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Chapter 29: siege of Vicksburg--continued.

  • The Army marches from Bruensburg towards Vicksburg.
  • -- destruction of the last -- works built by the Confederates on the Mississippi. -- Admiral Porter opens communication with General Grant in the Rear of Vicksburg, and occupies Haines' Bluff. -- midnight attack on Vicksburg by the Army and Navy. -- attack on Yazoo City by the gun-boats and destruction of three iron-clad rams. -- attack on the Vicksburg works, May 22, by the Army and Navy. -- loss of the Cincinnati before Vicksburg. -- her guns transferred to the Rear of the City. -- destruction of nine Confederate steamers up the Yazoo, by Lieutenant-Commander Walker. -- attack on Vicksburg, June 19, by the Army and Navy. -- all the enemy's guns silenced. -- General Price's Army repulsed by General Mower and the marine brigade. -- energy shown by the Confederates in Vicksburg. -- short summary of the work accomplished before Vicksburg by the Navy. -- surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863. -- meeting of the officers of the Army and Navy on board the flag-ship Black Hawk. -- letters from General Sherman to Admiral Porter. -- generous terms granted the besieged after the capture of Vicksburg. -- true history. -- harmony in Army and Navy co-operation. -- last words of Grant. -- detailed report of Rear-Admiral Porter. -- congratulatory letter of Secretary Welles.

As the Army had marched from Bruensburg, and was well on the way to Vicksburg, Admiral Porter changed his station from Grand Gulf to the flag-ship Black Hawk at the mouth of the Yazoo River, ready to co-operate with the Army the moment it should make its appearance in the rear of Vicksburg.

Two iron-clads were left at the mouth of the Red River, blocking it up closely, which sealed the fate of Port Hudson. No more supplies would get to the Confederates from that quarter.

One iron-clad was left at Carthage, three at Warrenton, (where the enemy aimed at building heavy works), and two or three in the Yazoo.

Notwithstanding the Confederates were so hardly pressed, they still clung to the idea that they would beat the Federal Army back from its hard-won positions, and they were not even willing that the gun-boats should have the satisfaction of going to the landing opposite Warrenton to obtain provisions and coal. They proceeded to erect a heavy work there that would command the river both ways, and particularly the opposite landing.

The enemy had labored hard on these works, night and day, in hopes of having them ready by the time the vessels of the fleet returned. It was intended to mount eight 10-inch guns and some 100-pound rifles. The work was built of cotton-bales covered with logs — the logs to be covered with several layers of railroad iron and the whole to be covered with bags of earth — a fort, in fact, impervious to shot or shells.

Lieutenant-Commander Wilson, in the Mound City, appeared below Warrenton about the 12th of May, and seeing these works and no persons about, sent a party on shore to reconnoitre. These mounted the parapets and discovered a number of artillerists inside the fort, who, to make themselves secure from observation,were crouching under the parapets.

The Federal party emptied their revolvers into the enemy and then, jumping down, hailed the Mound City and told those on [320] board to open fire on the works, which was done. A stray shell found its way into a cotton-bale — in ten minutes this formidable work was in a blaze, and in less than an hour the whole fabric was consumed.

This was the last work built by the Confederates on the Mississippi River. All the appliances of a fort and a quantity of stores were in the houses at Warrenton. which the Confederates set fire to and destroyed. And what houses were left in the town were destroyed by the Mound City's men. Warrenton had been a troublesome place and merited its fate.

On the 15th of May, the admiral joined the fleet in the Yazoo, and on the 16th firing was heard in the rear of Vicksburg — a sign that General Grant's Army was not far off, and that he was driving Pemberton into the

Lieut.-commanding (now captain) Byron Wilson, U. S. N.

city. The flag-ship pushed up the river as near as she could get to the combatants, and it was soon discovered by the aid of glasses that General Sherman's division was coming in on the left of Snyder's Bluff, cutting off the enemy at that place from joining the troops in the city.

The DeKalb, Lieutenant-Commander Walker, the Choctaw, Lieutenant-Commander Ramsay, the Linden, Romeo, and Forest Rose, all under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Breese, were now sent up the Yazoo to open communication with the Army. In three hours, letters were received by the Admiral from Generals Grant, Sherman and Steele, informing him of their complete success in driving General J. E. Johnston away with his Army of 40,000 men, and forcing Pemberton into Vicksburg with about the same number of troops.

