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Chapter 6

The effects of the wounds received at Seven Pines made me unfit for active military service until about the 12th of November, when I reported for duty at the war-office.

At that time General Lee's army had been reorganized, and was in high condition, and much stronger than when it fought in Maryland; but that to which it was opposed was much stronger in numbers. General Bragg had returned from his expedition into Kentucky, and was placing at Murfreesboroa the army he had received at Tupelo-outnumbered greatly, however, by the Federal forces in and near Nashville, commanded by Major-General Rosecrans. Lieutenant-General Pemberton, recently appointed to command the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, had garrisons thought to be adequate, in Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and an active army of twenty-three thousand men1 on the Tallahatchie, [148] observing the Federal army of forty-five thousand men under Major-General Grant, between that river and Holly Springs.2 In Arkansas, Lieutenant-General Holmes, who commanded the Trans-Mississippi Department, had a large army, supposed to amount to fifty-five thousand men, the main body, near Little Rock, opposed to no enemy, except garrisons at Helena, and perhaps one or two other points on the Mississippi.

Without actual assignment, I was told, on reporting, that the Government intended to place the Departments of Tennessee and Mississippi under my direction. This intimation justified me, I thought, in suggesting to the Secretary of War, General Randolph, that, as the Federal troops invading the Valley of the Mississippi were united under one commander, our armies for its defense should also be united, east of the Mississippi. By this junction, we should bring above seventy thousand men against forty-five thousand, and secure all the chances of victory, and even the destruction of the Federal army; which, defeated so far from its base, could have little chance of escape. That success would enable us to overwhelm Rosecrans, by joining General Bragg with the victorious army, and transfer the war to the Ohio River, and to the State of Missouri, in which the best part of the population was friendly to us. I visited him in his office for this purpose, and began to explain myself. Before I had finished, he asked me, with a smile, to listen to a few lines on the subject; and, opening a large letter-book, he read me a letter to Lieutenant-General Holmes, in which he directed [149] that officer to cross the Mississippi with his forces, and unite them with those of Lieutenant-General Pemberton. He then read me a note from the President, directing him to countermand his instructions to Lieutenant-General Holmes. A day or two after this, General Randolph retired from the War Department, to the great injury of the Confederacy.

On the 24th, I received orders of that date, assigning me to the command of the departments of General Bragg, Lieutenant-General E. Kirby Smith, and Lieutenant-General Pemberton.

I replied, on the same day:

I had the honor, this afternoon, to receive special orders, No. 225, of this date.

If I have been correctly informed, the forces which it places under my command are greatly inferior in number to those of the enemy opposed to them, while in the Trans-Mississippi Department our army is very much larger than that of the United States. Our two armies on this side of the Mississippi have the disadvantage of being separated by the Tennessee River, and a Federal army (that of Major-General Grant) larger, probably, than either of them.

Under such circumstances, it seems to me that our best course would be to fall upon Major-General Grant with the forces of Lieutenant-Generals Holmes and Pemberton, united for the purpose; those of General Bragg cooperating, if practicable.

The defeat of General Grant would enable us to hold the Mississippi, and permit Lieutenant-General Holmes to move into Missouri.

As our troops are now distributed, Vicksburg is in danger.


This suggestion was not adopted, nor noticed.

Several railroad accidents delayed me in my journey to Chattanooga — the location for my headquarters chosen by the War Department-so that I did not reach that place until the morning of the 4th of December.

A telegram from General Cooper, found there, informed me that Lieutenant-General Pemberton was falling back before superior forces, and that Lieutenant-General Holmes had been “peremptorily ordered” to reenforce him; but that, as Lieutenant-General Holmes's troops might be too late, the President urged upon me the importance of sending a sufficient force from General Bragg's command to Lieutenant-General Pemberton's aid.

