Doc. 200.-the charge at Vicksburgh, Miss.
General McClernand's letter.
headquarters Thirteenth army corps, in the field near Vicksburgh, Miss., May 28, 1863.dear Governor: I snatch a moment, amid pressing and responsible duties, to address you a few lines on the subject of our recent operations. The rattle of musketry and the roar of cannon ring at short intervals in my ears, and carnage is all around. All the corps of the army of the Tennessee were ordered by its commander to make a simultaneous assault upon the enemy's works at ten A. M. of the twenty-second instant. The advance was ordered to be made in quick-time, with bayonets fixed, and without firing a gun, until the outer works were carried. A very rough, rugged and broken space was in our front, and had to be overcome under the enemy's fire. Our line was some six or eight miles long, and was therefore necessarily weakened by attenuation. At five minutes before ten o'clock I ordered that the bugle sound the charge, and within fifteen minutes Lawler's and Landrum's brigades, of the Fourteenth and Tenth divisions of this corps, had stormed a strong lunette work in their front, making enlodgment, and planting our colors upon it. Twelve men went into it, eleven were killed, and the twelfth, aided by our sharp-shooters on the top of the parapet, captured and brought out twelve rebels. A feat more daring and successful is hardly recorded. Its achiever was Sergeant Joseph E. Griffith, company I, Twenty-second Iowa V. I., who deserves equal admiration and praise. Within thirty minutes after ten o'clock, Benton's and Burbridge's brigades, fired with noble emulation, rushed forward; made a lodgment on a similar work in their front, and in like manner planted our flag upon it. This cost a sanguinary struggle. The enemy was driven away from a loaded gun before he had time to fire it; while Lieutenant White, of the Chicago Mercantile battery, brought up one of his pieces by hand close to the enemy's works, and double-shotting it, poured a deadly discharge into the enemy's ranks. This feat was a worthy parallel to Sergeant Griffith. All this was on my right. On my left Osterhaus's division formed the advance, supported by one brigade of General Hovey's — the other brigade having been left behind, under General Grant's order at Big Black. The movement of these forces was obliquely toward the point of attack, in front of Lawler, which they neared in the course of a struggle which brought most, if not all of them into action. The fury of our assault was such as to alarm the enemy and to cause him to mass his troops from both right and left, in my front. The movements by which this was effected, were plainly seen by officers and men of my command, and greatly increased the obstacles to the advance of my corps, whose strength had been much curtailed by different detachments which had been ordered to be left behind. Passing to matters of a more personal character, I am loth to inform you of rumors which would fix upon me the responsibility of the failure of the assault on the twenty-third. These rumors are as contradictory as they are senseless and mendacious. They must be spawn of petty prejudiced partisans. It would be unjust to impute them to any men of rank and character. One rumor charges me with not attacking promptly, yet it is notorious, I was the first to attack, and the first to make a lodgment in the enemy's works; moreover, I continued unremittingly the conflict until after night, and for a longer time than any other corps. My success was also as great as that of any other corps. I planted my flag upon two of the enemy's works, where they waved for some eight hours--taking  a number of prisoners, and forcing the enemy, through his fears, to mass his forces to stop my progress. Another rumor charges me with the responsibility of the loss sustained by the other army corps. And wherefore, do you imagine? Simply, because I urged that other parts of the line should continue the attack as well as mine, or that I should he reenforced--one or the other. In asking the former, I but asked what General Grant had expressly and peremptorily ordered. The fault, therefore, if any, was not with me. In asking, alternatively, the latter, I only asked what, in massing our forces on a single amid shaking point, would have materially conduced to the success of the attack. Perhaps our endeavors would have been crowned with success if the latter plan of attack had been originally adopted. In short, it was but fair for all to cooperate under an order from a common superior, alike binding on all, for the attainment of a common object. And if loss was sustained by others, it was also sustained by me, probably in still greater proportion; but not as a consequence of any thing that I said or did, but as a consequence of the order alluded to, and the effort to carry it into successful effect. Coming as it did, from competent authority, it is not my province, nor is this the proper occasion to impugn that order. Without intending injustice to any one, I may be permitted to say that my corps led the advance from Milliken's