The fall of Vicksburg - History

The fall of Vicksburg - History


After General J. F. Johnston had recovered from the wound received at Seven Pines, he was on November 24, 1862, by special order No. 275, assigned to the command of a geographical department including the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina. The order gives authority to establish his headquarters wherever, in his judgment, will best secure facilities for ready communication with the troops of his command; it provides that he "will repair to any part of said command whenever his presence may for the time be necessary or desirable." While the events which have been described were occurring in Pemberton's command, he felt seriously the want of cavalry, and was much embarrassed by the necessity of substituting portions of his infantry to supply the deficiency of cavalry.

These embarrassments and the injurious consequences attendant upon them were frequently represented. In his report he states, after several other her applications for cavalry, that on March 25th he wrote to General Johnston, commanding department, "urgently requesting that the division of cavalry under Major General Van Dorn, which had been sent to the Army of Tennessee for special and temporary purposes, might be - returned." He gives the following extract from General Johnston's reply April 3d to his request:

In the present aspect of affairs, General Van Dorn's cavalry is much more -needed in this department than in that of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and can not be sent back as long as this state of things exists. You have now in your department five brigades of the troops you most require, viz, infantry, belonging - to the Army of Tennessee. This is more than a compensation for the absence of General Van Dorn's cavalry command.

To this Pemberton rejoined that cavalry was indispensable, stating the Baldwin's' positions where the enemy was operating on his communications, andthe impossibility of defending the railroads by infantry. Referring to the - -advance of the enemy from Bruinsburg, Pemberton, in his report, makes -the following statement:

With a moderate cavalry force at my disposal, I am firmly convinced that the -federal army under General Grant would have been unable to maintain its communication with the Mississippi River, and that the attempt to reach Jackson and Vicksburg would have been as signally defeated in May, 1863, as a like attempt from another base had, by the employment of cavalry, been defeated in December 1862

General Pemberton commenced, after the retreat of Bowen, to concentrate all his forces for the great effort of checking the invading army, and on the 6th telegraphed to the Secretary of War that the reinforcements to him were very insufficient, adding: "The stake is a great one; I see nothing so important." On May 12th he sent a telegram to General J. E. Johnston, and a duplicate to the President, announcing his purpose to meet the enemy then moving with heavy force toward Edward's Depot, and indicated that as the battlefield; he urgently asked for more reinforcements: "Also, that three thousand cavalry be at once sent to - operate on this line. I urge this as a positive necessity. The enemy largely outnumbers me, and I am obliged to hold back a large force at the ferries

on Big Black." This was done to prevent the foe's passing to his rear. Large bodies of troops continued to descend the river, land above

Vicksburg, and, to avoid our batteries at that place, to move on the west side of the river to reinforce General Grant. This seemed to justify the conclusion that the main effort in the West was to be made by that army, and, supposing that General Johnston would be convinced of the fact if he repaired to that field in person, as well as to avail ourselves of the public confidence felt in his military capacity, he was ordered, on May 9, 1863, to "proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces, giving to those in the field, as far as practicable, the encouragement and benefit of your personal direction. Arrange to take, - for temporary service, with you, or to be followed without delay, three

thousand good troops," etc.

On the 12th, the same day General Pemberton had applied for reenforcements, he instructed Major General Stevenson as follows:

From information received, it is evident that the enemy is advancing in force on Edwards's Depot and Big Black Bridge; hot skirmishing has been going on all the morning, and the enemy are at Fourteen-Mile Creek. You must move with - your whole division to the support of Loring and Bowen at the bridge, leaving Baldwin's and Moore's brigades to protect your right.

-In consequence of that information, Brigadier General Gregg, who was near Raymond, received cautionary instruction; notwithstanding this, he was attacked by a large body of the enemy's forces, and his single brigade, with great gallantry and steadiness, held them in check for several hours, and then retired in such good order as to attract general

admiration. Meantime, bodies of the enemy's troops were sent into the - interior villages, and much damage was done in them, and to the defenseless, isolated homes in the country.

General Johnston arrived at Jackson on May 13,1863, and telegraphed to j. A. Seddon, Secretary of War, as follows:

I arrived this evening, finding the enemy in force between this place and General Pemberton, cutting off the communication. I am too late.

In the order assigning General Johnston to the geographical Department of the West, he was directed to repair in person to any part of his command, whenever his presence might be for the time necessary or desirable. On May 9, 1863, he was ordered to proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces in the field.

When he reached Jackson, learning that the enemy was between that place and the position occupied by General Pemberton's forces, about thirty miles distant, he halted there and opened correspondence with Pemberton, from which a confusion with consequent disaster resulted, which might have been avoided had he, with or without his reinforcements, proceeded to Pemberton's headquarters in the field. What that confusion or want of co-intelligence was, will best appear from citing the important part of the dispatches which passed between them. On May 13th General Johnston, then at Jackson, sent the following dispatch to General Pemberton, which was received on the 14th:

I have lately arrived, and learn that Major-General Sherman is between us, with four divisions at Clinton. It is important to reestablish communications, that you may be reinforced. If practicable, come up in his rear at once beat such a detachment would be of immense value. Troops here could cooperate. All the troops you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all-important.

On the same day, the 14th, General Pemberton, then at Bovina, replied:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication. I moved at once with whole available force, about sixteen thousand, leaving Vaughan's brigade, about fifteen hundred, at Big Black Bridge; Tilghman's brigade, fifteen hundred, now at Baldwin's Ferry, I have ordered to bring up the rear of n column; he will be, however, from fifteen to twenty miles behind it. Baldwin's Ferry will be left, necessarily, unprotected. To hold Vicksburg are Smith's and Forney's divisions, extending from Snyder's Mills to Warrenton, numbering effectives seven thousand eight hundred men. .. 1 do not think that you fully comprehend the position that Vicksburg will be left in; but I comply at once with your order.

On the same day General Pemberton, after his arrival at Edward's' Depot, called a council of war of all the general officers present. He placed General Johnston's dispatch before them, and stated his own views against the propriety of an advance, but expressed the opinion that the only possibility of success would be by a movement on the enemy's communications. A majority of the officers present expressed themselves favorable to the plan indicated by General Johnston. The others, including Major General Loring and Stevenson, "preferred a movement by which the army might attempt to cut off the enemy's supplies from the Mississippi River." General Pemberton then sent the following dispatch to General Johnston:

Edward's DEPOT, May 14, 1863.

I shall move as early to-morrow morning as practicable, with a column of seventeen thousand men, to Dillon's, situated on the main road leading from Raymond to Port Gibson, seven and a half miles below Raymond, and nine miles from Edwards's Depot. The object is to cut the enemy's communication and to force him to attack me, as I do not consider my force sufficient to justify an attack on the enemy in position, or to attempt to cut my way to Jackson. At this point your nearest communication would be through Raymond.

The movement commenced about 1 P. M. on the 15th. General Pemberton states that the force at Clinton was an army corps, numerically greater than his whole available force in the field; that-

The enemy had at least an equal force to the south, on my right flank, which would be nearer Vicksburg than myself, in case I should make the movement - proposed. I bad, moreover, positive information that he was daily increasing his strength. I also learned, on reading Edwards's Depot, that one division of the

- enemy (A. J. Smith's) was at or near Dillon's.

On the morning of the 16th, about 6:30 o'clock, Colonel Wirt Adams, commanding the cavalry, reported to General Pemberton that his pickets

were skirmishing with the enemy on the Raymond road in our front. At

the same moment a courier arrived and delivered the following dispatch

- from General Johnston:


May 15, 1863, 8:30 o'clock A. M.

Our being compelled to leave Jackson makes your plan impracticable. The only - 'node by which we can unite is by your moving directly to Clinton and informing me, that we may move to that point with about six thousand.

Pemberton reversed his column to return to Edward's Depot and take the Brownsville road, so as to proceed toward Clinton on the north side of the railroad, and sent a reply to General Johnston to notify him of

- the retrograde movement and the route to be followed. Just as the reverse movement commenced, the enemy drove in the cavalry pickets and - opened fire with artillery.

