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Chapter 7

  • General Sherman advances on Jackson with large force.
  • -- dispositions made for its defense. -- correspondence by telegraph with the President. -- daily skirmishing. -- enemy expected to attack. -- instead of attacking, begin a siege. -- evacuation of Jackson. -- army withdrawn to Morton. -- enemy, after burning much of Jackson, retire to Vicksburg. -- relieved of command of Department of Tennessee. -- General Bragg's telegram; suggestion too late. -- review of the Mississippi campaign. -- visit Mobile to examine its defenses. -- letter from the President, commenting harshly on my military conduct. -- my reply to it. -- Congress calls for the correspondence. -- my letter not furnished. -- both letters. -- events during the fall. -- ordered to take command of the army at Dalton. -- arrive on 26th and assume command on 27th of December.

About seven o'clock in the morning of the 9th of July General Sherman, with three corps of the Federal army, appeared before the slight line of fieldworks thrown up for the defense of Jackson by General Pemberton's orders. These works, consisting of a very light line of rifle-pits, with low embankments at intervals to cover field-pieces, extended from a point north of the town, and a little east of the Canton road, to one south of it within a short distance of Pearl River, and covered the approaches to the place west of the river. These intrenchments were very badly located and constructed, and offered very slight obstacle to a vigorous assault.

The commanding officers of the comparatively small bodies of our troops that had encamped near Jackson in May and June, had reported that no other [206] supply of water for troops was to be found than that of Pearl River. This led me to believe that the Federal army, which, as General Jackson reported, advanced from Clinton in a deep order of battle, could not besiege us, but would be compelled to make an immediate assault. This army consisted of three corps and a division. Notwithstanding the great superiority of numbers against them, the spirit and confidence manifested by the Confederate troops were so great, that I felt assured that, with the advantage given by our intrenchments, weak as they were, they would repel any assault certainly and decisively.

On the appearance of the enemy, our troops took the positions in the line of defense assigned to them the day before, in expectation of an immediate attack-Major-General Loring's division on the right, crossing the Canton road; Major-General Breckenridge's on the left, crossing the New Orleans Railroad; Major-General French's between Breckenridge's and the Clinton road; and Major-General Walker's between that road and Loring's. Brigadier-General Jackson was directed to observe and guard the fords of Pearl River above and below the town with his cavalry.

Instead of attacking as soon as it came up, as we had been hoping, the Federal army intrenched itself, and began to construct batteries.

On the 10th there was spirited skirmishing, with a light cannonade, continuous throughout the day. This was kept up, with varying intensity and but little interruption, until the period of our evacuation. Hills within easy cannon-range, commanding and encircling [207] the town, offered very favorable sites for Federal batteries. A cross-fire of shot and shell reached all parts of the town, showing that the position would be untenable under the fire of a powerful artillery. Such, as it was ascertained, was soon to be brought to bear upon it.

On the 11th, I described to the President, by telegraph, the weakness of the position, and the defects of the intrenched line; and explained that want of supplies, which we had been unable to collect, made it impossible to stand a siege; and therefore, unless the enemy should attack us, we must at the last moment abandon the place; for we could not make a serious attack without exposing ourselves to destruction. Brisk skirmishing was continued until night.

On the 12th, besides the usual skirmishing, there was increased fire of artillery, especially by batteries near the Canton road, and those immediately to the south of that, to Clinton. The missiles fell in all parts of the town. An assault, though not a vigorous one, was made on Breckenridge's front. It was quickly repulsed, however, by the well-directed fire of Slocomb's and Cobb's batteries, and a flank attack by the skirmishers of the First, Third, and Fourth Florida, and Forty-seventh Georgia regiments. The enemy lost about two hundred prisoners, the same number killed, many wounded, and the colors of the Twenty-eighth, Forty-first, and Fifty-third Illinois regiments. The attacking troops did not advance far enough to be exposed to the fire of Breckenridge's line.