Bend to Bruin's Landing, and to the field at Port Gibson. At the latter place it was the first to attack the enemy and break his force. This battle was determinate of all our following successes. Pursuing the enemy next day, it captured the town of Port Gibson, and drove the enemy from the north bank of Bayou Pierre; thence marching toward Edward's Station, on the Vicksburgh and Jackson Railroad, it encountered and drove back the enemy from one of the crossings of Fourteen Mile Creek, on the same day that General Sherman drove him back from the crossing at Turkey Creek, and McPherson beat him near Raymond. Soon after it led the advance to Bolton on the railroad, and again against the enemy at Champion Hill, first attacking him and achieving a signal victory, with the assistance of McPherson's corps. That my corps bore the brunt here is attested by the conspicuous part borne by General Hovey, and the greater loss sustained by his division. Rapidly pursuing the routed enemy, we captured many prisoners, together with Edwards's Station, and all of the enemy's stores there, during the evening and night of the same day. By eight o'clock the next morning we overtook the enemy in considerable force on the Big Black River, and immediately engaged him, drove him from his skilfully constructed works at the point of the bayonet, taking many prisoners and eighteen pieces of cannon. Thence we marched upon Vicksburgh, and have done what has already been recounted. The odds were now largely against me, yet for some eight hours I held my ground, baffling every attempt to dislodge me, and in the mean time repeatedly asked for a diversion of the enemy on my right, or to be reenforced. Reenforcements finally came up, but too late; night cut short the engagement. With timely reenforcements, I doubt not, what a number of my officers affirmed, that we could have gone through the enemy's works. Indeed, I have learned since that the enemy was about to yield. With what justice it has been imputed to us that we have brought up the rear, you will decide. Others, doubtless, have done their duty as well — it may be, better than we. It is foreign to my purpose to complain of any one, to make invidious comparisons; but let justice be done. If need be, let there be an investigation by competent authority of the whole campaign, in all its parts and policy, and in regard to all its officials, from Milliken's Bend to this place, and tile truth declared. Your obedient servant,
Indianapolis Journal account.
camp in rear of Vicksburgh.On Friday, the twenty-second, while accompanying General Smith's aid, I again had an opportunity of witnessing some of the operations. Brilliantly streamed the sunlight on that May morning over the fort-crowned hills around Vicksburgh. Traces of serious thought were upon the countenances of the men, for they well knew that to many that gladdening sunlight was, their last. The order was to open with all our guns, and at ten o'clock to charge. From the hills where the siege-guns were planted, manned by the First regulars, the wreathing smoke of our batteries in active operation, could be seen around the whole line, while to the car, came the sudden roar of the gunboats on the river. The rebel hospital and court-house were in sight, but for miles along their rifle-pits and forts, not a man was visible. About four hundred yards in front of their works, was a ridge, on the top of which the rebels had burnt a house. Three pieces of the First Indiana battery were in the rear of the chimney, land two of Blunt's cannon were in the road, to the left of which Generals Carr and Smith made their headquarters. Between ten and eleven o'clock, the rattle of musketry and a shower of bullets announced that Benton's brigade was advancing. General Carr, followed by his staff, rode up to the ravine from the railroad, stopping just below the crest of the hill, and sat like a statue while around him passed the hissing hail of lead. Lawler's brigade, on the left, advanced nearly to the works, and while Osterhaus's division was falling back, Landrum's brigade rushed down the hill through the ravine and commenced ascending the hill on which that fort was situated, amid the concentrated fire of a half-dozen forts. The Twenty-second Iowa had planted their flag on the outer edge. Some of the Pioneer corps, with picks, were trying to dig into the works. A  few reached the inside and were fighting hand to hand. While this was transpiring on the left of the railroad, equally heroic actions were being performed on the right. Burbridge's brigade had been ordered to the support of Benton. Colonel Washburn, of the Eighteenth, shouted to his men: “The Hoosiers are coming.” Colonel Lucas answered, as with gun on his shoulder he led up his men: “Here's your mule.” Some of the Eighteenth had jumped into the ditch and could not get out. Smith ordered Burbridge to send two regiments from his right to the left, to which the answer was: “I cannot move; they are rolling down cotton-bales and trying to flank us.” Major Montgomery and Captain De Grasse, of the Eighth Missouri cavalry, went over the