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The sieges of Vicksburg and Port Hudson

Confederate forts that held the steep river-banks at Port Hudson, 1863


Federal guns and a Confederate camera: the first batteries sent against Vicksburg The Second, Fourth, and Sixth Massachusetts Light Artillery at Baton Rouge, in May, 1862, photographed by Lytle, of the Confederate Secret Service. When Farragut's fleet, after the capture of New Orleans, moved up the Mississippi on May 2d, General Williams, with fourteen hundred men, including two sections of Everett's (Sixth) battery, accompanied it. The ambitious plan was the opening of the Mississippi and the establishment of communication with the Federal forces to the north. Occupying Baton Rouge, the expedition pushed on to Vicksburg. Here Farragut's guns could not be sufficiently elevated to silence the batteries on the bluff, in the face of which Williams could not land. After three weeks on the crowded transports, the men were returned to Baton Rouge and went into camp. On the 20th of June, General Williams again set out for Vicksburg with four regiments and Nims's (Second) and Everett's (Sixth) Massachusetts batteries. At Ellis's Bluff, and again at Grand Gulf, the troops drove off the Confederate field-batteries that opened on the gunboats. But at Vicksburg no effective land attack could be made and the troops, whose numbers had been reduced by overwork, malaria, and scurvy from thirty-two hundred to but eight hundred fit for duty, returned to Baton Rouge.

[181] [182]

Federal transports on the Mississippi

In the fall of 1862 all the available river-steamers were busy transporting newly organized regiments from Cairo to Memphis to take part in the independent expedition against Vicksburg, which had been proposed by Major-General John A. McClernand and in command of which he had been placed by secret orders from Lincoln and Stanton. Not even Grant was informed of this division of authority. McClernand, who was influential in the West, raised in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa some thirty regiments of volunteers, two-thirds of which had been forwarded to Cairo and Memphis by November 10th, and at the latter place were being drilled into shape by Sherman. Both Sherman and Grant supposed that they were the promised reenforcements for the expedition which they had planned together. On December 12th Sherman was ready to move, and on the 19th transports arrived at Memphis and the embarkation of the troops began. Next day they moved down the river, convoyed by Porter's fleet. On the 26th Sherman landed thirteen miles up the Yazoo River and advanced to Chickasaw Bluffs, where on the 29th he assaulted the defenses of Vicksburg to the north. The news of the failure of Grant's land expedition at Oxford had reached McClernand instead of Sherman, and as the latter general emerged from the swamps with his defeated divisions, McClernand, on New Year's Day, met him at the mouth of the Yazoo and superseded him in command.

Forwarding the raw recruits — Cairo

Federal transports on the Mississippi: one smokestack damaged by Confederate fire from the river bank


Where Grant's campaign was halted The Courthouse at Oxford, Mississippi. The second attempt to capture Vicksburg originated with Grant. Since he had sprung into fame at Fort Donelson early in 1862, he had done little to strengthen his reputation; but to all urgings of his removal Lincoln replied: “I can't spare this man; he fights.” He proposed to push southward through Mississippi to seize Jackson, the capital. If this could be accomplished, Vicksburg (fifty miles to the west) would become untenable. At Washington his plan was overruled to the extent of dividing his forces. Sherman, with a separate expedition, was to move from Memphis down the Mississippi directly against Vicksburg. It was Grant's hope that by marching on he could unite with Sherman in an assault upon this key to the Mississippi. Pushing forward from Grand Junction, sixty miles, Grant reached Oxford December 5, 1862, but his supplies were still drawn from Columbus, Kentucky, over a single-track road to Holly Springs, and thence by wagon over roads which were rapidly becoming impassable. Delay ensued in which Van Dorn destroyed Federal stores at Holly Springs worth $1,500,000. This put an end to Grant's advance. In the picture we see an Illinois regiment guarding some of the 1200 Confederate prisoners taken during the advance and here confined in the Courthouse.


Vicksburg proves impregnable Chickasaw Bayou. Here rested Sherman's extreme left, December 28, 1862, after a day's advance over bottom-lands of extreme difficulty. From this point, after sharp skirmishing which discomforted the advancing Federals, at nightfall the Confederates retired to their works on the bluff beyond, confident of being able to repel the assault that was to come. That confidence was not misplaced. Sherman had miscalculated in two particulars — chiefly in supposing that Grant was close at hand to support him. Furthermore, he did not know that his movements had been daily reported and that Johnston and Pemberton were fully aware of his strength. On the very day that Sherman landed on the Yazoo, Pemberton arrived in Vicksburg with reinforcements, bringing the garrison up to twelve thousand, while Sherman supposed that he was to contend with but half that number. Fully prepared for uncompromising defense, the Confederates were bound to win.


Where Sherman failed Chickasaw Bluffs. Stretching northeast from Vicksburg, Walnut Hill forms a perfect natural fortress overlooking the bottom-lands toward the Yazoo, rising to a height of two hundred feet, as seen in the picture. In the whole twelve miles between Haynes' Bluff (where Sherman landed) and Vicksburg, there were but five points where troops could pass from the Yazoo through the network of bayous and swamps to attack this bluff, and all these points were commanded by Confederate batteries. Sherman had considerable difficulty in properly posting his troops during the determined skirmishing kept up by the Confederates on the 28th. On the 29th, at noon, he gave the signal for the assault. The two brigades of De Courcy and Blair, together with the Fourth Iowa--six thousand men in all — bore the brunt of the fighting and charged gallantly up to the Confederate works. There, unsupported, they were cut to pieces by the cross-fire that was poured upon them. Sherman, who had lost nearly two thousand, decided that the position was impregnable. A thousand men could have held it against ten times their number.


The leader at Haynes' bluff U. S. S. Chociaw resting peacefully at Vicksburg after the surrender. She had led the other gunboats in the attack upon Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo, simultaneous with Sherman's second demonstration against the defenses northeast of Vicksburg. Grant distracted Pemberton long enough to enable the Federals to concentrate to the south of the city for its final investment. Since the end of January, Grant (again in supreme command) had been working hard with tentative operations, first for the completion of the canal begun by General Williams the previous year, then for the cutting of the levee at Yazoo Pass to flood the bottom-lands and enable gunboats to engage in amphibious warfare.


“Whistling Dick” --the pet of the Confederate gunners This 18-pounder rifle, made at the Tredegar Iron Works at Richmond, was mounted in the Vicksburg water-batteries overlooking the Mississippi. Porter's fleet was exposed to its fire when it passed down the river on the night of April 16, 1863. From the peculiar sound of its missiles speeding through the air it earned the nickname “Whistling Dick.” It was a monster of its time; its fire sunk the Federal gunboat Cincinnati on May 28th. Finally it was disabled and silenced by the Federal batteries from across the river.

