Siege of Vicksburg and the Civil War

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The Vicksburg Campaign of Mississippi

Vicksburg Battle, Siege, and Campaign History

Siege of Vicksburg Battlefield Map
Siege of Vicksburg Campaign Mississippi Map.jpg
The Vicksburg Campaign Map of Battles

VICKSBURG, MISS
SIEGE OF MAY 18TH - JULY 4TH, 1863

Vicksburg, Miss., Siege of, May 18 to July 4, 1863. Army
of the Tennessee and the Mississippi Flotilla. By the
reduction of New Madrid, the surrender of Island No. 10, the
evacuation of Forts Pillow and Randolph, and the destruction
of the Confederate fleet in front of Memphis the Mississippi
river was opened to Vicksburg, which place presented a more
formidable opposition than any of the points that had been
overcome. The first campaign against Vicksburg was planned in
the fall of 1862. Sherman was to move down the Mississippi
from Memphis with the right wing of the Army of the Tennessee,
while Grant, with the left wing, was to attack from the east.
Grant established a depot of supplies at Holly Springs, but
his stores there were surrendered to the enemy by Col. Murphy
on Dec. 20, and about the same time Forrest made a raid
through northern Mississippi, cutting Grant's communications
with the north. These unfortunate events prevented Grant from
carrying out his part of the program, as he was compelled to
fall back and open up communication with Memphis. Sherman,
unadvised of what had happened to the left wing, went ahead
and fought the battle of Chickasaw bluffs, which ended
disastrously for the Federal arms. Thus the combined attack,
partly by
water and party by land, against the Confederate
stronghold on the Mississippi, ended in a complete failure.
(See also
Mississippi Civil War, History
.)

Vicksburg is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi,
upon a range of bluffs about 200 feet high. On the western
side of the river is a low bottom and directly opposite is a long,
narrow peninsula, formed by an abrupt bend of the river a short
distance above the city. On this peninsula, at the time of the
operations against Vicksburg, stood the little town of De Soto,
the terminus of the Shreveport & Vicksburg railroad. At the
bend referred to the bluffs trend away from the river into a range
called Walnut hills, leaving a lowland through which flow the
Yazoo river and numerous bayous. Near Warrenton, some 7 or 8
miles below Vicksburg, the bluffs again recede from the river,
making the natural location one well suited for defense. Protected
on three sides by the river and its low bottoms, it required only a
line of intrenchments from the Warrenton ridge on the south to
the Walnut hills on the north, to guard against an attack from
the eastward, to render the position almost impregnable to
assault. Added to these advantages was the fact that the plateau
formed by the bluffs was full of deep ravines, which made it
impossible to maneuver troops there with any degree of success.
After the failure of the first campaign Grant moved his army to
Memphis, and thence down the river to Young's point, 9 miles
above Vicksburg on the Louisiana side of the river, where he
arrived and assumed command on Feb. 2, 1863.

Commanders of the Vicksburg Campaign
Commanders of the Vicksburg Campaign.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Top - Confederate Commanders (left to right): Pemberton,
Bowen, Smith, Van Dorn, Tracy, Johnston
Bottom - Union Commanders (left to right): Grant, Sherman,
Porter, McPherson, Logan, McClernand

The army in the Vicksburg campaign consisted of the 9th, 13th,
15th, 16th and 17th army corps, respectively commanded by
Maj.- Gens. John G. Parke, John A McClernand, William T.
Sherman, Cadwallader C. Washburn and James B. McPherson,
and two brigades from the District of Northeast Louisiana under
the command of Brig.-Gen. Elias S. Dennis. During the
operations Gen. McClernand was superseded in the command of
the 13th corps by Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord. The 9th corps was
composed of the 1st and 2nd divisions, commanded by Brig-Gens.
Thomas Welsh and Robert B. Potter. In the 13th corps the 9th
division was commanded by Brig-Gen. Peter J. Osterhaus, the
10th by Brig-Gen. Andrew J. Smith, the 12th by Brig-Gen. Alvin
P. Hovey, and the 14th by Brig.-Gen. Eugene A. Carr. The 15th
corps was composed of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions,
commanded by Brig.-Gens. Frederick Steele, Frank P. Blair and
James M. Tuttle. The 16th corps included the 1st, 4th and
provisional divisions, commanded by Brig-Gens. William Sooy
Smith, Jacob Lauman and Nathan Kimball. From May 13 to 20,
Lauman's division was temporarily attached to the 15th corps.
The 17th corps contained four divisions, the 3rd, 6th and 7th,
and one commanded by Brig.-Gen. Francis J. Herron. The 3rd
division was commanded by Brig.-Gen. John A. Logan, the 6th by
Brig-Gen. John McArthur, and the 7th by Brig-Gens. Isaac F.
Quinby, Marcellus M. Crocker and John E. Smith, successively.
At the beginning of the campaign the Union army numbered about
43,000 men, but it was increased by reinforcements until at
the close of operations Grant had 75,000 men about the city
and its environs.
 
