IT is generally regarded as an axiom in war that all great armies moving
enemy's country should start from a base of supplies, which should be fortified and
guarded, and to which the army is to fall back in case of disaster. The first movement
looking to Vicksburg and the force defending it as an objective was begun early in
November, 1862, and conformed to this axiom. It followed the line of the Mississippi
Central Railroad, with Columbus, Kentucky, as a base, and soon after it started, a
cooperating column was moved down the Mississippi River on trans ports, with
Memphis as its base. Both these movements failing, the entire Army of the Tennessee
was transferred to the neighborhood of Vicksburg, and landed on the opposite or
western bank of the river at Milliken's Bend.
The Mississippi flows through a low alluvial bottom many miles in width; and is
very tortuous in its course, running to all points of the compass, sometimes within a
few miles. This valley is bounded on the east side by a range of high land rising in
some places more than two hundred feet above the bottom. At points the river runs up
to the bluffs, washing their base. Vicksburg is built on the first high land on the
eastern bank below Memphis, and four hundred miles from that place by the windings
of the river.
The winter of 1862-63 was unprecedented for continuous high water in the
Mississippi, and months were spent in ineffectual efforts to reach high land above
Vicksburg from which we could operate against that stronghold, and in making
artificial waterways through which a fleet might pass, avoiding the batteries to the
south of the town, in case the other efforts should fail.
In early April, 1863, the waters of the Mississippi having receded sufficiently to
make it possible to march an army across the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, I
determined to adopt this course, and moved my advance to a point below the town. It
was necessary, however, to have transports below, both for the purpose of ferrying
troops over the river and to carry supplies.
These had necessarily to run the batteries. Under the direction of Admiral Porter
this was successfully done. On the 29th, Grand Gulf, the first bluff south of
Vicksburg on the east side of the river, and about fifty miles below, was
unsuccessfully attacked by the navy. The night of the same day the batteries of that
place were run by the navy and transports, again under the direction of Admiral Porter,
and on the following day the river was crossed by the troops, and a landing effected at
Bruinsburg, some nine miles below.
I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river and the stronghold of
Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies. I had with me the Thirteenth Corps,
General McClernand commanding, and two brigades of Logan's division of the
Seventeenth Corps, General McPherson commanding ; in all not more than twenty
thousand men to commence the campaign with. These were soon reenforced by the
remaining brigade of Logan's division and by Crocker's division of the Seventeenth
Corps. On the 7th of May I was further reenforced by Sherman with two divisions of
his, the Fifteenth Corps.
My total force was then about thirty-three thousand men. The enemy occupied
Grand Gulf, Vicksburg, Haynes's Bluff, and Jackson, with a force of nearly sixty
thousand men. My first problem was to capture Grand Gulf to use as a base, and then
if possible beat the enemy in detail outside the fortifications of Vicksburg. Jackson is
fifty miles east of Vicksburg, and was connected with it by a railroad. Haynes's Bluff
is eleven miles north, and on the Yazoo River, which empties into the Mississippi some
miles above the town.
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 Thirteenth Corps and one division of the
Seventeenth 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 south 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 reenforcements 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 battle-field whenever the Thirteenth Corps could be got out of the
The country W 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 ver y 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 reenforce 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 10 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 w as not faring
so well. He had been repulsed, with some loss.
As soon as the road could be clear ed of McClernand's tr oops I ordered up
McPherson, who was close upon the r ear of the Thirteenth 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 reenforcements, 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 the night.
We started next morning [May 2d] 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 Pier
re. 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
James 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 to 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 reenforced 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.
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, were 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 draught 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 tops with boxes of cartridges that had been pitched in
promiscuously, drawn by mules with plow-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
time could be spar ed to observe them.
During the night of the 2d of May the bridge over the North Fork was repaired,
and the troops commenced crossing at 5 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
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 Gr and Gulf to Raymond and Jackson was reached, Logan, with his division, was
turned to the left toward Grand Gulf.
I went with him a short distance from this junction. Mc Pherson 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, J. with one division ;
General 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 12 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 he said that he could not be at Port
Hudson before the 10th of May, and then with only fifteen thousand 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 cooperate 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 cooperation would have detained me at least a month. The
reenforcements would not have reached 10,000 men, after deducting casualties and
necessary river-guards, at all high points close to the river, for over 300 miles. The
enemy would have strengthened his position and been reenforced by mor e 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 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 afterward 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 sur e 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 meantime. A delay would give the enemy time
to reenforce and fortify.