hill by the burnt chimney shouting like Indians. Captain De Grasse had a ball in his foot, and the staff-officer who attempted to follow their example received two bullets in his horse. Colonel Wright, too sick to fight, had crawled up to see it. The Sixteenth Indiana moved by the flank up to where the Eighteenth was lying close by the fort. These two regiments who have seen service in States widely separated, now mingled their ranks and planted their flags side by side on the crest of a rebel fort in Mississippi. The rebels scarcely daring to show a head under the constant stream of bullets, lit the fuses of shells and threw them by hand among our men, who showed them a Yankee trick by coolly picking them up and throwing them back, where they exploded among the traitors. The exaggerated pictures of illustrated papers usually provoke our merriment, but this scene far surpassed any description words could give of it. Not a man in the two divisions believed they could enter the fort, but here they stood thickly crowded before the fort they could not storm; on the edge of the ditch they could not cross; under an enfilading fire that diminished their numbers, coolly throwing back the lighted shells that fell among them. Slowly the hours dragged by. Messengers came from each brigade, asking reenforcements. Word was sent to the Eighth Indiana to advance to the left of the fort. Colonel Shunk answered: “Half of my men are killed and wounded, but I will go with the rest.” McPherson's attack had been repulsed, and the rebels had concentrated in our front. All hearts felt glad when, coming up the road, appeared the head of column of Quinby's old division, now commanded, I believe, by Crocker. General Carr took Colonel Boorman, commanding the brigade, and showed him the position he wished him to occupy. The brigade was formed, and moved over the hill, and now fiercely rose the storm of musket-balls, canister and shell. The living passed on, trembling, over the dead and wounded of their own ranks, over the broken ground, through bushes and abattises, where no line could be kept. All had noticed the gallant bearing of Colonel Boorman as he formed and led his brigade over the hill. In a few minutes I saw two men bringing back his corse, his clothes torn and dirty, blood running from his mouth and cars; he died as a hero should. Without presuming to criticise those who ordered the movement, I think an error was committed in the way and manner in which the last brigade advanced. If they intended the rebels should only feel its force, it might have moved around the ravine as the other troops did, concealed as long as possible. If it was intended to show reinforcements coming, they could not expect a single brigade to overawe the rebels, who, for a whole day, had kept back two divisions, even though that brigade advanced so boldly under the murderous fire. At last night came and orders were given to withdraw. The men came back with clothes torn and dusty, and faces blackened with powder. They had lived years in those few hours. General Burbridge, the man to whom honor is dearer than life, came back with his brigade, his eyes glaring, and the perspiration standing thick upon his haggard face. General McClernand, of a nervous, sensitive temperament, seemed much depressed at the slaughter of his men. Carr, the hero of Pea Ridge, who had freely exposed himself all day, seemed the most cool and business-like man on the field. In the morning a soldier had cried out, “Look at the men falling;” he broke fiercely out: “Who talks of (lead men here? Think of the enemy, and of killing them. It is no time to speak of (lead men now.” General Smith is the oldest among the generals in years, and one of the most fiery and impetuous in disposition. In the bewildering chaos of battle men tell the incidents which strike them most forcibly. Mistakes cannot be avoided in such rapidity of action. The men came back singly or in groups. Some regiments formed a line on the top of the ridge. General McClernand, in a low tone, called his division commanders around him, and while the big drops of rain commenced falling, soldiers were calling on comrades' names and carrying by the wounded, these men sat on the hillside and held a consultation near the body of Colonel Boorman. A dreary ending of a fearful day. I do not believe greater bravery was ever displayed than by the men of these two divisions, who, without hope, had boldly assaulted the works, and for eight hours maintained the unequal contest. The Eighth Indiana had lost nearly one hundred men killed and wounded. Among the killed were three captains. Lieutenant-Colonel Jenks, of the Eighteenth, was mortally wounded. Colonel Lucas, of the Sixteenth, was hit twice, but not seriously. I have spoken only of the bravery of Indiana regiments, but from no disparagement to the soldiers of other States. In the divisions of Smith and Carr, not a regiment faltered or fell back. History alone will reward the actions of those who gave their lives here today, and in other years men will read with thrilling interest of that “wild charge they made.”