On the banks of this, the greatest river in the world, the most decisive and far-reaching battle of the war was fought. Here at Vicksburg over one hundred thousand gallant soldiers and a powerful fleet of gunboats and ironclads in terrible earnestness for forty days and nights fought to decide whether the new Confederate States should be cut in twain; whether the great river should flow free to the Gulf, or should have its commerce hindered. We all know the result — the Union army under General Grant, and the Union navy under Admiral Porter were victorious. The Confederate army, under General Pemberton, numbering thirty thousand men, was captured and General Grant's army set free for operating in other fields. It was a staggering blow from which the Confederacy never rallied. Lieutenant-General Stephen D. Lee, C. S. A., at the dedication of the Massachusetts Volunteers' statue at the Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi, November 14, 1903.

The Mississippi River, in its lower course, winds like a mighty serpent from side to side along a vast alluvial bottom, which in places is more than forty miles in width. On the eastern bank, these great coils here and there sweep up to the bluffs of the highlands of Tennessee and Mississippi. On these cliffs are situated Memphis, Port Hudson, Grand Gulf, and Vicksburg. The most important of these from a military point of view was Vicksburg, often called the “Gibraltar of the West.” Situated two hundred feet above the current, on a great bend of the river, its cannon could command the waterway for miles in either direction, while the obstacles in the way of a land approach were almost equally insurmountable.

The Union arms had captured New Orleans, in the spring of 1862, and Memphis in June of that year; but the Confederates still held Vicksburg and Port Hudson and the two hundred and fifty miles of river that lies between them. The military [189]

Where Vicksburg's fate was sealed The Battle-field of Champion's Hill. Here on May 16, 1863, Grant crowned his daring maneuver against Vicksburg from the south with complete success. Once across the river below Grand Gulf, after an easy victory at Port Gibson, he was joined by Sherman. The army struck out across the strange country south of the Big Black River and soon had driven Pemberton's southern outposts across that stream. Grant was now on solid ground; he had successfully turned the flank of the Confederates and he grasped the opportunity to strike a telling blow. Pressing forward to Raymond and Jackson, he captured both, and swept westward to meet the astounded Pemberton, still vacillating between attempting a junction with Johnston or attacking Grant in the rear. But Grant, moving with wonderful precision, prevented either movement. On May 16th a battle ensued which was most decisive around Champion's Hill. Pemberton was routed and put to flight, and on the next day the Federals seized the crossings of the Big Black River. Spiking their guns at Haynes' Bluff, the Confederates retired into Vicksburg, never to come out again except as prisoners. In eighteen days from the time he crossed the Mississippi, Grant had gained the advantage for which the Federals had striven for more than a year at Vicksburg.

[190] object of the Federal armies in the West was to gain control of the entire course of the great Mississippi that it might “roll unvexed to the sea,” to use Lincoln's terse expression, and that the rich States of the Southwest, from which the Confederacy drew large supplies and thousands of men for her armies, might be cut off from the rest of the South. If Vicksburg were captured, Port Hudson must fall. The problem, therefore, was how to get control of Vicksburg.

On the promotion of Halleck to the command of all the armies of the North, with headquarters at Washington, Grant was left in superior command in the West and the great task before him was the capture of the “Gibraltar of the West.” Vicksburg might have been occupied by the Northern armies at any time during the first half of the year 1862, but in June of that year General Bragg sent Van Dorn with a force of fifteen thousand to occupy and fortify the heights. Van Dorn was a man of prodigious energy. In a short time he had hundreds of men at work planting batteries, digging rifle-pits above the water front and in the rear of the town, mounting heavy guns and building bomb-proof magazines in tiers along the hillsides. All through the summer, the work progressed under the direction of Engineer S. H. Lockett, and by the coming of winter the city was a veritable Gibraltar.

From the uncompleted batteries on the Vicksburg bluffs, the citizens and the garrison soldiers viewed the advance division of Farragut's fleet, under Commander Lee, in the river, on May 18, 1862. Fifteen hundred infantry were on board, under command of General Thomas Williams, and with them was a battery of artillery. Williams reconnoitered the works, and finding them too strong for his small force he returned to occupy Baton Rouge. The authorities at Washington now sent Farragut peremptory orders to clear the Mississippi and accordingly about the middle of June, a flotilla of steamers and seventeen mortar schooners, under Commander D. D. Porter, departed from New Orleans and steamed up the river. [191]

The first Federal crossing of the Big Black River.

The pursuit of Pemberton's army brought McClernand's Corps to the defenses of the Big Black River Bridge early on May 17, 1863. McPherson was close behind. McClernand's division carried the defenses and Bowen and Vaughn's men fled with precipitate haste over the dreary swamp to the river and crossed over and burned the railroad and other bridges just in time to prevent McClernand from following. The necessary delay was aggravating to Grant's forces. The rest of the day and night was consumed in building bridges. Sherman had the only pontoon-train with the army and his bridge was the first ready at Bridgeport, early in the evening.

The bridge the Confederates burned at Big Black River

The first Federal crossing — Sherman's pontoons


Simultaneously Farragut headed a fleet of three war vessels and seven gunboats, carrying one hundred and six guns, toward Vicksburg from Baton Rouge. Many transports accompanied the ships from Baton Rouge, on which there were three thousand of Williams' troops.

The last days of June witnessed the arrival of the combined naval forces of Farragut and Porter below the Confederate stronghold. Williams immediately disembarked his men on the Louisiana shore, opposite Vicksburg, and they were burdened with implements required in digging trenches and building levees.

The mighty Mississippi, at this point and in those days, swept in a majestic bend and formed a peninsula of the western, or Louisiana shore. Vicksburg was situated on the eastern, or Mississippi shore, below the top of the bend. Its batteries of cannon commanded the river approach for miles in either direction. Federal engineers quickly recognized the strategic position of the citadel on the bluff; and also as quickly saw a method by which the passage up and down the river could be made comparatively safe for their vessels, and at the same time place Vicksburg “high and dry” by cutting a channel for the Mississippi through the neck of land that now held it in its sinuous course.

While Farragut stormed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Williams began the tremendous task of diverting the mighty current across the peninsula. Farragut's bombardment by his entire fleet failed to silence Vicksburg's cannon-guards, although the defenders likewise failed to stop the progress of the fleet. The Federal naval commander then determined to dash past the fortifications, trusting to the speed of his vessels and the stoutness of their armor to survive the tremendous cannonade that would fall upon his flotilla. Early in the morning of June 28th the thrilling race against death began, and after two hours of terrific bombardment aided by the mortar boats stationed on both banks, Farragut's fleet with [193]

Vicksburg: the gate to the Mississippi

The handwriting is that of Surgeon Bixby, of the Union hospital ship “Red Rover.” In his album he pasted this unique photograph from the western shore of the river where the Federal guns and mortars threw a thousand shells into Vicksburg during the siege. The prominent building is the courthouse, the chief landmark during the investment. Here at Vicksburg the Confederates were making their last brave stand for the possession of the Mississippi River, that great artery of traffic. If it were wrested from them the main source of their supplies would be cut off. Pemberton, a brave and capable officer and a Pennsylvanian by birth, worked unremittingly for the cause he had espoused. Warned by the early attacks of General Williams and Admiral Farragut, he had left no stone unturned to render Vicksburg strongly defended. It had proved impregnable to attack on the north and east, and the powerful batteries planted on the river-front could not be silenced by the fleet nor by the guns of the Federals on the opposite shore. But Grant's masterful maneuver of cutting loose from his base and advancing from the south had at last out-generaled both Pemberton and Johnston. Nevertheless, Pemberton stoutly held his defenses. His high river-battery is photographed below, as it frowned upon the Federals opposite.