On the 13th the Federal lines had been so extended [208] that both flanks rested upon Pearl River. Colonel C. A. Fuller, of Lieutenant-General Pemberton's staff, arrived from Vicksburg, and informed us of the terms of the capitulation. The garrison was paroled and permitted to return to the Confederacy, officers retaining their side-arms and personal baggage. He stated, also, that, at the time of surrender, about eighteen thousand men were reported fit for duty in the trenches, and about six thousand sick and wounded in the hospitals. And the estimates for rations to be furnished to the troops of the garrison by the United States commissary department were based on a total of thirty-one thousand men.

On the 14th our scouts reported that a large train, loaded with artillery-ammunition, had left Vicksburg by the Jackson road. The enemy was observed to be actively employed in the construction of batteries on all suitable positions. He was evidently preparing to concentrate upon us the fire of about two hundred pieces of ordnance. This made it certain that the abandonment of Jackson could be deferred little longer. General Jackson was directed, however, to endeavor to intercept and destroy the ammunition-train, to postpone at least the necessity of abandoning the place.

In reporting these things to the President by telegraph on the 15th, I said that the enemy would make no assault, but had begun a siege which we could not resist, and that it would be madness on our part to attack him.

Early in the afternoon of the 16th it was ascertained that the attempt by our cavalry to intercept [209] the ammunition-train from Vicksburg had failed, and that the train was near the Federal camp. This, and the advanced condition of the enemy's batteries, made it probable that the fire of all his artillery would commence next day. The evacuation of Jackson that night was decided on and accomplished before daybreak. All public property, and the sick and wounded, except a few not in condition to bear removal, had been carried to the rear, to Brandon and beyond. The right wing marched on the new, and the left on the old Brandon road, crossing the Pearl River on the bridges prepared for the expedition beyond the Big Black, which had been laid by Captain Lockett, the engineer-officer who constructed them, at the two ferries of the river. They were destroyed by the cavalry rear-guard, after the troops had passed.

By the division reports our loss in Jackson was seventy-one killed, five hundred and four wounded, and twenty-five missing.

At Brandon, where we halted several hours, some of our soldiers who, according to their own accounts, were asleep when the troops left Jackson, rejoined their regiments. They said that they had left the town at seven or eight o'clock, and that, apparently, the enemy had not then discovered its evacuation.

I intended to place the troops in a position near Brandon, and encamp on the nearest stream, but the water was neither good nor sufficiently abundant. The movement eastwardly was therefore resumed on the 18th, and continued at the rate of six or eight miles a day, in search of good camping-ground, until [210] the 20th, when we halted three or four miles west of Morton.

Two divisions of Federal infantry and a body of cavalry, drove our cavalry rear-guard through Brandon on the 19th, and returned to Jackson on the 20th. The object of the expedition seemed to be the destruction of the railroad-bridges and depot, to which the outrage of setting fire to the little town, and burning the greater part of it, was added.

On the 12th I received from Colonel J. L. Logan, commanding a small brigade of cavalry in the southern part of the State, intelligence of the surrender of Port Hudson on the 9th. This report was confirmed by Major Jackson, General Gardner's adjutant-general, who stated that the stock of provisions was exhausted, and but twenty-five hundred of the garrison were fit for duty at the time of surrender.

Federal forces advanced against Yazoo City, both by land and water, on the 13th. The attack by the gunboats was handsomely repulsed by the heavy battery, under the direction of Commander J. N. Brown, Confederate States Navy. The De Kalb, the flag-ship of the United States squadron, an ironclad, carrying thirteen guns, was sunk by a torpedo. The garrison, commanded by the lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-ninth North Carolina regiment, offered little, if any, resistance to the enemy's landforces.

The Federal army remained only five or six days in Jackson, but in that short time it destroyed all of the town so closely built that fire could communicate from house to house; its rear-guard left the place, for Vicksburg, on the 23d. [211]

On that day the following telegram from

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