Doc. 61.-Vicksburg and Baton Rouge.
Report of Major-General Van Dorn.
headquarters District of the Mississippi, Jackson, Miss., September 9, 1862.General: I have the honor to submit, for the information of the War Department, the following report of the defence of Vicksburg, and of operations in this district, up to the present time:  Pursuant to orders I assumed command of this district, and of the defences of Vicksburg, on the twenty-seventh day of June, 1862. Prior to my arrival, Major-General Lovell having resolved to defend the city, had ordered a detail of his force, under the command of Brigadier-General M. L. Smith, to garrison the place and construct works for its defence. I found the city besieged by a powerful fleet of war vessels and an army. The inhabitants, inspired by a noble patriotism, had determined to devote the city to destruction, rather than see it fall into the hands of an enemy who had abandoned many of the rules of civilized warfare. This voluntary sacrifice, on the altar of liberty, inspired me with the determination to defend it to the last extremity. Orders to this effect were at once issued, to which my army responded with the liveliest enthusiasm. The citizens retired to the interior, while the troops marched in and pitched their tents in the valleys and on the hills adjacent, in convenient position to support batteries and strike assailants. The batteries of heavy guns already established by the skill and energy of General Smith, on the crest of the hills overlooking the river, were placed in complete readiness for action. Other guns were brought up from Mobile, from Richmond, from Columbus, and elsewhere, and put in battery. Breckinridge's division occupied the city. Smith's brigade, which, previous to my arrival, had furnished the garrison of the place, manned the batteries, and with details from Breckinridge's division, guarded the approaches in front and on the flanks. Wither's light artillery was placed in such position as to sweep all near approaches, while Stark's cavalry watched, at a distance, on our flank on the Yazoo, and below Warrenton, on the Mississippi. Prior to my assuming command, the attacking force of the enemy was confined to Porter's mortar-fleet and Farragut's gunboats (with their attendant array in transports), which had ascended the river from New Orleans. For the operations of this force in attack, and for the successful and heroic resistance made by General Smith and the troops under his command, I refer the Department to the satisfactory and graphic report of that officer, herewith communicated. The evacuation of Fort Pillow and the fall of Memphis opened the new danger of a combination between the upper and lower fleets of the enemy. This junction was effected early in July, and thus an added force of more than forty gunboats, mortar-boats, rams, and transports lay in menace before the city. On the twelfth of July it opened fire, and kept up a continuous attack until the bombardment of the city ceased. Having received authority from the President to use the ram Arkansas, as part of my force, some days prior to the fifteenth of July, I issued an order to Captain Brown to assume command of her, and prepare her for immediate and active service. From all reliable sources I learned that she was a vessel capable of great resistance, and armed with large offensive power. Making the order imperative. I commanded Captain Brown to take her through the raft of the Yazoo, and after sinking the Star of the West in the passage to go out and attack the upper fleet of the enemy to the cover of my batteries. I left it to his judgment to determine whether on reaching the city his vessel was in condition to proceed down the river and destroy the lower mortar-fleet. Captain Brown properly substituted a vessel of inferior quality in place of the Star of the West, entered the Mississippi, and on the memorable morning of the fifteenth of July, immortalized his single vessel, himself, and the heroes under his command, by an achievement, the most brilliant ever recorded in naval annals. I deeply regret that I am unable to enrich my report by an authentic account of the heroic action of the officers and men of the Arkansas. Commodore Lynch declines to furnish me with a report of the action, on the ground that he was an officer out of the scope of my command. The glory of this deed of the Arkansas stung the pride of the Federal navy, and led to the most speedy, but unsuccessful efforts of the combined fleets to destroy her. I refer the Department to the accompanying report of General Smith for an accurate detail of those efforts, as also for a connected and faithful relation of the important events which make the history of the siege and defence of Vicksburg. With the failure to destroy or take the Arkansas, the siege of Vicksburg practically ended. The attack on the batteries soon ceased, and the enemy, baffled and enraged by an unexpected, determined, and persistent defence, vented his wrath in impotent and barbarian efforts to destroy the city. On the twenty-seventh of July both fleets disappeared, foiled in a more than two months struggle to reduce the place. The casualties on our side, during the entire siege, were