Part 2 out of 3
that the top of the levee afforded a good road to march upon.
Porter, as was always the case with him, not only acquiesced in the
plan, but volunteered to use his entire fleet as transports. I had
intended to make this request, but he anticipated me. At dusk, when
concealed from the view of the enemy at Grand Gulf, McClernand landed
his command on the west bank. The navy and transports ran the batteries
successfully. The troops marched across the point of land under cover of
night, unobserved. By the time it was light the enemy saw our whole
fleet, ironclads, gunboats, river steamers and barges, quietly moving
down the river three miles below them, black, or rather blue, with
When the troops debarked, the evening of the 29th, it was expected that
we would have to go to Rodney, about nine miles below, to find a
landing; but that night a colored man came in who informed me that a
good landing would be found at Bruinsburg, a few miles above Rodney,
from which point there was a good road leading to Port Gibson some
twelve miles in the interior. The information was found correct, and
our landing was effected without opposition.
Sherman had not left his position above Vicksburg yet. On the morning
of the 27th I ordered him to create a diversion by moving his corps up
the Yazoo and threatening an attack on Haines' Bluff.
My object was to compel Pemberton to keep as much force about Vicksburg
as I could, until I could secure a good footing on high land east of the
river. The move was eminently successful and, as we afterwards learned,
created great confusion about Vicksburg and doubts about our real
design. Sherman moved the day of our attack on Grand Gulf, the 29th,
with ten regiments of his command and eight gunboats which Porter had
left above Vicksburg.
He debarked his troops and apparently made every preparation to attack
the enemy while the navy bombarded the main forts at Haines' Bluff.
This move was made without a single casualty in either branch of the
service. On the first of May Sherman received orders from me (sent from
Hard Times the evening of the 29th of April) to withdraw from the front
of Haines' Bluff and follow McPherson with two divisions as fast as he
I had established a depot of supplies at Perkins' plantation. Now that
all our gunboats were below Grand Gulf it was possible that the enemy
might fit out boats in the Big Black with improvised armament and
attempt to destroy these supplies. McPherson was at Hard Times with a
portion of his corps, and the depot was protected by a part of his
command. The night of the 29th I directed him to arm one of the
transports with artillery and send it up to Perkins' plantation as a
guard; and also to have the siege guns we had brought along moved there
and put in position.
The embarkation below Grand Gulf took place at De Shroon's, Louisiana,
six miles above Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Early on the morning of 30th
of April McClernand's corps and one division of McPherson's corps were
When this was effected I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equalled
since. Vicksburg was not yet taken it is true, nor were its defenders
demoralized by any of our previous moves. I was now in the enemy's
country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me
and my base of supplies. But I was on dry ground on the same side of
the river with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and
exposures from the month of December previous to this time that had been
made and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object.
I had with me the 13th corps, General McClernand commanding, and two
brigades of Logan's division of the 17th corps, General McPherson
commanding--in all not more than twenty thousand men to commence the
campaign with. These were soon reinforced by the remaining brigade of
Logan's division and Crocker's division of the 17th corps. On the 7th
of May I was further reinforced by Sherman with two divisions of his,
the 15th corps. My total force was then about thirty-three thousand
The enemy occupied Grand Gulf, Haines' Bluff and Jackson with a force of
nearly sixty thousand men. Jackson is fifty miles east of Vicksburg and
is connected with it by a railroad. My first problem was to capture
Grand Gulf to use as a base.
Bruinsburg is two miles from high ground. The bottom at that point is
higher than most of the low land in the valley of the Mississippi, and a
good road leads to the bluff. It was natural to expect the garrison
from Grand Gulf to come out to meet us and prevent, if they could, our
reaching this solid base. Bayou Pierre enters the Mississippi just
above Bruinsburg and, as it is a navigable stream and was high at the
time, in order to intercept us they had to go by Port Gibson, the
nearest point where there was a bridge to cross upon. This more than
doubled the distance from Grand Gulf to the high land back of
Bruinsburg. No time was to be lost in securing this foothold. Our
transportation was not sufficient to move all the army across the river
at one trip, or even two; but the landing of the 13th corps and one
division of the 17th was effected during the day, April 30th, and early
evening. McClernand was advanced as soon as ammunition and two days'
rations (to last five) could be issued to his men. The bluffs were
reached an hour before sunset and McClernand was pushed on, hoping to
reach Port Gibson and save the bridge spanning the Bayou Pierre before
the enemy could get there; for crossing a stream in the presence of an
enemy is always difficult. Port Gibson, too, is the starting point of
roads to Grand Gulf, Vicksburg and Jackson.
McClernand's advance met the enemy about five miles west of Port Gibson
at Thompson's plantation. There was some firing during the night, but
nothing rising to the dignity of a battle until daylight. The enemy had
taken a strong natural position with most of the Grand Gulf garrison,
numbering about seven or eight thousand men, under General Bowen. His
hope was to hold me in check until reinforcements under Loring could
reach him from Vicksburg; but Loring did not come in time to render much
assistance south of Port Gibson. Two brigades of McPherson's corps
followed McClernand as fast as rations and ammunition could be issued,
and were ready to take position upon the battlefield whenever the 13th
corps could be got out of the way.
The country in this part of Mississippi stands on edge, as it were, the
roads running along the ridges except when they occasionally pass from
one ridge to another. Where there are no clearings the sides of the
hills are covered with a very heavy growth of timber and with
undergrowth, and the ravines are filled with vines and canebrakes,
almost impenetrable. This makes it easy for an inferior force to delay,
if not defeat, a far superior one.
Near the point selected by Bowen to defend, the road to Port Gibson
divides, taking two ridges which do not diverge more than a mile or two
at the widest point. These roads unite just outside the town. This
made it necessary for McClernand to divide his force. It was not only
divided, but it was separated by a deep ravine of the character above
described. One flank could not reinforce the other except by marching
back to the junction of the roads. McClernand put the divisions of
Hovey, Carr and A. J. Smith upon the right-hand branch and Osterhaus on
the left. I was on the field by ten A.M., and inspected both flanks in
person. On the right the enemy, if not being pressed back, was at least
not repulsing our advance. On the left, however, Osterhaus was not
faring so well. He had been repulsed with some loss. As soon as the
road could be cleared of McClernand's troops I ordered up McPherson, who
was close upon the rear of the 13th corps, with two brigades of Logan's
division. This was about noon. I ordered him to send one brigade
(General John E. Smith's was selected) to support Osterhaus, and to move
to the left and flank the enemy out of his position. This movement
carried the brigade over a deep ravine to a third ridge and, when
Smith's troops were seen well through the ravine, Osterhaus was directed
to renew his front attack. It was successful and unattended by heavy
loss. The enemy was sent in full retreat on their right, and their left
followed before sunset. While the movement to our left was going on,
McClernand, who was with his right flank, sent me frequent requests for
reinforcements, although the force with him was not being pressed. I
had been upon the ground and knew it did not admit of his engaging all
the men he had. We followed up our victory until night overtook us
about two miles from Port Gibson; then the troops went into bivouac for
CAPTURE OF PORT GIBSON--GRIERSON'S RAID--OCCUPATION OF GRAND GULF
--MOVEMENT UP THE BIG BLACK--BATTLE OF RAYMOND.
We started next morning for Port Gibson as soon as it was light enough
to see the road. We were soon in the town, and I was delighted to find
that the enemy had not stopped to contest our crossing further at the
bridge, which he had burned. The troops were set to work at once to
construct a bridge across the South Fork of the Bayou Pierre. At this
time the water was high and the current rapid. What might be called a
raft-bridge was soon constructed from material obtained from wooden
buildings, stables, fences, etc., which sufficed for carrying the whole
army over safely. Colonel J. H. Wilson, a member of my staff, planned
and superintended the construction of this bridge, going into the water
and working as hard as any one engaged. Officers and men generally
joined in this work. When it was finished the army crossed and marched
eight miles beyond to the North Fork that day. One brigade of Logan's
division was sent down the stream to occupy the attention of a rebel
battery, which had been left behind with infantry supports to prevent
our repairing the burnt railroad bridge. Two of his brigades were sent
up the bayou to find a crossing and reach the North Fork to repair the
bridge there. The enemy soon left when he found we were building a
bridge elsewhere. Before leaving Port Gibson we were reinforced by
Crocker's division, McPherson's corps, which had crossed the Mississippi
at Bruinsburg and come up without stopping except to get two days'
rations. McPherson still had one division west of the Mississippi
River, guarding the road from Milliken's Bend to the river below until
Sherman's command should relieve it.
On leaving Bruinsburg for the front I left my son Frederick, who had
joined me a few weeks before, on board one of the gunboats asleep, and
hoped to get away without him until after Grand Gulf should fall into
our hands; but on waking up he learned that I had gone, and being guided
by the sound of the battle raging at Thompson's Hill--called the Battle
of Port Gibson--found his way to where I was. He had no horse to ride
at the time, and I had no facilities for even preparing a meal. He,
therefore, foraged around the best he could until we reached Grand Gulf.
Mr. C. A. Dana, then an officer of the War Department, accompanied me on
the Vicksburg campaign and through a portion of the siege. He was in
the same situation as Fred so far as transportation and mess
arrangements were concerned. The first time I call to mind seeing
either of them, after the battle, they were mounted on two enormous
horses, grown white from age, each equipped with dilapidated saddles and
Our trains arrived a few days later, after which we were all perfectly
My son accompanied me throughout the campaign and siege, and caused no
anxiety either to me or to his mother, who was at home. He looked out
for himself and was in every battle of the campaign. His age, then not
quite thirteen, enabled him to take in all he saw, and to retain a
recollection of it that would not be possible in more mature years.
When the movement from Bruinsburg commenced we were without a wagon
train. The train still west of the Mississippi was carried around with
proper escort, by a circuitous route from Milliken's Bend to Hard Times
seventy or more miles below, and did not get up for some days after the
battle of Port Gibson. My own horses, headquarters' transportation,
servants, mess chest, and everything except what I had on, was with this
train. General A. J. Smith happened to have an extra horse at Bruinsburg
which I borrowed, with a saddle-tree without upholstering further than
stirrups. I had no other for nearly a week.
It was necessary to have transportation for ammunition. Provisions could
be taken from the country; but all the ammunition that can be carried on
the person is soon exhausted when there is much fighting. I directed,
therefore, immediately on landing that all the vehicles and draft
animals, whether horses, mules, or oxen, in the vicinity should be
collected and loaded to their capacity with ammunition. Quite a train
was collected during the 30th, and a motley train it was. In it could
be found fine carriages, loaded nearly to the top with boxes of
cartridges that had been pitched in promiscuously, drawn by mules with
plough, harness, straw collars, rope-lines, etc.; long-coupled wagons,
with racks for carrying cotton bales, drawn by oxen, and everything that
could be found in the way of transportation on a plantation, either for
use or pleasure. The making out of provision returns was stopped for
the time. No formalities were to retard our progress until a position
was secured when the time could be spared to observe them.
It was at Port Gibson I first heard through a Southern paper of the
complete success of Colonel Grierson, who was making a raid through
central Mississippi. He had started from La Grange April 17th with
three regiments of about 1,700 men. On the 21st he had detached Colonel
Hatch with one regiment to destroy the railroad between Columbus and
Macon and then return to La Grange. Hatch had a sharp fight with the
enemy at Columbus and retreated along the railroad, destroying it at
Okalona and Tupelo, and arriving in La Grange April 26. Grierson
continued his movement with about 1,000 men, breaking the Vicksburg and
Meridian railroad and the New Orleans and Jackson railroad, arriving at
Baton Rouge May 2d. This raid was of great importance, for Grierson had
attracted the attention of the enemy from the main movement against
During the night of the 2d of May the bridge over the North Fork was
repaired, and the troops commenced crossing at five the next morning.
