On the 18th, while Pemberton was inspecting the entrenchments along which his command had been placed, he received by courier a communication from General Johnston, dated "May 17,1863, camp between Livingston and Brownsville," in answer to Pemberton's report of the result
the battles of Baker's Creek and Big Black, and the consequent evacuation of Snyder's Mills. General Johnston wrote:
If Haines's Bluff is untenable, Vicksburg is of no value and can not be b If, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg, you must ultimately surrender Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, we must,, possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its pendencies, and march to the northeast.
Pemberton, in his report, remarks:
This meant de fall of Port Hudson, the surrender of the Mississippi River and the severance of the Confederacy.
He recurs to a former correspondence with me in which he had sugested the possibility of the investment of Vicksburg by land and wat and the necessity for ample supplies to stand a siege, and says his app, catIon met my favorable consideration, and that additional ammuniti was ordered. Confident in his ability, with the preparations which been made, to stand a siege, and firmly relying on the desire of the President and of General Johnston to raise it, he "felt that every effort would be made, and believed it would be successful." However, he summon a council of war, composed of all his general officers, laid before the General Johnston's communication, and desired their opinion on" question of practicability," and on the 18th replied to General Johns that he had placed his instructions before the general officers of the command, and that "the opinion was unanimously expressed that it was' possible to withdraw the army from this position with such more and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy." He then announces his decision to hold Vicksburg as long as possible, and presses the hope that he may be assisted in keeping this obstruction -the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. He closes his letter thus:
I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.
While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and the siege proper commenced.
Making meager allowance for a reserve, it required the whole to be constantly in the trenches, and when they were all on duty it -not furnish one man to the yard of the developed line. On the 19th assaults were made at the center and left. Both were repulsed heavy loss inflicted; our loss was small. At the same time the mortar fleet of Admiral Porter from the west side of the peninsula kept up -bombardment of the city.
Vicksburg is built upon hills rising successively from the river.
The entrenchments were upon ridges beyond the town, approaching the river only on the right and left flanks, so that the fire of Porter's mortar fleet was mainly effective upon the private dwellings, and the women the children, and other non-combatants.
The hills on which the city is built are of a tenacious calcareous clay, and caves were dug in these to shelter the women and children, many of whom resided in them during the entire siege. From these places of refuge, heroically facing the danger of shells incessantly bursting over the streets, gentlewomen hourly went forth on the mission of humanity to nurse the sick and the wounded, and to soothe the dying of their defenders who were collected in numerous hospitals. Without departing from the softer character of their sex, it was often remarked that, in the discharge of the pious duties assumed, they seemed as indifferent to danger as any of the soldiers who lined the trenches.
During the 20th, 21st, and the forenoon of the 22d, a heavy fire of artillery and musketry was kept up by the besiegers, as well as by the mortar boats and gunboats in the river. On the afternoon of the 22d preparation was made for a general assault. The attacking columns were allowed to approach to within good musket range, when every available gun was opened with grape and canister, and our infantry, "rising in the trenches, poured into their ranks volley after volley with so deadly an effect that, leaving the ground literally covered in some places with their dead and wounded, they [the enemy precipitately retreated." One of our redoubts had been breached by their artillery previous to the assault, and a Lodgment made in the ditch at the foot of the redoubt, on which two colors were planted. General Stevenson says in his report:
The work was constructed in such a manner that the ditch was commanded by no part of the line, and the only means by which they could be dislodged was to retake the angle by a desperate charge, and either kill or compel the surrender of the whole party by the use of hand-grenades. A call for volunteers for this purpose was made, and promptly responded to by Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. Pettus, Twentieth Alabama Regiment, and about forty men of Waul's Texas Legion. A more gallant feat than this charge has not illustrated our arms during the war.
- - The preparations were quietly and quickly made, but the enemy seemed at once to divine our intentions, and opened upon the angle a terrible fire of shot, shell, arid musketry. Undaunted, this little band, its chivalrous commander at its head, rushed upon the work, and, in less time than it required to describe it, the flags were in our possession. Preparations were then quickly made for the use of hand-grenades, when the enemy in the ditch, being informed of our purpose, immediately surrendered.
From this time forward, although on several occasions their demonstrations seemed to indicate other intentions, the enemy relinquished all idea of assaulting
us, and confined himself to the more cautious policy of a system of gradual approaches and mining.