Vicksburg, taken under fire.

Pemberton's high river-battery defending Vicksburg.

[194] the exception of three vessels passed through the raging inferno to the waters above Vicksburg, with a loss of fifteen killed and thirty wounded. On the 1st of July Flag-Officer Davis with his river gunboats arrived from Memphis and joined Farragut.

Williams and his men, including one thousand negroes, labored like Titans to complete their canal, but a sudden rise of the river swept away the barriers with a terrific roar, and the days of herculean labor went for naught. Again Williams' attempt to subdue the stronghold was abandoned, and he returned with his men when Farragut did, on July 24th, to Baton Rouge to meet death there on August 5th when General Breckinridge made a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to drive the Union forces from the Louisiana capital.

Farragut urged upon General Halleck the importance of occupying the city on the bluff with a portion of his army; but that general gave no heed; and while even then it was too late to secure the prize without a contest, it would have been easy in comparison to that which it required a year later.

In the mean time, the river steamers took an important part in the preliminary operations against the city. Davis remained at Memphis with his fleet for about three weeks after the occupation of that city on the 6th of June, meanwhile sending four gunboats and a transport up the White River, with the Forty-sixth Indiana regiment, under Colonel Fitch. The object of the expedition, undertaken at Halleck's command, was to destroy Confederate batteries and to open communication with General Curtis, who was approaching from the west. It failed in the latter purpose but did some effective work with the Southern batteries along the way.

The one extraordinary incident of the expedition was the disabling of the Mound City, one of the ironclad gunboats, and the great loss of life that it occasioned. When near St. Charles the troops under Fitch were landed, and the Mound City moving up the river, was fired on by concealed batteries [195]

Vicksburg: the well-defended citadel

Behind these fortifications Pemberton, driven from the Big Black River, gathered his twenty-one thousand troops to make the last stand for the saving of the Mississippi to the Confederacy. In the upper picture we see Fort Castle, one of the strongest defenses of the Confederacy. It had full sweep of the river; here “Whistling Dick” (one of the most powerful guns in possession of the South) did deadly work. In the lower picture we see the fortifications to the east of the town, before which Grant's army was now entrenching. When Vicksburg had first been threatened in 1862, the Confederate fortifications had been laid out and work begun on them in haste with but five hundred spades, many of the soldiers delving with their bayonets. The sites were so well chosen and the work so well done that they had withstood attacks for a year. They were to hold out still longer. By May 18th the Federals had completely invested Vicksburg, and Grant and Sherman rode out to Haynes' Bluff to view the open river to the north, down which abundant supplies were now coming for the army. Sherman, who had not believed that the plan could succeed, frankly acknowledged his mistake. But the Mississippi was not yet theirs. Sherman, assaulting the fortifications of Vicksburg, the next day, was repulsed. A second attack, on the 22d, failed and on the 25th Grant settled down to starve Pemberton out.

Pemberton's fortifications at Vicksburg.

Pemberton's fortifications at Vicksburg.

[196] under the direction of Lieutenant Dunnington. A 32-pound shot struck the vessel, crashed through the side and passed through the steam-drum. The steam filled the vessel in an instant. Many of the men were so quickly enveloped in the scalding vapor that they had no chance to escape. Others leaped overboard, some being drowned and some rescued through the efforts of the Conestoga which was lying near. While straining every nerve to save their lives, the men had to endure a shower of bullets from Confederate sharpshooters on the river banks. Of the one hundred and seventy-five officers and men of the mound city only twenty-five escaped death or injury in that fearful catastrophe. Meanwhile, Colonel Fitch with his land forces rushed upon the Confederate batteries and captured them. The unfortunate vessel was at length repaired and returned to service.

for some time it had been known in Federal military and naval circles that a powerful ironclad similar to the famous Monitor of eastern waters was being rushed to completion up the Yazoo. The new vessel was the Arkansas. she and a sister ship were building at Memphis when the capture of that city was anticipated by the destruction of one of them. The work on the Arkansas was far enough advanced for her to be taken to Yazoo city for the finishing touches. The Union fleet was not unduly terrified by tales of the monster, but nevertheless Farragut and Davis determined to find out what they could about her. Three vessels were chosen for the reconnaissance — the ironclad Carondelet, the wooden Tyler, and the Ellet ram Queen of the West. bravely they steamed up the Yazoo on the morning of July 15th, but before they had gone more than six miles they encountered the Arkansas, under the command of Captain Isaac N. Brown, coming down the river.

the Carondelet, though supported at a distance by the Tyler, fled before her stronger antagonist, being raked from stem to stern, struck several times with solid shot, and saved from destruction only by running into shallow water where [197]

The work of the besiegers Battery Sherman, on the Jackson road, before Vicksburg. Settling down to a siege did not mean idleness for Grant's army. Fortifications had to be opposed to the formidable one of the Confederates and a constant bombardment kept up to silence their guns, one by one. It was to be a drawn-out duel in which Pemberton, hoping for the long-delayed relief from Johnston, held out bravely against starvation and even mutiny. For twelve miles the Federal lines stretched around Vicksburg, investing it to the river bank, North and south. More than eighty-nine Battery positions were constructed by the Federals. Battery Sherman was exceptionally well built — not merely revetted with rails or cotton-bales and floored with rough timber, as lack of proper material often made necessary. Gradually the lines were drawn closer and closer as the Federals moved up their guns to silence the works that they had failed to take in May. At the time of the surrender Grant had more than 220 guns in position, mostly of heavy caliber. By the 1st of July besieged and besiegers faced each other at a distance of half-pistol shot. Starving and ravaged by disease, the Confederates had repelled repeated attacks which depleted their forces, while Grant, reenforced to three times their number, was showered with supplies and ammunition that he might bring about the long-delayed victory which the North had been eagerly awaiting since Chancellorsville.