Before the leading brigade was over it was fired upon by the enemy from
a commanding position; but they were soon driven off. It was evident
that the enemy was covering a retreat from Grand Gulf to Vicksburg.
Every commanding position from this (Grindstone) crossing to Hankinson's
ferry over the Big Black was occupied by the retreating foe to delay our
progress. McPherson, however, reached Hankinson's ferry before night,
seized the ferry boat, and sent a detachment of his command across and
several miles north on the road to Vicksburg. When the junction of the
road going to Vicksburg with the road from Grand Gulf to Raymond and
Jackson was reached, Logan with his division was turned to the left
towards Grand Gulf. I went with him a short distance from this
junction. McPherson had encountered the largest force yet met since the
battle of Port Gibson and had a skirmish nearly approaching a battle;
but the road Logan had taken enabled him to come up on the enemy's right
flank, and they soon gave way. McPherson was ordered to hold
Hankinson's ferry and the road back to Willow Springs with one division;
McClernand, who was now in the rear, was to join in this as well as to
guard the line back down the bayou. I did not want to take the chances
of having an enemy lurking in our rear.
On the way from the junction to Grand Gulf, where the road comes into
the one from Vicksburg to the same place six or seven miles out, I
learned that the last of the enemy had retreated past that place on
their way to Vicksburg. I left Logan to make the proper disposition of
his troops for the night, while I rode into the town with an escort of
about twenty cavalry. Admiral Porter had already arrived with his
fleet. The enemy had abandoned his heavy guns and evacuated the place.
When I reached Grand Gulf May 3d I had not been with my baggage since
the 27th of April and consequently had had no change of underclothing,
no meal except such as I could pick up sometimes at other headquarters,
and no tent to cover me. The first thing I did was to get a bath,
borrow some fresh underclothing from one of the naval officers and
get a good meal on the flag-ship. Then I wrote letters to the
general-in-chief informing him of our present position, dispatches to be
telegraphed from Cairo, orders to General Sullivan commanding above
Vicksburg, and gave orders to all my corps commanders. About twelve
o'clock at night I was through my work and started for Hankinson's
ferry, arriving there before daylight. While at Grand Gulf I heard from
Banks, who was on the Red River, and who said that he could not be at
Port Hudson before the 10th of May and then with only 15,000 men. Up to
this time my intention had been to secure Grand Gulf, as a base of
supplies, detach McClernand's corps to Banks and co-operate with him in
the reduction of Port Hudson.
The news from Banks forced upon me a different plan of campaign from the
one intended. To wait for his co-operation would have detained me at
least a month. The reinforcements would not have reached ten thousand
men after deducting casualties and necessary river guards at all high
points close to the river for over three hundred miles. The enemy would
have strengthened his position and been reinforced by more men than
Banks could have brought. I therefore determined to move independently
of Banks, cut loose from my base, destroy the rebel force in rear of
Vicksburg and invest or capture the city.
Grand Gulf was accordingly given up as a base and the authorities at
Washington were notified. I knew well that Halleck's caution would lead
him to disapprove of this course; but it was the only one that gave any
chance of success. The time it would take to communicate with
Washington and get a reply would be so great that I could not be
interfered with until it was demonstrated whether my plan was
practicable. Even Sherman, who afterwards ignored bases of supplies
other than what were afforded by the country while marching through four
States of the Confederacy with an army more than twice as large as mine
at this time, wrote me from Hankinson's ferry, advising me of the
impossibility of supplying our army over a single road. He urged me to
"stop all troops till your army is partially supplied with wagons, and
then act as quick as possible; for this road will be jammed, as sure as
life." To this I replied: "I do not calculate upon the possibility of
supplying the army with full rations from Grand Gulf. I know it will be
impossible without constructing additional roads. What I do expect is
to get up what rations of hard bread, coffee and salt we can, and make
the country furnish the balance." We started from Bruinsburg with an
average of about two days' rations, and received no more from our own
supplies for some days; abundance was found in the mean time. A delay
would give the enemy time to reinforce and fortify.
McClernand's and McPherson's commands were kept substantially as they
were on the night of the 2d, awaiting supplies sufficient to give them
three days' rations in haversacks. Beef, mutton, poultry and forage
were found in abundance. Quite a quantity of bacon and molasses was
also secured from the country, but bread and coffee could not be
obtained in quantity sufficient for all the men. Every plantation,
however, 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. But the product was taken by the
troops nearest by, so that the majority of the command was destined to
go without bread until a new base was established on the Yazoo above
While the troops were awaiting the arrival of rations I ordered
reconnoissances made by McClernand and McPherson, with the view of
leading the enemy to believe that we intended to cross the Big Black and
attack the city at once.
On the 6th Sherman arrived at Grand Gulf and crossed his command that
night and the next day. Three days' rations had been brought up from
Grand Gulf for the advanced troops and were issued. Orders were given
for a forward movement the next day. Sherman was directed to order up
Blair, who had been left behind to guard the road from Milliken's Bend
to Hard Times with two brigades.
The quartermaster at Young's Point was ordered to send two hundred
wagons with Blair, and the commissary was to load them with hard bread,
coffee, sugar, salt and one hundred thousand pounds of salt meat.
On the 3d Hurlbut, who had been left at Memphis, was ordered to send
four regiments from his command to Milliken's Bend to relieve Blair's
division, and on the 5th he was ordered to send Lauman's division in
addition, the latter to join the army in the field. The four regiments
were to be taken from troops near the river so that there would be no
During the night of the 6th McPherson drew in his troops north of the
Big Black and was off at an early hour on the road to Jackson, via Rocky
Springs, Utica and Raymond. That night he and McClernand were both at
Rocky Springs ten miles from Hankinson's ferry. McPherson remained
there during the 8th, while McClernand moved to Big Sandy and Sherman
marched from Grand Gulf to Hankinson's ferry. The 9th, McPherson moved
to a point within a few miles west of Utica; McClernand and Sherman
remained where they were. On the 10th McPherson moved to Utica, Sherman
to Big Sandy; McClernand was still at Big Sandy. The 11th, McClernand
was at Five Mile Creek; Sherman at Auburn; McPherson five miles advanced
from Utica. May 12th, McClernand was at Fourteen Mile Creek; Sherman at
Fourteen Mile Creek; McPherson at Raymond after a battle.
After McPherson crossed the Big Black at Hankinson's ferry Vicksburg
could have been approached and besieged by the south side. It is not
probable, however, that Pemberton would have permitted a close
besiegement. The broken nature of the ground would have enabled him to
hold a strong defensible line from the river south of the city to the
Big Black, retaining possession of the railroad back to that point. It
was my plan, therefore, to get to the railroad east of Vicksburg, and
approach from that direction. Accordingly, McPherson's troops that had
crossed the Big Black were withdrawn and the movement east to Jackson
As has been stated before, the country is very much broken and the roads
generally confined to the tops of the hills. The troops were moved one
(sometimes two) corps at a time to reach designated points out parallel
to the railroad and only from six to ten miles from it. McClernand's
corps was kept with its left flank on the Big Black guarding all the
crossings. Fourteen Mile Creek, a stream substantially parallel with
the railroad, was reached and crossings effected by McClernand and
Sherman with slight loss. McPherson was to the right of Sherman,
extending to Raymond. The cavalry was used in this advance in
reconnoitring to find the roads: to cover our advances and to find the
most practicable routes from one command to another so they could
support each other in case of an attack. In making this move I
estimated Pemberton's movable force at Vicksburg at about eighteen
thousand men, with smaller forces at Haines' Bluff and Jackson. It
would not be possible for Pemberton to attack me with all his troops at
one place, and I determined to throw my army between his and fight him
in detail. This was done with success, but I found afterwards that I
had entirely under-estimated Pemberton's strength.
Up to this point our movements had been made without serious opposition.
My line was now nearly parallel with the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad
and about seven miles south of it. The right was at Raymond eighteen
miles from Jackson, McPherson commanding; Sherman in the centre on
Fourteen Mile Creek, his advance thrown across; McClernand to the left,
also on Fourteen Mile Creek, advance across, and his pickets within two
miles of Edward's station, where the enemy had concentrated a
considerable force and where they undoubtedly expected us to attack.
McClernand's left was on the Big Black. In all our moves, up to this
time, the left had hugged the Big Black closely, and all the ferries had
been guarded to prevent the enemy throwing a force on our rear.
McPherson encountered the enemy, five thousand strong with two batteries
under General Gregg, about two miles out of Raymond. This was about two
P.M. Logan was in advance with one of his brigades. He deployed and
moved up to engage the enemy. McPherson ordered the road in rear to be
cleared of wagons, and the balance of Logan's division, and Crocker's,
which was still farther in rear, to come forward with all dispatch. The
order was obeyed with alacrity. Logan got his division in position for
assault before Crocker could get up, and attacked with vigor, carrying
the enemy's position easily, sending Gregg flying from the field not to
appear against our front again until we met at Jackson.
In this battle McPherson lost 66 killed, 339 wounded, and 37 missing
--nearly or quite all from Logan's division. The enemy's loss was 100
killed, 305 wounded, besides 415 taken prisoners.
I regarded Logan and Crocker as being as competent division commanders
as could be found in or out of the army and both equal to a much higher
command. Crocker, however, was dying of consumption when he
volunteered. His weak condition never put him on the sick report when
there was a battle in prospect, as long as he could keep on his feet.
He died not long after the close of the rebellion.
MOVEMENT AGAINST JACKSON--FALL OF JACKSON--INTERCEPTING THE ENEMY
--BATTLE OF CHAMPION'S HILL.
When the news reached me of McPherson's victory at Raymond about sundown
my position was with Sherman. I decided at once to turn the whole
column towards Jackson and capture that place without delay.
Pemberton was now on my left, with, as I supposed, about 18,000 men; in
fact, as I learned afterwards, with nearly 50,000. A force was also
collecting on my right, at Jackson, the point where all the railroads
communicating with Vicksburg connect. All the enemy's supplies of men
and stores would come by that point. As I hoped in the end to besiege
Vicksburg I must first destroy all possibility of aid. I therefore
determined to move swiftly towards Jackson, destroy or drive any force
in that direction and then turn upon Pemberton. But by moving against
Jackson, I uncovered my own communication. So I finally decided to have
none--to cut loose altogether from my base and move my whole force
eastward. I then had no fears for my communications, and if I moved
quickly enough could turn upon Pemberton before he could attack me in
Accordingly, all previous orders given during the day for movements on
the 13th were annulled by new ones. McPherson was ordered at daylight
to move on Clinton, ten miles from Jackson; Sherman was notified of my
determination to capture Jackson and work from there westward. He was
ordered to start at four in the morning and march to Raymond.
McClernand was ordered to march with three divisions by Dillon's to
Raymond. One was left to guard the crossing of the Big Black.
On the 10th I had received a letter from Banks, on the Red River, asking
reinforcements. Porter had gone to his assistance with a part of his
fleet on the 3d, and I now wrote to him describing my position and
declining to send any troops. I looked upon side movements as long as
the enemy held Port Hudson and Vicksburg as a waste of time and
General Joseph E. Johnston arrived at Jackson in the night of the 13th
from Tennessee, and immediately assumed command of all the Confederate
troops in Mississippi. I knew he was expecting reinforcements from the
south and east. On the 6th I had written to General Halleck:
"Information from the other side leaves me to believe the enemy are
bringing forces from Tullahoma."
Up to this time my troops had been kept in supporting distances of each
other, as far as the nature of the country would admit. Reconnoissances
were constantly made from each corps to enable them to acquaint
themselves with the most practicable routes from one to another in case
a union became necessary.
McPherson reached Clinton with the advance early on the 13th and
immediately set to work destroying the railroad. Sherman's advance
reached Raymond before the last of McPherson's command had got out of
the town. McClernand withdrew from the front of the enemy, at Edward's
station, with much skill and without loss, and reached his position for
the night in good order. On the night of the 13th, McPherson was
ordered to march at early dawn upon Jackson, only fifteen miles away.