McClernand's and McPherson's commands were kept substantially as they were
on the night of the 2d, awaiting supplies 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 secured 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 Vicksburg.
While the troops were awaiting the arrival of rations, I ordered reconnoissances
made by McClernand and McPherson, with a 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 f or a f or war d movement the
next clay. 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 200 wagons with
General Blair, and the commissary was to load them with hard bread, coffee, sugar,
salt, and 100,000 pounds of salt meat.
On the 3d Hurlbut, who had been left at Memphis, was ordered to send four
regiments from his comm and to Milliken's Bend to relieve Blair's division, and on the
5th he was ordered to send Lauman's division im 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 delay.
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
8th McPherson moved to a point within a few miles 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. 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 center 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 Edwards'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, 5000 strong, with 2 batteries, under General
Gregg, about 2 miles out of Raymond. This was about 2 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.
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 toward
Jackson and capture that place without delay.
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
received a letter from Banks, on the Red River, asking reenforcements. 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 material. 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 reenforcements 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 Edwards'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 or der ed 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 reenforce McPherson at Jackson rapidly if it became
necessary. The division beyond Mississippi Springs was equally available to reenforce
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 farther 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 unprotected country.
Sherman and McPherson communicated with each other during the night, and
arranged to reach Jackson at 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 murmur ed. By 9 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 tr oops that had been driven out of Raymond.
Johnston had been reenforced during the night by Georgia and South Carolina
regiments, so that his force amounted to eleven thousand men and he , was expecting
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 11 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 command into line, and reconnoiter 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 the 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 sufficient
force 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 reconnoiter 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 rear
of the artillerists confronting Sherman, and captured them, with ten pieces of artillery.
I rode immediately to the State House, w here I was soon followed by Sherman. A bout
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 Confederate capital of Mississippi. Stevenson's brigade was sent to cut
off the Confederate retreat, but was too late or not expeditious enough. .
Our loss in this engagement was : McPherson, 36 killed, 229 wounded, 3
missing; Sherman, 6 killed, 22 wounded, and 4 missing. The enemy lost 845 killed,
wounded, and captured. Seventeen guns fell into our hands, and the enemy destroyed
by fir e their storehouses, containing a large amount of commissary stores. On this day
Blair reached New Auburn and joined McClernand's Fourth 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 had occupied
the night before.
About 4 in the afternoon I sent for the corps commanders, and directed the
disposition to be made of their troops. Sherman was to remain in Jackson until he
destroyed that place as a railroad center 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 of the
operatives (most of whom were girls). We looked on awhile 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 might 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 declined.
On the night of the 13th Johnston sent the following dispatch to Pemberton at
Edwards'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 reenforced. 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
This dispatch was sent in triplicate by different messengers. One of
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 this 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 orders :
" It is evidently the design of the enemy to get north of us and cross
Big Black, and beat us into Vicksburg. We must not allow them to do
this. Turn all your forces toward 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
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 dispatch (given here in part) :
" Can he [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 ? As soon as the reenforcements 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."
The concentration of my troops was easy, considering the character of
country. McPherson moved along the road parallel with and near the railroad. Of
McClernand's command one division (Hovey's) was on the road McPherson had to
take, but with a start of four miles ; one (Osterhaus's) 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's, but, being back at Mississippi Springs,
would not be detained thereby ; 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 9 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
McPherson's command, with Logan in front, had marched at 7 o'clock, and by 4
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 Edwards's Station,
cautioning him to watch for the enemy, and not to 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 Edwards'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 Edwards'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. Thus 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 expected.
About 5 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 80 regiments of infantry and 10 batteries ; in all about 25,000
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
Edwards's Station. McClernand was directed to embrace Blair in his command for the
present. Blair's division was a part of the Fifteenth 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 Fifteenth 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 Edwards's Station over which to mar ch his
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 in 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
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 7:30 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 advance.
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 Edwards's Station 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 Edwards'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 leading
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 Edwards'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 other s until it
reaches Edwards'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 reenforced 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 reenforcements. 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 would carry 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, reenforced by two brigades from
McPherson's command, confronted the enemy's left; Crocker, with two brigades,
cover ed their left flank ; McClernand, two hours before, had been within two and a
half miles of their center with two divisions, and two divisions-Blair's and A. J.