A valuable adjunct to the army in the reduction of Vicksburg
was the Mississippi Flotilla, under the command of Rear-Adm.
David D. Porter. It was composed of the flag-ship Benton; the
gunboat Essex; the ironclads DeKalb (former the St. Louis),
Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg,
Choctaw, Lafayette, Chillicothe, Indianola and Tuscumbia; the
Rodgers gunboats Conestoga, Lexington and Tyler; the Ellet
rams Fulton, Horner, Lancaster, Lioness, Mingo, Monarch,
Queen of the West, Sampson and Switzerland, the tinclads
Brilliant, Cricket, Forest Rose, Glide, Juliet, Linden, Marmora,
Petrel, Rattler, Romeo and Signal; the mortar boats Abraham,
Clara Dolsen, Gen. Lyon, Grampus, Great Western, Judge
Torrence, New National and Red Rover, and the despatch boat
William H. Brown. On March 14-15, the following vessels,
belonging to the West Gulf Squadron and commanded by
Rear-Adm. David G. Farragut, passed the batteries at Port
Hudson and assisted in the siege of Vicksburg: Hartford
(flagship), Mississippi, Monongahela, Richmond, Genesee,
Kineo, Albatross, Estrella and Arizona. In addition to these
vessels various gunboats participated in some of the operations,
viz.: Alexandria, Argosy, Black Hawk, Champion, Covington,
Curlew, Hastings, Exchange, Key West, Kenwood, Moose,
New Era, Naumkeag, Pawpaw, Peosta, Prairie Bird, Queen
City, Reindeer, St Clair, Silver Cloud, Silver Lake, Springfield,
Tawah and Victory. Opposed to this force was the Confederate
army under the command of Lieut.-Gen. John C. Pemberton,
consisting of the divisions of Maj.-Gens. W. W. Loring, Carter
L. Stevenson, John H. Forney, Martin L. Smith and John S.
Bowen, the river batteries, commanded by Col. Edward Higgins,
and some unattached troops. The strength of the Confederate
forces at Vicksburg has been variously estimated at from 40,000
to 60,000 men, the latter figure being Grant's estimate. Pemberton,
in his report, says that when he moved within the defenses
of Vicksburg his available force aggregated about 28,000 men,
but as over 31,000 were surrendered as prisoners of war after a
siege of nearly two months, it is evident that his statement of
his force is too low.

Vicksburg Campaign Map
Vicksburg Campaign Map.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

The battle of Chickasaw bluffs had demonstrated the strength
of the Confederate works on the north side of the city, and
Grant decided to gain a foothold below and attack from the
south. To do this it was necessary to transport the army and
its supplies to some point down the river. The Queen of the
West ran past the batteries in front of Vicksburg on the night
of Feb. 2, and the Indianola on the night of the 13th. Although
these single vessels had passed safely, it was regarded as
too hazardous an undertaking to attempt the passage with
a large number of transports loaded with men and supplies,
and a channel for the boats was sought elsewhere. Three
routes presented themselves for consideration. One was the
canal that had been excavated by Gen. Williams across the
southern part of the peninsula opposite the city, in June,
1862; the second was to connect Lake Providence near the
Arkansas line, with the Mississippi by a canal about a mile
long and send the fleet through Louisiana via the Tensas,
Black and Red rivers to a point on the Mississippi below
Natchez, the third was the Yazoo pass route on the eastern
side of the river. Work was commenced on the Williams canal
early in February, its course being changed to insure a better
current, and its construction was pushed vigorously. Rainy
weather set in and continued until March 7, just as the canal
was about completed when the levee gave way, inundating the
canal and the camps west of it, and forcing the abandonment of
the enterprise. Attention was then turned to the Lake
Providence route, which had been examined by engineers and
pronounced practicable, and by March 16, a canal was completed
connecting the lake with the river, but before it was turned to
any account Grant determined to try the route via the Yazoo
pass, the Coldwater and Tallahatchie rivers, in the hope of
gaining the high ground on the Yazoo above Haynes, bluff.
Yazoo pass was a bayou, connecting the Mississippi, through
Moon lake, with the Coldwater river, nearly opposite Helena,
Ark. In early times it had been used for the passage of boats
from Memphis to Yazoo City, but some years before the
beginning of the war it had been closed by a strong levee to
reclaim a large tract of land subject to overflow. This route
had been under consideration from the first. On Feb. 3, the
levee was blown up by a mine and four days later a gunboat
entered the pass.
 