I replied immediately, by telegraph as well as by mail, that the troops near Little Rock could join General Pemberton sooner than those in Middle Tennessee; and requested General Bragg, by telegraph, to detach a large body of cavalry to operate in General Grant's rear and cut his communications. On the following day, the 5th, at Murfreesboroa, I again wrote to General Cooper by mail and by telegraph, giving him General Bragg's estimates of his own force and that of General Rosecrans, and endeavoring to show that he could not give adequate aid to General Pemberton without giving up Tennessee, adding, that troops from Arkansas could reach the scene of action in Mississippi much sooner than General Bragg's; and saying, besides, that I would not weaken the Army of Tennessee without express orders to do so. He was also informed that two thousand cavalry would be detached to break the Louisville and Nashville [151] Railroad, and four thousand to operate on General Grant's communications.

On the 7th, Colonel J. II. Morgan achieved a very handsome feat of arms at Hartsville, where, with a portion of his cavalry and two regiments of Kentucky infantry, in all not much above fifteen hundred men, he attacked and defeated almost twice his number of Federal troops, taking eighteen hundred prisoners. In reporting this action on the 8th, I recommended his appointment to the grade of brigadier-general.

While engaged in acquainting myself with the condition of General Bragg's army, I was summoned by telegraph to Chattanooga to meet the President. On doing so, I found that the object of this meeting, on his part, was to confer with me in relation to transferring a strong body of troops from the Army of Tennessee to that of Mississippi. As the expression of my opinion, a copy of my letter to General Cooper from Murfreesboroa, was given to him. Apparently he was not satisfied by it, for he went on to Murfreesboroa and consulted General Bragg, and determined to transfer nine thousand infantry and artillery of that army to Lieutenant-General Pemberton's command.

The President returned to Chattanooga in a few days, and directed me to give the orders necessary to carry his wishes into effect. Under those directions,3 Major-General C. L. Stevenson was ordered to move by railroad, without delay, to Jackson, with his own division increased by a brigade of Major-General McCown's. These troops were named to me by his [152] excellency himself. As soon as these orders had been given, he set off for Mississippi, desiring me to accompany him.

He arrived in Jackson in the morning of the 19th. Governor Pettus had just convened the Legislature, in order that the whole military force of the State might be brought out and added to the Confederate forces under Lieutenant-General Pemberton, which were utterly inadequate to the defense of the State, or to hold the Mississippi River. On the 20th, he went to Vicksburg, and was occupied there two days in examining the extensive but very slight intrenchments of the place. The usual error of Confederate engineering had been committed there. An immense intrenched camp, requiring an army to hold it, had been made instead of a fort requiring only a small garrison. In like manner the water-batteries had been planned to prevent the bombardment of the town, instead of to close the navigation of the river to the enemy; consequently the small number of heavy guns had been distributed along a front of two miles, instead of being so placed that their fire might be concentrated on a single vessel. As attack was supposed to be imminent, such errors could not be corrected.

It was reported in Vicksburg, the day of the President's arrival, that a division of General Holmes's army, of ten thousand men, was approaching from Little Rock. According to the estimate of Major-General M. L. Smith, a garrison of twelve thousand men was necessary to hold the place. He then had about half the number. From a map of Port Hudson which he showed me, that place seemed [153] to require a force almost as great to defend it. I therefore proposed to the President that General Holmes should be instructed to send twenty thousand of his troops to Mississippi, instead of the ten thousand supposed to be on the way, because such an additional force would have enabled us to put adequate garrisons into Vicksburg and Port Hudson, by which we held the part of the Mississippi between them, and to oppose General Grant with an active force of forty thousand men. In writing to the President on this subject, however, I expressed again the opinion that Holmes's and Pemberton's troops should be concentrated in Mississippi. The President suggested to General Holmes, but did not order him, to send the twenty thousand men asked for. General Holmes, very properly, waited for orders.

From Vicksburg the President visited Lieutenant-General Pemberton's army, near Grenada, where it was constructing intrenchments to contest the passage of the Yallabusha River by the Federal army. The front was so extensive, however, that it is probably fortunate that the practicability of defending it was never tested. In conversing before the President in relation to the defense of his department, Lieutenant-General Pemberton and myself differed widely as to the mode of warfare best adapted to our circumstances.

On the 25th the President returned to Jackson, accompanied b1y Lieutenant-General Pemberton as well as myself.