Smith's-were confronting the rebel right; Ransom , with a brigade of McArthur's
division, of the Seventeenth 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 mor e reenforcements. 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 Confederate line of retreat, which was soon taken advantage
of by the enemy.
During all this time Hovey, reenforced 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 3 and 4 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 of hard fighting, preceded
by two or three hour s of skirmishes, some of which rose almost 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 had encountered the rebel advanced
pickets as early as 7: 30. 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 road
separating us, without escort, and directed him to push forward, but he did not come.
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 superior.
We had in this battle about fifteen thousand men actually engaged. This excludes
those that did not get up - all of McClernand's command except Hovey. Our loss was
410 killed, 1844 wounded, and 187 missing.
Hovey alone lost twelve hundred killed wounded and missing,-one-third , of his
Had McClernand come up with reasonable promptness, or had I known the
ground as I did afterward, I cannot see how Pemberton could have escaped with any
organized force. As it was he lost over 3000 killed and wounded , and about 3000
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 1300 prisoners and 11 guns. Hovey captured 300, under fire, and about 700
in all, exclusive of 500 sick and wounded, whom he paroled, thus making 1200.
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 battle-field, along
the line of the road to Vicksburg. Carr and Osterhaus were at Edwards'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 our selves alone we stopped and took possession of a vacant house.
As no troops came up we moved back a mile or more, until w e 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 and
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 of a friend.
We were now assured of our position between Johnston and Pemberton, without
the possibility of a junction of their forces. Pemberton might indeed have made a night
march to the Big Black, crossed the brigade 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 2
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
however. 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 w as on, to Bridgeport, on the
Big Black River, some eleven miles above 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, and thus open a crossing for the remainder of
the army. I W formed him that I would endeavor to hold the enemy in my front while
he crossed the river.
The advanced division, Carr's (McClernand's corps), resumed the pursuit at 3:
30 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. All this time there was a foot or two of water I n 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's 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 whenever he could be of
While the troops were standing as here described, an officer from Banks's 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 forward to me. It ordered me to
return to Grand Gulf, and to cooperate 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 then 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 them, 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 1751 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 defenses around
As the bridge was destroyed and the river was high, new bridges had to be built.
It was but little after 9 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 Peter C. Hains, of the Engineer Corps, one by General
McPherson himself, and on e by General hansom, 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 8 o'clock on 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 morning.
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 my self. 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 Haynes's 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 lay
so helpless for offensive action [Chickasaw Bayou]. 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 farther 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 f rom
Baldwin's Ferry to Vicksburg. This brought him south of McPherson. I now had my
three corps up to the works built for the defense 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 May
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 toward 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 would not make much effort to hold
Vicksburg. Accordingly at 2 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 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 hear d 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 reenforced. 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 might not prevent the capture of the city. The immediate capture of
Vicksburg would save sending me the reenforcements, 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 10 o'clock A. M.
on the 22d with a furious cannonading 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 reenforcements. 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 reenforcements being repeated, I could not ignore it, and sen t him
Quinby's division of the Seventeenth Corps. Sherman and McPherson were both
ordered to renew their assaults as a diversion in favor oi 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 had been obliged to
remain there for security all day, were withdrawn, and thus ended the last assault on
I now determined upon a regular siege,- to "out-camp the enemy," as it were, and
to incur no mor e losses. The experience of the 22d convinced officers and men that
this was best, and they went to work on the defenses 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 180 miles had been marched
by the tr oops engaged ; but 5 days' rations had been issued, and no f or age ; over
6000 prisoners had been captured, and as many more of the enemy had been killed or
wounded; 27 heavy cannon and 61 field-pieces had fallen into our hands 250 miles of
the river, from Vicksburg to Port Hudson had be, come ours. The Union force that had
crossed the Mississippi River up to this time was less than 43,000 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 b is admirable for defense, but
difficult to conduct an offensive campaign in.