In the meantime the DeKalb pushed on to Haines' Bluff, which had been the great obstacle to our advance in that direction, and which the enemy had commenced evacuating the day before. A part of the garrison had remained behind in hopes of carrying off a quantity of stores, but they were driven away by the DeKalb and were cut off by some of Sherman's command who had marched in that direction.

The Confederates had been so completely surprised by the sudden appearance of our gun-boats and Army that they had not time to destroy anything — guns, tents, equipage and all kinds of stores were left in good order and fell into the hands of the Federals.

As soon as the Army appeared, driving the Confederates into Vicksburg, all the gun-boats below the city were ordered up to attack the batteries, which fire was kept up for three hours. At midnight the fire was reopened and directed to all points where it might be possible to harass the enemy's troops, and it was continued all night. The Confederates must have had an uncomfortable time of it, after marching and fighting all day with little hope of rest within their trenches. Shot and shells were whistling about them and every now and then a fire broke out in the city, threatening destruction to their stores and munitions of war.

The Admiral ordered up the army transports with stores and provisions, which the Union forces were glad to get that day before sunset.

The works at Haines' Bluff were found to be very formidable — far too much so to have been taken by our Army; or from the water side; there were eighteen of the heaviest guns (8-inch and 10-inch columblads, and 7 1/2-inch rifles) with ammunition enough to last a long siege, and much of it suited for the guns of the naval vessels. The works and encampment (which consisted of permanent houses), covered many acres of ground, and the fortifications and rifle-pits extended over one mile and a quarter. Wide ditches, chevaux-de-frise, and net works (obstructions that would delight any military engineer,) formed part of their defenses; and these were but a counterpart of miles of the same kind of work, in and around Vicksburg. Most of these works were destroyed as not conducing in any way to the requirements of the Federal Army, and to prevent their being used to check the advance of the gun-boats, in case the enemy by superior force caused the siege to be raised.

As soon as the Confederates had evacuated Haines' Bluff, and all the rafts which blocked the river above had been removed, [321] Lieutenant-Commander Walker, in the DeKalb, was sent up the Yazoo River with a sufficient force to destroy all the works at Yazoo City, which had been used in the construction of their rams.

As this naval force approached Yazoo City, the Confederate property was set on fire by Lieutenant Brown,late commander of the Arkansas, and our men had only to add fuel to the flames which were well under way. Three powerful rams were burned: the Mobile, a screw steamer ready for her plating; the Republic, already plated with railroad iron, and a monster steamer on the stocks (310 feet long and 70 beam), intended to be the most powerful vessel of the kind ever built. She was to have had six engines, four side wheels and two propellers. with a speed of sixteen knots.

The Confederates were unfortunate in their rams — they built them only to lose them. But the amount of energy they exhibited in endeavoring to obtain vessels of this class was remarkable, and what they accomplished, in this line, was more astonishing still. Every ram which they built was either destroyed by our Navy, or by themselves to prevent the Navy from capturing them. Naval officers knew how much damage one of these vessels would commit, if she could ever get fairly afloat, and when one was heard of as building at any point, no effort was left untried to reach the place and destroy her.

Yazoo City fared badly for its misfortune in being selected as a site for a Navy Yard. The expedition which had been directed to do its work with all dispatch and return as quickly as possible to headquarters, set fire to everything of a public character. The Navy Yard contained five saw-mills, besides planing-mills, machine shops, carpenter and blacksmith shops, in fact all the appliances for building a Navy. Saw-mills above the city were also destroyed and the Federal forces left nothing that could be used towards building a boat even.

Yazoo never built another ram; the people were quite satisfied to have their houses left standing.

The expedition returned down the river, having fully accomplished all they went for.

They were attacked at Liverpool Landing at a very sharp bend in the narrow river, by three field-pieces and 200 rifle-men concealed in the bushes; but these were soon made to retreat. The vessels only lost one man killed and eight wounded--but the amount of destruction which they caused can hardly be realized.

The Confederates now lost all hope of being able to build rams or any other vessels on the tributaries of the Mississippi, and though Yazoo City was for some time after the rendevous of the cowardly guerillas, yet it no longer formed a source of anxiety to the Union forces.