-The continuance of the movement was ordered, when, the demonstrations of the enemy becoming more serious, orders were issued to form a line of battle, with Loring on the right, Bowen in the center, and Stevenson on the left. Major General Stevenson was ordered to make the necessary dispositions for protecting the trains on the Clinton road - and the crossing of Baker's Creek. The line of battle was quickly formed in a position naturally strong, and the approaches from the front well covered. The enemy made his first demonstration on the right, but, after a lively artillery duel for an hour or more, this attack was relinquished, and a large force was thrown against the left, where skirmishing be-came heavy. About ten o'clock the battle began in earnest along Stevenson's entire front. About noon Loring was ordered to move forward and crush the enemy in his front, and Bowen to cooperate. No movement was made by Loring; he said the force was too strongly posted to be attacked, but that he would seize the first opportunity to assault if one should offer. Stevenson soon found that unless reinforced he would be unable to resist the heavy and repeated attacks along his line. Aid was sent to him from Bowen, and for a time the tide of battle turned in our favor. The enemy still continued to move troops from his left to his right, thus increasing on that flank his vastly superior forces. General: Pemberton, feeling assured that there was no important force in front of Loring, again ordered him to move to the left as rapidly as possible. To this order, the answer was given that the enemy was in strong force and endeavoring to turn his flank. As there was no firing on the right, the order was repeated. Much time was lost in exchanging these messages. At 4 P. a part of Stevenson's division broke badly and fell back. Some assistance finally came from Loring, but it was too late to save the day, and the retreat was ordered. Had the left been promptly supported when it was first so ordered, it is not improbable that the position might have been maintained and the enemy possibly driven back, although his increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night to save our communications with Vicksburg unless promptly reinforced. The dispatch of the 15th from General Johnston, in obedience to which Pemberton reversed his order of march, gave him the first intelligence that Johnston had left Jackson; while -making the retrograde movement, however, a previous dispatch from Johnston, dated "May 14, 1863, camp seven miles from Jackson," in-formed Pemberton that the body of Federal troops mentioned in his dispatch of the 13th had compelled the evacuation of Jackson, and that he was moving by the Canton road; he refers to the troops east of Jackson as perhaps able to prevent the enemy there from drawing provisions from that direction, and that his command might effect the same thing in regard to the country toward Panola, and then asks these significant questions:

Can he supply himself from the Mississippi? Can you not cut him off from it? Above all, should he be compelled to fall back for want of supplies, beat him? As soon as the reinforcements are all up, they must be united to the rest of the army. If prisoners tell the truth, the force at Jackson must be half of Grant's army. It would decide the campaign to beat it, which can only be done by concentrating, especially when the remainder of the eastern troops arrive. They ate to be twelve or thirteen thousand.

From Pemberton's communication it is seen that he did not feel his army strong enough to attack the corps in position at Clinton, and that he hoped by the course adopted to compel the enemy to attack our force in position. Whether the movement toward Dillon's was well or ill-advised, it was certainly a misfortune to reverse the order of march in the presence of the enemy, as it involved the disadvantage of being a tacked in rear. As has been described, the dispositions for battle were promptly made, and many of the troops fought with gallantry worthy of all praise. Though defeated, they were not routed.

Stevenson's single division for a long time resisted a force estimated by him at "more than four times" his own. In the afternoon he was reinforced by the unfaltering troops of Bowen's division. Cockerell, commanding the First Missouri Brigade, fought with like fortitude under like disadvantage. When Pemberton saw that the masses assailing his left and left center by their immense numbers were pressing our forces -back into old fields, where the advantages of position would be in his adversary's favor, he directed his troops to retire, and sent to Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman instructions to hold the Raymond road to protect the retreat. General Pemberton says of him:

It was in the execution of this important duty, which could not have been confided to a fitter man, that the lamented General bravely lost his life.

He was the officer whose devoted gallantry and self-sacrificing generosity were noticed in connection with the fall of Fort Henry. This severe -- battle was signalized by so many feats of individual intrepidity that its roll of honor is too long for the limits of these pages.

-- Though some gave way in confusion, and others failed to respond when called on, the heroism of the rest shed luster on the field, and "the main body of the troops retired in good order." The gallant brigades of -- Green and Cockerell covered the rear.

The topographical features of the position at the railroad bridge across the Big Black were such as, with the artificial strength given to it, made it quite feasible to defend it against a direct approach even of an army as much superior in numbers to that of Pemberton as was that of Grant; the attack need not, however, be made by a direct approach. The position could be turned by moving either above or below by fords and ferries, and thus advancing upon Vicksburg by other and equally eligible mutes. From what has already been quoted it will be understood that - General Pemberton considered the occupation of Vicksburg vitally important in connection with the command of the Mississippi River. and the maintenance of communication with the country beyond it. It was therefore that he had been so reluctant to endanger his connection with that point as his base. Pressed as he was by the enemy, whose object, it had been unmistakably shown, was to get possession of Vicksburg and its defenses. the circumstances made it imperative that he should abandon a position the holding, of which would not effect his object, and that he should withdraw his forces from the field to unite them with those within the defenses of Vicksburg. and endeavor, as speedily as possible to reorganize the depressed and discomfited troops.

One of the immediate results of the retreat from Big Black was the necessity of abandoning our defenses on the Yazoo, at Snyder's Mills;

this position and the line of Chickasaw Bayou were no longer tenable. All stores that could be transported were ordered to be sent into Vicksburg as rapidly as possible, the rest, including heavy guns, to be destroyed. During the night of the 17th nothing of importance occurred. On the morning of the 18th the troops were disposed from right to left on the defenses. On the entire line one hundred two pieces of artillery of different caliber, principally field guns, were placed in position at such points as were deemed most suitable to the character of the gun. Instructions had been given from Bovina that all the cattle, sheep, and hogs, belonging to private parties and likely to fall into the hands of the enemy, should be driven within our lines. Grant's army appeared on the 18th.

The development of the entrenched line from our extreme right was about eight miles, the shortest defensible line of which the topography of the country admitted. It consisted of a system of detached works, sedans, lunettes, and redoubts. on the prominent and commanding points with the usual profile of raised field works, connected in most cases by rifle pits. To hold the entire line there were about eighteen thousand five hundred infantry, but these could not all be put in the trenches, as it was necessary to keep a reserve always ready to reinforce any point heavily threatened.

The campaign against Vicksburg had commenced as early as November, 1862, and reference has been made to the various attempts to capture the position both before and after General Grant arrived and took command in person. He had now by a circuitous march reached the rear of the city, established a base on the Mississippi River a few miles below, had a fleet of gunboats in the river, and controlled the navigation of the Yazoo up to Haines's Bluff, and was relieved from all danger in regard to supplying his army. We bad lost the opportunity to cut his communications while he was making his long march over the rugged country between Bruinsburg and the vicinity of Vicksburg. Pemberton had by a wise prevision endeavored to secure supplies sufficient for the duration of an ordinary siege, and, on the importance which he knew the administration attached to the holding of Vicksburg, he relied for the cooperation of a relieving army to break any investment which might be made. Disappointed in the hope which I had entertained that the invading army would be unable to draw its supplies from Bruinsburg or Grand Gulf, and be driven back before crossing the Big Black, it now remained only to increase as far as possible the relieving army, and depend upon it to break the investment. The ability of the Federals to send reenforcements was so much greater than ours that the necessity for prompt action

- was fully realized; therefore, when General Johnston on May 9th was ordered to proceed to Mississippi, he was directed to take from the Army of Tennessee three thousand good troops, and informed that he would find reenforcements from General Beauregard. On May 12th ' dispatch was sent to him at Jackson, stating, "In addition to the five thousand

men originally ordered from Charleston Beauregard, about four thousand more will follow. I fear more can not be spared to you." On May - 22d I sent the following dispatch to General Bragg, at Tullahoma, Tennessee:

The vital issue of holding the Mississippi at Vicksburg is dependent on the success of General Johnston in an attack on the investing force. The intelligence from there is discouraging. Can you aid him?

To this he replied on May 23, 1863:

-Sent thirty-five hundred with the General, three batteries of artillery and two thousand cavalry since; will dispatch six thousand more immediately.

In my telegram to General Bragg, after stating the necessity, I submitted the whole question to his judgment, having full reliance in the large-hearted and comprehensive view which his self-denying nature would take of the case, and I responded to him:

Your answer IS In the spirit of patriotism heretofore manifested by you The need is sore, but you must not forget your own necessities.

On June 1st General Johnston telegraphed to me that the troops at his disposal available against Grant amounted to twenty-four thousand one hundred, not including Jackson's cavalry command and a few hundred irregular cavalry. Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, replied to him stating the force to be thirty-two thousand. In another dispatch, of June 5th, the Secretary says his statement rested on official reports of numbers sent, regrets his inability to promise more, as we had drained our resources even to the danger of several points, and urged speedy action. "With the

facilities and resources of the enemy time works against us." Again, on

the 16th, Secretary Seddon says: -

If better resources do not offer, you must hazard attack.

-On the 18th, while Pemberton was inspecting the entrenchments along which his command had been placed, he received by courier a communication from General Johnston, dated "May 17,1863, camp between Livingston and Brownsville," in answer to Pemberton's report of the result

the battles of Baker's Creek and Big Black, and the consequent evacuation of Snyder's Mills. General Johnston wrote:

If Haines's Bluff is untenable, Vicksburg is of no value and can not be b If, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg, you must ultimately surrender Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, we must,, possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its pendencies, and march to the northeast.