His force was not less than sixty thousand men. Thus affairs continued until July 1st, when General Pemberton thus describes the causes which made capitulation necessary:
It must be remembered that, for forty-seven days and nights, those heroic men had been exposed to burning suns, drenching rains, damp fogs, and heavy dews, and that during all this period they never had, by day or by night, the slightest relief. The extent of our works required every available man in the trenches, and even then they were in many places insufficiently manned. It was not in my power to relieve any portion of the line for a single hour. Confined to the narrow limits of trench, with their limbs cramped and swollen, without exercise, constantly exposed to a murderous storm of shot and shell. . .. Is it strange that the men grew weak and attenuated? They had had the place against an enemy five times their number, admirably clothed and fed, and abundantly supplied with all the appliances of war. Whenever the foe attempted an assault, they drove him back discomfited, covering the ground with his killed and wounded, and already had they torn from his grasp five stands of colors as trophies of their prowess, none of which were allowed to fall again into his hands.
Under these circumstances, he says, he became satisfied that the time had arrived when it was necessary either to evacuate the city by cutting his way out or to capitulate. Inquiries were made of the division commanders respecting the ability of the troops to make the marches and undergo the fatigues necessary to accomplish a successful sortie and force their way through the enemy; all of them reported their several commands quite unequal to the performance of such an effort. Therefore, it was resolved to seek terms of capitulation. These were obtained, and the city was surrendered on July 4th.
The report of General Pemberton contains this statement:
Knowing the anxious desire of the Government to relieve Vicksburg, I felt assured that, if within the compass of its power, the siege would be raised; but, when forty-seven days and nights had passed, with the knowledge I then possessed that no adequate relief was to be expected, I felt that 1 ought not longer to place in jeopardy the men whose lives had been intrusted to my care. Hence, after the suggestion of the alternative of cutting my way out, I determine to make terms, not because my men were starved out, not because I could not hold out yet a little longer, but because they were overpowered by numbers, worn down with fatigue, and each day saw our defenses crumbling beneath their feet.
With an unlimited supply of provisions, the garrison could, for reasons already given, have held Out much longer.
At the close of General Pemberton's report he notices two officers, whose gallant services have been repeatedly mentioned in the foregoing pages, as follows:
1 can not close this report without brief tribute to the memory of two of the best soldiers in the Confederate service. I refer to Major General John S. Bowen and Brigadier General Martin E. Green. Always faithful, zealous, and brave, they fell, as became them, in the discharge of their duty. General Green died upon the lines he had so long and so gallantly defended. General Bowen, having passed scathless through the bloody scenes of Shiloh, luka, Corinth, Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Baker's Creek, and Vicksburg, perished by disease after the capitulation.
With an unlimited supply of provisions the garrison could not, for the reasons already given, have held out much longer. Our loss in
killed, wounded, and missing, from the landing of the enemy on the east to the capitulation, was 5,632; that of the enemy, according to his own statement, was 8,875. The number of prisoners surrendered, as near as I can tell, did not exceed 28,000.
In addition to the efforts made to relieve Vicksburg by an attack on Grant's army in the rear, instructions were sent to General Kirby Smith, commanding on the west side of the river, to employ a part of his forces in cooperation with our troops on the east side. I'mm General
-Richard Taylor's work, Destruction and Reconstruction, I learn that
the Federal army withdrew from Alexandria a town on Red River, Louisiana on the 13th of May, and on the 23d crossed the Mississippi and proceeded to invest Port Hudson. . .. A communication from General Kirby Smith informed me that Major-General Walker, with a division of infantry and three batteries, four thousand strong, was on the march from Arkansas, and would reach me within the next few days; and I was directed to employ Walker's force to relieve Vicksburg, now invested by General Grant, who had crossed the Mississippi on the 1st of May.