All their troops had to be met. We were fortunate, to say the least,
in meeting them in
detail : at Port Gibson, 7000 or 8000 ; at Raymond, 5000 ; at Jackson, from 8000 to
11,000; at Champion's Hill, 25,000; at the Big Black 4000. A part of those met at
Jackson were all that were 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 was :
South Fork, Bayou Pierre
Skirmishes, May 3rd
Fourteen Mile Creek
Total (in all, 4379)
Of the wounded many were but slightly so, and continued on duty. Not
them were disabled for any length of time. After the unsuccessful assault on the 22d,
the work of the regular siege began. Sherman occupied the right, starting from the
river above Vicksburg; McPherson the center (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 line.
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. With the two
brigades brought up by McArthur, which reached us in rear of Vicksburg, and
Lauman's division brought from Memphis, and which had just arrived, we had now
about forty thousand men for the siege. 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 reenforcements 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 Haynes's Bluff to
Vicksburg, thence south 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 reenforced, we required a second line of defense facing the other way. I had
not troops enough under my command to man these. But General Halleck appreciated
the situation, and, without being asked, forwarded reenforcements with all possible
The ground about Vicksburg is admirable for defense. 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 I 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 by ravines and small
streams. The enemy's line of defense 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 south-westerly direction to the river. Deep ravines of the
description given lay in front of these defenses.
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
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 F. E. 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 Cyrus B. Comstock, also of the Engineer Corps. To provide
assistants on such a long line, I directed that all officers who had been 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 [General Robert Macfeely),
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 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 32-pounders, and there were none in the West to
draw from. Admiral Porter, however, supplied us with a battery of navy-guns, of large
caliber, 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 sharp-shooters, who w ere 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 sharp-shooters. The enemy used in their defense explosive
musket-balls, thinking, no doubt, that, bur sting over the 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 the 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 the method we did to protect their men, because we
had an inexhaustible supply of ammunition to draw upon, and used it freely. Splinter s
from the timber would have made havoc among the men behind.
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 pounder shells, and binding them with
strong iron bands. These answered as coehorns, 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 made. The work was pushed forward as
rapidly as possible, and when an advanced position was secured and covet ed from the
fire of the enemy, the batteries were advanced.
By the 30th of June there were 220 guns in position, mostly light field pieces,
besides a battery of heavy gums belonging to, manned, and commanded by the navy.
We were now as strong f or defense against the garrison of Vicksburg as they were
against us. But I knew that Johnston was in our rear, and was receiving constant
reenforcements from the east. He had at this time a larger force than I had 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 Commissions 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 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 [Yates), 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 about
Sherman and around me, and I hear d 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 entitled 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.
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 fruit 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
Haynes's Bluff to hold it until reenforcements could be sent.
On the 26th I also received a letter from Banks, asking me to reenforce him with
ten thousand men at Port Hudson. (1) Of course I could not comply with his request,
nor did I think he needed them. He was in no danger of an I 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 Nathan Kimball
commanding. It was sent to Mechanicsburg, some miles north-east of Haynes's 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 up 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 three thousand men from
Richard Taylor's Trans-Mississippi command. With the aid of the gunboats these 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 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 Haynes's Bluff, and General C. C.
Washburn was assigned to the general command at that point.
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
On the 14th General Parke arrived with two divisions of Burnside's corps, (2)
and was immediately dispatched to Haynes's Bluff. These latter troops Herron's and
Parke's -were the reenforcements 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 of
across the peninsula, between the Yazoo, at Haynes's 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 the immediate
sides of which 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 on the 18th one from
McPherson, saying that their respective commands had complained to them of a
fulsome congratulatory or der published by General McClernand to the Thirteenth
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
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 Thirteenth 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.
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 Haynes's Bluff to
the Big Black River. This amounted now to quite half the troops about Vicksburg.
Besides these, Herr on's and A. J. Smith's divisions were ordered to hold themselves
in readiness to reenforce Sherman. Haynes's 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.
When 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
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 Ransom'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
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,
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 3 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 tailed 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
counter-mine, 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 was terribly frightened. Some one asked him how high he had gone up.
" Dunno, Massa, but t'ink 'bout t'ree mile," was the reply.
General Logan commanded at this point, and took this colored man to his
quarters, where he did ser vice to the end of the siege.
As soon as the explosion took place the crater was seized upon by two regiments
of our troops who were near by, undercover, 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 then roll them down upon us ; while from our side they had to be
throw n 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 port-fires, and throw them by hand into our
ranks. W e 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 of pushing our position nearer to
the enemy was prosecuted with vigor, and I determined to explode no mor e 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
of Vicksburg. I knew the garrison would make no forcible 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. Afterward this story was
verified. On entering the city we found a large number of very rudely constructed
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
General Richard Taylor was expected on the west bank to cooperate 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 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
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 100 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 9 easy egress, while the approaches
were also to be widened to admit the troops to pass through four abreast. Plank and
sand-bags, the latter 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 him.