The Confederate spies and pickets had kept Pemberton well
informed regarding every movement Grant made, and when it was
learned that the Federals were preparing to advance by the
Yazoo, steps were taken to offset the movement. Yazoo pass,
as well as the Coldwater river, ran through a forest. The
Confederates felled a large number of trees into the water,
thus impeding the progress of the vessel and causing a tedious
delay in removing the obstructions, the Coldwater not being
reached until the 21st, when the 13th division of McClernand's
corps, Brig.-Gen. Leonard F. Ross commanding, was ordered to
pass through to test the availability of the route for a larger
body of troops. Ross was delayed in procuring boats and did
not reach the Coldwater until March 2. On the 5th Grant
ordered McPherson to move his whole corps, about 30,000
men, down to Yazoo City and there effect a lodgment, while two
divisions of cavalry were to move to the eastward and cut the
enemy's communications. Pemberton in the meantime had sent
Loring, with about 2,000 men and 8 heavy guns to the mouth of
the Yallabusha to dispute the passage of the Yazoo. About 5
miles below the mouth of the Yallabusha where the waters of
the Yazoo and Tallahatchie are brought within a short distance
of each other by a sharp bend, Loring constructed a line of
works, to which he gave the name of Fort Pemberton. The delay
encountered by the Federals in clearing the streams above gave
Loring plenty of time to get the fort in a good state of defense,
and when the gunboats and transports with Ross' division
arrived before the fort on March 11, they found the Confederates
prepared to give battle. As the ground in front of the fort was
under water a charge on the works was out of the question,
and the only thing that could be done was for the gunboats
to try to silence the enemy's guns. On the 12th a land battery
was established about 800 yards from the fort and the next day
the bombardment was continued, but without any perceptible
injury to the fort. Ross moved back up the Tallahatchie until
he met Quinby's division. Quinby, being the senior officer,
assumed command and ordered the whole expedition back
to Fort Pemberton, where, after a short bombardment on the
23rd, he determined to send to Helena for a pontoon bridge,
by means of which he could cross the Yallabusha, gain the
rear of the fort, and by cutting off communications compel its
surrender, but before the movement could be executed a
despatch was received from Grant, ordering the entire force
to return to the Mississippi.

While Ross was working his way down the Tallahatchie
Grant was informed that Loring was being reinforced from
Vicksburg and, fearing that Ross might be surrounded and
captured, planned an expedition to relieve him and at the same
time reach the Yazoo above Haynes' bluff. The route selected
was up the Yazoo to Steele's bayou; thence up that bayou for
about 40 miles to Black bayou; through that to Deer creek; up
Deer creek for about 30 miles, then through a cross stream
known as Rolling Fork to the Sunflower river, and down that
stream to the Yazoo. Porter, with the Pittsburg, Louisville,
Mound City, Cincinnati and Carondelet, four mortar boats and
two tugs, accompanied by Sherman, with one division of his
corps, started up the Yazoo on March 16, preceded by the 8th
Mo. to remove trees, etc., from the streams. On the evening
of the 18th, Porter was within a few miles of Rolling Fork and
it began to look as if this expedition was to be successful.
But the enemy had learned of the movement and sent a brigade
of infantry, with several pieces of artillery, up the Sunflower
to head it off. A battery was planted at the mouth of the
Rolling Fork and an attempt made to get in the rear of Porter,
with a view to cutting off his retreat and capturing his gunboats.
Porter sent word to Sherman, who hurried forward his troops
and on the 21st he had a sharp skirmish with the Confederates,
driving them back and extricating Porter from his predicament.
The expedition now turned back and on the 27th reached the
Mississippi adding another failure to the efforts to gain a position
on Pemberton's flank.

Two months had now been spent in futile efforts to find a
way by which the army could be transferred to a point below or
in the rear of Vicksburg. Although somewhat disappointed,
Grant was not altogether discouraged. The situation was
carefully canvassed and but three plans presented themselves
as being at all feasible: 1st, a direct assault on the enemy's
works; 2nd, to return to Memphis and reopen a campaign in the
rear of Vicksburg; or 3rd, to find a way through the bayous
and swamps on the western side of the Mississippi, cross that
river and move against the city from the south in accordance
with the original scheme. The idea of a direct assault was
rejected as too hazardous, defeat being almost certain.
Sherman urged the adoption of the second method as the one
most practicable, but the press and the public at the north
were clamoring for aggressive action, Grant was being daily
characterized as failure, and many were urging the president
to relieve him of the command of the army. To return to
Memphis would look like a retreat. Probably for this reason,
more than any other, Grant resolved to try the third plan. It
was full of risk, failure meant the destruction of his army,
but if it succeeded at all the success would be overwhelming.

Battle of Vicksburg Map
Battle of Vicksburg Map.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

A route was reconnoitered from Milliken's bend and Young's
point via Richmond, La., to New Carthage, about 30 miles below
Vicksburg. It was found that, by excavating a canal about 2
miles long a short distance below Duckport, the Mississippi
could be connected with Walnut bayou, thence by the sinuous
course of that stream and Roundaway bayou a passage could be
opened for light draft boats, by means of which the troops and
supplies could be conveyed to New Carthage, but the gunboats
and heavy transports would have to run the gauntlet of the
Vicksburg batteries. The canal was opened and one steamboat
and several barges passed through the channel, when the river
began to fall rapidly, rendering the route useless. It was no
longer needed, however, for with the receding of the waters it
became possible to march an army across the country. Even
while the canal was under construction Osterhaus' division
moved over the route, occupying Richmond on March 31, after a
short skirmish, and arriving at New Carthage on April 6.