Pemberton, in his report, remarks:

This meant de fall of Port Hudson, the surrender of the Mississippi River and the severance of the Confederacy.

He recurs to a former correspondence with me in which he had sugested the possibility of the investment of Vicksburg by land and wat and the necessity for ample supplies to stand a siege, and says his app, catIon met my favorable consideration, and that additional ammuniti was ordered. Confident in his ability, with the preparations which been made, to stand a siege, and firmly relying on the desire of the President and of General Johnston to raise it, he "felt that every effort would be made, and believed it would be successful." However, he summon a council of war, composed of all his general officers, laid before the General Johnston's communication, and desired their opinion on" question of practicability," and on the 18th replied to General Johns that he had placed his instructions before the general officers of the command, and that "the opinion was unanimously expressed that it was' possible to withdraw the army from this position with such more and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy." He then announces his decision to hold Vicksburg as long as possible, and presses the hope that he may be assisted in keeping this obstruction -the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. He closes his letter thus:

I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.

While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and the siege proper commenced.

Making meager allowance for a reserve, it required the whole to be constantly in the trenches, and when they were all on duty it -not furnish one man to the yard of the developed line. On the 19th assaults were made at the center and left. Both were repulsed heavy loss inflicted; our loss was small. At the same time the mortar fleet of Admiral Porter from the west side of the peninsula kept up -bombardment of the city.

Vicksburg is built upon hills rising successively from the river.

The entrenchments were upon ridges beyond the town, approaching the river only on the right and left flanks, so that the fire of Porter's mortar fleet was mainly effective upon the private dwellings, and the women the children, and other non-combatants.

The hills on which the city is built are of a tenacious calcareous clay, and caves were dug in these to shelter the women and children, many of whom resided in them during the entire siege. From these places of refuge, heroically facing the danger of shells incessantly bursting over the streets, gentlewomen hourly went forth on the mission of humanity to nurse the sick and the wounded, and to soothe the dying of their defenders who were collected in numerous hospitals. Without departing from the softer character of their sex, it was often remarked that, in the discharge of the pious duties assumed, they seemed as indifferent to danger as any of the soldiers who lined the trenches.

During the 20th, 21st, and the forenoon of the 22d, a heavy fire of artillery and musketry was kept up by the besiegers, as well as by the mortar boats and gunboats in the river. On the afternoon of the 22d preparation was made for a general assault. The attacking columns were allowed to approach to within good musket range, when every available gun was opened with grape and canister, and our infantry, "rising in the trenches, poured into their ranks volley after volley with so deadly an effect that, leaving the ground literally covered in some places with their dead and wounded, they [the enemy precipitately retreated." One of our redoubts had been breached by their artillery previous to the assault, and a Lodgment made in the ditch at the foot of the redoubt, on which two colors were planted. General Stevenson says in his report:

The work was constructed in such a manner that the ditch was commanded by no part of the line, and the only means by which they could be dislodged was to retake the angle by a desperate charge, and either kill or compel the surrender of the whole party by the use of hand-grenades. A call for volunteers for this purpose was made, and promptly responded to by Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. Pettus, Twentieth Alabama Regiment, and about forty men of Waul's Texas Legion. A more gallant feat than this charge has not illustrated our arms during the war.

- - The preparations were quietly and quickly made, but the enemy seemed at once to divine our intentions, and opened upon the angle a terrible fire of shot, shell, arid musketry. Undaunted, this little band, its chivalrous commander at its head, rushed upon the work, and, in less time than it required to describe it, the flags were in our possession. Preparations were then quickly made for the use of hand-grenades, when the enemy in the ditch, being informed of our purpose, immediately surrendered.

From this time forward, although on several occasions their demonstrations seemed to indicate other intentions, the enemy relinquished all idea of assaulting

us, and confined himself to the more cautious policy of a system of gradual approaches and mining.

His force was not less than sixty thousand men. Thus affairs continued until July 1st, when General Pemberton thus describes the causes which made capitulation necessary:

It must be remembered that, for forty-seven days and nights, those heroic men had been exposed to burning suns, drenching rains, damp fogs, and heavy dews, and that during all this period they never had, by day or by night, the slightest relief. The extent of our works required every available man in the trenches, and even then they were in many places insufficiently manned. It was not in my power to relieve any portion of the line for a single hour. Confined to the narrow limits of trench, with their limbs cramped and swollen, without exercise, constantly exposed to a murderous storm of shot and shell. Is it strange that the men grew weak and attenuated? They had had the place against an enemy five times their number, admirably clothed and fed, and abundantly supplied with all the appliances of war. Whenever the foe attempted an assault, they drove him back discomfited, covering the ground with his killed and wounded, and already had they torn from his grasp five stands of colors as trophies of their prowess, none of which were allowed to fall again into his hands.

Under these circumstances, he says, he became satisfied that the time had arrived when it was necessary either to evacuate the city by cutting his way out or to capitulate. Inquiries were made of the division commanders respecting the ability of the troops to make the marches and undergo the fatigues necessary to accomplish a successful sortie and force their way through the enemy; all of them reported their several commands quite unequal to the performance of such an effort. Therefore, it was resolved to seek terms of capitulation. These were obtained, and the city was surrendered on July 4th.

The report of General Pemberton contains this statement:

Knowing the anxious desire of the Government to relieve Vicksburg, I felt assured that, if within the compass of its power, the siege would be raised; but, when forty-seven days and nights had passed, with the knowledge I then possessed that no adequate relief was to be expected, I felt that 1 ought not longer to place in jeopardy the men whose lives had been intrusted to my care. Hence, after the suggestion of the alternative of cutting my way out, I determine to make terms, not because my men were starved out, not because I could not hold out yet a little longer, but because they were overpowered by numbers, worn down with fatigue, and each day saw our defenses crumbling beneath their feet.

With an unlimited supply of provisions, the garrison could, for reasons already given, have held Out much longer.

At the close of General Pemberton's report he notices two officers, whose gallant services have been repeatedly mentioned in the foregoing pages, as follows:

1 can not close this report without brief tribute to the memory of two of the best soldiers in the Confederate service. I refer to Major General John S. Bowen and Brigadier General Martin E. Green. Always faithful, zealous, and brave, they fell, as became them, in the discharge of their duty. General Green died upon the lines he had so long and so gallantly defended. General Bowen, having passed scathless through the bloody scenes of Shiloh, luka, Corinth, Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Baker's Creek, and Vicksburg, perished by disease after the capitulation.

With an unlimited supply of provisions the garrison could not, for the reasons already given, have held out much longer. Our loss in

killed, wounded, and missing, from the landing of the enemy on the east to the capitulation, was 5,632; that of the enemy, according to his own statement, was 8,875. The number of prisoners surrendered, as near as I can tell, did not exceed 28,000.

In addition to the efforts made to relieve Vicksburg by an attack on Grant's army in the rear, instructions were sent to General Kirby Smith, commanding on the west side of the river, to employ a part of his forces in cooperation with our troops on the east side. I'mm General

-Richard Taylor's work, Destruction and Reconstruction, I learn that

the Federal army withdrew from Alexandria a town on Red River, Louisiana on the 13th of May, and on the 23d crossed the Mississippi and proceeded to invest Port Hudson. A communication from General Kirby Smith informed me that Major-General Walker, with a division of infantry and three batteries, four thousand strong, was on the march from Arkansas, and would reach me within the next few days; and I was directed to employ Walker's force to relieve Vicksburg, now invested by General Grant, who had crossed the Mississippi on the 1st of May.

General Taylor states that his view was that this force might be best

employed for the relief of Vicksburg by a movement to raise the Siege of Port Hudson, which he regarded as feasible, while a direct movement toward Vicksburg he considered would be unavailing, because the peninsula opposite to that city was partially occupied by the enemy and commanded by the gunboats in the river; he states, however, that he was overruled, and proceeded with Walker's division to cross the Tensas and attack the Federal camps to the bank of the Mississippi, the one ten and the other fourteen miles above Vicksburg, but that, after driving the troops over the levee, the gunboats iii the river protected them from any further assault. Then, being convinced that nothing useful could be effected in that quarter, he, in conformity with his original idea, ordered General Walker to retire to Alexandria, in-tending to go thence to the Teche. He says this order was countermanded and the division kept in the region between the Tensas and the Mississippi until the fall of Vicksburg. Taylor had left Mouton's and

Green's brigades in the country west of the Teche, and thither he went in person. At Alexandria he found three regiments of Texan mounted men, about six hundred fifty aggregate, under the command of Colonel (afterward Brigadier General) Major, and these were ordered to Morgan's Ferry on the Atchafalaya. Taylor then proceeded to the camps of Mouton and Green, on the lower Teche. After giving instructions preparatory to an attack on a work which the Federals had constructed at Berwick's Bay, Taylor returned to join Colonel Major's command on the Atchafalaya, and with it moved down the Fardoche and Grossetete to Fausse Riviere, opposite to Port Hudson. Here the noise of the bombardment then in progress could be distinctly heard, and here he learned that the Federal force left in New Orleans did not exceed one thousand men.