[198] the Arkansas could not follow her. The Arkansas was injured also and her brave captain was twice wounded; but, not being disabled, she steamed on and out into the Mississippi, driving the Tyler and the Queen before her. A few miles above Vicksburg the Arkansas ran into the midst of the Federal fleet. She steamed slowly through the maze of hostile vessels, and the tempest of broadsides, returning them with the utmost steadiness, until she was safely lodged under the guns of Vicksburg.

but the day's events were not ended. In the dusk of evening, all of Farragut's fleet accompanied by the ram Sumter stole down the river to finish the plucky Arkansas. but she changed her position as soon as it was dark and the Union vessels had difficulty in finding her. They came down the river amid the roar of cannon, but only one 11-inch shot struck her as the fleet went by, and down the river, and the broadsides from the Arkansas killed five and wounded sixteen of the Union crews. None of Farragut's fleet was ever seen above Vicksburg again. It returned to New Orleans, July 24th.

the Arkansas had another fight for her life on July 22d. Commander William D. Porter with the Essex, aided by the Queen of the West, made the attack. The crew of the Arkansas had been reduced by half, but the remainder fought savagely and saved their vessel from destruction.

the month of July had not been favorable to the Federal hopes. Farragut had returned to New Orleans. General Williams had gone with him as far as Baton Rouge. Davis now went with his fleet back to Helena. Halleck was succeeded by Grant. Vicksburg entered upon a period of quiet.

but this condition was temporary. The city's experience of blood and fire had only begun. During the summer and autumn of 1862, the one thought uppermost in the mind of General Grant was how to gain possession of the stronghold. He was already becoming known for his bull-dog tenacity. In the autumn, two important changes took place, but one day apart. On October 14th, General John C. Pemberton [199]

A good politician who became a great soldier major-general John Alexander Logan and staff in Vicksburg, July, 1863 John A. Logan, a War Democrat who left Congress to fight as a private in a Michigan regiment at Bull Run, was one of the mainstays of the Federal cause in the West. A successful lawyer and brilliant orator, he proved to be one of the most successful civilian generals of the War. In Grant's Vicksburg campaign, Logan's soldierly qualities came particularly into prominence. His division of McPherson's Corps distinguished itself in the battle of Raymond, Mississippi, and again at that of Champion's Hill, which sounded the knell of Vicksburg. It was Logan's division that marched in on the Jackson road to take possession of the fallen city, July 4, 1863. for his services in the campaign Logan was made a major-general.

[200] succeeded Van Dorn in command of the defenses of Vicksburg, and on the next day David D. Porter succeeded Davis as Commander of the Federal fleet on the upper Mississippi.

so arduous was the task of taking Vicksburg that the wits of General Grant, and those of his chief adviser, General W. T. Sherman, were put to the test in the last degree to accomplish the end. Grant knew that the capture of this fortified city was of great importance to the Federal cause, and that it would ever be looked upon as one of the chief acts in the drama of the Civil War.

the first plan attempted was to divide the army, Sherman taking part of it from Memphis and down the Mississippi on transports, while Grant should move southward along the line of the Mississippi central Railroad to cooperate with Sherman, his movements to be governed by the efforts of the scattered Confederate forces in Mississippi to block him. But the whole plan was destined to failure, through the energies of General Van Dorn and others of the Confederate army near Grant's line of communication.

the authorities at Washington preferred the river move upon Vicksburg, as the navy could keep the line of communication open. The stronghold now stood within a strong line of defense extending from Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo to Grand Gulf on the Mississippi, thirty miles below Vicksburg. To prepare for Sherman's attack across the swamps of the Yazoo, Admiral Porter made several expeditions up that tortuous stream to silence batteries and remove torpedoes. In one of these he lost one of the Eads ironclads, the Cairo, blown up by a torpedo, and in another the brave Commander Gwin, one of the heroes of Shiloh, was mortally wounded.

Sherman, with an army of thirty-two thousand men, left Memphis on December 20th, and landed a few days later some miles north of Vicksburg on the banks of the Yazoo. On the 29th he made a daring attack in three columns on the Confederate lines of defense at Chickasaw Bayou and suffered a [201]

Investing by inches Logan's Division undermining the most formidable redoubt in the defenses of Vicksburg. The position was immediately in front of this honeycombed slope on the Jackson road. Upon these troops fell most of the labor of sapping and mining, which finally resulted in the wrecking of the Fort so gallantly defended by the veterans of the Third Louisiana. As the Federal lines crept up, the men working night and day were forced to live in burrows. They became proficient in such gopher work as the picture shows. Up to the “White House” (Shirley's) the troops could be marched in comparative safety, but a short distance beyond they were exposed to the Confederate sharpshooters, who had only rifles and muskets to depend on; their artillery had long since been silenced. Near this House was constructed “Coonskin's” Tower; it was built of railway iron and cross-ties under the direction of Second Lieutenant Henry C. Foster, of Company B, Twenty-Third Indiana. A backwoodsman and dead-shot, he was particularly active in paying the Confederate sharpshooters in their own coin. He habitually wore a cap of raccoon fur, which gave him his nickname and christened the Tower, from which the interior of the Confederate works could be seen.

[202] decisive repulse. His loss was nearly two thousand men; the Confederate loss was scarcely two hundred.

two hundred feet above the bayou, beyond where the Federals were approaching, towered the Chickasaw Bluffs, to which Pemberton hastened troops from Vicksburg as soon as he learned Sherman's object. At the base of the bluff, and stretching away to the north and west were swamps and forests intersected by deep sloughs, overhung with dense tangles of vines and cane-brakes. Federal valor vied with Confederate pluck in this fight among the marshes and fever-infested jungle-land.

one of Sherman's storming parties, under General G. W. Morgan, came upon a broad and deep enlargement of the bayou, McNutt Lake, which interposed between it and the Confederates in the rifle-pits on the slopes and crest of the bluff. In the darkness of the night of December 28th, the Federal pontoniers labored to construct a passage-way across the Lake. When morning dawned the weary pontoniers were chagrined to discover their well-built structure spanning a slough leading in another direction than toward the base of the bluff. The bridge was quickly taken up, and the Federals recommenced their labors, this time in daylight and within sight and range of the Southern regiments on the hill. The men in blue worked desperately to complete the span before driven away by the foe's cannon; but the fire increased with every minute, and the Federals finally withdrew.

another storming party attempted to assail the Confederates from across a sandbar of the bayou, but was halted at the sight and prospect of overcoming a fifteen-foot bank on the farther side. The crumbling bank was surmounted with a levee three feet high; the steep sides of the barrier had crumbled away, leaving an overhanging shelf, two feet wide. Two companies of the Sixth Missouri regiment volunteered to cross the two hundred yards of exposed passage, and to cut a roadway through the rotten bank to allow their comrades a free [203]

Independence day, 1863: Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

Independence day, 1863, was a memorable anniversary of the nation's birth; it brought to the anxious North the momentous news that Meade had won at Gettysburg and that Vicksburg had fallen in the West. The marble shaft in the picture was erected to mark the spot where Grant and Pemberton met on July 3d to confer about the surrender. Under a tree, within a few hundred feet of the Confederate lines, Grant greeted his adversary as an old acquaintance. They had fought in the same division for a time in the Mexican War. Each spoke but two sentences as to the surrender, for Grant lived up to the nickname he gained at Donelson, and Pemberton's pride was hurt. The former comrades walked and talked awhile on other things, and then returned to their lines. Next day the final terms were arranged by correspondence, and the Confederates marched out with colors flying; they stacked their arms and, laying their colors upon them, marched back into the city to be paroled. Those who signed the papers not to fight until exchanged numbered 29,391. the tree where the commanders met was soon carried away, root and branch, by relic-hunters. Subsequently the monument which replaced it was chipped gradually into bits, and in 1866 a 64-pounder cannon took its place as a permanent memorial.

The first monument at the meeting place where the surrender of Vicksburg took place.