On the 27th Major-General Loring, who was commanding at Grenada, reported that General Grant's [154] army, which had been advancing, was retiring, and in a few hours the immediate cause became known --the destruction of the Federal depot at Holly Springs, by Major-General Van Dorn. That officer, with three thousand cavalry, surprised the garrison at daybreak, took two thousand prisoners, and destroyed the large stores of provision and ammunition, and six thousand muskets.

The approach of the expedition against Vicksburg, under Major-General Sherman's command, being reported by Lieutenant-General Pemberton's scouts, the detachments of Stevenson's division were sent to that place as they arrived by railroad. The last of them did not reach Jackson until the 7th of January, although the management of the railroad trains was at least as good as usual in such cases.

After exhorting the Legislature, in a fervent address, to take all the measures necessary to enable the Governor to bring out the whole remaining military force of the State to aid the Confederate troops in the defense of its soil, Mr. Davis returned to Richmond.

Being convinced, before he left Jackson, that my command was little more than nominal, I so represented it to him, and asked to be assigned to a different one, on the ground that two armies far apart, like those of Mississippi and Tennessee, having different objects, and opposed to adversaries having different objects, could not be commanded by the same general. After reflection, he replied that the seat of government was so distant from the two theatres of war, that he thought it necessary to have an officer nearer, with authority to transfer troops [155] from one army to the other in an emergency. If such an officer was needed, I certainly was not the proper selection; for I had already expressed the opinion distinctly that such transfers were impracticable, because each of the two armies was greatly inferior to its antagonist; and they were too far from each other for such mutual dependence. The length of time consumed in the transportation of Stevenson's division without artillery or wagons, from Tennessee to Mississippi, fully sustained this opinion. That time was more than three weeks.

Brigadier-General Forrest, who was detached by General Bragg to operate on Major-General Grant's rear, was very successful in breaking railroads in Vest Tennessee. After destroying large quantities of military stores also, and paroling twelve hundred prisoners, he was pressed back into Middle Tennessee l)y weight of numbers. At the same time, a body of Federal cavalry under Brigadier-General Carter, supposed to be fifteen hundred, burned the Holston and Watauga railroad bridges near Bristol.

As soon as Major-General Rosecrans was informed of the large detachment from the Confederate army of Tennessee to that of Mississippi, he prepared to take advantage of it, and on the 26th1 of December marched from Nashville toward Murfreesboroa. On his approach this movement was promptly reported to General Bragg by Brigadier-General Wheeler, who commanded his cavalry. In consequence of this intelligence the Confederate army was immediately concentrated in front of Murfreesboroa. It numbered about thirty thousand infantry and artillery [156] in five divisions, and five thousand mounted troops.

On the 28th General Bragg reported to me by telegraph: “The enemy stationary within ten miles; my troops all ready and confident.” And on the 30th: “Artillery firing at intervals, and heavy skirmishing all (lay. Enemy very cautious, and declining a general engagement. Both armies in line of battle within sight.”

These lines were at right angles to the Nashville road. The Federal left rested on Stone's River. The Confederate right, Breckenridge's division, faced this left, and was separated from Polk's corps, forming the centre, by the little river, the course of which there crossed General Bragg's line obliquely. Hardee's corps — constituted the left wing. Both armies were drawn up in two lines. The Federal, much the more numerous, had a strong reserve.

Both generals determined to attack in the morning of the 31st, and their plans of attack were similar-General Bragg's, to advance in echelon by his left, to drive the Federal right and centre behind their left and to the east of the Nashville road, and seize that line of retreat; and that of Major-General Rosecrans, to operate with his left leading, to drive the Confederate army to the west of the Murfreesboroa road, with a similar object.

Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps was in motion at dawn, and his attack made at sunrise by McCown's division, his first line; his second, Cleburne's division, coming up on its right and engaging the enemy soon after. The Federal troops, surprised and assailed with the skill and vigor that Hardee never failed to [157] exhibit in battle, were driven back, although formed in two lines, while the assailants were in but one. Their commander called for aid, and, very soon after, reported his wing being driven-“a fact that was but too manifest by the rapid movement of the noise of battle towards the north.” 4 The attack was taken up by the brigades of Polk's corps successively, from left to right, but they encountered a more determined resistance, and the success they obtained was won after an obstinate contest, and at the price of much blood. When the right brigade of Polk's corps had become fully engaged, the Federal right and centre, except the left brigade,5 had been driven back in the manner intended. They were succored by Rousseau's and Van Cleve's divisions, however, and rallied on a new line perpendicular to the original one; their left joining the right of the brigade that still held its first position. The Confederate troops could make no impression upon this new and stronger line which was covered by a railroad-cut, and the contest ceased, except at the angle where the new and old lines met. The brigade there, with the aid of several batteries and the advantages of a strong position and an excellent commander,6 repelled the successive attacks of two detachments of two brigades each, drawn from the Confederate right.7