It was now June 19th. He was about one hundred miles from the

Federal force at Berwick's Bay. He furnished Colonel Major with guides, informed him that he must be at Berwick's Bay on the morning of the 23d, as Mouton and Green would attack at dawn on that day. Taylor then hastened to the camp of Mouton and Green. The country through which Major was to ford was in possession () f the enemy, therefore secrecy and celerity were alike required for success. The men carried their rations, and the wagons were sent back across the Atchafalaya. In his rapid march, Major captured seventy prisoners and burned two steamers, and the combined movements of Mouton, Green, and

Major all reached their goal at the appointed time, of which General Taylor says: "Although every precaution bad been taken to exclude mistakes and insure cooperation, such complete success is not often attained in combined military movement; and I felt that sacrifices were due to fortune."

At Berwick's Bay the Federals had constructed works the strengthen a position occupied as a depot of supplies. The effective garrison was

small, the principal number of those present being sick and convalescents. The works mounted twelve guns, thirty-twos and twenty fours, and a gunboat was anchored in the bay. Our object was to capture Berwick's Bay, and thence proceed to the execution of the plan above indicated. For this purpose, having arrived on the Teche, a short distance above Berwick's Bay, some small boats (skiffs) and a number of sugar-coolers were collected, in which the men were embarked, Major Hunter of the Texas regiment, and Major Blair of the Second Louisiana, were

placed in command, and detachments were drawn from the forces. -They embarked at night, and paddled down the Teche to the Atchafalaya and Grand Lake. They had about twelve miles to go, and were

expected to reach the northeast end of the island, a mile from Berwick's before daylight, where they were to remain until they heard the guns of our force on the west side of the bay. At dawn on June 23d our guns -opened on the gunboat and speedily drove it away. Fire was then directed on the earth-works, and the enemy attempted to reply, when a shout was heard in the rear, and Hunter with his party came rushing on.

Resistance ceased at once. The spoils of Berwick's were of vast importance. Twelve thirty-two- and twenty-four pounder guns, many

small arms and accouterments, great quantities of quartermaster's and commissary's, ordnance, and medical stores, and seventeen hundred

prisoners were taken. Then, as promptly as circumstances would permit, Taylor, with three thousand men of all arms, proceeded, with the guns and munitions he had acquired, to the execution of the object of

his campaign to raise the siege of Port Hudson, by cutting Banks's communication with New Orleans and making a demonstration which would arouse that city. "Its population of two hundred thousand was bitterly hostile to Federal rule, and the appearance of a Confederate force on the Opposite bank of the river would raise such a storm as to bring Banks from Port Hudson, the garrison of which could unite with General Joseph Johnston in the rear of General Grant."

In the first week in July, twelve guns were placed on the river below Donaldsonville. Fire was opened, destroying one transport and turning back several. Gunboats attempted to dislodge Our batteries, but were driven away by dismounted men, protected by the levee. For three days the river was closed to transports, and mounted scouts were pushed down to a point Opposite Kenner, sixteen miles above New Orleans. A few hours more, and there would have been great excitement in the city. But, by the surrender of Port Hudson, on July 9th, the enemy were in sufficient force not only to arrest Taylor s movements, but to require a withdrawal from the exposed position which this little command had assumed for the great object of relieving that place, and thus giving of its garrison, perhaps about five thousand men, as a reinforcement to break the investment of Vicksburg.

Port Hudson, which thus capitulated, was situated on a bend of the Mississippi, about twenty-two miles above Baton Rouge, Louisiana,

and one hundred forty-seven above New Orleans. The defenses in front, or on the water side, consisted of three series of batteries situated on a bluff and extending along the river above the place. Farther up was an impassable marsh forming a natural defense, and in the

rear the works were strong, consisting of several lines of entrenchments and rifle pits, with heavy trees felled in every direction. General Banks with a large force landed on May 21, 1863, and on the 27th an assault was made on the works, and repulsed. A bombardment from the river was then kept up for several days, and on June 14th another unsuccessful assault was made. This was their last assault, but the enemy, resorting to mines and regular approaches, was slowly progressing with these when the news of the surrender of Vicksburg was received. Major General Gardner, who was ill command, then made a proposal to General Banks to capitulate, which was accepted by the latter, and the position was yielded to him on the next day. The surrender included about six thousand persons all told, fifty-one pieces of artillery, and a quantity of ordnance stores. Our loss in killed and wounded in the assaults was small compared to that of the enemy, and by the fall of Vicksburg the position of Port Hudson had ceased to have much importance.

More than six weeks the garrison, which had resisted a vastly superior force attacking by both land and water, had cheerfully encountered danger and fatigue without a murmur, had borne famine and had repulsed every assault, and yielded Port Hudson only when the fall of Vicksburg had deprived the position of its importance. A chivalric foe would have recognized the gallantry of the defense in the terms usually given under like circumstances-such, for instance, as were granted to Major Anderson at Ft Sumter, or, at the least, have paroled the garrison.

I had regarded it of vast importance to hold the two positions of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Though gunboats had passed the batteries of both, they had found it hazardous, and transport vessels could not prudently risk it. The garrisons of both places had maintained them with extraordinary gallantry, inspired no doubt as well by consciousness) f the importance of their posts as by the soldierly character common

to Confederate troops. Taylor on the 10th received intelligence of the

fall of Port Hudson, and some hours later learned that Vicksburg had surrendered. His batteries and Outposts were ordered in to the Lafourche, and Mouton was sent to Berwick's to cross the stores to the west side of the bay. On the 13th a force of six thousand men followed his retreat down the Lafourche; Green, with fourteen hundred dismounted men and a battery, attacked the Federals so vigorously as to drive them into Donaldsonville, capturing two hundred prisoners, many small arms, and two guns. Undisturbed thereafter, Taylor continued his march, removed all the stores from the fortification at Berwick's, and on July 21st moved up the Teche. The pickets left at Berwick's reported that the enemy's scouts only reached the bay twenty-four hours after Taylor's troops had withdrawn.

In the recital of those events connected with the sieges of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, enough has been given to show the great anxiety of -the administration to retain those two positions as necessary to continued communication between the Confederate States on the east and west sides of the Mississippi River. The reader will not have failed to observe that General Johnston, commanding the department, and General Pemberton, the district commander, entertained quite different views. The former considered the safety of the garrisons of such paramount importance that the position should be evacuated rather than the loss of the troops hazarded; the latter regarded the holding of Vicksburg as of such vital consequence that an army should be hazarded to maintain its possession. When General Pemberton and his forces were besieged in Vicksburg, every effort was made to supply General Johnston with an army which might raise the siege. While General Johnston was at Jackson, preparing to advance against the army investing Vicksburg, the knowledge that the enemy was receiving large reenforcements made it evident that the most prompt action was necessary for success; of this General Johnston manifested a clear perception, for on May 25th he sent Pemberton the following message:

Bragg is sending a division; when it comes, I will move to you.

After all the troops which could be drawn from other points had been sent to him, it was suggested that he might defeat the force investing Port Hudson, and unite the garrison with his troops at Jackson but he replied:

-We can not relieve Port Hudson without giving up Jackson, by which we should lose Mississippi.

On June 29th General Johnston reports that-

Field transportation and other supplies having been obtained, the army marched toward the Big Black, and on the evening of July 1st encamped between Brownsville and the river.

The 2d and 3d of July were Spent in reconnaissance, from which the conclusion was reached that an attack on the north side of the railroad was impracticable, and examinations were commenced on the south side of the railroad. On the 3d a messenger was sent to General Pemberton that an attempt would be made about the 7th, by an attack on the enemy, to create a diversion which might enable Pemberton to cut

- his way out. The message was not received, and Pemberton, despairing

of aid from the exterior, capitulated on the 4th.