On the night of April 16, the fleet ran past the batteries at Vicksburg.
Porter, with the flag-ship Benton, was in the lead. Then followed, in
the order named, the Lafayette, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg
and Carondelet. Next came three transports, the Forest Queen,
Silver Wave and Henry Clay, barricaded with cotton bales, while
the gunboat Tuscumbia brought up the rear. Leaving the mouth of
the Yazoo at 10 o'clock, the vessels dropped slowly down the river
and about an hour later came within range of the Confederate guns,
which immediately opened a vigorous fire. As the gunboats
went by each one delivered a broadside on the town. The aim
of the Confederate gunners was fairly accurate as every vessel
was struck a number of times, but the only one seriously
damaged was the Henry Clay, on which the cotton was fired by a
bursting shell, and the crew becoming panic-stricken escaped
to the other vessels or the shore, allowing her to burn to the
water's edge. The batteries at Warrenton were passed without
difficulty and at 2 a m. on the 17th, the fleet landed at New
Carthage. On that day Grant started Grierson on a cavalry
raid from La Grange, Tenn., to Baton Rouge, La., as a
diversion, and to prevent reinforcements from being sent to
Pemberton. On the night of the 22nd the transports Tigress,
Anglo-Saxon, Cheeseman, Empire City, Horizon and Moderator,
loaded with army supplies, ran the batteries. Five of them were
more or less damaged. The Tigress received a shot in her hull
below the water line, but she was run to the Louisiana shore,
where she sank soon after passing beyond the range of the guns.

Grant's objective point was Grand Gulf, a small village on the
east side of the river on the first bluff south of Vicksburg, and
about 50 miles from that city. The enemy had fortified the bluff
by a strong line of earthworks, in two sets of batteries, one
above and another below the landing, the two being connected
by a covered trench. On April 24, Grant and Porter made a
reconnaissance of the batteries and decided them too strong
to attack from the position then occupied some 20 miles up
the river. Accordingly the line was extended to Hard Times
landing, about 3 miles above Grand Gulf, and on the 29th,
everything was in readiness for the assault. At 7 a.m. Porter
left Hard Times with his fleet, and proceeded down the river
followed by three divisions of McClernand's corps in transports,
with instructions to land and carry the works by assault as
soon as the enemy's guns were silenced. The bombardment
began at 8 a m. and continued without cessation until 1 p.m.,
when the Confederates ceased firing. In the action Porter lost
19 killed and 56 wounded. Every one of his vessels had suffered
to some extent, the Tuscumbia having been struck 81 times, a
number of the shells penetrating her armor and bursting on the
inside, damaging her so much that for some time she was unfit
for service. The enemy lost 3 killed and 15 wounded. Although
the batteries were silenced Grant regarded it as a feint and
refused to land his infantry. McClernand moved his men back
to Hard Times, where they were disembarked and marched
across the bend to a point about 3 miles below Grand Gulf,
but on the opposite side of the river. That night Porter renewed
the attack on the batteries and while it was in progress the
transports managed to get by without being seriously injured.
At daylight the next morning McClernand commenced ferrying
his troops across the Mississippi, and by noon his entire corps,
numbering 18,000 men, was on Mississippi soil at Bruinsburg,
about 8 miles below Grand Gulf. McPherson's corps soon
followed, three days rations were issued to the men, and at 4
o'clock, that afternoon the advance was begun on Port Gibson,
where the enemy was met and overcome the next day.
Grierson's raid had kept Pemberton from sending reinforcements
to Grand Gulf, and on the night of May 2, the garrison evacuated
that place, retiring toward Vicksburg. Porter took possession
on the morning of the 3rd and later in the day Grant rode over
from Bruinsburg to make preparations for the establishment of
his base.
 
At the beginning of the campaign the purpose was to have
Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, commanding the Department of the Gulf,
cooperate with Grant in the capture of Port Hudson, after
which their combined forces would move against Vicksburg.
While Grant was at Grand Gulf on the 3rd he received word from
Banks, who was then on the Red river announcing that he would
be unable to reach Port Hudson until about the middle of May,
and then with a much smaller force than originally intended.
This news changed the whole current of Grant's plans. He was
in the heart of the enemy's country, and to wait for Banks
would only give Pemberton an opportunity to strengthen his
position at Vicksburg, making the problem all the harder to
solve. It was known that reinforcements were moving to
Pemberton's support, and Grant determined by prompt and
energetic action to strike the Confederate forces in detail
before they could be concentrated at Vicksburg. While the
main body of the army was moving toward Grand Gulf Sherman
had been left to make a demonstration against Haynes' bluff. On
May 1, he received orders to cease his operations there and
push his whole corps toward Hard Times. When Grant received
the communication from Banks he immediately sent orders to
Sherman to organize a train of 120 wagons and bring them to
Grand Gulf, where they were to be loaded with rations from the
Transports. This supply, with the rations already issued to
McClernand's and McPherson's men, gave enough to last the
whole army for five days, and was the last received from the
government stores until a base was established at Chickasaw
Bluffs nearly a month later. During that time the troops
subsisted off of the country. Sherman, with his train, arrived
at Grand Gulf on the 7th, and the advance was resumed, the
line of march being along the Big Black river toward the
Vicksburg & Jackson railroad, the object being to cut off the
forces which Grant had reason to believe were assembling there
to move to Pemberton's assistance. On the 12th, McPherson's
corps fought the battle of Raymond. Two days later the
Confederates under Johnston were driven from Jackson and
Grant's entire army turned westward toward Vicksburg.
Pemberton had moved out to meet the Federals, but was
defeated in the engagements at Champion's Hill on the 16th,
Big Black river bridge and Bridgeport on the 17th, and forced to
retire within his works. Sherman crossed the Big Black at
Bridgeport on the morning of the 18th and moved on the
Bridgeport road against the enemy's position on Walnut hills.
McPherson crossed the river above the Jackson road and came
up in the rear of Sherman on the same road. McClernand, after
crossing the river followed the Jackson road to Mount Albans
where he turned to the left to reach the road leading to Baldwin's
ferry. By the morning of the 19th the investment of Vicksburg was
as complete as could be made with the forces at Grant's command.