The fight was not renewed. On the 1st of January it was found that the position assailed and defended so bravely, the previous afternoon, had been abandoned by the Federals. [158]

On the 2d, a division of the Federal left crossed Stone's River and took possession of a hill in front of the Confederate right, that commanded the right of Lieutenant-General Polk's position. Major-General Breckenridge was directed to drive the enemy from it with his division. He did so with less difficulty than might have been expected, although his troops in advancing to the attack were exposed to a well-directed fire of artillery while marching five or six hundred yards in open ground. They were not checked, however, by this cannonade, and closed with the Federal infantry with a spirit that drove them very soon down the hill and across the stream. But fresh troops in much stronger bodies, especially on the right, supported by as many batteries, apparently, as could be brought to bear, then advanced against the Confederates. The unequal struggle that ensued was soon ended by the defeat of the latter with severe loss, and the recovery of the contested hill by the enemy. Breckenridge's division resumed its former position at dusk.

During this engagement, the ground occupied on the 31st by Hazen's brigade was recovered by the enemy. In the morning of the 3d of January it was retaken by a detachment formed from Coltart's and White's brigades. A vigorous but ineffectual effort to dislodge this detachment was made by the Federals.

The armies faced each other without serious fighting during the remainder of the day. General Bragg was employed all the afternoon in sending his trains to the rear, and in other preparations to retire. The army was put in motion about mid. [159] night, and marched quietly across Duck River, Polk's corps halting opposite to Shelbyville, and Hardee's at Tullahoma.

General Bragg estimates his force at thirty thousand infantry and artillery, and five thousand cavalry, and his loss at more than ten thousand, including twelve hundred severely wounded and three hundred sick, left in Murfreesboroa. He claims to have captured “over thirty pieces of artillery, six thousand prisoners, six thousand small-arms, nine colors, ambulances and other valuable property,” and to have destroyed eight hundred loaded wagons.

Major-General Rosecrans reports that he had in his army forty-three thousand four hundred infantry and artillery, and three thousand three hundred cavalry; of whom nine thousand two hundred and sixty-seven were killed and wounded, and three thousand four hundred and fifty made prisoners-in all, twelve thousand seven hundred and seventeen.

While these events were occurring in Middle Tennessee, Major-General Sherman was operating against Vicksburg. He had embarked an army, estimated at thirty thousand men by Lieutenant-General Pemberton's scouts, on transports at Memphis, and, descending the Mississippi, ascended the Yazoo a few miles, and landed his troops on the southern shore on the 26th of December. Lieutenant-General Pemberton reported, the day after, that his lines had been attacked at four different points, and each attacking party handsomely repulsed. As his loss amounted to but five killed and fifteen wounded, these were probably reconnoissances rather than serious assaults. On the 29th, however, a real assault was made by a [160] body of several thousand Federal troops, near Chickasaw Bayou, where Brigadier-General S. D. Lee commanded. That gallant soldier was successful in defeating the attempt with his brigade, inflicting a loss of eleven hundred upon the enemy, while his own was but a hundred and fifty.

On the 2d of January General Sherman reembarked and ran up to Milliken's Bend. His fleet of transports disappeared soon after.

Mississippi was thus apparently free from invasion, General Grant's forces having already reached the northern border of the State. The condition of the country was such, too, as to make military operations on a large scale in it impracticable; and the most intelligent class of the inhabitants supposed that it would remain in that condition until the middle of the spring. In Tennessee, on the contrary, after the most effective fighting made by either party up to that time, our army had lost much ground, and was in danger of further disaster. For, while the United States Government was sending such reinforcements as reestablished the strength of its army, the Confederate War Department made no answer to General Bragg's calls for twenty thousand additional troops, which he required, he said, to enable him to hold the southern part of Middle Tennessee, which was still in his possession.