General Taylor states that his view was that this force might be best
employed for the relief of Vicksburg by a movement to raise the Siege of Port Hudson, which he regarded as feasible, while a direct movement toward Vicksburg he considered would be unavailing, because the peninsula opposite to that city was partially occupied by the enemy and commanded by the gunboats in the river; he states, however, that he was overruled, and proceeded with Walker's division to cross the Tensas and attack the Federal camps to the bank of the Mississippi, the one ten and the other fourteen miles above Vicksburg, but that, after driving the troops over the levee, the gunboats iii the river protected them from any further assault. Then, being convinced that nothing useful could be effected in that quarter, he, in conformity with his original idea, ordered General Walker to retire to Alexandria, in-tending to go thence to the Teche. He says this order was countermanded and the division kept in the region between the Tensas and the Mississippi until the fall of Vicksburg. Taylor had left Mouton's and
Green's brigades in the country west of the Teche, and thither he went in person. At Alexandria he found three regiments of Texan mounted men, about six hundred fifty aggregate, under the command of Colonel (afterward Brigadier General) Major, and these were ordered to Morgan's Ferry on the Atchafalaya. Taylor then proceeded to the camps of Mouton and Green, on the lower Teche. After giving instructions preparatory to an attack on a work which the Federals had constructed at Berwick's Bay, Taylor returned to join Colonel Major's command on the Atchafalaya, and with it moved down the Fardoche and Grossetete to Fausse Riviere, opposite to Port Hudson. Here the noise of the bombardment then in progress could be distinctly heard, and here he learned that the Federal force left in New Orleans did not exceed one thousand men.
It was now June 19th. He was about one hundred miles from the
Federal force at Berwick's Bay. He furnished Colonel Major with guides, informed him that he must be at Berwick's Bay on the morning of the 23d, as Mouton and Green would attack at dawn on that day. Taylor then hastened to the camp of Mouton and Green. The country through which Major was to ford was in possession () f the enemy, therefore secrecy and celerity were alike required for success. The men carried their rations, and the wagons were sent back across the Atchafalaya. In his rapid march, Major captured seventy prisoners and burned two steamers, and the combined movements of Mouton, Green, and
Major all reached their goal at the appointed time, of which General Taylor says: "Although every precaution bad been taken to exclude mistakes and insure cooperation, such complete success is not often attained in combined military movement; and I felt that sacrifices were due to fortune."
At Berwick's Bay the Federals had constructed works the strengthen a position occupied as a depot of supplies. The effective garrison was
small, the principal number of those present being sick and convalescents. The works mounted twelve guns, thirty-twos and twenty fours, and a gunboat was anchored in the bay. Our object was to capture Berwick's Bay, and thence proceed to the execution of the plan above indicated. For this purpose, having arrived on the Teche, a short distance above Berwick's Bay, some small boats (skiffs) and a number of sugar-coolers were collected, in which the men were embarked, Major Hunter of the Texas regiment, and Major Blair of the Second Louisiana, were
placed in command, and detachments were drawn from the forces. -They embarked at night, and paddled down the Teche to the Atchafalaya and Grand Lake. They had about twelve miles to go, and were
expected to reach the northeast end of the island, a mile from Berwick's before daylight, where they were to remain until they heard the guns of our force on the west side of the bay. At dawn on June 23d our guns -opened on the gunboat and speedily drove it away. Fire was then directed on the earth-works, and the enemy attempted to reply, when a shout was heard in the rear, and Hunter with his party came rushing on.
Resistance ceased at once. The spoils of Berwick's were of vast importance. Twelve thirty-two- and twenty-four pounder guns, many
small arms and accouterments, great quantities of quartermaster's and commissary's, ordnance, and medical stores, and seventeen hundred
prisoners were taken. Then, as promptly as circumstances would permit, Taylor, with three thousand men of all arms, proceeded, with the guns and munitions he had acquired, to the execution of the object of
his campaign to raise the siege of Port Hudson, by cutting Banks's communication with New Orleans and making a demonstration which would arouse that city. "Its population of two hundred thousand was bitterly hostile to Federal rule, and the appearance of a Confederate force on the Opposite bank of the river would raise such a storm as to bring Banks from Port Hudson, the garrison of which could unite with General Joseph Johnston in the rear of General Grant."
In the first week in July, twelve guns were placed on the river below Donaldsonville. Fire was opened, destroying one transport and turning back several. Gunboats attempted to dislodge Our batteries, but were driven away by dismounted men, protected by the levee. For three days the river was closed to transports, and mounted scouts were pushed down to a point Opposite Kenner, sixteen miles above New Orleans. A few hours more, and there would have been great excitement in the city. But, by the surrender of Port Hudson, on July 9th, the enemy were in sufficient force not only to arrest Taylor s movements, but to require a withdrawal from the exposed position which this little command had assumed for the great object of relieving that place, and thus giving of its garrison, perhaps about five thousand men, as a reinforcement to break the investment of Vicksburg.