Battle of Raymond, Mississippi, Map
Battle of Raymond, Mississippi, Map.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

During the forenoon of the 19th, while the Union troops were
getting into better position, there was constant skirmishing
along the lines. Knowing that the enemy had been demoralized
by his recent defeats Grant was of the opinion that the
Confederates would make but a feeble effort in defense of
Vicksburg, and at 2 p.m. ordered an assault. But the enemy
put up a more stubborn resistance than was anticipated, and
the only advantage gained was to secure more advanced
positions, where the men were covered from the fire of the
Confederate batteries. The next two days were spent in
strengthening these positions and in opening roads to the
Yazoo river, where Grant had established a depot of supplies.
On the evening of the 21st, regular rations were distributed
among the men, many of whom had been without bread and
coffee for two weeks or more. The Fort Hill road left Vicksburg
on the north side, ran for some distance parallel with the river,
then turned east along the crest of the ridge overlooking the
Mint Spring bayou. Farther east a road ran out past a
cemetery and united with the Fort Hill road about a mile and a
half from the city. This was known as the Graveyard road.
Near the northeast corner of Vicksburg a ridge ran eastward
and along the summit of this ridge was the Jackson road, one
of the principal thoroughfares entering the town. South of
the Jackson road was the road leading to Baldwin's ferry.
Running southeastwardly was the Hall's Ferry road, while the
road to Warrenton followed the edge of the bluff down the
river. A line of earthworks extended from the Fort Hill road
on the north to the Warrenton road on the south, and was
manned as follows: Martin L. Smith's division was along the
Fort Hill road, with Vaughn's brigade on the extreme left,
between the Graveyard and Baldwin's Ferry roads lay Forney's
division; south of the Baldwin's Ferry road was Stevenson's
division, Barton's brigade forming the extreme right. This
line was defended by 128 pieces of artillery, 36 of which were
siege guns of heavy caliber, while along the river front were
a number of batteries in charge of Col. Higgins. Sherman's
corps occupied the Union right and extended from the river to
the Graveyard road. Next came McPherson, his left resting
near the Baldwin's Ferry road. South of McPherson was
McClernand, with a gap of over 3 miles between his left and
the river. This was subsequently filled by Lauman's and
Herron's divisions.

Notwithstanding the failure of the 19th, opinion was prevalent
among the rank and file of the army that the works could be
carried by assault. Orders were accordingly issued on the
evening of the 21st for a general attack along the whole line
at 10 o'clock, on the following morning. So complete were
the arrangements for this movement that the corps commanders
all set their watches by Grant's so that all should begin at
exactly the same moment. Precisely at the time designated
the three corps advanced to the attack. Sherman had planted
four batteries so as to concentrate their fire on the bastion of
the fort in his front, and formed a storming party of 150 to carry
materials for throwing a rough bridge across the ditch. At the
given signal the storming party rushed forward closely followed
by Ewing's brigade. As the line advanced Hebert's brigade arose
inside the parapet and opened a terrific fire on their assailants.
But the storming party made a rush, crossed the ditch and
planted their flag on the parapet, where it was maintained until
nightfall in spite of several attempts of the enemy to capture
it. The majority of the storming party were killed, and the
supporting troops forced to seek the shelter of a friendly
ravine about 70 yards from the fort. From this position they
kept up the fight until dark. The right of McPherson's line was
in a position where any attempt to advance would have been
met by a cross-fire, and all that could be done by Quinby's
and Logan's divisions was to make a strong demonstration to
keep Forney from sending reinforcements to other parts of the
line. On the left J. E. Smith's and Stevenson's brigades made
a gallant charge up the slope against the fort north of the
Baldwin's Ferry road. Smith was checked by a galling fire,
but Stevenson pressed on to the foot of the works, where the
7th Mo. planted their colors, but after losing six standard
bearers in quick succession fell back about 200 yards to a
more sheltered position.