J. R. S. C.
Admiral Porter's report.
Mississippi Squadron, flag-ship Black Hawk, May 23.sir: On the evening of the twenty-first I received a communication from General Grant, informing me that he intended to attack the whole of the rebel works at ten o'clock A. M. on the next day, and asking me to shell the batteries from half-past 9 until half-past 10, to annoy the garrison. I kept six mortars playing rapidly on the works and town all night, and sent the Benton, and Mound City, and Carondelet, up to shell the water-batteries, and other places where troops might be resting during the night. At seven o'clock in the morning the Mound City proceeded across the river and made an attack on the hill batteries opposite the canal. At eight o'clock I joined her with the Benton, Tuscumbia, and Carondelet. All these vessels opened on the hill batteries, and finally silenced them, though the main work on the battery containing the heavy rifled gun was done by the Mound City, Lieutenant Commanding Byron Wilson. I then pushed the Benton, Mound City, and Carondelet up to the water-batteries, leaving the Tuscumbia (which is still out of repair) to keep the hill batteries from firing on our vessels after they had passed by. The three gunboats passed up slowly, owing to the strong current, the Mound City leading, the Benton following, and the Carondelet astern. The water-batteries opened furiously, supported by a hill battery on the starboard. The vessels advanced to within four hundred and fifty yards, by our marks, and returned the fire for two hours, without cessation, the enemy's fire being very accurate and incessant. Finding that the hill batteries behind us were silenced, I ordered up the Tuscumbia to within eight hundred yards of the batteries; but her turret was soon made untenable, not being able to stand the enemy's shot, and I made her drop down. I had been engaged with the forts an hour longer than General Grant asked. The vessels had all received severe shots under water, which we could not stop up while in motion, and not knowing what might have delayed the movement of the army, I ordered the vessels to drop out of fire, which they did in a cool and handsome manner. This was the hottest fire the gunboats have ever been under, but owing to the water-batteries being more on a level with them than usual, the gunboats threw in their shell so fast that the aim of the enemy was not very good. The enemy hit the vessels a number of times, but the shot did but little damage. Not a man was killed, and only a few wounded. I had only enough ammunition for a few moments longer, and set all hands to work to fill up from our depot below. After dropping back I found that the enemy had taken possession again of one of the lower hill batteries, and was endeavoring to remount his guns, and had mounted a twelve-pounder field-piece to fire on General McArthur's troops, which had landed a short time before at Warrenton. I sent the Mound City and Carondelet to drive him off, which they did in a few moments. I beg leave to inclose a letter from General McArthur, explaining why he did (to use his own expression) take advantage of the results gained by the gunboats. I have since learned from General Grant that the army did assault at the right time vigorously. In the noise and smoke we could not see or hear it. The gunboats were, therefore, still fighting when the assault had proved unsuccessful. The army have terrible work before them, and are fighting as well as soldiers ever fought before. But the works are stronger than any of us dreamed of. General Grant and his soldiers are confident that the brave and energetic Generals in the army will soon overcome all obstacles and carry the works.