General Grant, in expectation that an attack in his rear would be made by General J. Johnston, formed a provisional corps by taking brigades from several corps, and assigned General Sherman to command it. He was sent in the direction of Big Black. Colonel Wilson, then commanding the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, was sent to the Big Black River to watch for the expected advance of Johnston, when Sherman was to be notified, so that he might meet and hold Johnston in check until additional reenforcements should arrive. Wilson never sent the notice. An officer of Grant's army, whose rank and position gave opportunity for accurate information, writes:

It was always a matter of surprise to Grant and his commanders that Johnston failed to make the attempt to break up the siege of Vicksburg, of which from the long line and consequent weakness of the army of the North there seemed a fair chance of accomplishment.

General Johnston, being informed on the 5th of the surrender of

Vicksburg, fell back to Jackson, where his army arrived on the 7th.

On the morning of the 9th the enemy appeared in heavy force in front of the works thrown up for the defense of the place; these, consisting of a line of rifle-pits prepared at intervals for artillery. were badly located and constructed, presenting but a slight obstacle to a vigorous assault.' -

The weather was hot, deep dust covered the country roads, and for about ten miles there was no water to Supply the troops who were advancing in heavy order of battle from Clinton; the circumstances above mentioned caused General Johnston, as he states, to expect that the enemy "would be compelled to make an immediate assault." Sherman, in command of the attacking column, did not, however, elect to assault the entrenchments, but moved the left of his line around so as to rest upon Pearl River above, and then, extending his right so as to reach the river below, commenced entrenching a line of investment. As early as May 27th Brigadier General j. G. Rains had been directed to report to General Johnston in connection with torpedoes and sub-terra shells, and a request had been made for "all reasonable facilities and aid in the supply of men or material for the fair trial of his torpedoes and shells." There could scarcely have been presented a better opportunity for their use than that offered by the heavy column marching against Jackson, -and the enemy would have been taken at great disadvantage if our troops had met them midway between Jackson and Clinton. As the defenses of Jackson had not been so corrected in location and increased in strength as to avail against anything other than a mere assault, it is

greatly to be regretted that the railroad bridge across Pearl River was not so repaired that the large equipments of the Central road might

- have been removed for use elsewhere and at other times. One of the serious embarrassments suffered in the last two years of the war was

- from the want of rolling stock, with which to Operate our railroads, as required for the transportation of troops and supplies. On July 12th a

- heavy cannonade was opened, and the missiles reached all parts of the

- town. An assault was also made on Major General Breckinridge's position on our extreme left. His division, with the aid of Cobb's and

- Slocum's5 batteries, repulsed it, inflicting severe loss and capturing two

-- hundred prisoners, besides the wounded, and taking three regimental colors. On the 15th General Johnston was assured that the remainder of Grant's army was moving from Vicksburg to Jackson, and on the night of the 16th he, having previously sent forward his sick and - wounded, successfully withdrew his army across the Pearl River, moved toward Brandon, and continued the march as far as Morton, about thirty-five miles from Jackson. The enemy followed no farther than Brandon, which was reached on the 19th, and manifested no higher

purpose than that of arson, which was exhibited on a still larger scale at

-- Jackson.

Thus, within the first half of July, our disasters had followed close upon the heels of one another. Though not defeated at Gettysburg, we bad suffered a check, and an army, to which nothing was considered impossible, had been compelled to retire, leaving its opponent in possession of the field of battle. The loss of Vicksburg and Port Hudson was the surrender of the Mississippi to the enemy. It was true that gunboats

bad run by our batteries, but not with impunity, and some of them had been sunk in the attempt. Transports for troops, supplies, and merchandise could not, except at great risk, use the river while our batteries at those two points remained effective, and gunboats cruising between them would have but a barren field. Moreover, they needed to be very numerous to prevent intercourse between the two sides of the river-which, thus far, they had never been able to effect.

The Fall of Vicksburg, 150 years ago today (July 4, 1863)

Vicksburg, Mississippi
150 years ago today, the Confederacy's "Gibraltar of the Mississippi" fell to the army of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. It was a devastating blow from which the South would not recover.

The final acts in the moments leading to the surrender of Vicksburg were enacted before dawn on the morning of July 4, 1863. Having considered a final proposal from Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton (CS), Gen. Grant (US) sent a letter through the lines to his Confederate counterpart:

Union battery before Vicksburg
. 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 a.m., and then return tot he inside, and there remain as prisoners until properly paroled, I will make no objection to it. - Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, USA (July 4, 1863).

Confederate cannon at Vicksburg
In closing his final offer, Grant informed Pemberton that if he received no reply by 9 a.m., hostilities would resume. To avoid this, the Confederates should display white lines along their lines.

Pemberton reviewed the note and early on the morning of July 4, 1863, agreed to surrender Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the United States:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of this day, and in reply to say that the terms proposed by you are accepted. - Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, CSA (July 4, 1863).

Later in the morning, as the Union forces crowded to the tops of their breastworks and fortifications to watch, the Confederate army came out of its trenches for the first time in more than 45 days:

Former channel of the Mississippi at Vicksburg
. [T]he garrison was surrendered at 10 a.m., and the Federal forces immediately took possession of our works and placed guards in the city. If it should be asked why July 4 was selected as the day for the surrender, the answer is obvious. I believed that upon that day I should obtain better terms. Well aware of the vanity of our foes, I knew they would attach vast importance to the entrance on July 4 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. - Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton, CSA (August 2, 1863).

Union cannon at Vucksburg
Pemberton was right in his assessment of how the Union would regard the surrender of Vicksburg on the 4th of July. It was hailed across the North with celebrations and bonfires. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Grant's friend and trusted subordinate, predicted the reaction of the Northern states and gently warned his commander about the fleeting nature of fame. He also commended him for his generosity to the Confederates who had fought from the trenches of Vicksburg for 47 days:

. I can hardly contain myself. Surely will I not punish any soldier for being "uncohappy" this most glorious anniversary of the birth of a nation, whose sire and father was a Washington. Did I not know the honesty, modesty, and purity of your nature, I would be tempted to follow the examples of my standard enemies of the press in indulging in wanton flattery but as a man and soldier, and ardent friend of yours, I warn you against the incense of flattery that will fill our land from one extreme to the other. Be natural and yourself, and this glittering flattery will be as the passing breeze of the sea on a warm summer day. To me the delicacy with which you have treated a brave but deluded enemy is more eloquent than the most gorgeous oratory of an Everett. - Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, USA (July 4, 1863).

Old Courthouse in Vicksburg
While the main army remained outside the city, a small force of Union troops entered Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 - 150 years ago today - and raised the U.S. flag from the top of the Warren County Courthouse. The historic building still stands in Vicksburg today, where it is now a museum and is generally known as the "Old Courthouse."

With the fall of Vicksburg, only one Confederate bastion - Port Hudson, Louisiana - remained along the full length of the Mississippi River. I will focus on events at that battlefield over coming days.

Surrender (July 4)

Pemberton and Grant Discussing Surrender Terms

On the hot afternoon of July 3, 1863, a cavalcade of horsemen in gray rode out from the city along the Jackson Road. Soon white flags appeared on the city's defenses as General Pemberton rode beyond the works to meet with his adversary — General Grant. The two officers dismounted between the lines, not far from the Third Louisiana Redan, and sat in the shade of a stunted oak tree to discuss surrender terms. Unable to reach an agreement, the two men returned to their respective headquarters. Telling Pemberton he would have his final terms by 10 p.m., Grant was true to his word, and his final amended terms were forwarded to Pemberton that night. Instead of an unconditional surrender of the city and garrison, Grant offered parole to the valiant defenders of Vicksburg. Pemberton and his generals agreed that these were the best terms that could be had, and in the quiet of his headquarters on Crawford Street, the decision was made to surrender the city.

When informed of the fall of Vicksburg, President Lincoln exclaimed, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

The fall of Vicksburg, coupled with the defeat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the battle of Gettysburg fought over July 1-3, 1863, marked the turning point of the Civil War.

The Surrender Interview Site is a popular stop on the Tour Road. The original surrender site monument is on display in the Visitor Center.

Opening of the Mississippi River

Outbreak of the Civil War (1861)

Even as Lincoln took office in March 1861, Confederate forces threatened the federal-held Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. On April 12, after Lincoln ordered a fleet to resupply Sumter, Confederate artillery fired the first shots of the Civil War. Sumter’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, surrendered after less than two days of bombardment, leaving the fort in the hands of Confederate forces under Pierre G.T. Beauregard. Four more southern states–Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee –joined the Confederacy after Fort Sumter. Border slave states like Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland did not secede, but there was much Confederate sympathy among their citizens.

Though on the surface the Civil War may have seemed a lopsided conflict, with the 23 states of the Union enjoying an enormous advantage in population, manufacturing (including arms production) and railroad construction, the Confederates had a strong military tradition, along with some of the best soldiers and commanders in the nation. They also had a cause they believed in: preserving their long-held traditions and institutions, chief among these being slavery.