Vicksburg in possession of the Federals

[204] path to the bluff beyond. To add to the peril of the crossing, the sandbar was strewn with tangles of undergrowth and fallen trees, and the Confederate shells and bullets were raining upon the ground. Still, the gallant troops began their dash. From the very start, a line of wounded and dead Missourians marked the passage of the volunteers. The survivors reached the bank and desperately sought to dig the roadway. From the shrubbery on the bank suddenly appeared Confederate sharpshooters who poured their fire into the laboring soldiers; the flame of the discharging muskets burned the clothing of the Federals because the hostile forces were so close. Human endurance could not stand before this carnage, and the brave Missourians fled from the inferno. Sherman now found the northern pathway to Vicksburg impassable, and withdrew his men to the broad Mississippi.

earlier in the same month had occurred two other events which, with the defeat of Chickasaw, go to make up the triple disaster to the Federals. On the 11th, General Nathan Forrest, one of the most brilliant cavalry leaders on either side, began one of those destructive raids which characterize the Civil War. With twenty-five hundred horsemen, Forrest dashed unopposed through the country north of Grant's army, tore up sixty miles of railroad and destroyed all telegraph lines.

Meantime, on December 20th, the day on which Sherman left Memphis, General Van Dorn pounced upon Holly Springs, in Mississippi, like an eagle on its prey, capturing the guard of fifteen hundred men and burning the great store of supplies, worth $1,500,000, which Grant had left there. Through the raids of Forrest and Van Dorn, Grant was left without supplies and for eleven days without communication with the outside world. He marched northward to Grand Junction, in Tennessee, a distance of eighty miles, living off the country. It was not until January 8, 1863, that he heard, through Washington, of the defeat of Sherman in his assault on Chickasaw Bluffs. [205]

Keeping the Mississippi open

Illinois sent into the war Grant, Logan, McClernand, Grierson, and other prominent leaders in the Vicksburg campaign. It was one of the few States which furnished troops in excess of their quota. The Seventy-second Illinois Infantry, whose synonym was “First board of Trade,” together with other Illinois regiments, saw severe active service along the Mississippi and at Vicksburg; it served in General McArthur's division of the Seventeenth Corps, and distinguished itself on November 30th of the following year in the battle of Franklin, Tenn.

Shirley's residence, “the White House

Barracks of fifth U. S. Colored heavy artillery


Headquarters 72nd Illinois volunteers: Vicksburg in Federal hands Shirley's “White House,” on the Jackson road, stood between the opposing lines; although a target for both sides, it remained practically uninjured. General Lieb's colored regiment was recruited in Louisiana and Mississippi and organized at Vicksburg in August, 1863. it suffered a heavy loss in deaths from fever, being stationed along the River. In the assault on Port Hudson colored troops were First used by the Federals in a General engagement — the First Louisiana Native Guard of the “Corps d'afrique,” organized by General Butler.


Grant and Sherman had no thought of abandoning Vicksburg because of this failure. But a month of unfortunate military dissension over rank in the command of Sherman's Army resulted in General John A. McClernand, armed with authority from Washington, coming down from Illinois and superseding Sherman. On January 11, 1864, he captured Arkansas post, a stronghold on the Arkansas River. But Grant, having authority to supersede McClernand in the General proceedings against Vicksburg, did so, on January 30th, and arguments on military precedence were forgotten.

Grant was determined to lead his Army of the Tennessee below Vicksburg and approach the city from the south, without breaking with his base of supplies up the River. Two projects, both of which were destined to fail, were under way during the winter and spring months of 1863. one of these was to open a way for the River craft through Lake Providence, west of the Mississippi, through various bayous and rivers into the Red River, a detour of four hundred miles.

another plan was to cut a channel through the peninsula of the great bend of the Mississippi, opposite Vicksburg. For six weeks, thousands of men worked like marmots digging this ditch; but, meantime, the River was rising and, on March 8th, it broke over the embankment and the men had to run for their lives. Many horses were drowned and a great number of implements submerged. The “father of Waters” had put a decisive veto on the project and it had to be given up. Still another plan that failed was to cut through the Yazoo Pass and approach from the north by way of the Coldwater, the Tallahatchie, and the Yazoo rivers.

failure with Grant only increased his grim determination. He would take Vicksburg. His next plan was destined to bring success. It was to transfer his Army by land down the west bank of the Mississippi to a point below the city and approach it from the south and west. This necessitated the running of the batteries by Porter's fleet — an extremely [207]

The Confederacy cut in twain the Levee at Vicksburg, February, 1864. for seven months the Federals had been in possession of the city, and the Mississippi — now open through its entire course — cut off the struggling Confederacy in the East from the South and Southwest, the storehouses of their resources and their main dependence in continuing the struggle. But even such a blow as this, coming on top of Gettysburg, did not force the brave people of the South to give up the struggle. In the picture the only remaining warlike signs are the tents on the opposite shore. But on both sides of the river the Confederates were still desperately striving to reunite their territory. In the East another year and more of the hardest kind of fighting was ahead; another severing in twain of the South was inevitable before peace could come, and before the muskets could be used to shoot the crows, and before their horses could plough the neglected fields.


Guns that helped to reduce Port Hudson: first Indiana heavy artillery, 1863 this picture is another example of the accuracy and completeness with which Lytle, the Confederate Secret service photographer at Baton Rouge, recorded the numbers and equipment of the Federal forces operating in Louisiana. This body of artillery first enlisted as the Twenty-first Volunteers in 1861, and sustained the heavy loss of one hundred and Twenty-six men while acting as infantry in the battle of Baton Rouge, August 5, 1862. it served with distinction throughout the war, its number of veteran reenlistments being five hundred and three--the largest in any body of Indiana troops. In March, 1863, the regiment was changed to artillery; and in Augur's division of the Nineteenth Corps it accompanied General Banks in his first expedition against Port Hudson, as well as in the final investment of that place. Banks, who had been sent with between fifteen thousand and Twenty thousand troops to succeed General Butler in command of the Department of the Gulf, arrived at New Orleans in the middle of December, 1862, with orders from Halleck to advance up the Mississippi, and (in cooperation with Grant) to hold an unbroken line of communication by land from New Orleans to Vicksburg. When this was accomplished he was to occupy the Red River country as a basis for future operations against Texas. During the winter, Banks confined his attention to operations west of the Mississippi, with varying success. Early in March, at the request of Farragut, who had determined to run past the Port Hudson batteries with his fleet, Banks moved forward with about seventeen thousand men to make a demonstration against that place with his artillery. He did not get near enough to do this, however, and was still building bridges when near midnight of March 14th Farragut's guns began to boom from the River.

[209] [210]

The last stronghold on the Mississippi Confederate fortifications on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi at Port Hudson, Louisiana. At Port Hudson the east bank of the River rises steeply in a bluff eighty feet high, forming a perfect natural fortress. When Breckinridge failed in his attempt to recapture Baton Rouge in 1862, he retired to Port Hudson, thirty miles farther up the River, and by the middle of August the fortifying of that place was well advanced, the object being to hold the Mississippi between this point and Vicksburg, so that supplies coming from Arkansas by way of the Red River would not be cut off from the Confederacy. Within the heavy parapets, twenty feet thick, the Confederates mounted twenty siege-guns along the bluff, completely commanding the River. It was therefore no light task that Farragut took upon himself when on the night of March 14th he attempted to run by these batteries with his fleet. Five of his seven vessels were disabled, the Mississippi running aground and being abandoned and burned by her commander. Farragut, in the famous Hartford, with the Albatross lashed to her side, barely escaped running aground under the guns of the batteries in the darkness. Finally he got safely by, and the object of the gallant fight was accomplished.