In McClernand's corps Carr's division occupied the right,
with Benton's brigade on the Baldwin's Ferry road and Lawler's
just south of the Jackson railroad, with A. J. Smith's
division in support. Osterhaus came next and one brigade of
Hovey's division was on the extreme left, the: other having
been left at Big Black river bridge. As the line advanced
Osterhaus and Hovey were checked by a murderous cross-fire
from a square fort on their left, and though they held their
position were unable to approach any nearer the enemy's works.
Benton and Lawler advanced, the latter's attack being directed
against a fort on a hill near the railroad. Two regiments, the
21st and 22nd Ia., charged up the hill and gained the ditch in
front of the fort. Sergt. Joseph Griffith, with a small party,
entered the work and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight, in
which nearly all of Griffith's men were killed. The fort was
abandoned by the Confederates, but it was commanded by
a stronger work a short distance in the rear the Iowa troops
were unable to hold it, though the flag of the 22nd waved over
the parapet for the rest of the day. Benton's brigade also
reached the ditch in their front and planted their colors on
the parapet, while Landram's brigade, of A. J. Smith's division,
joined Lawler, the colors of the 77th Ill. being planted by the
side of those of the 22nd Ia. In repulsing the attacks of Benton
and Lawler the Confederates used hand grenades with terrible
effect. At 10:30 a.m. several Union flags were floating over the
outer line of works, but further progress seemed to be impossible.
Toward noon McClernand sent a message to Grant, stating that
he had part possession of two of the enemy's forts, and asking
that McPherson strike a vigorous blow to cause a diversion in his
favor. This despatch was shown to Sherman, who sent Tuttle
forward to the assistance of Blair, and ordered Giles Smith to
join his brigade with that of Ransom, of McPherson's command,
in an attack on the works near Graveyard road. Logan's
division again advanced, but was forced back with heavy loss.
Regarding this part of the action, and the despatches sent by
McClernand, Grant says in his report: ''The position occupied
by me during most of the time of the assault gave me a better
opportunity of seeing what was going on in front of the
Thirteenth Army Corps than I believe it possible for the
commander of it to have. I could not see his possession of
forts nor necessity for reinforcements, as represented in his
despatches, up to the time I left it, which was between 12
noon and 1 p.m., and I expressed doubts of their correctness,
which doubts the facts subsequently, but too late, confirmed.
At the time I could not disregard his reiterated statements,
for they might possibly be true, and that no possible
opportunity of carrying the enemy's stronghold should be
allowed to escape through fault of mine, I ordered Quinby's
division, which was all of McPherson's corps then present but
four brigades, to report to McClernand, and notified him of
the order. I showed his despatches to McPherson, as I had to
Sherman, to satisfy him of the necessity of an active
diversion on their part to hold as much force in their fronts
as possible. The diversion was promptly and vigorously made,
and resulted in the increase of our mortality list fully 50
per cent, without advancing our position or giving us other
advantages.''

McClernand had probably gained an erroneous idea of what
had been accomplished in his front from the slight success
achieved by Griffith and his little body of Iowans, but as
late as 3:50 p.m. he sent a despatch to Grant, expressing his
faith in his ability to force his way through as soon as
McArthur and Quinby arrived to aid him. The conduct of
McClernand on this occasion led to his being superseded by
Maj.-Gen. Ord in command of the 13th corps soon afterward.
The assault failed and that night the Union troops fell back
to their original position for the siege. To conduct the
siege successfully and the same time guard against an attack
in the rear by the forces under Johnston, Grant called for
reinforcements. These were promptly sent to him and at the
close of the siege he had about 75,000 men about Vicksburg,
the 9th and 16th corps and Herron's division having been added
to his army. Johnston did begin the work of organizing an
army at Canton for the relief of Vicksburg, but he spent so
much time in correspondence with the Confederate authorities
at Richmond, and was otherwise so slow in his movements, that
he was not ready to begin his advance until July 1, and before
be reached Vicksburg Pemberton had surrendered.

Battle of Champion Hill Map
Battle of Champion Hill Map.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Map of Northern Portion of Champion Hill

Champion Hill Battlefield
Vicksburg Civil War Map.jpg
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Map of Southern Portion of Champion Hill

