and commanding points, with the usual profile of raised field-works, connected in most cases by rifle-pits. To man the entire line I was able to bring into the trenches about eighteen thousand five hundred muskets; but it was absolutely necessary to keep a reserve already to reinforce any point heavily threatened. It became indispensable, therefore, to reduce the number in the trenches to the minimum, capable of holding them until a reserve could come to their aid. It was also necessary that the reserve should be composed among the best and most reliable; accordingly, Bowen's division (about two thousand four hundred men), and Waul's Texas Legion (about five hundred), were designated for that purpose, thus reducing the force in the trenches to little less than fifteen thousand five hundred men. The legion was on the eighteenth assigned as a reserve to Forney's division, and was held in rear of Brigadier-General Moore's right; but in the evening of the nineteenth was transferred to Stevenson's division; and during the remainder of the siege was held in rear of Brigadier-General Lee's brigade, occupying one of the most exposed and important positions on the whole line. On the night of the seventeenth, and during the eighteenth, Major-General Smith, misapprehending my instructions, given him immediately after my return from the Big Black, had occupied an outer line of defense on the range of hills north of the Fort Hill road. This line had undoubtedly some advantages; it was within six hundred yards of the inner line, and partially commanded one of our most important river batteries. I considered, however, that the increased length which would be necessarily given to the whole line of defence, the intervening valley, and other objections to its occupation, more than counterbalanced the advantage; the troops and artillery were, therefore, on the night of the eighteenth, silently and safely withdrawn, and General Smith's division occupied the inner line during the remainder of the siege. The enemy had, however, made during the day a demonstration, with artillery and infantry on his position; and early on the morning of the nineteenth he occupied the abandoned heights. During the day there was constant and heavy skirmishing along the left of our centre on the Graveyard road, accompanied with brisk artillery fire; in the afternoon the enemy made a charge on Smith's right and Forney's left, but was severely repulsed, losing two stands of colors. Later, their sharpshooters and artillery opened heavily on the Jackson and Baldwin's Ferry roads. A courier was dispatched with the following telegram to the President:
We are occupying the trenches around Vicksburg; the enemy is investing it, and will probably attempt an assault. Our men have considerably recovered their morale, but unless a large force is sent at once to relieve it, Vicksburg before long must fall. I have used every effort to prevent all this, but in vain.
May 20.The enemy continued to move from our right, with heavy cannonading towards the centre and left, three guns temporarily disabled. At noon, the mortar-fleet of Admiral Porter took position on the west side of the peninsula and commenced the bombardment of the city. The following dispatch was forwarded by courier to General Johnston: “The enemy assaulted our intrenched lines yesterday at two points, centre and left, and was repulsed with heavy loss. Our loss small. I cannot estimate the enemy's force now engaged around Vicksburg at less than sixty thousand, it is probably more. At this hour, 8:30 A. M., he is briskly cannonading with long-range guns; that we may save ammunition, his fire is rarely returned. At present our main necessity is musket-caps; can you send them to me by hands of couriers or citizens? An army will be necessary to relieve Vicksburg, and that quickly; will it not be sent? Please let me hear from you if possible.”
May 21.The fire from the mortar-fleet continued without intermission, accompanied by heavy artillery and musketry fire from the rear, to which but slight response was given. Several guns were dismounted and a number of officers and men killed and wounded. In the afternoon the enemy's gunboats steamed up and threw a number of shells into the city, but without material damage. Anticipating an attack on the right, General Bowen was ordered to hold his command in readiness to assist the threatened point, and that the safety of the magazines might be secured from the possible danger of disloyal persons within the lines, General Stevenson was ordered to organize a guard for their protection from among the most reputable of the citizens, and to place the guard under the command of a commissioned officer. The prospect of a protracted siege, and the uncertainty as to how many assaults we might have to repel, and in view of the possibility of having to march out from our intrenchments to meet and co-operate with an assisting army expected under General Johnston, rendered it a matter of vital importance that every charge of ammunition on hand should be hoarded with the most zealous care. The amount of ammunition in Vicksburg, though large, would not have sufficed for an unlimited daily expenditure for a protracted period. The importance of the most rigid economy, therefore, in its use was apparent, and strict orders were consequently issued against all picket skirmishing and artillery duels where neither served any useful purpose. These orders were repeated as occasion required. It being impracticable to continue feeding the large number of mules and horses then in Vicksburg, General Stevenson was directed to have them driven beyond the lines for pasturage, or, if practicable, to send them, in charge of a detail, to General Johnston. By this means we were relieved of a serious encumbrance which