At this time Lieutenant-General Pemberton had some six thousand cavalry near Grenada, unemployed, and almost unorganized. Under the circumstances described, Major-General Van Dorn was directed to form a division of two-thirds of these troops, and to move into Tennessee, after preparing [161] it for the field. When there he was either to assist General Bragg in holding his new position, or cover the country near Columbia, upon which the army depended for food. These troops were so poorly equipped, and the difficulty of supplying deficiencies so great, that the division was not ready for actual service until February, nor able to cross the Tennessee until the middle of the month. It was directed to Columbia, and, by occupying that neighborhood, enabled General Bragg to feed his army in Middle Tennessee. Without such aid he could not have done this, and would have been compelled to abandon the country north of the Tennessee River.

In the middle of January General Wheeler made an expedition with the principal part of the cavalry of the Army of Tennessee, to interrupt the Federal communications. After burning the railroad-bridge over Mill Creek, nine miles from Nashville, he went on to the Cumberland and captured there four loaded transports, three of which, with their cargoes, were destroyed, and the fourth bonded to carry home four hundred paroled prisoners. A gunboat which pursued the party was also captured with its armament. General Wheeler then crossed the swollen stream, the horses swimming through floating ice, and at the landing-place near Harpeth Shoals destroyed a great quantity of provisions in wagons, ready for transportation to Nashville.

While inspecting the defenses of Mobile on the 22d of January, I received a telegram from the President, directing me to proceed, “with the least delay, to the headquarters of General Bragg's army,” and informing me that “an explanatory letter would be [162] found at Chattanooga.” The object of this visit, as explained in the letter found in Chattanooga, was to ascertain the feeling toward the general entertained by the army-“whether he had so far lost its confidence as to impair his usefulness in his present position;” to obtain such information as would enable me “to decide what the best interests of the service required;” and “to give the President the advice which he needed at that juncture.” Mr. Davis remarked, in this letter, that his own confidence in General Bragg was unshaken.

I bestowed three weeks upon this investigation, and then advised against General Bragg's removal, because the field-officers of the army represented that their men were in high spirits, and as ready as ever for fight; such a condition seeming to me incompatible with the alleged want of confidence in their general's ability.

On the 24th a fleet of transports, bearing the united forces of Generals Grant and Sherman, descending the Mississippi from Memphis, appeared near Vicksburg. This army did not repeat the attack upon the place from the Yazoo, but landed on the west side of the river, and commenced the excavation of a canal through the point of land opposite the town.

No military event worth mentioning occurred in either department in February. On the 5th of March Van Dorn's division was attacked, seven or eight miles south of Franklin, by the Federal garrison of that place, but repulsed the assailants, taking twenty-two hundred prisoners. Four or five days after this, however, this division was driven back to Columbia [163] by the same troops largely reinforced; it escaped with difficulty, Duck River being considerably swollen.

As there were no indications of intention on the part of the Federal commander in Tennessee to take the offensive soon, and my presence seemed to me more proper in Mississippi than in Tennessee, I left Chattanooga for Jackson, on the 9th, and at Mobile, when continuing on the 12th the inspection interrupted by the President's telegram on the 22d of January, I received the following dispatch from the Secretary of War, dated March 9th: “Order General Bragg to report to the War Department here, for conference; assume yourself direct charge of the army in Middle Tennessee.” In obedience to these instructions I returned immediately to Tennessee, and reached Tullahoma on the 18th, and there, without the publication of a formal order on the subject, assumed the duties of commander of the army. In consequence of information that the general was devoting himself to Mrs. Bragg, who was supposed to be at the point of death, I postponed the communication of the order of the Secretary of War to him, and reported the postponement, and the cause, to the Secretary.

The day after my arrival, dispatches from Lieutenant-General Pemberton informed me that the United States naval officers on the Lower Mississippi had ascertained the practicability of passing the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson with their iron-clad gunboats; two of them, the Hartford and Albatross, having )passed those batteries on the 15th, while they were engaged with the other vessels of Admiral [164] Farragut's squadron. The success of this attempt greatly reduced the value of the two posts, Vicksburg and Port Hudson, by which we had been hoping to retain the command of the part of the river between them.