twenty-two killed and wounded. Not a gun was dismounted, and but two were temporarily disabled. The successful defence of Vicksburg is due to the unflinching valor of the cannoniers, who, unwearied by watchfulness night and day, stood by their guns unawed by the terrors of a fierce and continuous bombardment; to the sleepless vigilance and undaunted courage of the troops, who lay, at all hours, in close supporting distance of every battery, ready to beat back the invader so soon as his footsteps should touch the shore; to the skilful location of scattered batteries, and last, not least, to that great moral power — a high and patriotic resolve pervading and swelling the breasts of officers, soldiers, and citizens, that, at every cost, the enemy should be expelled. I refer the department to the specific enumeration of the names of officers and men who won distinction by meritorious service during the siege, as reported by General Smith, and I heartily indorse his commendations. Satisfied that the enemy disappeared from Vicksburg, under the mortifying conviction that it  was impregnable to his attack, I resolved to strike a blow before he had time to organize and mature a new scheme of assault. The enemy held Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, forty miles below the mouth of Red River, with a land force of about three thousand five hundred men, in conjunction with four or five gunboats, and some transports. It was a matter of great necessity to us that the navigation of Red River should be opened as high as Vicksburg. Supplies, much needed, existed there, hard to be obtained from any other quarter, and strong military reasons demanded that we should hold the Mississippi at two points, to facilitate communications and co-operation between my district and the Trans-Mississippi Department. The capture of Baton Rouge, and the forces of the enemy at that point, would open the Mississippi, secure the navigation of Red River, then in a state of blockade, and also render easier the recapture of New Orleans. To this end I gave orders to General Breckinridge to move upon Baton Rouge with a force of five thousand men, picked from the troops at Vicksburg, and added to his command the whole effective force of General Ruggles, then at Camp Moore, making a total force of six thousand men. To ensure the success of the plan, I ordered the Arkansas to co-operate with the land forces by a simultaneous attack from the river. All damages sustained by the Arkansas from the fleets of the enemy had been repaired, and when she left the wharf at Vicksburg for Baton Rouge, she was deemed to be as formidable, in attack or defence, as when she defied a fleet of forty vessels of war, many of them iron-clads. With such effective means, I deemed the taking of Baton Rouge and the destruction or capture of the enemy on the land and water, the reasonable result of the expedition. By epidemic disease, the land force under Major-General Breckinridge was reduced to less than three thousand effective men, within the period of ten days after he reached Camp Moore. The Arkansas, after arriving within a short distance of Baton Rouge, in ample time for joint action at the appointed hour of attack, suddenly became unmanageable, from a failure in her machinery and engine, which all the efforts of her engineers could not repair. The gallant Breckinridge, advised by telegram every hour of her progress towards Baton Rouge, and counting on her co-operation, attacked the enemy with his whole effective force, then reduced to about two thousand five hundred men, drove him from all his positions, and forced him to seek protection under the cover of his gunboats. I regret to state that the labors of General Breckinridge, in a distant field of operations, have thus far prevented him from making to me a report of his action; but enough has transpired to enable me to assure the department that the battle of Baton Rouge illustrated the valor of our troops, and the skill and intrepidity of their commander. His report will be forwarded as soon as it is received. It will be thus manifest to the department that an enterprise, so hopeful in its promise, met with partial failure, only from causes which were not only beyond my control, but out of the reach of ordinary foresight. I could not anticipate the sudden illness of three thousand picked men, and the failure of the Arkansas at the critical hour appointed to her for added honors, was a joyful surprise to the startled fleet of the enemy, and a wonder to all who had witnessed her glory at Vicksburg. Advised of the result of the expedition, I immediately ordered the occupation of Port Hudson, a point selected for its eligibility of defence, and for its capacity for offensive annoyance of the enemy, established batteries, manned them with experienced gunners, and guarded them by an adequate supporting force, holding Baton Rouge, in the meanwhile, in menace. The effect of these operations was the evacuation of Baton Rouge by the enemy, and his disappearance from the Mississippi between the capital of Louisiana and Vicksburg. The results sought by the movements against Baton Rouge have been, to a great extent, attained. We hold two points on the