Sherman was given the same order; but he was to move by the direct road
from Raymond to Jackson, which is south of the road McPherson was on and
does not approach within two miles of it at the point where it crossed
the line of intrenchments which, at that time, defended the city.
McClernand was ordered to move one division of his command to Clinton,
one division a few miles beyond Mississippi Springs following Sherman's
line, and a third to Raymond. He was also directed to send his siege
guns, four in number with the troops going by Mississippi Springs.
McClernand's position was an advantageous one in any event. With one
division at Clinton he was in position to reinforce McPherson, at
Jackson, rapidly if it became necessary; the division beyond Mississippi
Springs was equally available to reinforce Sherman; the one at Raymond
could take either road. He still had two other divisions farther back
now that Blair had come up, available within a day at Jackson. If this
last command should not be wanted at Jackson, they were already one
day's march from there on their way to Vicksburg and on three different
roads leading to the latter city. But the most important consideration
in my mind was to have a force confronting Pemberton if he should come
out to attack my rear. This I expected him to do; as shown further on,
he was directed by Johnston to make this very move.
I notified General Halleck that I should attack the State capital on the
14th. A courier carried the dispatch to Grand Gulf through an
Sherman and McPherson communicated with each other during the night and
arranged to reach Jackson at about the same hour. It rained in torrents
during the night of the 13th and the fore part of the day of the 14th.
The roads were intolerable, and in some places on Sherman's line, where
the land was low, they were covered more than a foot deep with water.
But the troops never murmured. By nine o'clock Crocker, of McPherson's
corps, who was now in advance, came upon the enemy's pickets and
speedily drove them in upon the main body. They were outside of the
intrenchments in a strong position, and proved to be the troops that had
been driven out of Raymond. Johnston had been reinforced; during the
night by Georgia and South Carolina regiments, so that his force
amounted to eleven thousand men, and he was expecting still more.
Sherman also came upon the rebel pickets some distance out from the
town, but speedily drove them in. He was now on the south and
south-west of Jackson confronting the Confederates behind their
breastworks, while McPherson's right was nearly two miles north,
occupying a line running north and south across the Vicksburg railroad.
Artillery was brought up and reconnoissances made preparatory to an
assault. McPherson brought up Logan's division while he deployed
Crocker's for the assault. Sherman made similar dispositions on the
right. By eleven A.M. both were ready to attack. Crocker moved his
division forward, preceded by a strong skirmish line. These troops at
once encountered the enemy's advance and drove it back on the main body,
when they returned to their proper regiment and the whole division
charged, routing the enemy completely and driving him into this main
line. This stand by the enemy was made more than two miles outside of
his main fortifications. McPherson followed up with his command until
within range of the guns of the enemy from their intrenchments, when he
halted to bring his troops into line and reconnoitre to determine the
next move. It was now about noon.
While this was going on Sherman was confronting a rebel battery which
enfiladed the road on which he was marching--the Mississippi Springs
road--and commanded a bridge spanning a stream over which he had to
pass. By detaching right and left the stream was forced and the enemy
flanked and speedily driven within the main line. This brought our
whole line in front of the enemy's line of works, which was continuous
on the north, west and south sides from the Pearl River north of the
city to the same river south. I was with Sherman. He was confronted by
a force sufficient to hold us back. Appearances did not justify an
assault where we were. I had directed Sherman to send a force to the
right, and to reconnoitre as far as to the Pearl River. This force,
Tuttle's division, not returning I rode to the right with my staff, and
soon found that the enemy had left that part of the line. Tuttle's
movement or McPherson's pressure had no doubt led Johnston to order a
retreat, leaving only the men at the guns to retard us while he was
getting away. Tuttle had seen this and, passing through the lines
without resistance, came up in the rear of the artillerists confronting
Sherman and captured them with ten pieces of artillery. I rode
immediately to the State House, where I was soon followed by Sherman.
About the same time McPherson discovered that the enemy was leaving his
front, and advanced Crocker, who was so close upon the enemy that they
could not move their guns or destroy them. He captured seven guns and,
moving on, hoisted the National flag over the rebel capital of
Mississippi. Stevenson's brigade was sent to cut off the rebel retreat,
but was too late or not expeditious enough.
Our loss in this engagement was: McPherson, 37 killed, 228 wounded;
Sherman, 4 killed and 21 wounded and missing. The enemy lost 845
killed, wounded and captured. Seventeen guns fell into our hands, and
the enemy destroyed by fire their store-houses, containing a large
amount of commissary stores.
On this day Blair reached New Auburn and joined McClernand's 4th
division. He had with him two hundred wagons loaded with rations, the
only commissary supplies received during the entire campaign.
I slept that night in the room that Johnston was said to have occupied
the night before.
About four in the afternoon I sent for the corps commanders and directed
the dispositions to be made of their troops. Sherman was to remain in
Jackson until he destroyed that place as a railroad centre, and
manufacturing city of military supplies. He did the work most
effectually. Sherman and I went together into a manufactory which had
not ceased work on account of the battle nor for the entrance of Yankee
troops. Our presence did not seem to attract the attention of either
the manager or the operatives, most of whom were girls. We looked on
for a while to see the tent cloth which they were making roll out of the
looms, with "C. S. A." woven in each bolt. There was an immense amount
of cotton, in bales, stacked outside. Finally I told Sherman I thought
they had done work enough. The operatives were told they could leave
and take with them what cloth they could carry. In a few minutes cotton
and factory were in a blaze. The proprietor visited Washington while I
was President to get his pay for this property, claiming that it was
private. He asked me to give him a statement of the fact that his
property had been destroyed by National troops, so that he might use it
with Congress where he was pressing, or proposed to press, his claim. I
On the night of the 13th Johnston sent the following dispatch to
Pemberton at Edward's station: "I have lately arrived, and learn that
Major-General Sherman is between us with four divisions at Clinton. It
is important to establish communication, that you may be reinforced. If
practicable, come up in his rear at once. To beat such a detachment
would be of immense value. All the troops you can quickly assemble
should be brought. Time is all-important." This dispatch was sent in
triplicate, by different messengers. One of the messengers happened to
be a loyal man who had been expelled from Memphis some months before by
Hurlbut for uttering disloyal and threatening sentiments. There was a
good deal of parade about his expulsion, ostensibly as a warning to
those who entertained the sentiments he expressed; but Hurlbut and the
expelled man understood each other. He delivered his copy of Johnston's
dispatch to McPherson who forwarded it to me.
Receiving this dispatch on the 14th I ordered McPherson to move promptly
in the morning back to Bolton, the nearest point where Johnston could
reach the road. Bolton is about twenty miles west of Jackson. I also
informed McClernand of the capture of Jackson and sent him the following
order: "It is evidently the design of the enemy to get north of us and
cross the Big Black, and beat us into Vicksburg. We must not allow them
to do this. Turn all your forces towards Bolton station, and make all
dispatch in getting there. Move troops by the most direct road from
wherever they may be on the receipt of this order."
And to Blair I wrote: "Their design is evidently to cross the Big Black
and pass down the peninsula between the Big Black and Yazoo rivers. We
must beat them. Turn your troops immediately to Bolton; take all the
trains with you. Smith's division, and any other troops now with you,
will go to the same place. If practicable, take parallel roads, so as
to divide your troops and train."
Johnston stopped on the Canton road only six miles north of Jackson, the
night of the 14th. He sent from there to Pemberton dispatches
announcing the loss of Jackson, and the following order:
"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. Can Grant 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."
The concentration of my troops was easy, considering the character of
the country. McPherson moved along the road parallel with and near the
railroad. McClernand's command was, one division (Hovey's) on the road
McPherson had to take, but with a start of four miles. One (Osterhaus)
was at Raymond, on a converging road that intersected the other near
Champion's Hill; one (Carr's) had to pass over the same road with
Osterhaus, but being back at Mississippi Springs, would not be detained
by it; the fourth (Smith's) with Blair's division, was near Auburn with
a different road to pass over. McClernand faced about and moved
promptly. His cavalry from Raymond seized Bolton by half-past nine in
the morning, driving out the enemy's pickets and capturing several men.
The night of the 15th Hovey was at Bolton; Carr and Osterhaus were about
three miles south, but abreast, facing west; Smith was north of Raymond
with Blair in his rear.
McPherson's command, with Logan in front, had marched at seven o'clock,
and by four reached Hovey and went into camp; Crocker bivouacked just in
Hovey's rear on the Clinton road. Sherman with two divisions, was in
Jackson, completing the destruction of roads, bridges and military
factories. I rode in person out to Clinton. On my arrival I ordered
McClernand to move early in the morning on Edward's station, cautioning
him to watch for the enemy and not bring on an engagement unless he felt
very certain of success.
I naturally expected that Pemberton would endeavor to obey the orders of
his superior, which I have shown were to attack us at Clinton. This,
indeed, I knew he could not do; but I felt sure he would make the
attempt to reach that point. It turned out, however, that he had
decided his superior's plans were impracticable, and consequently
determined to move south from Edward's station and get between me and my
base. I, however, had no base, having abandoned it more than a week
before. On the 15th Pemberton had actually marched south from Edward's
station, but the rains had swollen Baker's Creek, which he had to cross
so much that he could not ford it, and the bridges were washed away.
This brought him back to the Jackson road, on which there was a good
bridge over Baker's Creek. Some of his troops were marching until
midnight to get there. Receiving here early on the 16th a repetition of
his order to join Johnston at Clinton, he concluded to obey, and sent a
dispatch to his chief, informing him of the route by which he might be
About five o'clock in the morning (16th) two men, who had been employed
on the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad, were brought to me. They
reported that they had passed through Pemberton's army in the night, and
that it was still marching east. They reported him to have eighty
regiments of infantry and ten batteries; in all, about twenty-five
I had expected to leave Sherman at Jackson another day in order to
complete his work; but getting the above information I sent him orders
to move with all dispatch to Bolton, and to put one division with an
ammunition train on the road at once, with directions to its commander
to march with all possible speed until he came up to our rear. Within
an hour after receiving this order Steele's division was on the road.
At the same time I dispatched to Blair, who was near Auburn, to move
with all speed to Edward's station. McClernand was directed to embrace
Blair in his command for the present. Blair's division was a part of
the 15th army corps (Sherman's); but as it was on its way to join its
corps, it naturally struck our left first, now that we had faced about
and were moving west. The 15th corps, when it got up, would be on our
extreme right. McPherson was directed to get his trains out of the way
of the troops, and to follow Hovey's division as closely as possible.
McClernand had two roads about three miles apart, converging at Edward's
station, over which to march his troops. Hovey's division of his corps
had the advance on a third road (the Clinton) still farther north.
McClernand was directed to move Blair's and A. J. Smith's divisions by
the southernmost of these roads, and Osterhaus and Carr by the middle
road. Orders were to move cautiously with skirmishers to the front to
feel for the enemy.
Smith's division on the most southern road was the first to encounter
the enemy's pickets, who were speedily driven in. Osterhaus, on the
middle road, hearing the firing, pushed his skirmishers forward, found
the enemy's pickets and forced them back to the main line. About the
same time Hovey encountered the enemy on the northern or direct wagon
road from Jackson to Vicksburg. McPherson was hastening up to join
Hovey, but was embarrassed by Hovey's trains occupying the roads. I was
still back at Clinton. McPherson sent me word of the situation, and
expressed the wish that I was up. By half-past seven I was on the road
and proceeded rapidly to the front, ordering all trains that were in
front of troops off the road. When I arrived Hovey's skirmishing
amounted almost to a battle.