On the evening of the 21st of May, Admiral Porter received a communication from General Grant to the effect that he intended to make a general attack upon the Confederate works at Vicksburg at 10 A. M. the next day. He had closely invested the enemy's works and was so near that he thought he could get inside. The Admiral was requested to attack on the water side, and shell all the batteries from 9.30 to 10.30 A. M., to annoy the garrison and draw off as many as possible from the trenches.

In the meantime the Admiral with the Benton, Tuscumbia, Carondelet. and Mound City opened on the hill batteries and silenced them one after another, and the Mound City had the honor of disabling the heaviest gun the enemy had mounted, called Whistling Dick, a gun that had hitherto defied the best marksmen.

Whistling Dick. (Sketched by Rear-Admiral Walke from a photograph by Paymaster Benton.)

The Confederates did not stand to their guns this day as they had been accustomed to do. They were receiving a heavy fire in the rear as well as in front, and the shriek of the shells from the army field-pieces, as they fell by the hundred in the Confederate works, could be heard down on the water amid the roar of the heavy cannon. The batteries one after another were silenced, as the gunboats, boats, firing bow and broadside guns, moved upon them until they came to the 13-gun battery in front of the city.

This battery was commanded by Colonel Higgins (formerly a lieutenant in the U. S. Navy), who had so gallantly defended Fort Jackson. He felt called upon to show his old naval friends that he would not flinch from his post no matter what force was brought against him. But the water was high (nearly level with the banks), and the gunboats were above the enemy's water batteries; the first time they had ever enjoyed this advantage. They had nothing but this one battery to engage their attention, as all the [322] others had been silenced. This was the hottest fire the gun-boats had yet been under, as Col. Higgins clung to his works with the greatest tenacity and placed a number of shot (fortunately they were not shells) below the water-line. This went on for two hours and a quarter when it was quite time, according to rule, that the enemy should abandon his post, but he still held on.

The Tuscumbia was brought up with her 11-inch guns, but Higgins soon made her turret untenable, and she was finally completely disabled and had to drop out of action.

The gun-boats had started down the river with a large amount of ammunition, but they had been under fire a good deal and up to this time had had no opportunity of replenishing their supply. Reports came up from below that the ammunition was running short and would be out in a few minutes. This was provoking. Colonel Higgins' fire had begun to slacken and in half an hour more he would have been silenced; but no; one after another the gunboats got out of ammunition, and were obliged to drop down, and finally the last one was obliged to retire and Colonel Higgins was left master of the field. It is not likely that he enjoyed the sport however, as he afterwards confessed to losing a great many of his men.

The gun-boats had done what was required of them by General Grant, and more. He asked an hour's attack to annoy the garrison, while his Army assaulted in the rear; they fought the batteries for two hours and a half, more than twice as long as was required, and with what success will be seen from the following letter of General McArthur.

Headquarters, 6Th Division, 17Th Army Corps, In Field Near Vicksburg, Miss., May 23, 1863.
Admiral — I received your communication with regard to silencing the two batteries below Vicksburg, and in reply would say that I witnessed with intense interest the firing on that day, it being the finest I have yet seen.

I would have taken advantage of the results thus gained by your vessels, and had given the necessary orders to do so, when I received peremptory orders from Major-General McClernand to move my command around to the right of my position, to support a portion of his troops who had gained a lodgment in the enemy's works.

I arrived, however, too late, and have now been ordered back to my former position and to follow up any advantage your vessels may gain.

I have made a request to have some rifle guns sent me, which I require, and on receipt of which I expect to enfilade Whistling Dick's position; at any rate I will try. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am, your obedient servant,

I. Mcarthur, Brig.-Gen. Com'ding 6th Division, 17th Corps.

Had Gen. McArthur been let alone, and not been prevented from occupying the works from which the Navy had driven the Confederates, he would have kept possession of every fort on the ridge of hills which overlooked Vicksburg, and decided the fate of the city.

To show that these attacks of the gunboats were not child's play, the reports of some of the injuries received by them are herewith mentioned:

Mound City, May 22d, 1863.
A shot struck and lodged in starboard bow near the stern, and five feet under water. . . . .

