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gradually rising to the height of that original and audacious conception which was to end in one of the grandest victories of the Civil War, and give him high and permanent rank among the great military commanders of the age and world.
SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF VICKSBURG.
T Young's Point opposite the mouth of the Yazoo the
Mississippi turns to the northeast and flows four or five miles till it strikes the Vicksburg hills. These hills turn its flow back to the southwest, for a like distance. This sharp curve encloses the long narrow peninsula on the Louisiana side, across which two attempts to cut a canal had been made. Opposite the lower side of this peninsula, on the east shore of the river, stands the city of Vicksburg, on a rugged site where the cliffs rise abruptly from the water's edge to a height of two hundred feet. These bluffs extend from Warrenton below, to Walnut Hills above Vicksburg. They then turn to the northeast and strike the Yazoo twenty miles from its mouth, at Hayne's Bluff. From Hayne's Bluff, twelve miles from Vicksburg, to the Mississippi, the highlands were thoroughly fortified, and thence down the river to Warrenton, a distance of seven miles.
On the river front were twenty-eight heavy guns which gave a plunging fire. These effectually barred all approach by water, for no gun in the Federal fleets could be sufficiently elevated to reach the batteries on the heights. At the foot of the ridges and along the slopes rifle pits were dug and manned. The mouth of the Yazoo was obstructed by rafts and chains. The bayous leading to the north and rear of the city were filled with trees cut on their banks. The bluff, condition of the country extends back of the city for a considerable distance. The ravines, slopes, and ridges, wherever practical, were
protected by batteries and entrenchments, so that approach by the land side was seemingly as impossible as that by water. This was the key to the navigation of the Mississippi and to the magnificent valley it drains.
On January 29th, 1863, the army in the Department of the Tennessee numbered one hundred and twenty thousand men. Of this number fifty thousand were at Young's Point and Milliken's Bend, consisting of the Fifteenth Corps (Sherman's), the Seventeenth (McPherson's), and part of the Thirteenth, (McClernand's). St. Louis and Memphis were the bases of supplies. Porter's co-operating fleet numbered sixty vessels large and small, two hundred and eighty guns and eight hundred men.
We have seen how General Grant maneuvred and experimented up till the middle of March, 1863, and how one after another of his projects failed. These failures made it apparent to him that the true line of operations against Vicksburg was from the South. But this presented difficulties which were appalling. It would necessitate the moving of his army some thirty or forty miles down the west bank of the Mississippi river and through almost impassible sections. The river would have to be crossed in the face of the chemy. He would be cut off from Porter's gunboat support, unless the batteries of Vicksburg could again be successfully run. The fleet of Farragut and the army of Banks below were held in check by the strong Confederate fortifications at Port Hudson. Worst of all the movement would put the army out of communication with its bases of supplies, and with no hope of reaching them again till the circuit of Vicksburg had been made and the Yazoo reached.
The scheme was hazardous, but all others had failed. The country was clamorous for action on the part of its armies. Grant was not escaping censure for slowness of movement and even for incompetency. McClernand was unfriendly to him, and a request for his removal had reached the President. But
Mr. Lincoln stood in the breach. “I rather like the man” (Grant), said he, “and I think we'll try him a little longer.”
When General Grant had formulated his plan, he wrote to Halleck that it involved a move by way of the bayous and regular road from Milliken's Bend to New Carthage twentythree miles below, a possible running of the Vicksburg batteries by Porter's fleet, a crossing of the Mississippi to Warrenton or Grand Gulf, a move directly upon Jackson, with perhaps a battle for that point, and, if victorious, a firm foothold in the rear of Vicksburg. “I will," said he, "keep my army together and see to it that I am not cut off from my supplies or beat in any other way than a fair fight.”
The plan did not find favor among the officers of his command. They almost to a man advised against it as impracticable. It was not only full of the dangers of defeat, but, in that event, of annihilation of the entire army. Sherman, Grant's most faithful and best trusted lieutenant, boldly announced his views, and urged on his chief the propriety of going back to Memphis and moving to the coveted rear of Vicksburg by way of Grand Junction and Grenada, as Grant had attempted to do before. But while all found the plan counter to their judgments, they acquiesced as became good soldiers, and did their best to vindicate the wisdom of Grant's unalterable determination. The order to move hushed all dissatisfaction and criticism, and cemented opinion as firmly as if the pre-judgment had been unanimous. The perils of the undertaking conduced to harmony and generous rivalry. To stand together lest all should fall became a common resolve. And then if victory came it would be a most glorious one. Not to have aided in its purchase would be a shame. To have contributed to it would be a lasting honor.
On March 29th, 1863, the movement began. The Thirteenth Corps started for New Carthage. After a terrible march it arrived only to find its destination almost submerged. It was
forced to go to Perkin's, twelve miles below and fully thirtyfive miles from its starting point at Milliken's Bend. It was followed by the Seventeenth Corps, under McPherson. Simultaneously with this move Col. R. H. Grierson was sent
with a force of seventeen hundred cavalry from La Grange on his celebrated raid to test Grant's theory that the Confederacy was “a hollow shell with all its substance drawn to the outside.” He traversed Mississippi without much opposition, destroying stores and bridges, and tearing up railroads. After traveling six hundred miles in sixteen days, capturing five hundred prisoners and three thousand stand of arms, killing and wounding over one hundred Confederates, destroying fifty miles