McClernand was in person on the middle road and had a shorter distance
to march to reach the enemy's position than McPherson. I sent him word
by a staff officer to push forward and attack. These orders were
repeated several times without apparently expediting McClernand's
Champion's Hill, where Pemberton had chosen his position to receive us,
whether taken by accident or design, was well selected. It is one of
the highest points in that section, and commanded all the ground in
range. On the east side of the ridge, which is quite precipitous, is a
ravine running first north, then westerly, terminating at Baker's Creek.
It was grown up thickly with large trees and undergrowth, making it
difficult to penetrate with troops, even when not defended. The ridge
occupied by the enemy terminated abruptly where the ravine turns
westerly. The left of the enemy occupied the north end of this ridge.
The Bolton and Edward's station wagon-road turns almost due south at
this point and ascends the ridge, which it follows for about a mile;
then turning west, descends by a gentle declivity to Baker's Creek,
nearly a mile away. On the west side the slope of the ridge is gradual
and is cultivated from near the summit to the creek. There was, when we
were there, a narrow belt of timber near the summit west of the road.
From Raymond there is a direct road to Edward's station, some three
miles west of Champion's Hill. There is one also to Bolton. From this
latter road there is still another, leaving it about three and a half
miles before reaching Bolton and leads direct to the same station. It
was along these two roads that three divisions of McClernand's corps,
and Blair of Sherman's, temporarily under McClernand, were moving.
Hovey of McClernand's command was with McPherson, farther north on the
road from Bolton direct to Edward's station. The middle road comes into
the northern road at the point where the latter turns to the west and
descends to Baker's Creek; the southern road is still several miles
south and does not intersect the others until it reaches Edward's
station. Pemberton's lines covered all these roads, and faced east.
Hovey's line, when it first drove in the enemy's pickets, was formed
parallel to that of the enemy and confronted his left.
By eleven o'clock the skirmishing had grown into a hard-contested
battle. Hovey alone, before other troops could be got to assist him,
had captured a battery of the enemy. But he was not able to hold his
position and had to abandon the artillery. McPherson brought up his
troops as fast as possible, Logan in front, and posted them on the right
of Hovey and across the flank of the enemy. Logan reinforced Hovey with
one brigade from his division; with his other two he moved farther west
to make room for Crocker, who was coming up as rapidly as the roads
would admit. Hovey was still being heavily pressed, and was calling on
me for more reinforcements. I ordered Crocker, who was now coming up,
to send one brigade from his division. McPherson ordered two batteries
to be stationed where they nearly enfiladed the enemy's line, and they
did good execution.
From Logan's position now a direct forward movement carried him over
open fields, in rear of the enemy and in a line parallel with them. He
did make exactly this move, attacking, however, the enemy through the
belt of woods covering the west slope of the hill for a short distance.
Up to this time I had kept my position near Hovey where we were the most
heavily pressed; but about noon I moved with a part of my staff by our
right around, until I came up with Logan himself. I found him near the
road leading down to Baker's Creek. He was actually in command of the
only road over which the enemy could retreat; Hovey, reinforced by two
brigades from McPherson's command, confronted the enemy's left; Crocker,
with two brigades, covered their left flank; McClernand two hours
before, had been within two miles and a half of their centre with two
divisions, and the two divisions, Blair's and A. J. Smith's, were
confronting the rebel right; Ransom, with a brigade of McArthur's
division of the 17th corps (McPherson's), had crossed the river at Grand
Gulf a few days before, and was coming up on their right flank. Neither
Logan nor I knew that we had cut off the retreat of the enemy. Just at
this juncture a messenger came from Hovey, asking for more
reinforcements. There were none to spare. I then gave an order to move
McPherson's command by the left flank around to Hovey. This uncovered
the rebel line of retreat, which was soon taken advantage of by the
During all this time, Hovey, reinforced as he was by a brigade from
Logan and another from Crocker, and by Crocker gallantly coming up with
two other brigades on his right, had made several assaults, the last one
about the time the road was opened to the rear. The enemy fled
precipitately. This was between three and four o'clock. I rode
forward, or rather back, to where the middle road intersects the north
road, and found the skirmishers of Carr's division just coming in.
Osterhaus was farther south and soon after came up with skirmishers
advanced in like manner. Hovey's division, and McPherson's two
divisions with him, had marched and fought from early dawn, and were not
in the best condition to follow the retreating foe. I sent orders to
Osterhaus to pursue the enemy, and to Carr, whom I saw personally, I
explained the situation and directed him to pursue vigorously as far as
the Big Black, and to cross it if he could; Osterhaus to follow him.
The pursuit was continued until after dark.
The battle of Champion's Hill lasted about four hours, hard fighting,
preceded by two or three hours of skirmishing, some of which almost rose
to the dignity of battle. Every man of Hovey's division and of
McPherson's two divisions was engaged during the battle. No other part
of my command was engaged at all, except that as described before.
Osterhaus's and A. J. Smith's divisions had encountered the rebel
advanced pickets as early as half-past seven. Their positions were
admirable for advancing upon the enemy's line. McClernand, with two
divisions, was within a few miles of the battle-field long before noon
and in easy hearing. I sent him repeated orders by staff officers fully
competent to explain to him the situation. These traversed the wood
separating us, without escort, and directed him to push forward; but he
did not come. It is true, in front of McClernand there was a small
force of the enemy and posted in a good position behind a ravine
obstructing his advance; but if he had moved to the right by the road my
staff officers had followed the enemy must either have fallen back or
been cut off. Instead of this he sent orders to Hovey, who belonged to
his corps, to join on to his right flank. Hovey was bearing the brunt
of the battle at the time. To obey the order he would have had to pull
out from the front of the enemy and march back as far as McClernand had
to advance to get into battle and substantially over the same ground.
Of course I did not permit Hovey to obey the order of his intermediate
We had in this battle about 15,000 men absolutely engaged. This
excludes those that did not get up, all of McClernand's command except
Hovey. Our loss was 410 killed, 1,844 wounded and 187 missing. Hovey
alone lost 1,200 killed, wounded and missing--more than one-third of his
Had McClernand come up with reasonable promptness, or had I known the
ground as I did afterwards, I cannot see how Pemberton could have
escaped with any organized force. As it was he lost over three thousand
killed and wounded and about three thousand captured in battle and in
pursuit. Loring's division, which was the right of Pemberton's line,
was cut off from the retreating army and never got back into Vicksburg.
Pemberton himself fell back that night to the Big Black River. His
troops did not stop before midnight and many of them left before the
general retreat commenced, and no doubt a good part of them returned to
their homes. Logan alone captured 1,300 prisoners and eleven guns.
Hovey captured 300 under fire and about 700 in all, exclusive of 500
sick and wounded whom he paroled, thus making 1,200.
McPherson joined in the advance as soon as his men could fill their
cartridge-boxes, leaving one brigade to guard our wounded. The pursuit
was continued as long as it was light enough to see the road. The night
of the 16th of May found McPherson's command bivouacked from two to six
miles west of the battlefield, along the line of the road to Vicksburg.
Carr and Osterhaus were at Edward's station, and Blair was about three
miles south-east; Hovey remained on the field where his troops had
fought so bravely and bled so freely. Much war material abandoned by
the enemy was picked up on the battle-field, among it thirty pieces of
artillery. I pushed through the advancing column with my staff and kept
in advance until after night. Finding ourselves alone we stopped and
took possession of a vacant house. As no troops came up we moved back a
mile or more until we met the head of the column just going into bivouac
on the road. We had no tents, so we occupied the porch of a house which
had been taken for a rebel hospital and which was filled with wounded
and dying who had been brought from the battle-field we had just left.
While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down by the
thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure; but after the
battle these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to do
as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as a friend.
BATTLE OF BLACK RIVER BRIDGE--CROSSING THE BIG BLACK--INVESTMENT OF
VICKSBURG--ASSAULTING THE WORKS.
We were now assured of our position between Johnston and Pemberton,
without a possibility of a junction of their forces. Pemberton might
have made a night march to the Big Black, crossed the bridge there and,
by moving north on the west side, have eluded us and finally returned to
Johnston. But this would have given us Vicksburg. It would have been
his proper move, however, and the one Johnston would have made had he
been in Pemberton's place. In fact it would have been in conformity
with Johnston's orders to Pemberton.
Sherman left Jackson with the last of his troops about noon on the 16th
and reached Bolton, twenty miles west, before halting. His rear guard
did not get in until two A.M. the 17th, but renewed their march by
daylight. He paroled his prisoners at Jackson, and was forced to leave
his own wounded in care of surgeons and attendants. At Bolton he was
informed of our victory. He was directed to commence the march early
next day, and to diverge from the road he was on to Bridgeport on the
Big Black River, some eleven miles above the point where we expected to
find the enemy. Blair was ordered to join him there with the pontoon
train as early as possible.
This movement brought Sherman's corps together, and at a point where I
hoped a crossing of the Big Black might be effected and Sherman's corps
used to flank the enemy out of his position in our front, thus opening a
crossing for the remainder of the army. I informed him that I would
endeavor to hold the enemy in my front while he crossed the river.
The advance division, Carr's (McClernand's corps), resumed the pursuit
at half-past three A.M. on the 17th, followed closely by Osterhaus,
McPherson bringing up the rear with his corps. As I expected, the enemy
was found in position on the Big Black. The point was only six miles
from that where my advance had rested for the night, and was reached at
an early hour. Here the river makes a turn to the west, and has washed
close up to the high land; the east side is a low bottom, sometimes
overflowed at very high water, but was cleared and in cultivation. A
bayou runs irregularly across this low land, the bottom of which,
however, is above the surface of the Big Black at ordinary stages. When
the river is full water runs through it, converting the point of land
into an island. The bayou was grown up with timber, which the enemy had
felled into the ditch. At this time there was a foot or two of water in
it. The rebels had constructed a parapet along the inner bank of this
bayou by using cotton bales from the plantation close by and throwing
dirt over them. The whole was thoroughly commanded from the height west
of the river. At the upper end of the bayou there was a strip of
uncleared land which afforded a cover for a portion of our men. Carr's
division was deployed on our right, Lawler's brigade forming his extreme
right and reaching through these woods to the river above. Osterhaus'
division was deployed to the left of Carr and covered the enemy's entire
front. McPherson was in column on the road, the head close by, ready to
come in wherever he could be of assistance.
While the troops were standing as here described an officer from Banks'
staff came up and presented me with a letter from General Halleck, dated
the 11th of May. It had been sent by the way of New Orleans to Banks to
be forwarded to me. It ordered me to return to Grand Gulf and to
co-operate from there with Banks against Port Hudson, and then to return
with our combined forces to besiege Vicksburg. I told the officer that
the order came too late, and that Halleck would not give it now if he
knew our position. The bearer of the dispatch insisted that I ought to
obey the order, and was giving arguments to support his position when I
heard great cheering to the right of our line and, looking in that
direction, saw Lawler in his shirt sleeves leading a charge upon the
enemy. I immediately mounted my horse and rode in the direction of the
charge, and saw no more of the officer who delivered the dispatch; I
think not even to this day.
The assault was successful. But little resistance was made. The enemy
fled from the west bank of the river, burning the bridge behind him and
leaving the men and guns on the east side to fall into our hands. Many
tried to escape by swimming the river. Some succeeded and some were
drowned in the attempt. Eighteen guns were captured and 1,751 prisoners.
Our loss was 39 killed, 237 wounded and 3 missing. The enemy probably
lost but few men except those captured and drowned. But for the
successful and complete destruction of the bridge, I have but little
doubt that we should have followed the enemy so closely as to prevent
his occupying his defences around Vicksburg.
As the bridge was destroyed and the river was high, new bridges had to
be built. It was but little after nine o'clock A.M. when the capture
took place. As soon as work could be commenced, orders were given for
the construction of three bridges. One was taken charge of by
Lieutenant Hains, of the Engineer Corps, one by General McPherson
himself and one by General Ransom, a most gallant and intelligent
volunteer officer. My recollection is that Hains built a raft bridge;
McPherson a pontoon, using cotton bales in large numbers, for pontoons;
and that Ransom felled trees on opposite banks of the river, cutting
only on one side of the tree, so that they would fall with their tops
interlacing in the river, without the trees being entirely severed from
their stumps. A bridge was then made with these trees to support the
roadway. Lumber was taken from buildings, cotton gins and wherever
found, for this purpose. By eight o'clock in the morning of the 18th
all three bridges were complete and the troops were crossing.