I soon found myself too feeble to command an army, and in a few days became seriously sick; so that, when the state of General Bragg's domestic affairs permitted him to return to military duty, I was unfit for it. He, therefore, resumed the position of commander of the Army of Tennessee.

In the latter part of the winter Lieutenant-General Pemberton had reason to apprehend that the enemy would attempt to approach Vicksburg through the Yazoo Pass, Coldwater, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo, and directed Major-General Loring, with an adequate body of troops, to select and intrench a position to frustrate such an attempt. That officer constructed Fort Pemberton in consequence of these orders, very judiciously located near the junction of the Yallobusha with the Tallahatchie,8 with the usual accessory, a raft to obstruct the channel of the latter.

On the 11th the Federal flotilla appeared, descending the Tallahatchie.-nine gunboats, two of which, the Chillicothe and De Kalb, were iron-clads, and twenty transports bearing four thousand five hundred infantry and artillery. The gunboats opened their fire upon the Confederate works very soon and continued it for several hours. The 12th was devoted by the enemy to the construction of a battery on land, and on the 13th a spirited cannonade was maintained against Fort Pemberton by this battery [165] and the gunboats. It was resumed next morning, but ceased in half an hour. The contest was renewed on the 16th, and continued until night, when it ceased finally. The enemy was inactive until the 20th, probably repairing the damages their vessels had suffered. The flotilla then withdrew and returned to the Mississippi.

Until the end of the month Lieutenant-General Pemberton's dispatches represented that General Grant's troops were at work industriously digging a canal opposite to Vicksburg; his design being, evidently, to turn the Confederate batteries in that way, and reach a landing-place below the town, to attack it from the south. On the 3d of April, however, he reported that the Federal army was preparing for reembarkation; the object of which, he thought, might be to reenforce General Rosecrans in Middle Tennessee. In the reply to this dispatch, he was instructed to return Stevenson's division, or send an equal number of other troops to General Bragg, should he discover that his surmise was correct.

On the 11th General Pemberton expressed the opinion that “most of General Grant's forces were being withdrawn to Memphis;” and said that he was assembling troops at Jackson; and was then ready to send four thousand to Tennessee. This dispatch was received on the 13th, and on the same day he was desired to send forward the troops. In another telegram of that date, after announcing that he would send General Bragg eight thousand men, he added, “I am satisfied that Rosecrans will be reinforced from General Grant's army.”

On the 16th, however, General Pemberton expressed [166] the belief that no large part of Grant's army would be sent away. For that reason he thought it proper to transfer then but two brigades from his army to that of Tennessee. His dispatches, of the 17th, gave intelligence of the return of the Federal army9 to its former position, and resumption of its operations against Vicksburg. He also reported that a body of Federal troops occupied New Carthage, and that there were nine gun-boats, of the two Federal fleets, between Port Hudson and Vicksburg.

In consequence of this information, the two brigades of infantry, under General Buford, on the way from Mississippi to Tennessee, were ordered to return.

The only activity apparent in either of the principal armies, before the end of March, was exhibited by that of General Grant, in its efforts to open a way by water around Vicksburg, to some point on the river, below the town. But in the beginning of April this enterprise was abandoned, and General Grant decided that his troops should march to a point selected, on the west bank of the Mississippi, and that the vessels-of-war and transports should run down to that point, passing the Confederate batteries at night. McClernand's corps (Thirteenth) led in the march, followed, at some distance, by McPherson's (Seventeenth).

About the middle of the month a Federal detachment of five regiments of cavalry, and two of infantry, with two field-batteries, moved from Corinth along the railroad towards Tuscumbia. Colonel Roddy, [167] who had just been transferred from General Bragg's to General Pemberton's command, met it with his brigade, on the 18th, near Bear Creek, on the Alabama side, and, in skirmishes, which continued most of the day, captured above a hundred prisoners, and a field-piece and caisson, with their horses.