In the First Battle of Bull Run (known in the South as First Manassas) on July 21, 1861, 35,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson forced a greater number of Union forces (or Federals) to retreat towards Washington, D.C., dashing any hopes of a quick Union victory and leading Lincoln to call for 500,000 more recruits. In fact, both sides’ initial call for troops had to be widened after it became clear that the war would not be a limited or short conflict.

Vicksburg Campaign: Unvexing the Father of Waters

Vicksburg and the Mississippi River circa 1863.

Biographer Lloyd Lewis accurately portrays the Mississippi River in the mid-nineteenth century as "the spinal column of America." He refers to the great river as "the trunk of the American tree, with limbs and branches reaching to the Alleghenies, the Canadian border, the Rocky Mountains." For more than two thousand miles the river flowed silently on its course to the sea, providing a natural artery of commerce. Vessels of all descriptions, heavily laden with the rich agricultural produce of the land, glided along the Mississippi's muddy waters en route to world markets. Indeed, the silent water of the mighty river was the single-most important economic feature of the continent, the very lifeblood of America. One contemporary wrote emphatically, "The Valley of the Mississippi is America."

Upon the secession of the Southern states — and in particular Louisiana and Mississippi — the river was closed to unfettered navigation, which threatened to strangle Northern commercial interests. With the advent of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln gathered his civil and military leaders to discuss strategy for opening the Mississippi River and ending what he termed a "rebellion" in the southern states. Examining a map of the nation, Lincoln made a wide sweeping gesture with his hand then placed his finger on the map and said, "See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket." It was the president's contention that, "We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg. It means hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all the states of the far South, and a cotton country where they can raise the staple without interference." Lincoln assured his listeners that, "I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and, as valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so."

These powerful statements from the sixteenth president were no exaggeration. Confederate cannon mounted along the bluffs commanding the Mississippi River at Vicksburg were trained on the river, denying that important avenue of commerce to Northern shipping. It is important to further note that Vicksburg was also the connecting link between the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy, what Jefferson Davis referred to as "the nailhead that held the South's two halves together." In addition, the city sat astride a major Confederate supply route over which the armies of Braxton Bragg and Robert E. Lee received much-needed food, clothing, medicine, and ammunition, as well as fresh troops.

It was imperative for the administration in Washington to regain control of the lower Mississippi River, thereby reopening that avenue of commerce. It would also split the Confederacy in two, sever that vital supply route, achieve a major objective of the Anaconda Plan (the Union's overall strategic plan for the defeat of the Confederacy), and effectively seal the doom of Richmond.

Prominent military men of the time understood the significance of the Mississippi River, and Vicksburg in particular. William T. Sherman, a man destined to play a vital role in the military operations that centered on Vicksburg, wrote, "The Mississippi, source and mouth, must be controlled by one government." So firm was his belief that Sherman stated, "To secure the safety of the navigation of the Mississippi River I would slay millions. On that point I am not only insane, but mad." General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote in similar, albeit less eloquent terms, "In my opinion, the opening of the Mississippi River will be to us of more advantage than the capture of forty Richmonds." And finally, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, in writing to Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton after the fall of Vicksburg, stated his view, "I thought and still think you did right to risk an army for the purpose of keeping command of even a section of the Mississippi River. Had you succeeded, none would have blamed, had you not made the attempt few would have defended your course."

Henry Halleck Library of Congress

Eager to confront the difficult task before them, Union land and naval forces moved with a vengeance from two directions in a converging attack to wrestle control of the river from Confederate troops. Driving south from Cairo, Illinois, Federal forces seized Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers respectively and opened the pathway of invasion to the Deep South. Continuing the drive, Union forces gained victory at Shiloh in April, Corinth in May, and having forced the surrender of Island No. 10, seized Memphis in June.

Moving upriver from the Gulf of Mexico were the ships of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by Flag Officer David Glasgow Farragut. His ships bombarded and passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip on April 24 and compelled the surrender of New Orleans. With initial success behind him, Farragut sent an advance flotilla upriver. Baton Rouge fell to the Federals on May 8, Natchez four days later, and the flotilla steamed on toward Vicksburg.

After the fall of New Orleans, as the Union pincer slowly closed along the river, the Confederates began to fortify Vicksburg. The city's geographical location made it ideal for defense. Equally important, existing rail lines which connected Vicksburg with Jackson and, via Jackson, points elsewhere in the Confederacy, enabled the shipment of heavy ordnance to the "Hill City:" It was not long before Vicksburg became known as the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," and it would prove a tough nut to crack. The strategic significance of Vicksburg greatly increased after the fall of Memphis, as it then became the northernmost point below Memphis where the bluffs met the river. It was only a matter of time before war in all its horror centered on Vicksburg.

Initial efforts by Union land and naval forces to capture Vicksburg and open the great waterway to navigation ended in failure. The first threat developed on May 18, 1862, when the ships of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron arrived below Vicksburg and the Federals made a demand for the city's surrender. In terse words the demand was refused. Lieutenant Colonel James L. Autry, the post commander, replied, "Mississippians don't know, and refuse to learn, how to surrender to an enemy." Incensed, Federal authorities opened fire upon the city and maintained an intermittent bombardment from late May, all through June, and into late July, but to no avail. The bombardment was ineffective and Farragut's fleet, wracked with sickness and plagued by rapidly falling waters, withdrew to New Orleans and deeper waters.

Both the Union and Confederate high commands then realized that if Vicksburg were going to fall it would be at the hands of a combined land and naval effort. The batteries that overlooked the Mississippi River at Vicksburg were powerful, but all the land accesses were open. The Confederates decided to construct a line of defense to guard the city's landward approaches and control the roads and railroad access to Vicksburg. Due to a series of sharp narrow ridges, fronted by deep steep ravines, Vicksburg was a natural fortress. Major Samuel Lockett, chief engineer of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, made it even stronger by the construction of field fortifications. The line, as constructed, consisted of nine major forts connected by a continuous line of trenches and rifle pits. The line formed a huge semicircle around Vicksburg, the flanks of which rested on the river above and below the city. It would be manned by a garrison of 30,000 troops, mount 172 big guns, and pose the major challenge to Union domination of the river.

Late that same year, a two-pronged Federal advance on Vicksburg met with disaster when Major General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee, divided his force in two for an advance on Vicksburg. One column, under Grant's personal command, marched overland from Grand Junction, Tennessee, into north Mississippi, while the other column, under Major General William T Sherman, made a rapid push down the Mississippi River and attempted to seize Vicksburg.

Major General Earl Van Dorn

As Grant's column pushed south through Holly Springs and Oxford toward Grenada, his ever-lengthening supply and communications line became dangerously exposed and fell prey to raiding Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. His advance base at Holly Springs also fell victim to raiding cavalry under Earl Van Dorn, which compelled Grant to pull back to Memphis. This regression enabled Confederate forces, utilizing interior rail lines, to rush to Vicksburg, arriving in time to thwart Sherman's strike just northeast of the city along the banks of Chickasaw Bayou. In reporting the action, Sherman simply wrote, "I reached Vicksburg at the time appointed, landed, assaulted and failed."

Checked on the overland route, Grant seized upon Federal naval supremacy on the inland waters to transfer his army to Milliken's Bend and Young's Point, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River just north of and opposite Vicksburg. During the winter months, Federal forces stockpiled tremendous quantities of rations, clothing, medicine, ammunition, and countless other items for the spring campaign aimed at Vicksburg. Grant also orchestrated a series of ill-fated bayou expeditions, the object of which was to reach the rear of Vicksburg.

By late spring 1863, after months of frustration and failure, Grant was at a crossroads in his military career. There was tremendous clamor in the Northern press to remove him from command. Even members of the Cabinet urged Lincoln to replace Grant as commander of the western army. But the President responded to those critical of Grant by saying, "I can't spare this man, he fights. I'll try him a little longer." Aware of the clamor against him, Grant examined his options.

John A. McClernand Library of Congress

In Grant's mind the most viable option was to march the army down the west side of the river, search for a favorable crossing point, and transfer the field of operations to the area south and east of Vicksburg. In characteristic fashion and with grim determination, Grant ordered Major General John A. McClernand of the Thirteenth Corps to open a road from Milliken's Bend to New Carthage on the Mississippi River below Vicksburg. The movement began on March 31, 1863, and thus the Vicksburg Campaign began in earnest.