Port Hudson, which thus capitulated, was situated on a bend of the Mississippi, about twenty-two miles above Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
and one hundred forty-seven above New Orleans. The defenses in front, or on the water side, consisted of three series of batteries situated on a bluff and extending along the river above the place. Farther up was an impassable marsh forming a natural defense, and in the
rear the works were strong, consisting of several lines of entrenchments and rifle pits, with heavy trees felled in every direction. General Banks with a large force landed on May 21, 1863, and on the 27th an assault was made on the works, and repulsed. A bombardment from the river was then kept up for several days, and on June 14th another unsuccessful assault was made. This was their last assault, but the enemy, resorting to mines and regular approaches, was slowly progressing with these when the news of the surrender of Vicksburg was received. Major General Gardner, who was ill command, then made a proposal to General Banks to capitulate, which was accepted by the latter, and the position was yielded to him on the next day. The surrender included about six thousand persons all told, fifty-one pieces of artillery, and a quantity of ordnance stores. Our loss in killed and wounded in the assaults was small compared to that of the enemy, and by the fall of Vicksburg the position of Port Hudson had ceased to have much importance.
More than six weeks the garrison, which had resisted a vastly superior force attacking by both land and water, had cheerfully encountered danger and fatigue without a murmur, had borne famine and had repulsed every assault, and yielded Port Hudson only when the fall of Vicksburg had deprived the position of its importance. A chivalric foe would have recognized the gallantry of the defense in the terms usually given under like circumstances-such, for instance, as were granted to Major Anderson at Ft Sumter, or, at the least, have paroled the garrison.
I had regarded it of vast importance to hold the two positions of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Though gunboats had passed the batteries of both, they had found it hazardous, and transport vessels could not prudently risk it. The garrisons of both places had maintained them with extraordinary gallantry, inspired no doubt as well by consciousness) f the importance of their posts as by the soldierly character common
to Confederate troops. Taylor on the 10th received intelligence of the
fall of Port Hudson, and some hours later learned that Vicksburg had surrendered. His batteries and Outposts were ordered in to the Lafourche, and Mouton was sent to Berwick's to cross the stores to the west side of the bay. On the 13th a force of six thousand men followed his retreat down the Lafourche; Green, with fourteen hundred dismounted men and a battery, attacked the Federals so vigorously as to drive them into Donaldsonville, capturing two hundred prisoners, many small arms, and two guns. Undisturbed thereafter, Taylor continued his march, removed all the stores from the fortification at Berwick's, and on July 21st moved up the Teche. The pickets left at Berwick's reported that the enemy's scouts only reached the bay twenty-four hours after Taylor's troops had withdrawn.
In the recital of those events connected with the sieges of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, enough has been given to show the great anxiety of -the administration to retain those two positions as necessary to continued communication between the Confederate States on the east and west sides of the Mississippi River. The reader will not have failed to observe that General Johnston, commanding the department, and General Pemberton, the district commander, entertained quite different views. The former considered the safety of the garrisons of such paramount importance that the position should be evacuated rather than the loss of the troops hazarded; the latter regarded the holding of Vicksburg as of such vital consequence that an army should be hazarded to maintain its possession. When General Pemberton and his forces were besieged in Vicksburg, every effort was made to supply General Johnston with an army which might raise the siege. While General Johnston was at Jackson, preparing to advance against the army investing Vicksburg, the knowledge that the enemy was receiving large reenforcements made it evident that the most prompt action was necessary for success; of this General Johnston manifested a clear perception, for on May 25th he sent Pemberton the following message:
Bragg is sending a division; when it comes, I will move to you.
After all the troops which could be drawn from other points had been sent to him, it was suggested that he might defeat the force investing Port Hudson, and unite the garrison with his troops at Jackson but he replied:
-We can not relieve Port Hudson without giving up Jackson, by which we should lose Mississippi.
On June 29th General Johnston reports that-
Field transportation and other supplies having been obtained, the army marched toward the Big Black, and on the evening of July 1st encamped between Brownsville and the river.