The well-planted batteries Confederate siege-gun Mounted in the River fortifications at Port Hudson. Twenty of these great pieces thundered at Farragut's fleet till long after midnight on March 14, 1863. although the objective was not so important to the Federals as in the famous fight at New Orleans, the engagement at Port Hudson was scarcely less brilliant, and its outcome was more costly to the navy, which lost the valuable steam corvette Mississippi, mounting nineteen guns. The fleet lost 113 men in action. Farragut had the superiority in number and weight of metal, but this was more than offset by the advantageous position of the Confederates. A successful shot from the ship could do little more than tear up the earth in the fortifications on the bluff, while every shot from the shore that told might mean the piercing of a boiler or the disabling of a rudder, rendering a ship helpless. To add to the disadvantages, Farragut's intention was discovered at the outset. A River steamer approached with flaring lights and tooting whistles and ran through the fleet, up to the Hartford, merely bringing the word that Banks was within five miles of Port Hudson. Thus the fleet was discovered and the Confederates, illuminating the River with piles of blazing pine-knots, trained their guns with deadly precision on the advancing vessels.

[212] perilous enterprise. The army was divided into four corps, commanded respectively by Sherman, McClernand, McPherson, and Hurlbut. The latter was stationed at Memphis. On March 29th, the movement of McClernand from Milliken's bend to a point opposite Grand Gulf was begun. He was soon followed by McPherson and a few weeks later by Sherman. It required a month for the army, with its heavy artillery, to journey through the swamps and bogs of Louisiana.

while this March was in progress, something far more exciting was taking place on the River. Porter ran the batteries of Vicksburg with his fleet. After days of preparation the fleet of vessels, protected by cotton bales and hay about the vital parts of the boats, with heavy logs slung near the water-line--seven gunboats, the ram General Price, three transports, and various barges were ready for the dangerous journey on the night of April 16th. Silently in the darkness, they left their station near the mouth of the Yazoo, at a quarter past nine. For an hour and a half all was silence and expectancy. The bluffs on the east loomed black against the night sky. Suddenly, the flash of musketry fire pierced the darkness.

in a few minutes every battery overlooking the River was a center of spurting flame. A storm of shot and shell was rained upon the passing vessels. Not one escaped being struck many times. The water of the River was lashed into foam by the shots and shell from the batteries. The gunboats answered with their cannon. The air was filled with flying missiles. Several houses on the Louisiana shore burst into flame and the whole River from shore to shore was lighted with vivid distinctness. A little later, a giant flame leaped from the bosom of the River. A vessel had caught fire. It was the transport Henry Clay. it burned to the water's edge, nearly all its crew escaping to other vessels. Grant described the scene as “magnificent, but terrible” ; Sherman pronounced it “truly sublime.”

by three in the morning, the fleet was below the city and ready to cooperate with the army. One vessel had been [213]

The well-defended works: within the parapet at Port Hudson in the summer of 1863 these fortifications withstood every attack of Banks' powerful army from May 24 to July 9, 1863. like Vicksburg, Port Hudson could be reduced only by a weary siege. These pictures, taken within the fortifications, show in the distance the ground over which the investing army approached to the two unsuccessful grand assaults they made upon the Confederate defenders. The strength of the works is apparent. A continuous line of parapet, equally strong, had been thrown up for the defense of Port Hudson, surrounding the town for a distance of three miles and more, each end terminating on the riverbank. Four powerful forts were located at the salients, and the line throughout was defended by thirty pieces of field artillery. Brigadier-General Beall, who commanded the post in 1862, constructed these works. Major-General Frank Gardner succeeded him in command at the close of the year.

Confederate fortifications before Port Hudson Gardner was behind these defenses with a garrison of about seven thousand when Banks approached Port Hudson for the second time on May 24th. Gardner was under orders to evacuate the place and join his force to that of Johnston at Jackson, Mississippi, but the courier who brought the order arrived at the very hour when Banks began to bottle up the Confederates. On the morning of May 25th Banks drove in the Confederate skirmishers and outposts and, with an army of thirty thousand, invested the fortifications from the eastward. At 10 A. M., after an artillery duel of more than four hours, the Federals advanced to the assault of the works. Fighting in a dense forest of magnolias, amid thick undergrowth and among ravines choked with felled timber, the progress of the troops was too slow for a telling attack. The battle has been described as “a gigantic bushwhack.” the Federals at the center reached the ditch in front of the Confederate works but were driven off. At nightfall the attempt was abandoned. It had cost Banks nearly two thousand men.

[214] destroyed, several others were crippled; thirteen men had been wounded, but Grant had the assistance he needed. About a week later, six more transports performed the same feat and ran the batteries; each had two barges laden with forage and rations in tow.

Grant's next move was to transfer the army across the River and to secure a base of supplies. There, on the Bluff, was Grand Gulf, a tempting spot. But the Confederate guns showed menacingly over the brow of the hill. After a fruitless bombardment by the fleet on April 29th, it was decided that a more practical place to cross the River must be sought below.

meanwhile, Sherman was ordered by his chief to advance upon the formidable Haynes' Bluff, on the Yazoo River, some miles above the scene of his repulse in the preceding December. The message had said, “make a demonstration on Haynes' Bluff, and make all the show possible.” Sherman's transports, and three of Porter's gunboats, were closely followed by the Confederate soldiers who had been stationed at the series of defenses on the range of hills, and when they arrived at Snyder's Mill, just below Haynes' Bluff, on April 30th, General Hebert and several Louisiana regiments were awaiting them. On that day and the next the Confederates fiercely engaged the Union fleet and troops, and on May 2d Sherman withdrew his forces to the western bank of the Mississippi and hastened to Grant. The feint had been most successful. The Confederates had been prevented from sending reenforcements to Grand Gulf, and Grant's crossing was greatly facilitated.

the fleet passed the batteries of Grand Gulf and stopped at Bruinsburg, six miles below. A landing was soon made, the army taken across on April 30th, and a march to Port Gibson, twelve miles inland, was begun. General Bowen, Confederate commander at Grand Gulf, came out and offered battle. He was greatly outnumbered, but his troops fought gallantly throughout most of the day, May 1st, before yielding [215]

The gun that fooled the Federals a “Quaker gun” that was mounted by the Confederates in the fortifications on the bluff at the river-front before Port Hudson. This gun was hewn out of a pine log and mounted on a carriage, and a black ring was painted around the end facing the river. Throughout the siege it was mistaken by the Federals for a piece of real ordnance. To such devices as this the beleaguered garrison was compelled constantly to resort in order to impress the superior forces investing Port Hudson with the idea that the position they sought to capture was formidably defended. The ruse was effective. Port Hudson was not again attacked from the river after the passing of Farragut's two ships.