Sherman reached Bridgeport about noon of the 17th and found Blair with
the pontoon train already there. A few of the enemy were intrenched on
the west bank, but they made little resistance and soon surrendered.
Two divisions were crossed that night and the third the following
On the 18th I moved along the Vicksburg road in advance of the troops
and as soon as possible joined Sherman. My first anxiety was to secure
a base of supplies on the Yazoo River above Vicksburg. Sherman's line
of march led him to the very point on Walnut Hills occupied by the enemy
the December before when he was repulsed. Sherman was equally anxious
with myself. Our impatience led us to move in advance of the column and
well up with the advanced skirmishers. There were some detached works
along the crest of the hill. These were still occupied by the enemy, or
else the garrison from Haines' Bluff had not all got past on their way
to Vicksburg. At all events the bullets of the enemy whistled by thick
and fast for a short time. In a few minutes Sherman had the pleasure of
looking down from the spot coveted so much by him the December before on
the ground where his command had lain so helpless for offensive action.
He turned to me, saying that up to this minute he had felt no positive
assurance of success. This, however, he said was the end of one of the
greatest campaigns in history and I ought to make a report of it at
once. Vicksburg was not yet captured, and there was no telling what
might happen before it was taken; but whether captured or not, this was
a complete and successful campaign. I do not claim to quote Sherman's
language; but the substance only. My reason for mentioning this
incident will appear further on.
McPherson, after crossing the Big Black, came into the Jackson and
Vicksburg road which Sherman was on, but to his rear. He arrived at
night near the lines of the enemy, and went into camp. McClernand moved
by the direct road near the railroad to Mount Albans, and then turned to
the left and put his troops on the road from Baldwin's ferry to
Vicksburg. This brought him south of McPherson. I now had my three
corps up the works built for the defence of Vicksburg, on three roads
--one to the north, one to the east and one to the south-east of the city.
By the morning of the 19th the investment was as complete as my limited
number of troops would allow. Sherman was on the right, and covered the
high ground from where it overlooked the Yazoo as far south-east as his
troops would extend. McPherson joined on to his left, and occupied
ground on both sides of the Jackson road. McClernand took up the ground
to his left and extended as far towards Warrenton as he could, keeping a
On the 19th there was constant skirmishing with the enemy while we were
getting into better position. The enemy had been much demoralized by
his defeats at Champion's Hill and the Big Black, and I believed he
would not make much effort to hold Vicksburg. Accordingly, at two
o'clock I ordered an assault. It resulted in securing more advanced
positions for all our troops where they were fully covered from the fire
of the enemy.
The 20th and 21st were spent in strengthening our position and in making
roads in rear of the army, from Yazoo River or Chickasaw Bayou. Most of
the army had now been for three weeks with only five days' rations
issued by the commissary. They had an abundance of food, however, but
began to feel the want of bread. I remember that in passing around to
the left of the line on the 21st, a soldier, recognizing me, said in
rather a low voice, but yet so that I heard him, "Hard tack." In a
moment the cry was taken up all along the line, "Hard tack! Hard tack!"
I told the men nearest to me that we had been engaged ever since the
arrival of the troops in building a road over which to supply them with
everything they needed. The cry was instantly changed to cheers. By
the night of the 21st all the troops had full rations issued to them.
The bread and coffee were highly appreciated.
I now determined on a second assault. Johnston was in my rear, only
fifty miles away, with an army not much inferior in numbers to the one I
had with me, and I knew he was being reinforced. There was danger of his
coming to the assistance of Pemberton, and after all he might defeat my
anticipations of capturing the garrison if, indeed, he did not prevent
the capture of the city. The immediate capture of Vicksburg would save
sending me the reinforcements which were so much wanted elsewhere, and
would set free the army under me to drive Johnston from the State. But
the first consideration of all was--the troops believed they could carry
the works in their front, and would not have worked so patiently in the
trenches if they had not been allowed to try.
The attack was ordered to commence on all parts of the line at ten
o'clock A.M. on the 22d with a furious cannonade from every battery in
position. All the corps commanders set their time by mine so that all
might open the engagement at the same minute. The attack was gallant,
and portions of each of the three corps succeeded in getting up to the
very parapets of the enemy and in planting their battle flags upon them;
but at no place were we able to enter. General McClernand reported that
he had gained the enemy's intrenchments at several points, and wanted
reinforcements. I occupied a position from which I believed I could see
as well as he what took place in his front, and I did not see the
success he reported. But his request for reinforcements being repeated
I could not ignore it, and sent him Quinby's division of the 17th corps.
Sherman and McPherson were both ordered to renew their assaults as a
diversion in favor of McClernand. This last attack only served to
increase our casualties without giving any benefit whatever. As soon as
it was dark our troops that had reached the enemy's line and been
obliged to remain there for security all day, were withdrawn; and thus
ended the last assault upon Vicksburg.
SIEGE OF VICKSBURG.
I now determined upon a regular siege--to "out-camp the enemy," as it
were, and to incur no more losses. The experience of the 22d convinced
officers and men that this was best, and they went to work on the
defences and approaches with a will. With the navy holding the river,
the investment of Vicksburg was complete. As long as we could hold our
position the enemy was limited in supplies of food, men and munitions of
war to what they had on hand. These could not last always.
The crossing of troops at Bruinsburg commenced April 30th. On the 18th
of May the army was in rear of Vicksburg. On the 19th, just twenty days
after the crossing, the city was completely invested and an assault had
been made: five distinct battles (besides continuous skirmishing) had
been fought and won by the Union forces; the capital of the State had
fallen and its arsenals, military manufactories and everything useful
for military purposes had been destroyed; an average of about one
hundred and eighty miles had been marched by the troops engaged; but
five days' rations had been issued, and no forage; over six thousand
prisoners had been captured, and as many more of the enemy had been
killed or wounded; twenty-seven heavy cannon and sixty-one field-pieces
had fallen into our hands; and four hundred miles of the river, from
Vicksburg to Port Hudson, had become ours. The Union force that had
crossed the Mississippi River up to this time was less than forty-three
thousand men. One division of these, Blair's, only arrived in time to
take part in the battle of Champion's Hill, but was not engaged there;
and one brigade, Ransom's of McPherson's corps, reached the field after
the battle. The enemy had at Vicksburg, Grand Gulf, Jackson, and on the
roads between these places, over sixty thousand men. They were in their
own country, where no rear guards were necessary. The country is
admirable for defence, but difficult for the conduct of an offensive
campaign. All their troops had to be met. We were fortunate, to say
the least, in meeting them in detail: at Port Gibson seven or eight
thousand; at Raymond, five thousand; at Jackson, from eight to eleven
thousand; at Champion's Hill, twenty-five thousand; at the Big Black,
four thousand. A part of those met at Jackson were all that was left of
those encountered at Raymond. They were beaten in detail by a force
smaller than their own, upon their own ground. Our loss up to this time
KILLED WOUNDED MISSING
Port Gibson..... 131 719 25
South Fork Bayou Pierre..... .. 1 ..
Skirmishes, May 3 ..... 1 9 ..
Fourteen Mile Creek..... 6 24 ..
Raymond............... 66 339 39
Jackson..... 42 251 7
Champion's Hill..... 410 1,844 187
Big Black..... 39 237 3
Bridgeport..... .. 1 ..
Total..... 695 3,425 259
Of the wounded many were but slightly so, and continued on duty. Not
half of them were disabled for any length of time.
After the unsuccessful assault of the 22d the work of the regular siege
began. Sherman occupied the right starting from the river above
Vicksburg, McPherson the centre (McArthur's division now with him) and
McClernand the left, holding the road south to Warrenton. Lauman's
division arrived at this time and was placed on the extreme left of the
In the interval between the assaults of the 19th and 22d, roads had been
completed from the Yazoo River and Chickasaw Bayou, around the rear of
the army, to enable us to bring up supplies of food and ammunition;
ground had been selected and cleared on which the troops were to be
encamped, and tents and cooking utensils were brought up. The troops
had been without these from the time of crossing the Mississippi up to
this time. All was now ready for the pick and spade. Prentiss and
Hurlbut were ordered to send forward every man that could be spared.
Cavalry especially was wanted to watch the fords along the Big Black,
and to observe Johnston. I knew that Johnston was receiving
reinforcements from Bragg, who was confronting Rosecrans in Tennessee.
Vicksburg was so important to the enemy that I believed he would make
the most strenuous efforts to raise the siege, even at the risk of
losing ground elsewhere.
My line was more than fifteen miles long, extending from Haines' Bluff
to Vicksburg, thence to Warrenton. The line of the enemy was about
seven. In addition to this, having an enemy at Canton and Jackson, in
our rear, who was being constantly reinforced, we required a second line
of defence facing the other way. I had not troops enough under my
command to man these. General Halleck appreciated the situation and,
without being asked, forwarded reinforcements with all possible
The ground about Vicksburg is admirable for defence. On the north it is
about two hundred feet above the Mississippi River at the highest point
and very much cut up by the washing rains; the ravines were grown up
with cane and underbrush, while the sides and tops were covered with a
dense forest. Farther south the ground flattens out somewhat, and was
in cultivation. But here, too, it was cut up by ravines and small
streams. The enemy's line of defence followed the crest of a ridge from
the river north of the city eastward, then southerly around to the
Jackson road, full three miles back of the city; thence in a
southwesterly direction to the river. Deep ravines of the description
given lay in front of these defences. As there is a succession of
gullies, cut out by rains along the side of the ridge, the line was
necessarily very irregular. To follow each of these spurs with
intrenchments, so as to command the slopes on either side, would have
lengthened their line very much. Generally therefore, or in many places,
their line would run from near the head of one gully nearly straight to
the head of another, and an outer work triangular in shape, generally
open in the rear, was thrown up on the point; with a few men in this
outer work they commanded the approaches to the main line completely.
The work to be done, to make our position as strong against the enemy as
his was against us, was very great. The problem was also complicated by
our wanting our line as near that of the enemy as possible. We had but
four engineer officers with us. Captain Prime, of the Engineer Corps,
was the chief, and the work at the beginning was mainly directed by him.
His health soon gave out, when he was succeeded by Captain Comstock,
also of the Engineer Corps. To provide assistants on such a long line I
directed that all officers who had graduated at West Point, where they
had necessarily to study military engineering, should in addition to
their other duties assist in the work.
The chief quartermaster and the chief commissary were graduates. The
chief commissary, now the Commissary-General of the Army, begged off,
however, saying that there was nothing in engineering that he was good
for unless he would do for a sap-roller. As soldiers require rations
while working in the ditches as well as when marching and fighting, and
as we would be sure to lose him if he was used as a sap-roller, I let
him off. The general is a large man; weighs two hundred and twenty
pounds, and is not tall.
We had no siege guns except six thirty-two pounders, and there were none
at the West to draw from. Admiral Porter, however, supplied us with a
battery of navy-guns of large calibre, and with these, and the field
artillery used in the campaign, the siege began. The first thing to do
was to get the artillery in batteries where they would occupy commanding
positions; then establish the camps, under cover from the fire of the
enemy but as near up as possible; and then construct rifle-pits and
covered ways, to connect the entire command by the shortest route. The
enemy did not harass us much while we were constructing our batteries.
Probably their artillery ammunition was short; and their infantry was
kept down by our sharpshooters, who were always on the alert and ready
to fire at a head whenever it showed itself above the rebel works.
In no place were our lines more than six hundred yards from the enemy.