A shot went through the forecastle on port side into the coal bunkers; a shot on starboard side went through the hammock netting and starboard chimney at the lower band, tearing the chimney half off, then through the galley and overboard. A shot in front passed through two heavy thicknesses of boiler iron, the iron of the the pilot-house near the deck, and through the deck, cutting away carlines, and lodged in a mess-chest.

A shot on starboard side passed through half of the hog-chain stanchion, passed through wheelhouse, cutting away iron wheel and brace; then through the steerage, tearing up eight feet of the planks and breaking carlines and woodwork in ward room. A shell burst close to No. 6 gun, knocking off part of the muzzle. A shot on starboard side struck the iron near the top, cutting half through and bending one of the plates, knocking out a stanchion and starting the bolts on the inside. A shot on starboard side struck the muzzle of No. 7 gun, wrecking the gun, then glanced, went through the hammock netting and fell into the pitman. A shot struck the iron on starboard side, over shell-room, knocking off the plate and driving a piece of it through the iron plating of the casemate. A shot on starboard side cut away an awning stanchion, and passed through cabin skylight tearing up the plank.

A shot struck front chimney twenty feet from deck. A shot through brace of forward stanchion and skylight. A shot on starboard side struck iron plating between guns Nos. 4 and 5, three feet above the water, and glanced off bending the plates and starting the bolts. A shot on starboard side at shell room two feet below water; a shot struck binacle on port quarter, and glanced knocking hole in the plating of casemate. A shot struck boat davit and bent it, etc.

Half the number of these shots striking a wooden vessel would have destroyed her.

The Benton was struck in her hull thirteen times; four times at the water line, etc.

While this was going on, the Army assaulted in the rear of Vicksburg, but did not succeed in getting in. Pemberton had at this time 42,000 men to man his ramparts.

The gun-boats kept up their attack until the 27th when there was a lull for a time.

On the 29th, General W. T. Sherman signalled to the flag-ship, requesting that two gun-boats be sent down to clear out a battery of two guns that prevented him from extending his right flank. It being a rule with the Navy never to refuse a request from the Army, the Cincinnati was prepared for the adventure.

Sherman was under the impression that the enemy had moved a battery of eleven [323] heavy guns from a bluff commanding the Mississippi to the land side, but the guns had only been lowered from their carriages to avoid the naval fire, and Colonel Higgins (who had made out all the signals passing between our Army and Navy), quickly remounted them under cover of the night and screened them with bushes.

Next morning the Cincinnati, Lieutenant George M. Bache, started down the river to attack the small battery mentioned by Sherman, but as the vessel rounded to and opened her broadside, the battery on the bluff opened on her stern with its heaviest guns.

The first shot from the enemy passed through the magazine and then through the bottom, causing the Cincinnati to fill rapidly. Then the starboard tiller was shot away, the enemy firing rapidly and with great accuracy; 8-inch and 10-inch shot went clear through the bulwarks of hay and logs,and plunging shots from the heights went through the deck and did much damage.

Lieutenant George M. Bache, now Commander U. S. N.

The vessel could not return this fire and putting on steam crept along the shore, up river, making against the current not more than three miles an hour.

The Cincinnati was soon in a sinking condition, and her gallant commander ran her into the bank and got out a plank to save his crew before the vessel went down. A hawser was taken on shore and made fast to a tree, but. unfortunately, it was not properly secured, and giving way allowed the vessel to slide off into deep water. All this time the enemy continued to pour in a destructive fire. Bache would not haul down his flag, but nailed it to the stump of his flag-pole which had been shot away.

As the vessel was now sinking the order was given for all who could to swim to the shore, which was not far off; the boats had all been shot to pieces and were of no use. There were but three fathoms of water where the Cincinnati went down, and her colors and smoke-pipes remained in sight. Fifteen men were drowned in attempting to reach the bank and twenty more were killed or wounded.

This was an unfortunate affair, but the calamity was somewhat deprived of its sting by the cool and courageous conduct of the commander, officers and crew, who withstood the Confederate fire unflinchingly and preferred to sink rather than haul down their colors. The Confederates kept up their fire on the flag, and many of the plunging shot found their way through the vessel's hull.

As soon as General Sherman saw what had happened he sent a company of the 76th Ohio to the relief of our officers and men.

