Jackson, Miss., July 17, 1863.The siege of Jackson, if such any may term it, was brought to a sudden termination about daylight this morning, by the discovery by our advance skirmishers that the batteries which frowned from the enemy's works the evening before had been removed. A reconnoissance revealed the fact that, under cover of the night, General Johnston had evacuated the place, taking with him his sick and wounded, his artillery, and almost every thing else of value. The work of evacuation was commenced about dark on the evening of the sixteenth, and conducted noiselessly and rapidly until about three o'clock this morning, when Johnston's rear-guard withdrew across the river, and set the three floating bridges on fire. The stand of Johnston at this place was probably made to give time for the removal of large quantities of government stores. Ever since our army commenced moving eastward from Vicksburgh, every train has been loaded to its utmost capacity. Johnston was probably informed of the arrival of Sherman's ammunition train last night, and consigned the remainder of the government stores to the flames. The large brick block almost west of the State House, and adjoining to the north the block destroyed by our forces at the previous occupation of the city, was filled with stores of the confederate army. As the rear-guard left the city it fired this block of buildings in two or three different places. The burning buildings made it as light as day in oui  camp. Nearly every one surmised that Johnston was evacuating, and the opinion prevailed that he was destroying the whole city. As soon as it was rendered certain that the place was evacuated, crowds of soldiers marched into the city, despite orders against straggling, and commenced plundering the houses and stores of citizens. Most of the officers endeavored to prevent this indiscriminate plundering, and soon succeeded in comparatively putting an end to it. The only pieces of artillery left by Johnston in his retreat were two sixty-four pound rifled siege-guns. One of them was uninjured, but the other had been dismounted by our batteries, and a trunnion knocked off. It had been propped up, however, in the capacity of a “quaker,” in its old position. But the “religious silence” it maintained, however, for some days, led our boys to suspect that something was wrong with it. Some forty or fifty railroad-cars and a small quantity of cotton were left in the city, and fell into the hands of our forces. The rebels had been busily at work in the construction of a temporary bridge across the Pearl River. The timbers for the purpose had all been framed, and half of the structure already put up. The piers of the old bridge were being used in the construction of the new one. The work was left just as the mechanics had discontinued it. All the railroad track inside the city limits, which had been torn up by our troops on the occasion of their visit in May last, had been relaid. The rebel works for the defence of Jackson consisted of a very formidable line of rifle-pits around three sides of the city, and at about a mile's distance from it. At intervals along this line, splendid turf-works had been constructed, which were pronounced models of engineering. These forts were embrasured for a large number of field-pieces, and two or three contained, en barbette, large sixty-four pound rifled siege-guns. One of these was located in the works on the north of the city, and the other on the west, commanding the regular Vicksburgh road. It was the latter gun which was dismounted and permanently injured, in the loss of a trunnion, by our batteries. The line of rifle-pits was constructed in that zig-zag course which brings the approaches to almost every part of the line under an enfilading flre from those parts not assailed. The timber and undergrowth had been removed for several hundred yards in front of the rebel fines, in order to give them a sweeping fire for a long distance. These trees were left lying where they fell, presenting an obstruction which would have rendered the approack of an assaulting party quite slow, and crowded the men much together. The ground was greatly undulating, as I wrote you before. But, although not steep, the ascent could not have been carried without a terrible loss of life. They were so near level as to obviate all danger of over-shooting, and the peculiar hardness and formation of the ground were particularly favorable to ricochet shots. The batteries and long lines of rifle-pits could have enfiladed and swept the wide, open space in front with a murderous fire. It is well that an assault was not ordered. Johnston, in retreating, took the road to Meridian, the junction of the Mobile and Ohio with the railroad running east from Jackson. Here a stand can be made, or he can fall back on Mobile, or Montgomery. Meridian is six miles south of Marion, which you will find laid down on all the old maps; it is about one hundred miles east of Jackson, and twenty from the Alabama line. This is a virtual surrender of Mississippi to our forces, even if Johnston withdrawn no further than Meridian. There have been several fires in jackson already, since our brief possession of the place. Almost a whole block of stores was destroyed this morning, and one fine dwelling-house, just outside the rebel line of defence. This evening, as I write, the skies are illuminated by a fire in the northern portion of the city. How extensive it is, I am unable to say. By the time our army has captured, evacuated, and again captured Jackson, there will be nothing left of it. Nothing is safe or respected here, but every thing destructible seems doomed to destruction. Such is war. During a portion of the day the rebels held the extreme upper and lower fords, but were finally dislodged by our troops crossing at the central ford, between the floating bridges, a few hundred yards above the old railroad bridge. Their object was to delay the crossing of our cavalry until the rear of Johnston's column had reached a safe distance. One of our cavalrymen, crossing at the central ford, captured a confederate prisoner about half a mile from the river, and was proceeding to bring him back into the city. When within a few hundred yards of the ford, with his prisoner walking beside him, his horse stepped upon and exploded a torpedo, planted in the ground and concealed in the dust. The horse was literally split wide open by the explosion, and the rider almost instantly killed. A fragment struck the prisoner a short distance below the thigh, completely shattering the leg to the knee. His life is despaired of. It is not known whether there are any more of these