It was necessary, therefore, to cover our men by something more than
the ordinary parapet. To give additional protection sand bags,
bullet-proof, were placed along the tops of the parapets far enough
apart to make loop-holes for musketry. On top of these, logs were put.
By these means the men were enabled to walk about erect when off duty,
without fear of annoyance from sharpshooters. The enemy used in their
defence explosive musket-balls, no doubt thinking that, bursting over
our men in the trenches, they would do some execution; but I do not
remember a single case where a man was injured by a piece of one of
these shells. When they were hit and the ball exploded, the wound was
terrible. In these cases a solid ball would have hit as well. Their
use is barbarous, because they produce increased suffering without any
corresponding advantage to those using them.
The enemy could not resort to our method to protect their men, because
we had an inexhaustible supply of ammunition to draw upon and used it
freely. Splinters from the timber would have made havoc among the men
There were no mortars with the besiegers, except what the navy had in
front of the city; but wooden ones were made by taking logs of the
toughest wood that could be found, boring them out for six or twelve
pound shells and binding them with strong iron bands. These answered as
cochorns, and shells were successfully thrown from them into the
trenches of the enemy.
The labor of building the batteries and intrenching was largely done by
the pioneers, assisted by negroes who came within our lines and who were
paid for their work; but details from the troops had often to be made.
The work was pushed forward as rapidly as possible, and when an advanced
position was secured and covered from the fire of the enemy the
batteries were advanced. By the 3oth of June there were two hundred and
twenty guns in position, mostly light field-pieces, besides a battery of
heavy guns belonging to, manned and commanded by the navy. We were now
as strong for defence against the garrison of Vicksburg as they were
against us; but I knew that Johnston was in our rear, and was receiving
constant reinforcements from the east. He had at this time a larger
force than I had had at any time prior to the battle of Champion's Hill.
As soon as the news of the arrival of the Union army behind Vicksburg
reached the North, floods of visitors began to pour in. Some came to
gratify curiosity; some to see sons or brothers who had passed through
the terrible ordeal; members of the Christian and Sanitary Associations
came to minister to the wants of the sick and the wounded. Often those
coming to see a son or brother would bring a dozen or two of poultry.
They did not know how little the gift would be appreciated. Many of the
soldiers had lived so much on chickens, ducks and turkeys without bread
during the march, that the sight of poultry, if they could get bacon,
almost took away their appetite. But the intention was good.
Among the earliest arrivals was the Governor of Illinois, with most of
the State officers. I naturally wanted to show them what there was of
most interest. In Sherman's front the ground was the most broken and
most wooded, and more was to be seen without exposure. I therefore took
them to Sherman's headquarters and presented them. Before starting out
to look at the lines--possibly while Sherman's horse was being saddled
--there were many questions asked about the late campaign, about which
the North had been so imperfectly informed. There was a little knot
around Sherman and another around me, and I heard Sherman repeating, in
the most animated manner, what he had said to me when we first looked
down from Walnut Hills upon the land below on the 18th of May, adding:
"Grant is entitled to every bit of the credit for the campaign; I
opposed it. I wrote him a letter about it." But for this speech it is
not likely that Sherman's opposition would have ever been heard of. His
untiring energy and great efficiency during the campaign entitle him to
a full share of all the credit due for its success. He could not have
done more if the plan had been his own. (*13)
On the 26th of May I sent Blair's division up the Yazoo to drive out a
force of the enemy supposed to be between the Big Black and the Yazoo.
The country was rich and full of supplies of both food and forage.
Blair was instructed to take all of it. The cattle were to be driven in
for the use of our army, and the food and forage to be consumed by our
troops or destroyed by fire; all bridges were to be destroyed, and the
roads rendered as nearly impassable as possible. Blair went forty-five
miles and was gone almost a week. His work was effectually done. I
requested Porter at this time to send the marine brigade, a floating
nondescript force which had been assigned to his command and which
proved very useful, up to Haines' Bluff to hold it until reinforcements
could be sent.
On the 26th I also received a letter from Banks, asking me to reinforce
him with ten thousand men at Port Hudson. Of course I could not comply
with his request, nor did I think he needed them. He was in no danger
of an attack by the garrison in his front, and there was no army
organizing in his rear to raise the siege.
On the 3d of June a brigade from Hurlbut's command arrived, General
Kimball commanding. It was sent to Mechanicsburg, some miles north-east
of Haines' Bluff and about midway between the Big Black and the Yazoo.
A brigade of Blair's division and twelve hundred cavalry had already, on
Blair's return from the Yazoo, been sent to the same place with
instructions to watch the crossings of the Big Black River, to destroy
the roads in his (Blair's) front, and to gather or destroy all supplies.
On the 7th of June our little force of colored and white troops across
the Mississippi, at Milliken's Bend, were attacked by about 3,000 men
from Richard Taylor's trans-Mississippi command. With the aid of the
gunboats they were speedily repelled. I sent Mower's brigade over with
instructions to drive the enemy beyond the Tensas Bayou; and we had no
further trouble in that quarter during the siege. This was the first
important engagement of the war in which colored troops were under fire.
These men were very raw, having all been enlisted since the beginning of
the siege, but they behaved well.
On the 8th of June a full division arrived from Hurlbut's command, under
General Sooy Smith. It was sent immediately to Haines' Bluff, and
General C. C. Washburn was assigned to the general command at that
On the 11th a strong division arrived from the Department of the
Missouri under General Herron, which was placed on our left. This cut
off the last possible chance of communication between Pemberton and
Johnston, as it enabled Lauman to close up on McClernand's left while
Herron intrenched from Lauman to the water's edge. At this point the
water recedes a few hundred yards from the high land. Through this
opening no doubt the Confederate commanders had been able to get
messengers under cover of night.
On the 14th General Parke arrived with two divisions of Burnside's
corps, and was immediately dispatched to Haines' Bluff. These latter
troops--Herron's and Parke's--were the reinforcements already spoken of
sent by Halleck in anticipation of their being needed. They arrived
none too soon.
I now had about seventy-one thousand men. More than half were disposed
across the peninsula, between the Yazoo at Haines' Bluff and the Big
Black, with the division of Osterhaus watching the crossings of the
latter river farther south and west from the crossing of the Jackson
road to Baldwin's ferry and below.
There were eight roads leading into Vicksburg, along which and their
immediate sides, our work was specially pushed and batteries advanced;
but no commanding point within range of the enemy was neglected.
On the 17th I received a letter from General Sherman and one on the 18th
from General McPherson, saying that their respective commands had
complained to them of a fulsome, congratulatory order published by
General McClernand to the 13th corps, which did great injustice to the
other troops engaged in the campaign. This order had been sent North
and published, and now papers containing it had reached our camps. The
order had not been heard of by me, and certainly not by troops outside
of McClernand's command until brought in this way. I at once wrote to
McClernand, directing him to send me a copy of this order. He did so,
and I at once relieved him from the command of the 13th army corps and
ordered him back to Springfield, Illinois. The publication of his order
in the press was in violation of War Department orders and also of mine.
JOHNSTON'S MOVEMENTS--FORTIFICATIONS AT HAINES' BLUFF--EXPLOSION OF THE
MINE--EXPLOSION OF THE SECOND MINE--PREPARING FOR THE ASSAULT--THE FLAG
OF TRUCE--MEETING WITH PEMBERTON--NEGOTIATIONS FOR SURRENDER--ACCEPTING
THE TERMS--SURRENDER OF VICKSBURG.
On the 22d of June positive information was received that Johnston had
crossed the Big Black River for the purpose of attacking our rear, to
raise the siege and release Pemberton. The correspondence between
Johnston and Pemberton shows that all expectation of holding Vicksburg
had by this time passed from Johnston's mind. I immediately ordered
Sherman to the command of all the forces from Haines' Bluff to the Big
Black River. This amounted now to quite half the troops about Vicksburg.
Besides these, Herron and A. J. Smith's divisions were ordered to hold
themselves in readiness to reinforce Sherman. Haines' Bluff had been
strongly fortified on the land side, and on all commanding points from
there to the Big Black at the railroad crossing batteries had been
constructed. The work of connecting by rifle-pits where this was not
already done, was an easy task for the troops that were to defend them.
We were now looking west, besieging Pemberton, while we were also
looking east to defend ourselves against an expected siege by Johnston.
But as against the garrison of Vicksburg we were as substantially
protected as they were against us. Where we were looking east and north
we were strongly fortified, and on the defensive. Johnston evidently
took in the situation and wisely, I think, abstained from making an
assault on us because it would simply have inflicted loss on both sides
without accomplishing any result. We were strong enough to have taken
the offensive against him; but I did not feel disposed to take any risk
of losing our hold upon Pemberton's army, while I would have rejoiced at
the opportunity of defending ourselves against an attack by Johnston.
From the 23d of May the work of fortifying and pushing forward our
position nearer to the enemy had been steadily progressing. At three
points on the Jackson road, in front of Leggett's brigade, a sap was run
up to the enemy's parapet, and by the 25th of June we had it undermined
and the mine charged. The enemy had countermined, but did not succeed in
reaching our mine. At this particular point the hill on which the rebel
work stands rises abruptly. Our sap ran close up to the outside of the
enemy's parapet. In fact this parapet was also our protection. The
soldiers of the two sides occasionally conversed pleasantly across this
barrier; sometimes they exchanged the hard bread of the Union soldiers
for the tobacco of the Confederates; at other times the enemy threw over
hand-grenades, and often our men, catching them in their hands, returned
Our mine had been started some distance back down the hill; consequently
when it had extended as far as the parapet it was many feet below it.
This caused the failure of the enemy in his search to find and destroy
it. On the 25th of June at three o'clock, all being ready, the mine was
exploded. A heavy artillery fire all along the line had been ordered to
open with the explosion. The effect was to blow the top of the hill off
and make a crater where it stood. The breach was not sufficient to
enable us to pass a column of attack through. In fact, the enemy having
failed to reach our mine had thrown up a line farther back, where most
of the men guarding that point were placed. There were a few men,
however, left at the advance line, and others working in the
countermine, which was still being pushed to find ours. All that were
there were thrown into the air, some of them coming down on our side,
still alive. I remember one colored man, who had been under ground at
work when the explosion took place, who was thrown to our side. He was
not much hurt, but terribly frightened. Some one asked him how high he
had gone up. "Dun no, massa, but t'ink 'bout t'ree mile," was his
reply. General Logan commanded at this point and took this colored man
to his quarters, where he did service to the end of the siege.
As soon as the explosion took place the crater was seized by two
regiments of our troops who were near by, under cover, where they had
been placed for the express purpose. The enemy made a desperate effort
to expel them, but failed, and soon retired behind the new line. From
here, however, they threw hand-grenades, which did some execution. The
compliment was returned by our men, but not with so much effect. The
enemy could lay their grenades on the parapet, which alone divided the
contestants, and roll them down upon us; while from our side they had to
be thrown over the parapet, which was at considerable elevation. During
the night we made efforts to secure our position in the crater against
the missiles of the enemy, so as to run trenches along the outer base of
their parapet, right and left; but the enemy continued throwing their
grenades, and brought boxes of field ammunition (shells), the fuses of
which they would light with portfires, and throw them by hand into our
ranks. We found it impossible to continue this work. Another mine was
consequently started which was exploded on the 1st of July, destroying
an entire rebel redan, killing and wounding a considerable number of its
occupants and leaving an immense chasm where it stood. No attempt to
charge was made this time, the experience of the 25th admonishing us.
Our loss in the first affair was about thirty killed and wounded. The
enemy must have lost more in the two explosions than we did in the
first. We lost none in the second.
From this time forward the work of mining and pushing our position
nearer to the enemy was prosecuted with vigor, and I determined to
explode no more mines until we were ready to explode a number at
different points and assault immediately after. We were up now at three
different points, one in front of each corps, to where only the parapet
of the enemy divided us.
