It is generally regarded as an axiom in war that all great armies moving in an enemy's country should start from a base of supplies, which should be fortified and guarded, and to which the army is to fall back in case of disaster.
The first movement looking to Vicksburg
and the force defending it as an objective was begun early in November, 1862, and conformed to this axiom.
[See map, p. 442.] It followed the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad, with Columbus, Kentucky
, as a base, and soon after it started, a cooperating column was moved down the Miissssippi River on transports, with Memphis
as its base.
Both these movements failing, the entire Army of the Tennessee was transferred to the neighborhood of Vicksburg
, and landed on the opposite or western bank of the river at Milliken's Bend
The Mississippi flows through a low alluvial bottom many miles in width, and is very tortuous in its course, running to all points of the compass, sometimes within a few miles.
This valley is bounded on the east side by a range of high land rising in some places more than two hundred feet above the bottom.
At points the river runs up to the bluffs, washing their base.
Vicksburo is built on the first high land on the eastern bank below Memphis
, and four hundred miles from that place by the windings of the river.
The winter of 1862-63 was unprecedented for continuous high water in the Mississippi
, and months were spent in ineffectual efforts to reach high land above Vicksburg
from which we could operate against that stronghold, and in making artificial waterways through which a fleet might pass, avoiding the batteries to the south of the town, in case the other efforts should fail.
In early April, 1863, the waters of the Mississippi
having receded sufficiently to make it possible to march an army across the peninsula opposite
, I determined to adopt this course, and moved my advance to a point below the town.
It was necessary, however, to have transports below, both for the purpose of ferrying troops over the river and to carry supplies.
These had necessarily to run the batteries.
Under the direction of Admiral Porter
this was successfully done.
On the 29th, Grand Gulf
, the first bluff
Funeral on the levee at the Duckport canal, April, 1863.
from a War-time sketch. |
south of Vicksburg
on the east side of the river, and about fifty miles below, was unsuccessfully attacked by the navy.
The night of the same day the batteries of that place were run by the navy and transports, again under the direction of Admiral Porter
, and on the following day the river was crossed by the troops, and a landing effected at Bruinsburg
, some nine miles below.
I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg
between me and my base of supplies.
I had with me the Thirteenth Corps, General McClernand
commanding, and two brigades of Logan
's division of the Seventeenth Corps, General McPherson
commanding; in all not more than twenty thousand men to commence the campaign with.
These were soon reinforced by the remaining brigade of Logan
's division and by Crocker
's division of the Seventeenth Corps.
On the 7th of May I was further reenforced by Sherman
with two divisions of his, the Fifteenth Corps.
My total force was then about thirty-three thousand men. The enemy occupied Grand Gulf
, Haynes's Bluff, and Jackson
, with a force of nearly sixty thousand men. My first problem was to capture Grand Gulf
to use as a base, and then if possible beat the enemy in detail outside the fortifications of Vicksburg
is fifty miles east of Vicksburg
, and was connected with it by a railroad.
Haynes's Bluff is eleven miles north, and on the Yazoo River
, which empties into the Mississippi
some miles above the town.
is two miles from high ground.
The bottom at that point is higher than most of the low land in the valley of the Mississippi
, and a good road leads to the bluff.
It was natural to expect the garrison from Grand Gulf
to come out to meet us, and prevent, if they could, our reaching this
Rear-Admiral Porter's flotilla passing the Vicksburg batteries, night of April 16, 1863, the flag-ship “Benton” leading, followed by the “Louisville,” “Lafayette,” “General Price,” “Mound City,” “Pittsburg,” “Carondelet,” and “Tuscumbia” ; and the transports “Henry Clay,” “forest Queen,” and “Silverware.”
from a War-time sketch. |
enters the Mississippi
just above Bruinsburg
; and as it is a navigable stream, and was high at the time, in order to intercept us they had to go by Port Gibson
, the nearest point where there was a bridge to cross upon.
This more than doubled the distance from Grand Gulf
to the high land back of Bruinsburg
No time was to be lost in securing this foot-hold.
Our transportation was not sufficient to move all the army across the river at one trip or even two.
But the landing of the Thirteenth Corps and one division of the Seventeenth was effected during the day, April 30th, and early evening.
was advanced as soon as ammunition and two days rations (to last five) could be issued to his men. The bluffs were reached an hour before sunset, and McClernand
was pushed on, hoping to reach Port Gibson
and save the bridge spanning the Bayou Pierre
before the enemy could get there; for crossing a stream in the presence of an enemy is always difficult.
, too, is the starting-point of roads to Grand Gulf
, and Jackson
's advance met the enemy about five miles south of Port Gibson
There was some firing during the night, but nothing rising to the dignity of a battle until daylight.
The enemy had taken a strong natural position with most of the Grand Gulf
garrison, numbering about seven or eight thousand men, under General Bowen
His hope was to hold me in check until reenforcements under Loring
could reach him from Vicksburg
; but Loring
did not come in time to render much assistance
south of Port Gibson
. Two brigades of McPherson
's corps followed McClernand
as fast as rations and ammunition could be issued, and were ready to take position upon the battle-field whenever the Thirteenth Corps could be got out of the way.
The country in this part of Mississippi
stands on edge, as it were, the roads running along the ridges except when they occasionally pass from one ridge to another.
Where there are no clearings, the sides of the hills are covered with a very heavy growth of timber, and with undergrowth, and the ravines are filled with vines and canebrakes, almost impenetrable.
This makes it easy for an inferior force to delay, if not defeat, a far superior one.
Near the point selected by Bowen
to defend, the road to Port Gibson
divides, taking two ridges, which do not diverge more than a mile or two at the widest point.
These roads unite just outside the town.
This made it necessary for