torpedoes planted in the roads or not, but it is presumed they are, and great caution is exercised by our soldiers in consequence. The Deaf and dumb Asylum was between the two lines, and consequently in the line of fire from both sides. It is riddled with shot, and is now but a mere wreck. It never was a first-class building, and the loss cannot be very great. The Insane Asylum was within our lines from the first, and has been under the protection of a guard detailed by General Parks. The only injury it sustained was from a thirty-two pound solid shot from the enemy's guns, which passed  through it. An insane woman was slightly wounded by a splinter, but otherwise no injury was inflicted upon the inmates. Colonel Wood, of Thayer's division, Steele's army corps, with a brigade of infantry, left for Canton last evening. They will destroy the railroad in that neighborhood, and also the large railroad machine-shops at that place. It has been determined upon to destroy all the railroads within our reach, inflicting damages of such a permanent character that they will never be rebuilt, except after a return of peace. Work will be commenced upon the roads here to-morrow, and the hurried injuries of the previous occupation will become permanent. With Johnston's army withdrawn to the eastern limits of the State, and all the railroads torn up, the rebels will never resume control of the Mississippi. There are said to be ninety locomotives belonging to the Mississippi Central and other roads north of Jackson. If this report is true, they will probably be destroyed, unless some means presents itself of getting them to Corinth or Memphis. Johnston had removed his hospitals some two miles east of the Pearl River, where a very few of his own sick, and our wounded in the affair of the twelfth, are said to have been left. From the first investment of the place, General Sherman was short of ammunition. Only a limited number of guns were at first placed in position, and all pieces were limited to one shot every five minutes. The ammunition train was expected on the sixteenth, and on the night of the fifteenth our lines were moved about a half a mile nearer the front, and almost double the number of guns were placed in position. In anticipation of the arrival of the train, a vigorous bombardment was to have commenced on last evening. The train did not arrive, however, until near midnight, when orders were issued for each piece to fire two hundred rounds as rapidly as possible this morning. Johnston was of course aware of our being short of ammunition, or he would not have remained so long. His cavalry scouts must also have notified him of the progress of our ammunition train, and thus enabled him to leave just in time to avoid the severe fire which would have followed its arrival. There are many reports in circulation to the effect that some of our men have been poisoned by drinking liquor left by the rebels. The reasonable conclusion would be this: A drugstore, being endangered by the fire last night, the stock was removed into the street, and this morning scattered in all directions, and trampled in the dust by our soldiers. Several kegs of liquor were found among the stock of this drugstore, and it is not at all improbable that the soldiers, ignorant of its nature, partook of antimonial wine. The operations of the siege, aside from the terrible blunder of General Lauman on the twelfth instant, were conducted with the loss of but few lives, as was also the skirmishing in advancing from Vicksburgh. This morning I rode over the ground upon which General Lauman operated his division in the affair of the twelfth instant, concerning which I wrote you from Black River bridge on Tuesday last. A view of the ground enables one to form a correct idea of the manner in which the blundering movement was made, which terminated so disastrously. General Lauman's division was attached to General Ord's army corps, being the extreme right. On the morning of the twelfth, General Hovey, whose division was next to the left, advanced his line about half a mile, and General Lauman was ordered to advance his line until his left rested upon General Hovey's right. Lauman's right did not extend to Pearl River, as was reported, but simply extended the length of one brigade on the east side of the railroad. The line of the enemy's works, after reaching far enough south to protect the approaches to the west of the city, make a curve around to the east and cover the approaches to the south. This last line, when it reaches the railroad south of the city, is running almost north-west and south-east. When it crosses the railroad it bears from north-east to south-west for some distance, and then again changes from north-west to southeast, running to the river. Colonel Isaac L. Pugh, of the Forty-first Illinois, commanded the brigade upon the extreme right of General Lauman's division. The brigade consisted of the Forty-first, Fifty-third, land Twentyeighth Illinois, Third Iowa and Fifth Ohio battery. The left of the brigade rested on the rail. road, it being upon the east side of it. Although he could not see the rebel lines on the east side of the railroad, General Lauman could see enough to know that they did not run parallel with those on the west side of the railroad, and, presuming that, after crossing the railroad, their course was about east to the river, he swung the right of General Pugh's brigade around until the line was formed almost due east and west. The brigade on the left of Pugh's had been dropped from the line. leaving a gap. In this position the division advanced. Presently Colonel Pugh came to a cornfield, where the corn had all been carefully removed except in one place, and the timber upon his left all cut down. His skirmishers, about the same time, were driven in by sharp-shooters. Colonel Pugh determined not to advance any further, and sent for General Lauman, to whom he communicated that his skirmishers had been driven in, and he feared that the enemy were in force in front of him. General Lauman gave the order to the brigade to move on, and left it. After crossing the corn-field it came into a piece of open woods, from which the undergrowth had been removed. Here it was opened upon by a galling fire from the enemy's artillery, sharp-shooters, and twelve cannon with grape and canister, at one hundred and fifty yards, those upon the right enfilading the line. It was the most murderous  fire to which any considerable body of infantry has been exposed during the war, and it beat a hasty retreat, but not until over one half of the men had been killed or wounded.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.