As Grant's infantrymen slogged their way south through Louisiana, corduroying roads and building bridges each step of the way, the Union fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter prepared to run by the batteries at Vicksburg. On the dark, moonless night of April 16, Porter's vessels raised anchor and moved downriver toward the citadel of Vicksburg with engines muffled and running lights extinguished. Suddenly the night sky was ablaze from bales of cotton soaked in turpentine that lined the river on both banks and barrels of tar set afire by the Confederates to illuminate the river and silhouette the fleet as it passed the batteries. For several hours the fleet withstood the punishing fire that poured forth from Confederate batteries. When the shelling stopped, Porter tallied the damage to his fleet and recorded the loss of only one transport vessel. What many deemed impossible had been achieved. With Porter's fleet now below Vicksburg, Grant had the wherewithal to cross the mighty river.

It was Grant's intention to force a crossing of the river at Grand Gulf where there was a good all-weather landing and from which point roads radiated deep into the interior of Mississippi. Two forts guarded Grand Gulf and posed an obstacle to Federal plans. On April 29, Porter's gunboats bombarded the Grand Gulf defenses in preparation for a landing by Grant's troops. The fleet silenced the guns of Fort Wade, but could not silence those of Fort Cobun.

Admiral Porter's fleet running past the Vicksburg batteries on April 16, 1863. Wikimedia Commons

Ever adaptive, Grant disembarked his men from the transports and marched them five miles farther down the levee. That evening, Porter's fleet passed the Confederate batteries and joined with Grant at Disharoon's plantation. From April 30 to May 1 Grant hurled his army across the mighty river and onto Mississippi soil at Bruinsburg. A band aboard the flagship Benton struck up The Red, White, and Blue as Grant's infantrymen came ashore. In one of the largest amphibious operations in American history up to that time, Grant landed 22,000 men and began the inland campaign to capture Vicksburg.

Once ashore, Grant's forces pushed rapidly inland and marched through the night. In the early morning hours of May 1, they encountered Confederate resistance west of Port Gibson. In a furious battle which raged throughout the day, Union soldiers fought with grim determination to secure their beachhead on Mississippi soil while Confederate soldiers fought with equal determination to drive the invaders into the river. By day's end, the Confederate forces, outnumbered and hard-pressed, retired from the field.

Rather than march north on Vicksburg, Grant directed his army in a northeasterly direction in order to cut the rail line that connected the Hill City with Jackson and cut the Confederate garrison off from supplies and reinforcements. In a seventeen-day period, which is often referred to as the blitzkrieg of the Vicksburg Campaign, Grant's army marched more than 200 miles, and overcame Confederate resistance in five battles. The first battle occurred at Port Gibson on May 1, the second at Raymond on May 12, and the third on May 14 when the Union army captured the capital of Mississippi. Not wishing to waste combat troops on occupation, Grant neutralized Jackson with the torch then turned west toward his objective — Vicksburg. En route from Jackson to Vicksburg, his force inflicted devastating casualties on the Confederate army commanded by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton at the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16. On the following day, May 17, Grant soundly defeated Confederate forces in a battle at the Big Black River Bridge, hurling Pemberton's army into the defenses of Vicksburg.

Having witnessed the debacle at the Big Black River and the wild flight of his troops, Pemberton dejectedly stated, "Just thirty years ago I began my military career by receiving my appointment to a cadetship at the U.S. Military Academy, and to-day — that same date — that career is ended in disaster and disgrace." For all practical purpose it was, but it was a disaster that would affect an entire nation.

John Pemberton

The citizens of Vicksburg watched in fear as the shattered remnants of Pemberton's army poured into the city on that fateful day. Mrs. Emma Balfour stood in her doorway as the demoralized mass of humanity filled the streets. She later wrote with trepidation, "I hope never to witness again such a scene as the return of our routed army!" With pen in hand she recorded the scene which enveloped her, "From twelve o'clock until late in the night the streets and roads were jammed with wagons, cannons, horses, men, mules, stock, sheep, everything you can imagine that appertains to an army being brought hurriedly within the intrenchment." She confided to her diary the fears of many in Vicksburg as she wrote, "What is to become of all the living things in this place. shut up as in a trap. God only knows."

On through the long day and into the evening marched the weary soldiers clad in butternut and gray. Singly or in small groups, with no sense of order or discipline, the men filed into the rifle-pits and turned to meet Grant's rapidly approaching army. Throughout the night, axes rang out constantly as the Confederates felled additional trees to strengthen fortifications, clear fields of fire, and form abatis in their front. Work continued at a feverish pace and, by sunrise, the city was in a good state of defense.

Late in the afternoon, May 18, Confederate soldiers peering over their parapets spotted long columns of Union infantrymen moving slowly toward the city. Federal skirmishers were quickly deployed and artillery roared into action, but the day wore away with nothing more than a long-range artillery duel. That night, as darkness enveloped the fields, the soldiers of both armies rested on their arms. Each knew that the bloody work at hand would commence with the rising sun and prepared for battle in his own way.

Grant was anxious for a quick victory and, after making a hasty reconnaissance, ordered an attack. Early on the morning of May 19, Union artillery opened fire upon the city and for hours bombarded the Confederate works with solid shot and shell. At 2 p.m., when the guns fell silent, Union soldiers deployed into line of battle astride Graveyard Road, northeast of Vicksburg, and stormed the city's defenses. They succeeded in planting several stands of colors on the parapets of Vicksburg, but were driven back with the loss of 942 men.

Undaunted, Grant decided to make a more thorough reconnaissance, then hurl his entire force against Vicksburg on May 22. Early that morning, Union artillery roared into action and for four hours bombarded the works, tearing large holes in the earthen fortifications. At 10 a.m., the artillery fell silent and Union soldiers moved forward over a three-mile front toward the defenses of Vicksburg. Again they succeeded in planting their colors on the parapets of Vicksburg in several areas and made a short-lived penetration at Railroad Redoubt, but were driven back a second time with severe loss. In the assault on May 22, Grant lost more than 3,000 men killed, wounded, or missing.

Although his nose had been bloodied a second time, Grant was not yet willing to toss in the towel and lay siege to the city. As he contemplated his next move, Grant left behind his dead and wounded, including many who had been lying exposed since May 19. Exposed to the sun and heat, the bodies of the dead began to bloat and turn black the stench was sickening. On May 25, white flags appeared along the Confederate line Union soldiers were hopeful that the city would soon be surrendered. Theft hopes were dashed as word quickly spread that a note was passed from Pemberton to Grant "imploring in the name of humanity" that Grant bury his dead as the odor had become quite offensive.

A truce was granted for two and one-half hours during which time men in blue and gray mingled between the lines. While the gruesome task of the burial details was completed, it was almost as if there was no war in progress. At the appointed time, however, the flags were taken down and everyone ran for cover. The siege of Vicksburg began in earnest that day.

Throughout the month of May and into June, Union soldiers slowly extended their lines to the left and right until they encircled the beleaguered city, effectively cutting Pemberton's garrison off from all supply and communications with the outside word. The Confederates had to subsist solely on what they had stockpiled in Vicksburg prior to the siege. In order to conserve what food supplies were on hand, Pemberton ordered the daily ration cut to three quarters, then to half, then to quarter, then they were cut again, and yet again. By the end of June the garrison was issued only a handful of peas and rice per man per day. Even their water was rationed.

Disease began to spread rapidly through the ranks. Dysentery, diarrhea, malaria, and various fevers all took a heavy toll of human life and were more certain causes of death than were Union sharpshooters. At first scores, then hundreds, of men could be seen laying their weapons aside to walk or crawl as best they could to the hospitals in Vicksburg. Public buildings were filled to capacity many fine private residences were convened to hospitals. But even there, there was no succor as medicines were in short supply. Each day the "dead wagons" made the rounds of the hospitals and the dead were brought out in ever increasing number and carried to their long rest north of town in the city cemetery.

As May slowly faded into June, Union soldiers began to dig approaches toward the Confederate line. Forming first zigzag trenches to frustrate enemy fire and then parallels, Grant moved up his infantry and artillery first to within 300 yards, then 200 yards, then 100 yards. The digging continued as Union soldiers worked their way up to the parapets of Vicksburg. Their object was to get as close as possible, then tunnel underneath the enemy works, hollow out rooms, fill them with black powder, and blow them up, hopefully destroying the fortifications of Vicksburg. Union soldiers excavated thirteen approaches at different points along the siege line the most successful of which was known as "Logan's Approach." Situated along the Jackson road, Logan's Approach inched forward toward the Third Louisiana Redan. Excavating a sap (or trench if you will) that was seven feet deep and eight feet wide, Union fatigue parties reached the Third Louisiana Redan on June 23. They carved a gallery directly under the fort and made preparations for mining.