On May 13, the Union army began the work of intrenching
Itself. During the siege nearly 12 miles of trenches and 89
batteries were constructed. These batteries mounted 248 guns,
mostly field pieces. In the absence of mortars wooden coehorns
were made from tough logs, banded with iron, and were used for
throwing 6 and 12 pound shells into the Confederate trenches.
A few heavy siege-guns were brought up from the gunboats and
worked by naval crews. The character of the ground between the
lines made it easy to run covered ways up to and even under the
enemy's works. Materials for gabions and sap-rollers were found
in abundance in the cane and undergrowth of the ravines. Saps
were run from three points on the Jackson road to the fort just
north of it, and on June 25, the mine was ready. It was charged
with a ton of powder, two regiments were stationed under cover
to charge through the breach, and at 3 p.m. the fuse was lighted.
The explosion was a success, the two regiments rushed into the
crater, which they held for 24 hours, when they were driven out
with hand grenades from a second line of works which the
Confederates had in the meantime thrown up in the rear of the
parapet destroyed. A second mine was exploded on July 1, but
no attempt was made to charge the works. About this time a
despatch from Johnston to Pemberton was intercepted. From it
Grant learned that it was Johnston's intention to create a
diversion on July 7, in order to give the forces at Vicksburg
a chance to cut their way out. Grant, therefore ordered
another assault for the 6th. By this time the covered
galleries had been run close up to the enemy's works in a
number of places. They were now widened to permit the troops
to pass through four abreast, and materials were collected for
crossing the ditches. All this time a bombardment had been
kept up on the city by the gunboats. Some days before
Johnston's despatch was intercepted a report reached Grant to
the effect that Pemberton was preparing to escape under cover
of darkness to the western side of the Mississippi. Porter
was directed to keep a close watch upon the river, batteries
were planted on the Louisiana shore, and brushwood was
arranged for firing, to light up the river in case the attempt
was made. When the Union troops entered Vicksburg they found
a large number of rudely constructed boats, showing that there
was no doubt some truth in the report. A number of houses had
been pulled down to furnish the materials for the construction
of these boats.

A communication under the caption ''Appeal for Help,'' and
signed ''Many Soldiers,'' was sent to Pemberton from the
trenches. It was dated June 28, and the following extract
shows the feeling that existed at that time in the Confederate
ranks. ''If you can't feed us, you had better surrender us,
horrible as the idea is, than suffer this noble army to
disgrace themselves by desertion. I tell you plainly men are
not going to lie here and perish; if they do love their country,
self preservation is the first law of nature, and hunger will
compel a man to do almost anything. You had better heed
a warning voice, though it is the voice of a private soldier.
This army is now ripe for mutiny unless it can be fed.''
On July 1, Pemberton called on his dvision commanders
for information ''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 the generals were outspoken in favor of surrender, and
the other two expressed the opinion that any attempt to
evacuate would prove a failure. About 10 o'clock, on the
morning of the 3rd white flags were displayed on the enemy's
works and hostilities along that portion of the line ceased.
A little later Gen. Bowen and Col. Montgomery were seen
coming under another white flag toward the Union lines.
Montgomery bore a letter from Pemberton to Grant, proposing
an armistice and the appointment of three commissioners from
each army to arrange terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg
and stating that he made the proposition to save the further
effusion of flood: To this letter Grant replied as follows: '' * * *
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 terms of capitulation, because I have
no terms other than those indicated above.''

With this letter Grant sent a verbal message, asking
Pemberton to meet him at a given point between the lines at 3
o'clock, that afternoon; At that meeting it was agreed that
hostilities should cease until the correspondence was ended,
and Grant promised to give Pemberton his final propositions by
10 o'clock, that night. After the conference Grant called
together his corps commanders, and after consultation with
them sent the following letter to Pemberton: ''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.
tomorrow. As soon as rolls can be made out and paroles 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 takes 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 prisoners.''

These terms were subsequently modified to permit each
brigade of the Confederate army to march to the front of the
position occupied by it and stack arms, after which the men
were to return to the inside of the works, where they were to
remain until all were paroled. Accordingly at 10 a.m. on the
4th the various commands moved outside and stacked their arms.
Logan's division was the first to enter the city, and before noon
the national colors floated over the court-house. The work of
paroling the prisoners was hurried forward as rapidly as possible,
the number of prisoners surrendered being 31,600, together with
172 pieces of artillery, 60,000 muskets and a large quantity of
ammunition. The losses of the Union army during the siege,
including the assaults on May 19 and 22, were 763 killed, 3,746
wounded, and 162 missing. The Confederate reports of casualties
are imperfect. Incomplete returns show the losses from May 1
to July 3, to have been 1,260 killed, 3,572 wounded and 4,227
captured, though the whole number was probably not far from
12,000. The fall of Vicksburg opened the Mississippi to the
Federal armies and coming just at the same time as Lee's
defeat at Gettysburg the two victories marked the turning point
in the fortunes of the Confederacy. (For the campaign in the rear
of Vicksburg see Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion's
Hill and Big Black River Bridge.)

Source: The Union Army, Vol. 6, p. 890
 
(See also related reading below)

Recommended Reading: TRIUMPH AND DEFEAT: The Vicksburg Campaign, Volume 2 (Hardcover). Description: The study of the Civil War in the Western Theater is more popular now than ever, and the center of that interest is the months-long Vicksburg Campaign, which is the subject of National Park Historian Terrence J. Winschel's new book Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, Vol 2. Following the popular success of his earlier book of the same name, Winschel offers ten new chapters of insights into what has been declared by many to have been the most decisive campaign of the Civil War. Designed to appeal to both general readers and serious students, Winschel's essays cover a wide range of topics, including military operations, naval engagements, leading personalities, and even a specific family caught up in the nightmarish 47-day siege that nearly cost them their lives. Continued below.