At this time an intercepted dispatch from Johnston to Pemberton informed
me that Johnston intended to make a determined attack upon us in order
to relieve the garrison at Vicksburg. I knew the garrison would make no
formidable effort to relieve itself. The picket lines were so close to
each other--where there was space enough between the lines to post
pickets--that the men could converse. On the 21st of June I was
informed, through this means, that Pemberton was preparing to escape, by
crossing to the Louisiana side under cover of night; that he had
employed workmen in making boats for that purpose; that the men had been
canvassed to ascertain if they would make an assault on the "Yankees" to
cut their way out; that they had refused, and almost mutinied, because
their commander would not surrender and relieve their sufferings, and
had only been pacified by the assurance that boats enough would be
finished in a week to carry them all over. The rebel pickets also said
that houses in the city had been pulled down to get material to build
these boats with. Afterwards this story was verified: on entering the
city we found a large number of very rudely constructed boats.
All necessary steps were at once taken to render such an attempt
abortive. Our pickets were doubled; Admiral Porter was notified, so
that the river might be more closely watched; material was collected on
the west bank of the river to be set on fire and light up the river if
the attempt was made; and batteries were established along the levee
crossing the peninsula on the Louisiana side. Had the attempt been made
the garrison of Vicksburg would have been drowned, or made prisoners on
the Louisiana side. General Richard Taylor was expected on the west
bank to co-operate in this movement, I believe, but he did not come, nor
could he have done so with a force sufficient to be of service. The
Mississippi was now in our possession from its source to its mouth,
except in the immediate front of Vicksburg and of Port Hudson. We had
nearly exhausted the country, along a line drawn from Lake Providence to
opposite Bruinsburg. The roads west were not of a character to draw
supplies over for any considerable force.
By the 1st of July our approaches had reached the enemy's ditch at a
number of places. At ten points we could move under cover to within
from five to one hundred yards of the enemy. Orders were given to make
all preparations for assault on the 6th of July. The debouches were
ordered widened to afford easy egress, while the approaches were also to
be widened to admit the troops to pass through four abreast. Plank, and
bags filled with cotton packed in tightly, were ordered prepared, to
enable the troops to cross the ditches.
On the night of the 1st of July Johnston was between Brownsville and the
Big Black, and wrote Pemberton from there that about the 7th of the
month an attempt would be made to create a diversion to enable him to
cut his way out. Pemberton was a prisoner before this message reached
On July 1st Pemberton, seeing no hope of outside relief, addressed the
following letter to each of his four division commanders:
"Unless the siege of Vicksburg is raised, or supplies are thrown in, it
will become necessary very shortly to evacuate the place. I see no
prospect of the former, and there are many great, if not insuperable
obstacles in the way of the latter. You are, therefore, requested to
inform me with as little delay as possible, as to the condition of your
troops and their ability to make the marches and undergo the fatigues
necessary to accomplish a successful evacuation."
Two of his generals suggested surrender, and the other two practically
did the same. They expressed the opinion that an attempt to evacuate
would fail. Pemberton had previously got a message to Johnston
suggesting that he should try to negotiate with me for a release of the
garrison with their arms. Johnston replied that it would be a
confession of weakness for him to do so; but he authorized Pemberton to
use his name in making such an arrangement.
On the 3d about ten o'clock A.M. white flags appeared on a portion of
the rebel works. Hostilities along that part of the line ceased at
once. Soon two persons were seen coming towards our lines bearing a
white flag. They proved to be General Bowen, a division commander, and
Colonel Montgomery, aide-de-camp to Pemberton, bearing the following
letter to me:
"I have the honor to propose an armistice for--hours, with the view to
arranging terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg. To this end, if
agreeable to you, I will appoint three commissioners, to meet a like
number to be named by yourself at such place and hour to-day as you may
find convenient. I make this proposition to save the further effusion
of blood, which must otherwise be shed to a frightful extent, feeling
myself fully able to maintain my position for a yet indefinite period.
This communication will be handed you under a flag of truce, by
Major-General John S. Bowen."
It was a glorious sight to officers and soldiers on the line where these
white flags were visible, and the news soon spread to all parts of the
command. The troops felt that their long and weary marches, hard
fighting, ceaseless watching by night and day, in a hot climate,
exposure to all sorts of weather, to diseases and, worst of all, to the
gibes of many Northern papers that came to them saying all their
suffering was in vain, that Vicksburg would never be taken, were at last
at an end and the Union sure to be saved.
Bowen was received by General A. J. Smith, and asked to see me. I had
been a neighbor of Bowen's in Missouri, and knew him well and favorably
before the war; but his request was refused. He then suggested that I
should meet Pemberton. To this I sent a verbal message saying that, if
Pemberton desired it, I would meet him in front of McPherson's corps at
three o'clock that afternoon. I also sent the following written reply
to Pemberton's letter:
"Your note of this date is just received, proposing an armistice for
several hours, for the purpose of arranging terms of capitulation
through commissioners, to be appointed, etc. The useless effusion of
blood you propose stopping by this course can be ended at any time you
may choose, by the unconditional surrender of the city and garrison.
Men who have shown so much endurance and courage as those now 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.
I do not favor the proposition of appointing commissioners to arrange
the terms of capitulation, because I have no terms other than those
At three o'clock Pemberton appeared at the point suggested in my verbal
message, accompanied by the same officers who had borne his letter of
the morning. Generals Ord, McPherson, Logan and A. J. Smith, and
several officers of my staff, accompanied me. Our place of meeting was
on a hillside within a few hundred feet of the rebel lines. Near by
stood a stunted oak-tree, which was made historical by the event. It
was but a short time before the last vestige of its body, root and limb
had disappeared, the fragments taken as trophies. Since then the same
tree has furnished as many cords of wood, in the shape of trophies, as
"The True Cross."
Pemberton and I had served in the same division during part of the
Mexican War. I knew him very well therefore, and greeted him as an old
acquaintance. He soon asked what terms I proposed to give his army if
it surrendered. My answer was the same as proposed in my reply to his
letter. Pemberton then said, rather snappishly, "The conference might
as well end," and turned abruptly as if to leave. I said, "Very well."
General Bowen, I saw, was very anxious that the surrender should be
consummated. His manner and remarks while Pemberton and I were talking,
showed this. He now proposed that he and one of our generals should
have a conference. I had no objection to this, as nothing could be made
binding upon me that they might propose. Smith and Bowen accordingly had
a conference, during which Pemberton and I, moving a short distance away
towards the enemy's lines were in conversation. After a while Bowen
suggested that the Confederate army should be allowed to march out with
the honors of war, carrying their small arms and field artillery. This
was promptly and unceremoniously rejected. The interview here ended, I
agreeing, however, to send a letter giving final terms by ten o'clock
Word was sent to Admiral Porter soon after the correspondence with
Pemberton commenced, so that hostilities might be stopped on the part of
both army and navy. It was agreed on my paging with Pemberton that they
should not be renewed until our correspondence ceased.
When I returned to my headquarters I sent for all the corps and division
commanders with the army immediately confronting Vicksburg. Half the
army was from eight to twelve miles off, waiting for Johnston. I
informed them of the contents of Pemberton's letters, of my reply and
the substance of the interview, and that I was ready to hear any
suggestion; but would hold the power of deciding entirely in my own
hands. This was the nearest approach to a "council of war" I ever held.
Against the general, and almost unanimous judgment of the council I sent
the following letter:
"In conformity with agreement of this afternoon, I will submit the
following proposition for the surrender of the City of Vicksburg, public
stores, etc. On your accepting the terms proposed, I will march in one
division as a guard, and take possession at eight A.M. to-morrow. As
soon as rolls can be made out, and paroles be signed by officers and
men, you will be allowed to march out of our lines, the officers taking
with them their side-arms and clothing, and the field, staff and cavalry
officers one horse each. The rank and file will be allowed all their
clothing, but no other property. If these conditions are accepted, any
amount of rations you may deem necessary can be taken from the stores
you now have, and also the necessary cooking utensils for preparing
them. Thirty wagons also, counting two two-horse or mule teams as one,
will be allowed to transport such articles as cannot be carried along.
The same conditions will be allowed to all sick and wounded officers and
soldiers as fast as they become able to travel. The paroles for these
latter must be signed, however, whilst officers present are authorized
to sign the roll of prisoners."
By the terms of the cartel then in force, prisoners captured by either
army were required to be forwarded as soon as possible to either Aiken's
landing below Dutch Gap on the James River, or to Vicksburg, there to be
exchanged, or paroled until they could be exchanged. There was a
Confederate commissioner at Vicksburg, authorized to make the exchange.
I did not propose to take him a prisoner, but to leave him free to
perform the functions of his office. Had I insisted upon an
unconditional surrender there would have been over thirty thousand men
to transport to Cairo, very much to the inconvenience of the army on the
Mississippi. Thence the prisoners would have had to be transported by
rail to Washington or Baltimore; thence again by steamer to Aiken's--all
at very great expense. At Aiken's they would have had to be paroled,
because the Confederates did not have Union prisoners to give in
exchange. Then again Pemberton's army was largely composed of men whose
homes were in the South-west; I knew many of them were tired of the war
and would get home just as soon as they could. A large number of them
had voluntarily come into our lines during the siege, and requested to
be sent north where they could get employment until the war was over and
they could go to their homes.
Late at night I received the following reply to my last letter:
"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of
this date, proposing terms of capitulation for this garrison and post.
In the main your terms are accepted; but, in justice both to the honor
and spirit of my troops manifested in the defence of Vicksburg, I have
to submit the following amendments, which, if acceded to by you, will
perfect the agreement between us. At ten o'clock A.M. to-morrow, I
propose to evacuate the works in and around Vicksburg, and to surrender
the city and garrison under my command, by marching out with my colors
and arms, stacking them in front of my present lines. After which you
will take possession. Officers to retain their side-arms and personal
property, and the rights and property of citizens to be respected."
This was received after midnight. My reply was as follows:
"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of 3d
July. The amendment proposed by you cannot be acceded to in full. It
will be necessary to furnish every officer and man with a parole signed
by himself, which, with the completion of the roll of prisoners, will
necessarily take some time. Again, I can make no stipulations with
regard to the treatment of citizens and their private property. While I
do not propose to cause them any undue annoyance or loss, I cannot
consent to leave myself under any restraint by stipulations. The
property which officers will be allowed to take with them will be as
stated in my proposition of last evening; that is, officers will be
allowed their private baggage and side-arms, and mounted officers one
horse each. If you mean by your proposition for each brigade to march
to the front of the lines now occupied by it, and stack arms at ten
o'clock A.M., and then return to the inside and there remain as
prisoners until properly paroled, I will make no objection to it.
Should no notification be received of your acceptance of my terms by
nine o'clock A.M. I shall regard them as having been rejected, and shall
act accordingly. Should these terms be accepted, white flags should be
displayed along your lines to prevent such of my troops as may not have
been notified, from firing upon your men."
Pemberton promptly accepted these terms.
During the siege there had been a good deal of friendly sparring between
the soldiers of the two armies, on picket and where the lines were close
together. All rebels were known as "Johnnies," all Union troops as
"Yanks." Often "Johnny" would call: "Well, Yank, when are you coming
into town?" The reply was sometimes: "We propose to celebrate the 4th
of July there." Sometimes it would be: "We always treat our prisoners
with kindness and do not want to hurt them;" or, "We are holding you as
prisoners of war while you are feeding yourselves." The garrison, from
the commanding general down, undoubtedly expected an assault on the
fourth. They knew from the temper of their men it would be successful
when made; and that would be a greater humiliation than to surrender.
Besides it would be attended with severe loss to them.
The Vicksburg paper, which we received regularly through the courtesy of
the rebel pickets, said prior to the fourth, in speaking of the "Yankee"
boast that they would take dinner in Vicksburg that day, that the best
receipt for cooking a rabbit was "First ketch your rabbit." The paper
at this time and for some time previous was printed on the plain side of
wall paper. The last number was issued on the fourth and announced that
we had "caught our rabbit."
