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XIV. operations against Vicksburg.

Vicksburg, on the lower Mississippi, about midway between Cairo and its mouth, was the natural center and chief citadel of the Slave-holders' Confederacy. Located on an almost unique ridge of high, rolling land adjoining the great river, surrounded by the richest and best cultivated Cotton region in America, whereof the slave population considerably outnumbered the free, it had early devoted itself, heart and soul, to the Rebel cause. Its natural strength and importance, as commanding the navigation of the great artery of the South-west, were early appreciated; and it was so fortified and garrisoned as to repel — as we have seen1--the efforts of our fleets and expeditions, which, after the fall of New Orleans and that of Memphis, assailed it from below and from above respectively and conjointly. Being the chief outlet for the surplus products of the State of Mississippi, connected with Jackson, its capital, 44 miles cast, by a railroad, and thus with all the railroads which traverse the State, as also with the Washita Valley, in northern Louisiana, by a railroad to Monroe, while the Yazoo brought to its doors the commerce of another rich and capacious valley, Vicksburg, with 4,591 inhabitants in 1860, was flourishing signally and growing rapidly until plunged headlong into the vortex of Rebellion and Civil War.

Both parties to the struggle having early recognized its importance — Jefferson Davis, in a speech at Jackson, having in 1862 pronounced it indispensable to the Confederacy that the control of the Mississippi should not be surrendered to Federal power — fresh preparations to “repossess” it were early set on foot among the Union commanders above. Gen. Grant's department of West Tennessee having been so enlarged2 as to include Mississippi, he at once commenced preparations for an advance; transferring,3 soon after, his headquarters from Jackson to Lagrange; whence he pushed out4 Gen. McPherson, with 10,000 infantry, and 1,500 cavalry, under Col. Lec, to Lamar, driving back the Rebel cavalry. At length, all things being ready, Grant impelled5 a movement of his army down the great Southern Railroad from Grand Junction through Holly Springs to Oxford; our eavalry advance, 2,000 strong, being pushed forward to Coffeeville, where it was suddenly confronted and attacked by Van Dorn,6 with a superior infantry force, by whom it was beaten back three miles, with a loss of 100 men.

Grant was, with his main body, still at Oxford, preparing to move on to Jackson and Vicksburg, when Van Dorn struck7 a damaging blow at his communications. The railroad having by this time been repaired and operated to Holly Springs, that village had been made our temporary depot of arms, provisions, and munitions, which had here been accumulated,

1 See pages 57 and 101.

2 Oct. 16, 1862.

3 Nov. 4.

4 Nov. 8.

5 Nov. 28.

6 Dec. 5.

7 Dec. 20.

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