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,
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 10 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 toward 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
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
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, Vicksburg would never be taken, were at last at an end, and the Union sure to be
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 favor ably 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 3 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 indicated above."
At 3 o'clock Pemberton appeared at the point suggested in my verbal
accompanied by the same officers who had borne his letter of the morning. Generals
Ord, McPherson, Logan, A. J. Smith, and several officers of my staff accompanied
me. Our ,place of meeting was on a hill-side 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 being 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 a 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 saw, was very
anxious that the surrender should be consummated. His manners 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 some distance away toward 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, how
ever, to send a letter giving final terms by 10 o'clock that night. I had sent word to
Admiral Porter soon after the correspondence with Pemberton had commenced, so that
hostilities might be stopped on the part of both army and navy. It was agreed on my
parting with Pemberton that they should not be renewed until our correspondence
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 inter view, and was ready
to hear any suggestion; but would hold the power of deciding entirely in my own
hands. This was the near est 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 8 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-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
By the terms of the cartel then in force, prisoners captured by either
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 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-odd 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 t.o
Aiken's-all at very great expense. At Aiken's they would have 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 defense of
Vicksburg, I have to submit the following amendments, which, if
acceded to by you, will perfect the agreement between ns. At 10 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
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 10 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 9 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 vou 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 4th. 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
The Vicksburg paper, which we received regularly through the courtesy of the
rebel pickets, said prior to the 4th, in speaking of the "Yankee" boast that they would
take dinner in Vicksburg that day, that the best receipt for cooking 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 was issued on the 4th and announced that we had
" caught our rabbit." I have no doubt that Pemberton commenced his correspondence
on the 3d for the twofold 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 4th, 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
mar ch 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 toward the last. I myself saw our
men taking bread from their haversacks and giving it to the energy 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 24 hours to effect a surrender. He knew that
Johnston was in our rear tor 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 4th. In our interview he told me he had rations enough to hold
out 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 3d, 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
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 day, without intermission. I returned to
my old headquarters outside in the afternoon, and did not move them into the town
until the 6th. On the afternoon of the 4th I sent Captain William M. Dunn, of my staff,
to Cairo, the near est 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 Ninth Army Corps to Burnside." At the same time I w rote to
General Banks informing him of the fall, and sending him a copy of the terms, also
saying I would send him all the tr oops 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 sur
rendered unconditionally on the 9th of July. Port Hudson, with nearly 6000 prisoners,
51 guns, and 5000 small-arms and other stores, fell into the hands of the Union forces.
From that day on, the river remained under National control.
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, National and
Confederate), 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 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, I would see that they marched beyond our
lines in good order. By the 11th, just one week after the surrender, the paroles were
completed, and the Confederate garrison marched out. Many deserted ; 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 been sent to the James River to be
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 w ere
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. I
believe there was a feeling of sadness among the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection
of their late antagonists.
The day before the departure the following order was issued: "Paroled prisoners
will be sent out of here tomorrow. They will be authorized to cross at the
railroad-bridge and move from there to Edwards's Ferry, 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 passed."
On the 8th a dispatch was sent from Washington by Halleck, saying :
"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
At Vicksburg 31,600 prisoner s 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 tr oops 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 per son 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
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 these arms that had really been used by the Union army in the capture
In this narrative I have not made the mention I should like of officer s, dead and
alive, whose ser vices 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
found us with an army unsurpassed, in proportion to its numbers, taken as a whole,
officer s 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 commander s ; 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 mor e 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 politician.
The navy, under Porter, was all it could be, during the entire cam ai n. Without p
g 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 complied with.
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, and 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 thousand men. The time was worth more than the
reenforcements; I therefore determined to push into the interior of the enemy's country.
With a large river behind us, held above and below by the enemy, rapid
movements were essential to success. Jackson was captured the day after a new
commander had arrived, and only a few days before large reenforcements were
expected. A rapid movement west was made ; the garrison of Vicksburg was met in two
engagements and badly defeated, and driven back into its stronghold and there
Source: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
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