On June 25, 2,200 pounds of black powder were placed in the mine. At 3 p.m. the fuse was lit. Tense moments passed as the Federals waited to storm into the breach and seize Vicksburg. Suddenly there was a muffled thud, then a loud bang as the ground began to break and an enormous column of flame and dirt exploded upwards, carrying men, mules, and accoutrements to the sky. Before the dust could even settle, Union soldiers poured into the crater and attempted to secure the breach. In the wild mêlée that ensued, the men freely used clubbed muskets and bayonets and tossed hand grenades back and forth. The battle raged in unabated fury for twenty-six hours as Grant threw in one fresh regiment after another, all to no avail. The breach was sealed by the Confederates at the point of bayonet. The great gamble had failed.

Undaunted, the Federals planted a second mine and detonated it on July 1— but they did not follow it up with an infantry assault. That day, Grant was notified by his subordinates that given just a few more days of digging, thirteen mines could be planted and detonated simultaneously. This was the moment Grant and his army had been working toward all these many weeks of siege. It is not likely that the Confederates could have withstood such an attack.

On the hot afternoon of July 3 Grant was in the process of planning an attack (which he scheduled for July 6), when white flags of truce again appeared along the lines. Riding out from the city came a cavalcade of officers in gray led by General Pemberton. Grant rode to meet with him between the lines. Pemberton asked Grant on what terms would he receive the surrender of the garrison and city of Vicksburg. Grant replied that he had no terms other than immediate and unconditional surrender. These terms were unacceptable to Pemberton who assured Grant that he would bury many more of his men before he gained entrance to Vicksburg. The generals agreed only upon a cessation of hostilities, then rode their separate ways. Grant assured Pemberton that he would have his final terms by ten o'clock that night.

Grant and Pemberton discuss the terms of surrender at Vicksburg Library of Congress

True to his word, Grant sent in his final, amended terms. Instead of an unconditional surrender of Vicksburg, Grant offered parole to the garrison. Pemberton received the note in the quiet of his headquarters. In the company of his generals, Pemberton read the note then passed it around for his subordinates to read and comment upon. Almost to a man, these agreed they were the best terms to be had.

On the morning of July 4, 1863, white flags fluttered in the breeze above the fortifications of Vicksburg. Marching out from their works, Confederate soldiers furled their flags, stacked their arms, and turned over their accouterments. A victorious Union army marched in and took possession of Vicksburg — the fortress city on the Mississippi River that had eluded them for so long.

Grant rode into the city along the Jackson Road and down to the Warren County Courthouse where he watched the Stars and Stripes raised above the building. He then rode down to the waterfront where he personally thanked and congratulated Admiral Porter for the assistance rendered by the United States Navy during the operations for Vicksburg. Almost as an afterthought, he sent a message to Washington informing President Lincoln of the city's surrender. It took several days for the message to reach the capital during which time the only remaining Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River — Port Hudson, Louisiana — fell into Union hands. Upon receipt of Grant's message, Lincoln sighed, "Thank God," and declared "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

The fall of Vicksburg - History

Jefferson Davis remarked after the fall of Vicksburg “The clouds are truly dark over us,” and I believe this is a most apt description of the impact the fall of Vicksburg had on the war. Through the photographs that follow I will try to transport the viewer to that “Spirit land of Shadows” and walk the streets of wartime Vicksburg. All of the photographs in this tour are from the collections of the Old Court House Museum. West of Vicksburg a small railroad line began at Monroe, Louisiana and terminated on the banks of the Mississippi River. From there passengers and freight were brought into the city on ferries, transferred to railroad cars and sent to points east. Vicksburg was the funnel through which men and supplies flowed from the Trans-Mississippi into the eastern Confederacy. To maintain control of the Mississippi River in front of Vicksburg, the Confederates built a series of artillery positions along the Vicksburg waterfront. Mounting 37 heavy guns and stretching for over three miles in length, the Confederate River Batteries made certain that any Union vessel attempting to pass Vicksburg would have to run through a gauntlet of fire.

Steamboatmen who follow a legitimate business, and who have manhood enough to attend to their own business, without carrying into our midst the weapons of destruction, wherewith to murder our citizens and destroy our young Confederacy, will ever be allowed, without let or hindrance, to navigate the free waters of the Mississippi… Vicksburg Evening Citizen, January 31, 1861

The Aftermath of Vicksburg

With the fall of the Confederate Gibraltar, the last remaining Southern stronghold on the Mississippi, Port Hudson, also capitulated. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea." That same July 4, Robert E. Lee’s army was retreating toward Virginia after defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg Helena, Arkansas, fell to Union forces and General William S. Rosecrans forced the Confederate Army of Tennessee to withdraw from the Middle Tennessee area to Chattanooga, just north of the Georgia state line. The winds of war had shifted in favor of the North.

The Confederacy had been irretrievably divided east and west. Pemberton found the Confederate government was no longer willing to entrust him with high command and, remarkably, he resigned his commission and attempted to re-enlist as a private. Southern president Jefferson Davis commissioned him a lieutenant coronel of artillery instead.

Joseph Johnston briefly attempted to hold Jackson, but the Federals reoccupied it. Destruction there was so complete that it became known as "Chimneyville&mdashvirtually all that was left. Johnston would lead the Army of Tennessee during most of the Atlanta Campaign and again following the Southern debacle at Franklin and Nashville in the winter of 1864. He would surrender his army to Sherman near Bentonville, North Carolina, days after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.

Grant’s reputation as a fighter who won tough battles was cemented at Vicksburg, and by the following summer he would be in command of all Union armies in the field. He came to regret his decision to parole the Vicksburg garrison, however. Most of its men re-enlisted without being exchanged for Union prisoners, as was the custom, putting thousands more rifles back into the Southern ranks. As a result, Grant would virtually halt prisoner exchanges when he was promoted to command all armies, a decision that perhaps shortened the war but also condemned thousands of prisoners north and south to prolonged incarceration and death in the unsanitary conditions of overcrowded prisoner of war camps.

Today, the Vicksburg National Military Park stretches over 1,800 acres of fields, woods, and ravines. It includes the Vicksburg National Cemetery, the final resting place of 17,000 Union soldiers, the largest number of any national cemetery.

Banner image Tour stop 2, Illinois Monument and Shirley House from hill at intersection of Union Avenue and loop to tour stop 3, looking nw, created by William A. Faust II, Library of Congress.

THE FALL OF CABAL – Ending The Reign Of Evil

T he Fall of Cabal is a must see documentary of nearly 3 hours made by award-winning author and researcher Janet Ossebaard. The Fall of Cabal announces the downfall of the 1%, often referred to as the Cabal: a small group of people who run the world through their excessive wealth and power. They concocted an evil master plan to completely dominate and submiss humanity. a plan in which corruption, secret services, secret societies and high treason reign supreme.

Please note: parts 1-9 are great fact-based journalism. The final part 10 however is Janet's own personal belief, which is a mixture of fact, and fiction. Don't let that keep you from the first nine parts, which is critical information for everyone who wants to understand the world, and make it a better place.


High up on the craggy peaks of the Urubamba Canyon, a lost city lies wreathed in cloud…

In this episode, we explore the mountains of the Andes, and tell the story of the Inca Empire. Find out how these mountain people built the largest empire in the Western Hemipshere, in one of the toughest terrains on earth. With Inca poetry, Quechuan hymns and authentic Andean instruments, discover the unique culture of the Inca. And find out what happened to bring their society crashing down around them.

Points of Interest From the Fall of Man

The term "Fall of Man" is not used in the Bible. It is a theological expression for the descent from perfection to sin. "Man" is a generic biblical word for the human race, including both men and women.

Adam's and Eve's disobedience to God was the first human sin. They forever ruined human nature, passing on the desire to sin to every person born since.

God did not tempt Adam and Eve, nor did he create them as robot-like beings without free will. Out of love, he gave them the right to choose, the same right he gives people today. God forces no one to follow him.

Some Bible scholars blame Adam for being a bad husband. When Satan tempted Eve, Adam was with her (Genesis 3:6), but Adam did not remind her of God's warning and did nothing to stop her.

God's prophecy "he will crush your head and you will strike at his heel" (Genesis 3:15) is known as the Protoevangelium, the first mention of the gospel in the Bible. It is a veiled reference to Satan's influence in Jesus' crucifixion and death, and Christ's triumphant resurrection and the defeat of Satan.

Christianity teaches that human beings are unable to overcome their fallen nature on their own and must turn to Christ as their Savior. The doctrine of grace states that salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned, merely accepted through faith.

The contrast between the world before sin and the world today is frightening. Disease and suffering are rampant. Wars are always going on somewhere, and closer to home, people treat one another cruelly. Christ offered freedom from sin at his first coming and will close the "end times" at his second coming.

Watch the video: Grant: Massive Siege of Vicksburg Leads to Union Victory. History