The enemy waited until the next day for reenforcements, which increased their force to three full brigades, under General Dodge, and resumed their movement towards Tuscumbia, opposed at every step by Roddy, who skirmished so effectively with the head of the column as to make the rate of marching not more than five miles a day; until the 25th, when Tuscumbia was reached.

In the mean time a body of Federal troops landed at Eastport, on the south bank of the Tennessee, and burned the little town and several plantation-houses in the neighborhood.

General Dodge's division moved on slowly, pressing back Roddy to Town Creek, where, on the 28th, Forrest, with his brigade, joined Roddy. Near that place the Federal forces divided; the cavalry, under Colonel Streight, turning off to the south, towards Moulton, and the main body, under General Dodge, halting, and then marching back. Leaving Roddy to observe Dodge, Forrest pursued Streight's party with three regiments, and captured it within twenty miles of Rome, after a chase of five days, and repeated fights, in which he killed and wounded three hundred of the enemy. Fourteen hundred and sixty or seventy officers and privates surrendered to him, a number much exceeding that of the victors.

In writing to the President on the 10th of the [168] month, I informed him of my continued illness and inability to serve in the field, and added, “General Bragg is therefore necessary here.” A similar report of the condition of my health was made on the 28th, to the Secretary of War.

While Forrest and Roddy were engaged with Dodge and Streight, Colonel Grierson made a raid entirely through Mississippi. Leaving Lagrange April 1th, with a brigade of cavalry, and passing through Pontotoc and Decatur, he reached the Southern Railroad at Newton on the 24th, where he destroyed some cars and engines, and small bridges. Crossing Pearl River at Georgetown, he struck the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad at Hazelhurst, where cars were destroyed, and some ammunition. At Brookhaven, the railroad-depot and more cars were burned, and the party arrived at Baton Rouge May 2d.

In the night of April 16th the Federal fleet, of gunboats and three transports towing barges, passed the batteries of Vicksburg, and ran down to “Hard times,” where the land-forces were; and in the night of the 22d six more transports and barges followed. The whole effect of the artillery of the batteries on the two occasions was the burning of one transport, sinking of another, and rendering six barges unserviceable.

General Grant's design seems to have been to take Grand Gulf by a combined military and naval attack, and operate against Vicksburg from that point. The squadron, under Admiral Porter, opened its fire upon the Confederate intrenchments at 8 A. M. on the 29th, and the Thirteenth Corps was held in [169] readiness to land and storm them as soon as their guns should be silenced. As that object had not been accomplished at six o'clock in the afternoon, General Grant abandoned the attempt, and determined to land at Bruinsburg. For this purpose the troops debarked at Hard Times, and marched to the plain below Grand Gulf; and the gunboats and transports,passing that place in the night, as they had done at Vicksburg, were in readiness at daybreak next morning to ferry the troops to Bruinsburg, six miles. The number of vessels was sufficient to transport a division at a time.

General Pemberton reported to me, by telegraph, that day: “The enemy is at Hard Times in large force, with barges and transports, indicating a purpose to attack Grand Gulf, with a view to Vicksburg. Very heavy firing at Grand Gulf; enemy shelling our batteries from above and below.”

At that time, according to General Pemberton's reports to me, more than twenty vessels, most of them gunboats, had passed the Confederate batteries, and were ready to aid the Federal army in its passage of the river.

Brigadier-General Bowen, who commanded at Grand Gulf, observing the movement of the Federal forces down the river, and their landing at Bruinsburg, placed Green's and Tracy's brigades on the route from that point into the interior, four miles in advance of Port Gibson. Here they were encountered and attacked early in the morning of the 1st of May, by the four divisions of McClernand's corps, which had crossed the river in the day and night of the 30th of April, and at once moved forward. [170]

Although outnumbered five to one, Bowen was enabled to hold his ground until late in the afternoon, ten hours, by his own skill and courage, and the excellent conduct of Brigadier-Generals Tracy and Green, and the firmness of their troops-aided greatly, it is true, by the strength of the position, intersected by deep ravines and covered with fallen timber, and bushes interlaced with vines. He then began to fall back, but, being reinforced by Baldwin's brigade, which had marched twenty miles to join him, he halted and again formed for battle, supposing, probably, that the whole Confederate army was advancing to meet the enemy, but the Federal commander did not renew the engagement.