I have no doubt that Pemberton commenced his correspondence on the third
with a two-fold purpose: first, to avoid an assault, which he knew
would be successful, and second, to prevent the capture taking place on
the great national holiday, the anniversary of the Declaration of
American Independence. Holding out for better terms as he did he
defeated his aim in the latter particular.
At the appointed hour the garrison of Vicksburg marched out of their
works and formed line in front, stacked arms and marched back in good
order. Our whole army present witnessed this scene without cheering.
Logan's division, which had approached nearest the rebel works, was the
first to march in; and the flag of one of the regiments of his division
was soon floating over the court-house. Our soldiers were no sooner
inside the lines than the two armies began to fraternize. Our men had
had full rations from the time the siege commenced, to the close. The
enemy had been suffering, particularly towards the last. I myself saw
our men taking bread from their haversacks and giving it to the enemy
they had so recently been engaged in starving out. It was accepted with
avidity and with thanks.
Pemberton says in his report:
"If it should be asked why the 4th of July was selected as the day for
surrender, the answer is obvious. I believed that upon that day I
should obtain better terms. Well aware of the vanity of our foe, I knew
they would attach vast importance to the entrance on the 4th of July
into the stronghold of the great river, and that, to gratify their
national vanity, they would yield then what could not be extorted from
them at any other time."
This does not support my view of his reasons for selecting the day he
did for surrendering. But it must be recollected that his first letter
asking terms was received about 10 o'clock A.M., July 3d. It then could
hardly be expected that it would take twenty-four hours to effect a
surrender. He knew that Johnston was in our rear for the purpose of
raising the siege, and he naturally would want to hold out as long as he
could. He knew his men would not resist an assault, and one was
expected on the fourth. In our interview he told me he had rations
enough to hold out for some time--my recollection is two weeks. It was
this statement that induced me to insert in the terms that he was to
draw rations for his men from his own supplies.
On the 4th of July General Holmes, with an army of eight or nine
thousand men belonging to the trans-Mississippi department, made an
attack upon Helena, Arkansas. He was totally defeated by General
Prentiss, who was holding Helena with less than forty-two hundred
soldiers. Holmes reported his loss at 1,636, of which 173 were killed;
but as Prentiss buried 400, Holmes evidently understated his losses.
The Union loss was 57 killed, 127 wounded, and between 30 and 40
missing. This was the last effort on the part of the Confederacy to
raise the siege of Vicksburg.
On the third, as soon as negotiations were commenced, I notified Sherman
and directed him to be ready to take the offensive against Johnston,
drive him out of the State and destroy his army if he could. Steele and
Ord were directed at the same time to be in readiness to join Sherman as
soon as the surrender took place. Of this Sherman was notified.
I rode into Vicksburg with the troops, and went to the river to exchange
congratulations with the navy upon our joint victory. At that time I
found that many of the citizens had been living under ground. The
ridges upon which Vicksburg is built, and those back to the Big Black,
are composed of a deep yellow clay of great tenacity. Where roads and
streets are cut through, perpendicular banks are left and stand as well
as if composed of stone. The magazines of the enemy were made by
running passage-ways into this clay at places where there were deep
cuts. Many citizens secured places of safety for their families by
carving out rooms in these embankments. A door-way in these cases would
be cut in a high bank, starting from the level of the road or street,
and after running in a few feet a room of the size required was carved
out of the clay, the dirt being removed by the door-way. In some
instances I saw where two rooms were cut out, for a single family, with
a door-way in the clay wall separating them. Some of these were
carpeted and furnished with considerable elaboration. In these the
occupants were fully secure from the shells of the navy, which were
dropped into the city night and dav without intermission.
I returned to my old headquarters outside in the afternoon, and did not
move into the town until the sixth. On the afternoon of the fourth I
sent Captain Wm. M. Dunn of my staff to Cairo, the nearest point where
the telegraph could be reached, with a dispatch to the general-in-chief.
It was as follows:
"The enemy surrendered this morning. The only terms allowed is their
parole as prisoners of war. This I regard as a great advantage to us at
this moment. It saves, probably, several days in the capture, and
leaves troops and transports ready for immediate service. Sherman, with
a large force, moves immediately on Johnston, to drive him from the
State. I will send troops to the relief of Banks, and return the 9th
army corps to Burnside."
This news, with the victory at Gettysburg won the same day, lifted a
great load of anxiety from the minds of the President, his Cabinet and
the loyal people all over the North. The fate of the Confederacy was
sealed when Vicksburg fell. Much hard fighting was to be done
afterwards and many precious lives were to be sacrificed; but the MORALE
was with the supporters of the Union ever after.
I at the same time wrote to General Banks informing him of the fall and
sending him a copy of the terms; also saying I would send him all the
troops he wanted to insure the capture of the only foothold the enemy
now had on the Mississippi River. General Banks had a number of copies
of this letter printed, or at least a synopsis of it, and very soon a
copy fell into the hands of General Gardner, who was then in command of
Port Hudson. Gardner at once sent a letter to the commander of the
National forces saying that he had been informed of the surrender of
Vicksburg and telling how the information reached him. He added that if
this was true, it was useless for him to hold out longer. General Banks
gave him assurances that Vicksburg had been surrendered, and General
Gardner surrendered unconditionally on the 9th of July. Port Hudson
with nearly 6,000 prisoners, 51 guns, 5,000 small-arms and other stores
fell into the hands of the Union forces: from that day to the close of
the rebellion the Mississippi River, from its source to its mouth,
remained in the control of the National troops.
Pemberton and his army were kept in Vicksburg until the whole could be
paroled. The paroles were in duplicate, by organization (one copy for
each, Federals and Confederates), and signed by the commanding officers
of the companies or regiments. Duplicates were also made for each
soldier and signed by each individually, one to be retained by the
soldier signing and one to be retained by us. Several hundred refused
to sign their paroles, preferring to be sent to the North as prisoners
to being sent back to fight again. Others again kept out of the way,
hoping to escape either alternative.
Pemberton appealed to me in person to compel these men to sign their
paroles, but I declined. It also leaked out that many of the men who
had signed their paroles, intended to desert and go to their homes as
soon as they got out of our lines. Pemberton hearing this, again
appealed to me to assist him. He wanted arms for a battalion, to act as
guards in keeping his men together while being marched to a camp of
instruction, where he expected to keep them until exchanged. This
request was also declined. It was precisely what I expected and hoped
that they would do. I told him, however, that I would see that they
marched beyond our lines in good order. By the eleventh, just one week
after the surrender, the paroles were completed and the Confederate
garrison marched out. Many deserted, and fewer of them were ever
returned to the ranks to fight again than would have been the case had
the surrender been unconditional and the prisoners sent to the James
River to be paroled.
As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were
established along the whole line of parapet, from the river above to the
river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy their old camps
behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put upon them, except by
their own commanders. They were rationed about as our own men, and from
our supplies. The men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been
fighting for the same cause. When they passed out of the works they had
so long and so gallantly defended, between lines of their late
antagonists, not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give
pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just then in the
breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection of their
The day before the departure the following order was issued:
"Paroled prisoners will be sent out of here to-morrow. They will be
authorized to cross at the railroad bridge, and move from there to
Edward's Ferry, (*14) and on by way of Raymond. Instruct the commands to
be orderly and quiet as these prisoners pass, to make no offensive
remarks, and not to harbor any who fall out of ranks after they have
RETROSPECT OF THE CAMPAIGN--SHERMAN'S MOVEMENTS--PROPOSED MOVEMENT UPON
MOBILE--A PAINFUL ACCIDENT--ORDERED TO REPORT AT CAIRO.
The capture of Vicksburg, with its garrison, ordnance and ordnance
stores, and the successful battles fought in reaching them, gave new
spirit to the loyal people of the North. New hopes for the final
success of the cause of the Union were inspired. The victory gained at
Gettysburg, upon the same day, added to their hopes. Now the
Mississippi River was entirely in the possession of the National troops;
for the fall of Vicksburg gave us Port Hudson at once. The army of
northern Virginia was driven out of Pennsylvania and forced back to
about the same ground it occupied in 1861. The Army of the Tennessee
united with the Army of the Gulf, dividing the Confederate States
The first dispatch I received from the government after the fall of
Vicksburg was in these words:
"I fear your paroling the prisoners at Vicksburg, without actual
delivery to a proper agent as required by the seventh article of the
cartel, may be construed into an absolute release, and that the men will
immediately be placed in the ranks of the enemy. Such has been the case
elsewhere. If these prisoners have not been allowed to depart, you will
detain them until further orders."
Halleck did not know that they had already been delivered into the hands
of Major Watts, Confederate commissioner for the exchange of prisoners.
At Vicksburg 31,600 prisoners were surrendered, together with 172 cannon
about 60,000 muskets and a large amount of ammunition. The small-arms
of the enemy were far superior to the bulk of ours. Up to this time our
troops at the West had been limited to the old United States flint-lock
muskets changed into percussion, or the Belgian musket imported early in
the war--almost as dangerous to the person firing it as to the one aimed
at--and a few new and improved arms. These were of many different
calibers, a fact that caused much trouble in distributing ammunition
during an engagement. The enemy had generally new arms which had run
the blockade and were of uniform caliber. After the surrender I
authorized all colonels whose regiments were armed with inferior
muskets, to place them in the stack of captured arms and replace them
with the latter. A large number of arms turned in to the Ordnance
Department as captured, were thus arms that had really been used by the
Union army in the capture of Vicksburg.
In this narrative I have not made the mention I should like of officers,
dead and alive, whose services entitle them to special mention. Neither
have I made that mention of the navy which its services deserve.
Suffice it to say, the close of the siege of Vicksburg found us with an
army unsurpassed, in proportion to its numbers, taken as a whole of
officers and men. A military education was acquired which no other
school could have given. Men who thought a company was quite enough for
them to command properly at the beginning, would have made good
regimental or brigade commanders; most of the brigade commanders were
equal to the command of a division, and one, Ransom, would have been
equal to the command of a corps at least. Logan and Crocker ended the
campaign fitted to command independent armies.
General F. P. Blair joined me at Milliken's Bend a full-fledged general,
without having served in a lower grade. He commanded a division in the
campaign. I had known Blair in Missouri, where I had voted against him
in 1858 when he ran for Congress. I knew him as a frank, positive and
generous man, true to his friends even to a fault, but always a leader.
I dreaded his coming; I knew from experience that it was more difficult
to command two generals desiring to be leaders than it was to command
one army officered intelligently and with subordination. It affords me
the greatest pleasure to record now my agreeable disappointment in
respect to his character. There was no man braver than he, nor was
there any who obeyed all orders of his superior in rank with more
unquestioning alacrity. He was one man as a soldier, another as a
The navy under Porter was all it could be, during the entire campaign.
Without its assistance the campaign could not have been successfully
made with twice the number of men engaged. It could not have been made
at all, in the way it was, with any number of men without such
assistance. The most perfect harmony reigned between the two arms of
the service. There never was a request made, that I am aware of, either
of the flag-officer or any of his subordinates, that was not promptly
The campaign of Vicksburg was suggested and developed by circumstances.
The elections of 1862 had gone against the prosecution of the war.
Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased and the draft had been resorted
to; this was resisted, and a defeat or backward movement would have made
its execution impossible. A forward movement to a decisive victory was
necessary. Accordingly I resolved to get below Vicksburg, unite with
Banks against Port Hudson, make New Orleans a base and, with that base
and Grand Gulf as a starting point, move our combined forces against
Vicksburg. Upon reaching Grand Gulf, after running its batteries and
fighting a battle, I received a letter from Banks informing me that he
could not be at Port Hudson under ten days, and then with only fifteen