Within “the citadel” this bastion fort, near the left of the Confederate line of defenses at Port Hudson, was the strongest of their works, and here Weitzel and Grover's divisions of the Federals followed up the attack (begun at daylight of June 14th) that Banks had ordered all along the line in his second effort to capture the position. The only result was simply to advance the Federal lines from fifty to two hundred yards nearer. In front of the “citadel” an advance position was gained from which a mine was subsequently run to within a few yards of the fort.

[216] the field. Port Gibson was then occupied by the Union army, and Grand Gulf, no longer tenable, was abandoned by the Confederates.

Grant now prepared for a campaign into the interior of Mississippi. His first intention was to cooperate with General Banks in the capture of Port Hudson, after which they would move together upon Vicksburg. But hearing that Banks would not arrive for ten days, Grant decided that he would proceed to the task before him without delay. His army at that time numbered about forty-three thousand. That under Pemberton probably forty thousand, while there were fifteen thousand Confederate troops at Jackson, Mississippi, soon to be commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston, who was hastening to that capital.

the Federal leader now determined on the bold plan of making a dash into the interior of Mississippi, beating Johnston and turning on Pemberton before their forces could be joined. This campaign is pronounced the most brilliant in the Civil War. It was truly Napoleonic in conception and execution. Grant knew that his base of supplies at Grand Gulf would be cut off by Pemberton as soon as he moved away from it. He decided, therefore, against the advice of his generals, to abandon his base altogether.

a more daring undertaking could scarcely be imagined. With a few days' rations in their haversacks the troops were to make a dash that would possibly take several weeks into the heart of a hostile country. This was certainly defying fate. When General Halleck heard of Grant's daring scheme he wired the latter from Washington, ordering him to move his army down the river and cooperate with Banks. Fortunately, this order was received too late to interfere with Grant's plans.

as soon as Sherman's divisions joined the main army the march was begun, on May 7th. An advance of this character must be made with the greatest celerity and Grant's army showed amazing speed. McPherson, who commanded the right [217]

Pieces of Confederate artillery that fell into the hands of the Federals at the surrender of Port Hudson.

fifty-one pieces of artillery fell into the hands of the Federals at the surrender of Port Hudson, many of them battered into silence by the long bombardment kept up by three Federal field-batteries and an entire regiment of heavy artillery (the First Indiana) on the Federal side. The Confederates had only field-pieces with which to defend their works against the investing army. The battered guns shown in the pictures were mounted in the Camp of Duryea's and Bainbridge's batteries. These works were garrisoned by the Fifteenth Arkansas Confederate Infantry.

Piece of Confederate artillery.

Piece of Confederate artillery.

Piece of Confederate artillery.

[218] wing, proceeded toward Jackson by way of Raymond and at the latter place encountered five thousand Confederates, on May 12th, who blocked his way and were prepared for fight. The battle of Raymond lasted two hours. McPherson was completely successful and the Confederates hastened to join their comrades in Jackson.

McPherson lost no time. He moved on toward Jackson, and as the last of his command left Raymond the advance of Sherman's corps reached it. That night, May 13th, Grant ordered McPherson and Sherman to march upon Jackson next morning by different roads, while McClernand was held in the rear near enough to reenforce either in case of need. The rain fell in torrents that night and, as Grant reported, in places the water was a foot deep in the road. But nothing could daunt his determined army. At eleven o'clock in the morning of the 14th, a concerted attack was made on the capital of Mississippi. A few hours' brisk fighting concluded this act of the drama, and the Stars and Stripes were unfurled on the State capitol. Among the spoils were seventeen heavy guns. That night, Grant slept in the house which Johnston had occupied the night before.

Meantime, Johnston had ordered Pemberton to detain Grant by attacking him in the rear. But Pemberton considered it more advisable to move toward Grand Gulf to separate Grant from his base of supplies, not knowing that Grant had abandoned his base. And now, with Johnston's army scattered, Grant left Sherman to burn bridges and military factories, and to tear up the railroads about Jackson while he turned fiercely on Pemberton. McPherson's corps took the lead. Grant called on McClernand to follow without delay. Then, hearing that Pemberton was marching toward him, he called on Sherman to hasten from Jackson. At Champion's Hill (Baker's Creek) Pemberton stood in the way, with eighteen thousand men.

the battle was soon in progress — the heaviest of the [219]

The navy helps on land a view within Federal Battery no. 10. one of the investing works before Port Hudson. Farragut's fleet of gunboats and mortar-boats assisted materially from the River above and below Port Hudson. Guns were also taken ashore from the gunboats and placed in position to assist in the bombardment which quickly laid the little hamlet of Port Hudson in ruins. This Battery was situated on a wooded height about a mile to the east of the town; its 9-inch Dahlgren guns were kept warm hurling shells at the Confederate fortifications throughout the siege. Lieutenant Terry, of the “Richmond,” was in command of this Battery with a detachment from his vessel, which in the effort to run past Port Hudson in March had received a shot in her safety-valves, rendering her engines useless and forcing her to turn back. The “Richmond” mounted twenty such guns as are seen in the picture, besides two heavy rifles.

[220] campaign. It continued for seven or eight hours. The Confederates were defeated with a loss of nearly all their artillery and about half their force, including four thousand men who were cut off from the main army and failed to rejoin it. On the banks of the Big Black River, a few miles westward, the Confederates made another stand, and here the fifth battle of the investment of Vicksburg took place. It was short, sharp, decisive. The Confederates suffered heavy losses and the remainder hastened to the defenses of Vicksburg. They had set fire to the bridge across the Big Black, and Grant's army was detained for a day — until the Confederates were safely lodged in the city.

the Federal army now invested Vicksburg, occupying the surrounding hills. It was May 18th when the remarkable campaign to reach Vicksburg came to an end. In eighteen days, the army had marched one hundred and eighty miles through a hostile country, fought and won five battles, captured a State capital, had taken twenty-seven heavy cannon and sixty field-pieces, and had slain or wounded six thousand men and captured as many more. As Grant and Sherman rode out on the hill north of the city, the latter broke into enthusiastic admiration of his chief, declaring that up to that moment he had felt no assurance of success, and pronouncing the campaign one of the greatest in history.

the great problem of investing Vicksburg was solved at last. Around the doomed city gleamed the thousands of bayonets of the Union army. The inhabitants and the army that had fled to it as a city of refuge were penned in. But the Confederacy was not to yield without a stubborn resistance. On May 19th, an advance was made on the works and the besieging lines drew nearer and tightened their coils. Three days later, on May 22nd, Grant ordered a grand assault by his whole army. The troops, flushed with their victories of the past three weeks, were eager for the attack. All the corps commanders set their watches by Grant's in order to begin [221]

The guns that worked at close range in advance of Lieutenant Terry's naval Battery, at the edge of another wooded height, stood Federal Battery no. 9 (Cox's), within about 300 yards of the Confederate fortifications, its two 12-pounder rifles doing telling work against the Confederate forts in their front. The Federals pushed their entrenchments nearest to the works of the defenders at this part of the line — so near that a duplicate of Grant's message to Banks announcing the surrender of Vicksburg was thrown within the Confederate lines on July 7th. This picture shows the method of constructing field fortifications, the parapet here being revetted with cotton-bales.

