The battles of Pittsburg Landing
, north of Vicksburg
, in May, and of Baton Rouge
, south of Port Hudson
, in August, 1862, each a Union success, left only the Fortresses of Vicksburg
and of Port Hudson
, with the river between them, in the hands of the Confederacy
This was the military status of the Mississippi
on January 1, 1863.
In the foregoing I have noted the events of the war preceding and leading up to the campaigns of Vicksburg
and Port Hudson
, and the strategic importance of those great strongholds, both to the Confederacy
and to the Union
On November 8, 1862, an order from President Lincoln
was issued placing General Nathaniel P. Banks
in command of the Department of the Gulf, and relieving General Butler
, with his staff and attaches, the writer being one of the number, left New York city on the North Star on December 4, 1862, and arrived at New Orleans on December 14.
By the President
's order of November 9, 1862, General Banks
was named the ranking general in the Southwest
, and was authorized to assume control of all forces that might come from the upper Mississippi
into his command, including Grant
's. The order says: ‘The President regards the opening of the Mississippi River
as the first and most important of all our military and naval operations, and it is hoped that you will not lose a moment in accomplishing it.’
And ‘the capture of Vicksburg
’ is especially mentioned in the order as one of the principal objects for his attention.
Meanwhile General McClernand
was operating from the north towards Vicksburg
, the government apparently intending a junction with Banks
, who was to be supreme in command.
Misunderstandings and disaster to the northern column prevented this; but besides this, Port Hudson
, which in the early fall of 1862 had only a small garrison and few cannon, had during the intervening time been gradually strengthened; so that in January, 1863, it had become a powerful fortification, with complete armament, and a garrison of some 16,000 men. Thus was the problem of opening the Mississippi
changed so far as