The 2d and 3d of July were Spent in reconnaissance, from which the conclusion was reached that an attack on the north side of the railroad was impracticable, and examinations were commenced on the south side of the railroad. On the 3d a messenger was sent to General Pemberton that an attempt would be made about the 7th, by an attack on the enemy, to create a diversion which might enable Pemberton to cut
- his way out. The message was not received, and Pemberton, despairing
of aid from the exterior, capitulated on the 4th.
General Grant, in expectation that an attack in his rear would be made by General J. E. Johnston, formed a provisional corps by taking brigades from several corps, and assigned General Sherman to command it. He was sent in the direction of Big Black. Colonel Wilson, then commanding the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, was sent to the Big Black River to watch for the expected advance of Johnston, when Sherman was to be notified, so that he might meet and hold Johnston in check until additional reenforcements should arrive. Wilson never sent the notice. An officer of Grant's army, whose rank and position gave opportunity for accurate information, writes:
It was always a matter of surprise to Grant and his commanders that Johnston failed to make the attempt to break up the siege of Vicksburg, of which from the long line and consequent weakness of the army of the North there seemed a fair chance of accomplishment.
General Johnston, being informed on the 5th of the surrender of
Vicksburg, fell back to Jackson, where his army arrived on the 7th.
On the morning of the 9th the enemy appeared in heavy force in front of the works thrown up for the defense of the place; these, consisting of a line of rifle-pits prepared at intervals for artillery. . .. were badly located and constructed, presenting but a slight obstacle to a vigorous assault.' -
The weather was hot, deep dust covered the country roads, and for about ten miles there was no water to Supply the troops who were advancing in heavy order of battle from Clinton; the circumstances above mentioned caused General Johnston, as he states, to expect that the enemy "would be compelled to make an immediate assault." Sherman, in command of the attacking column, did not, however, elect to assault the entrenchments, but moved the left of his line around so as to rest upon Pearl River above, and then, extending his right so as to reach the river below, commenced entrenching a line of investment. As early as May 27th Brigadier General j. G. Rains had been directed to report to General Johnston in connection with torpedoes and sub-terra shells, and a request had been made for "all reasonable facilities and aid in the supply of men or material for the fair trial of his torpedoes and shells." There could scarcely have been presented a better opportunity for their use than that offered by the heavy column marching against Jackson, -and the enemy would have been taken at great disadvantage if our troops had met them midway between Jackson and Clinton. As the defenses of Jackson had not been so corrected in location and increased in strength as to avail against anything other than a mere assault, it is
greatly to be regretted that the railroad bridge across Pearl River was not so repaired that the large equipments of the Central road might
- have been removed for use elsewhere and at other times. One of the serious embarrassments suffered in the last two years of the war was
- from the want of rolling stock, with which to Operate our railroads, as required for the transportation of troops and supplies. On July 12th a
- heavy cannonade was opened, and the missiles reached all parts of the
- town. An assault was also made on Major General Breckinridge's position on our extreme left. His division, with the aid of Cobb's and
- Slocum's5 batteries, repulsed it, inflicting severe loss and capturing two
-- hundred prisoners, besides the wounded, and taking three regimental colors. On the 15th General Johnston was assured that the remainder of Grant's army was moving from Vicksburg to Jackson, and on the night of the 16th he, having previously sent forward his sick and - wounded, successfully withdrew his army across the Pearl River, moved toward Brandon, and continued the march as far as Morton, about thirty-five miles from Jackson. The enemy followed no farther than Brandon, which was reached on the 19th, and manifested no higher
purpose than that of arson, which was exhibited on a still larger scale at
Thus, within the first half of July, our disasters had followed close upon the heels of one another. Though not defeated at Gettysburg, we bad suffered a check, and an army, to which nothing was considered impossible, had been compelled to retire, leaving its opponent in possession of the field of battle. The loss of Vicksburg and Port Hudson was the surrender of the Mississippi to the enemy. It was true that gunboats
bad run by our batteries, but not with impunity, and some of them had been sunk in the attempt. Transports for troops, supplies, and merchandise could not, except at great risk, use the river while our batteries at those two points remained effective, and gunboats cruising between them would have but a barren field. Moreover, they needed to be very numerous to prevent intercourse between the two sides of the river-which, thus far, they had never been able to effect.