[222] the assault at all points at the same moment--ten o'clock in the morning. At the appointed time, the cannon from the encircling lines burst forth in a deafening roar. Then came the answering thunders from the mortar-boats on the Louisiana shore and from the gunboats anchored beneath the bluff. The gunboats' fire was answered from within the bastions protecting the city. The opening of the heavy guns on the land side was followed by the sharper crackle of musketry--thousands of shots, indistinguishable in a continuous roll.

the men in the Federal lines leaped from their hiding places and ran to the parapets in the face of a murderous fire from the defenders of the city, only to be mowed down by hundreds. Others came, crawling over the bodies of their fallen comrades — now and then they planted their colors on the battlements of the besieged city, to be cut down by the galling Confederate fire. Thus it continued hour after hour, until the coming of darkness. The assault had failed. The Union loss was about three thousand brave men; the Confederate loss was probably not much over five hundred.

Grant had made a fearful sacrifice; he was paying a high price but he had a reason for so doing-johnston with a reenforcing army was threatening him in the rear; by taking Vicksburg at this time he could have turned on Johnston, and could have saved the Government sending any more Federal troops; and, to use his own words, it was needed because the men “would not have worked in the trenches with the same zeal, believing it unnecessary, as they did after their failure, to carry the enemy's works.”

on the north side of the city overlooking the river, were the powerful batteries on Fort Hill, a deadly menace to the Federal troops, and Grant and Sherman believed that if enfiladed by the gunboats this position could be carried. At their request Admiral Porter sent the Cincinnati on May 27th to engage the Confederate guns, while four vessels below the town did the same to the lower defenses. In half an hour five [223]

Sappers at work before Port Hudson.

in burrows such as these the Federal soldiers worked incessantly from June 14th until the surrender of Port Hudson in an effort to undermine “the citadel,” the strongest fortification in the Confederate lines near the Jackson road. Cotton-bales roped about were used as sap-rollers to protect the men from sharpshooters. The heat under the semi-tropical sun was terrible, drying up the brooks and distilling miasma from the pestilential swamp near by. The illness and mortality among the Federals were enormous, and yet the men worked on the saps uncomplainingly, and by July 7th the central one had been carried within seventeen feet of the ditch of the fort, and a storming party of a thousand volunteers had been organized to assault the works as soon as the two heavily charged mines should be sprung. That very day came the word that Vicksburg had fallen, and the work of the sappers and miners was useless.

Where men worked like moles: sappers at work before Port Hudson.

The sap against “the citadel”

[224] of the Cincinnati's guns were disabled; and she was in a sinking condition. She was run toward the shore and sank in three fathoms of water.

the army now settled down to a wearisome siege. For six weeks, they encircled the city with trenches, approaching nearer and nearer to the defending walls; they exploded mines; they shot at every head that appeared above the parapets. One by one the defending batteries were silenced. The sappers slowly worked their way toward the Confederate ramparts. Miners were busy on both sides burrowing beneath the fortifications. At three o'clock on the afternoon of June 25th a redoubt in the Confederate works was blown into the air, breaking into millions of fragments and disclosing guns, men, and timber. With the mine explosion, the Federal soldiers before the redoubt began to dash into the opening, only to meet with a withering fire from an interior parapet which the Confederates had constructed in anticipation of this event. The carnage was appalling to behold; and when the soldiers of the Union finally retired they had learned a costly lesson which withheld them from attack when another mine was exploded on July 1st.

Meantime, let us take a view of the river below and the life of the people within the doomed city. Far down the river, two hundred and fifty miles from Vicksburg, was Port Hudson. The place was fortified and held by a Confederate force under General Gardner. Like Vicksburg, it was besieged by a Federal army, under Nathaniel P. Banks, of Cedar Mountain fame. On May 27th, he made a desperate attack on the works and was powerfully aided by Farragut with his fleet in the river. But aside from dismounting a few guns and weakening the foe at a still heavier cost to their own ranks, the Federals were unsuccessful. Again, on June 10th, and still again on the 14th, Banks made fruitless attempts to carry Port Hudson by storm. He then, like Grant at Vicksburg, settled down to a siege. The defenders of Port Hudson proved their courage by enduring every hardship. [225]

The uses of adversity at Port Hudson.

War brings out more strongly than anything else the truth of the trite old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. In the operations on the James River a locomotive mounted on a flat-boat was used as an extemporized stationary engine for working a pile-driver. The Confederates at Port Hudson put one to as strange a use. Lifted free from the rails and with a belt attached to the driving-wheels, it was used to operate a grist-mill that ground the corn into rough meal, which was their substitute for flour. It did the work in a very satisfactory manner. There were large quantities of grain and corn that had been brought into Port Hudson before it was invested, and the Red River country, as long as it was kept open and accessible, provided the garrison with supplies. But at the time of the investment the Confederate quartermaster was hard put to it to answer the demands made upon him to feed the overworked and hungry men that night and day toiled and slept at the guns. Powder and shell were also running short. Despite the privations suffered by the garrison, they, being used to the climate, suffered less from sickness than did the Federal troops, many detachments of which were encamped along the low-lying and swampy ground that lay at the bend of the River to the north.

A flat-boat was used as an extemporized stationary engine for working a pile-driver.

the church used as a granary


At Vicksburg, during the whole six weeks of the siege, the men in the trenches worked steadily, advancing the coils about the city. Grant received reenforcement and before the end of the siege his army numbered over seventy thousand. Day and night, the roar of artillery continued. From the mortars across the river and from Porter's fleet the shrieking shells rose in grand parabolic curves, bursting in midair or in the streets of the city, spreading havoc in all directions. The people of the city burrowed into the ground for safety. Many whole families lived in these dismal abodes, their walls of clay being shaken by the roaring battles that raged above the ground. In one of these dens, sixty-five people found a home. The food supply ran low, and day by day it became scarcer. At last, by the end of June, there was nothing to eat except mule meat and a kind of bread made of beans and corn meal.

It was ten o'clock in the morning of July 3d. White flags were seen above the parapet. The firing ceased. A strange quietness rested over the scene of the long bombardment. On the afternoon of that day, the one, too, on which was heard the last shot on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Grant and Pemberton stood beneath an oak tree, in front of McPherson's corps, and opened negotiations for the capitulation. On the following morning, the Nation's birthday, about thirty thousand soldiers laid down their arms as prisoners of war and were released on parole. The losses from May 1st to the surrender were about ten thousand on each side.

Three days later, at Port Hudson, a tremendous cheer arose from the besieging army. The Confederates within the defenses were at a loss to know the cause. Then some one shouted the news, “Vicksburg has surrendered!”

The end had come. Port Hudson could not hope to stand alone; the greater fortress had fallen. Two days later, July 9th, the gallant garrison, worn and weary with the long siege, surrendered to General Banks. The whole course of the mighty Mississippi was now under the Stars and Stripes.

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