Smoothly written and deeply researched, these fresh chapters offer balanced and comprehensive analysis written with the authority that only someone who has served as Vicksburg's Chief Historian since 1978 can produce. Bolstered by photographs, illustrations, and numerous outstanding original maps, this second volume in the Triumph and Defeat series will stand as a lasting contribution to the study of the Civil War. About the author: Winschel is author of many books, including Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign (1998, 2004), Vicksburg is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River (2003), Vicksburg: Fall of the Confederate Gibraltar (1999), and The Civil War Diary of a Common Soldier (2000). Terry is also a popular speaker on the Civil War Round Table circuit and has made frequent appearances on the History Channel. He lives in Vicksburg, where he works as the battlefield's chief historian.

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Recommended Reading: Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg. Description: The Battle of Champion Hill was the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. The May 16, 1863, fighting took place just 20 miles east of the river city, where the advance of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Federal army attacked Gen. John C. Pemberton's hastily gathered Confederates. Continued below.

The bloody fighting seesawed back and forth until superior Union leadership broke apart the Southern line, sending Pemberton's army into headlong retreat. The victory on Mississippi's wooded hills sealed the fate of both Vicksburg and her large field army, propelled Grant into the national spotlight, and earned him the command of the entire U.S. armed forces. Timothy Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State and works as a historian for the National Park Service, has written the definitive account of this long overlooked battle. His vivid prose is grounded upon years of primary research and is rich in analysis, strategic and tactical action, and character development. Champion Hill will become a classic Civil War battle study.

 
Recommended Reading: Ninety-Eight Days: A Geographer's View of the Vicksburg Campaign (Hardcover). Review: Why does virtually every military college from Sandhurst to West Point still study U.S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign of 1863? “Logistics." As the author points out in his closing remarks, there is a widely accepted aphorism in military circles that says "amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics." And the subject of logistics lies at the heart of this work. Logistics are the key, from Grant's preparations to move down the west bank of the Mississippi, through his close coordination with Admiral Porter to create an unprecedented joint Army-Navy operation, to his extended operations from Bruinsburg to the final investment of fortress Vicksburg. Continued below.

This work presents this story, masterfully mixed with analysis and explanation of the importance of the terrain, the commanders, and factors such as unreliable communications, poor intelligence and uncertain maps. It also included other factors such as social and political effects and even personal vendettas, dislikes or personality flaws among key officers on both sides. The author, a professional geologist who spent most of his career in Vicksburg, also includes 68 high quality maps. These were painstakingly hand-tailored by the author in an effort to recreate the closest possible approximation of the actual 1863 landscape by combining modern geodesy with the best information sifted from records of the time. Grant or Pemberton would have traded nearly anything in their possession for such maps. The net result is a work that gives a much deeper understanding of the campaign and why the commanders involved made their respective decisions, which heretofore may have seemed baffling or highly questionable. As the author points out in his notes "About the Maps," when the events of the time are played out on this reconstructed game board the "opaque" decisions become "astonishingly transparent." One useful technique employed throughout is the author's presentation of each sequence of development from both the Union and the Confederate perspective. This allows us to see the details and the situation analysis from several points of view--which greatly enhance an understanding of the actions and reactions, moves and countermoves, of the opposing forces and commanders. There is also a generous sprinkling of background information explaining specific geographic, geologic or other situational factors as introductions to the Union and Confederate viewpoints. The book is rich in detail, from names of units to commanders and battle details, to the startling statistic that during the static phase of the siege from May 23 to July 4 Grant needed 338 wagons per day just to supply water for his men and horses. Now there's a logistical nightmare without even considering food, ammunition, medical supplies and all the other impedimenta of a military operation. Yet, all of this information is conveyed without ever bogging down in minutiae or boring the reader. This book takes an unconventional approach to present the fascinating tale of this unique campaign in a fashion you will experience nowhere else. The collection of information, writing, organization and presentation is in a word, superb.

 

Recommended Reading: Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (Civil War America). Description: When Confederate troops surrendered Vicksburg on July 4, 1863--the day after the Union victory at Gettysburg--a crucial port and rail depot for the South was lost. The Union gained control of the Mississippi River, and the Confederate territory was split in two. In a thorough yet concise study of the longest single military campaign of the Civil War, Michael B. Ballard brings new depth to our understanding of the Vicksburg campaign by considering its human as well as its military aspects. Continued below...

Ballard examines soldiers' attitudes, guerrilla warfare, and the effects of the campaign and siege on civilians in and around Vicksburg. He also analyzes the leadership and interaction of such key figures as U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, John Pemberton, and Joseph E. Johnston, among others. Blending strategy and tactics with the human element, Ballard reminds us that while Gettysburg has become the focal point of the history and memory of the Civil War, the outcome at Vicksburg was met with as much celebration and relief in the North as was the Gettysburg victory, and he argues that it should be viewed as equally important today.

 

Recommended Reading: Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (Civil War America) (Hardcover) (The University of North Carolina Press) (September 5, 2007). Description: In the study of field fortifications in the Civil War that began with Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War, Hess turns to the 1864 Overland campaign to cover battles from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor.

Drawing on meticulous research in primary sources and careful examination of trench remnants at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Bermuda Hundred, Hess describes Union and Confederate earthworks and how Grant and Lee used them in this new era of field entrenchments.

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