General Bowen reported that his loss in this action was severe in killed and wounded, but slight in prisoners; among the first was the gallant Tracy, whose death was much regretted by the army.

While the troops were engaged, General Pemberton telegraphed to me: “A furious battle has been going on since daylight, just below Port Gibson.... General Bowen says he is outnumbered trebly.... Enemy can cross all his army from Hard Times to Bruinsburg.... I should have large reenforcements .... Enemy's success in passing our batteries has completely changed character of defense.” In the reply, dispatched immediately, he was told: “If General Grant's army lands on this side of the river, the safety of the Mississippi depends on beating it. For that object you should unite your whole force.” In a telegram, dispatched to him next day, the instruction was repeated: “If Grant's army crosses, unite all your troops to beat him; success [171] will give you back what was abandoned to win it.”

General Pemberton's call for large reenforcements was transmitted by telegraph to the War Department forthwith, and I added, “They cannot be sent from here without giving up Tennessee.”

On the 2d Bowen was pressed back through Port Gibson, but in perfect order; and returned to his post-Grand Gulf. On the 3d, however, finding his position turned, he abandoned it, after spiking his guns and blowing up his magazine, and marched to Hankinson's Ferry, to cross the Big Black there. General Loring, coming to his assistance with a division from Jackson, by Edwards's Depot, sent a detachment to hold Grindstone Ford, and turned to join him at the ferry. All their troops crossed the river that day unmolested, and rejoined General Pemberton.

To divert General Pemberton's attention from his real design, General Grant had left the Fifteenth Corps and a division at Milliken's Bend, under General Sherman, to make a demonstration against Vicksburg from the side of the Yazoo. This was executed by a slight attack upon Haynes's Bluff on the 30th of April, repeated next morning; after which General Sherman returned to Milliken's Bend, and marched from that point to rejoin the army.

The union of the Thirteenth and Seventeenth Corps was completed on the 3d, near Willow Spring, where they waited for Sherman's troops until the 8th. The army then moved forward on two parallel roads, the Thirteenth on one, the Seventeenth on the other, abreast, the Fifteenth following on both; the Thirteenth [172] turned into the road to Edwards's Depot, however, while the Seventeenth kept that to Jackson, followed at an interval of a few miles by the Thirteenth.

On the 5th, as Lieutenant-General Pemberton's dispatches subsequent to that of the 1st had contained no reference to the movements of the Federal army, nor to the result of the battle near Port Gibson, I asked him to give me information on the two points. His reply, written on the 6th or 7th, contained no allusion to General Grant's forces, but gave his own positions, in cipher, so that they were imperfectly understood. He informed me, however, that General Bowen had been driven from the field with a loss of six or seven hundred men. I was thus left uncertain whether or not any but a detachment of the Federal forces had crossed the Mississippi.

On the 9th, in the evening, I received, at Tullahoma, the following dispatch of that date from the Secretary of War:

Proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces there, 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 who will be substituted in General Bragg's army by a large number of prisoners returned from the Arkansas Post capture, and reorganized, now on their way to General Pemberton. Stop them at the point most convenient to General Bragg.

You will find reenforcements from General Beauregard to General Pemberton, and more may be expected. [173] Acknowledge receipt.

I replied at once:
Your dispatch of this morning received. I shall go immediately, although unfit for field-service.

I had been prevented, by the orders of the Administration, from giving my personal attention to military affairs in Mississippi10 at any time since the 22d of January. On the contrary, those orders had required my presence in Tennessee during the whole of that period

1 Lieutenant-General Pemberton's reports to me.

2 Lieutenant-General Pemberton's reports to me.

3 The order was given in the President's name, being his own act.

4 General Rosecrans's report.

5 The left brigade of Palmer's division.

6 Brigadier-General Hazen.

7 Lieutenant-General Polk's report.

8 Major-General Loring's report.

9 Probably Sherman's corps, left to divert General Pemberton's attention from the movement towards Grand Gulf.

10 The reader's attention is called to this fact, because I have been accused of neglecting Mississippi, to give my time to Tennessee.

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