Sherman wrote to the Admiral, deploring the loss of the vessel, but said: “the importance of the object desired to be accomplished fully warranted the attempt. It has proved successful and will stimulate us to further efforts to break the line which terminates on the Mississippi in such formidable batteries.”

In a few days the water in the river fell sufficiently for the guns to be removed from the Cincinnati. This was done by the Army at night when the enemy could not see what was going on. Some of the guns were mounted in front of Sherman's division, and were under the command of Lieutenant-Commander T. O. Selfridge, with blue-jackets to work them; and this battery finally accomplished what the Cincinnati had not time to do; viz., clear out the batteries which threatened Sherman's right flank. These guns were also employed in firing upon such points as Sherman pointed out, where he thought it advantageous to clear a way for the Army in case of another assault.

The Cincinnati's 9-inch guns were temporarily mounted in the rear of the city, and worked by a party of blue-jackets under Lieut.-Commander Walker. Both of these batteries did good service during the siege.

The Secretary of the Navy wrote a handsome letter to Lieutenant Bache, concluding as follows: [324]

Amid an incessant fire of shot and shells, even when the fate of the vessel had been sealed, and destruction both from the elements and the enemy was threatened, the officers and men appear to have stood bravely at their posts, and it is a proud record of the Cincinnati that when her last moments came, she went down with her colors nailed to the mast.

It is with no ordinary pleasure that I express to you and the surviving officers and crew of the Cincinnati the department's appreciation of your brave conduct.

There was still work for the Navy to do in the Yazoo,while General Grant was starving the Confederates out in Vicksburg. There was no use in wasting life in assaulting a place with such defences, and the Army continued to make their approaches and mount their batteries until they were within fifty feet of the enemy's works. The surrender was but a matter of time, and a short time at that. Every opening was stopped up, no one inside could get out, nor those outside get in. The enemy now had to subsist on what provisions they had on hand, which was not much, and unless relieved by a superior force a month more or less would bring about a surrender It was not likely that the siege would be raised, for if the Federal Army, with all the disadvantages under which it labored, could manage to dispose of an enemy 80,000 strong in a country where the latter occupied all the strong positions, it could prevent the escape of that portion of them which had been driven into the city.

U. S. Gun-boat Cincinnati sunk by the upper water battery at Vicksburg, May 27, 1863. (from a pen-and-ink sketch by Rear-Admiral Walke.)

It is not the province of the writer to give an account of the military operations of the siege of Vicksburg; this book is mostly confined to the naval operations, and he is not sufficiently informed on the subject to do full justice to the movements of the Army. He knows enough, however, to be satisfied that everything was done by the generals of our Army in a masterly manner, and that they had posted themselves so securely around Vicksburg that all the power of the Confederacy could not affect them in any way, and that while our soldiers were fed by a commissariat that had no equal in any part of the world, Pemberton and his troops inside the city were living on short rations. The Confederates were now acknowledging one to another that Pemberton (clever as he was) had more than met his match in the leader of the Federal Army, and that the Union soldiers,when well commanded,could meet a larger number of the enemy and defeat them with ease.

There were still a number of steamers on the Yazoo that might in some way be serviceable to the enemy and an expedition under Lieutenant-Commander Walker of the DeKalb was sent up that river to capture or destroy them.

The Forest Rose, Linden, Signal and Petrel (vessels whose names have appeared frequently in this history) accompanied the expedition. The Signal knocked down her chimney among the trees the first night, and had to return. Walker pushed on with the smaller vessels (leaving the DeKalb to follow after) to within fifteen miles of Fort Pemberton, where the steamers “John Walsh,” Lockwood, “Golden age” and Scotland were found sunk on a bar, completely blocking the way. Failing in his efforts to make a passage through the boats, he set fire to them and they were all destroyed.

The expedition was attacked at this point by artillery and sharp-shooters in force, but they were driven off with loss. Saw-mills were burned, the corn on which an enemy could subsist was destroyed, and at Yazoo City the crews landed and brought away all the bar, round and flat iron intended to be used in the building of their ironclads.

Armed boats were sent through the Rolling Fork and into bayous which were inaccessible at that moment to the gun-boats. Four other steamers were found hidden away in snug retreats and burned — almost rivalling the mischief done by the Alabama, who had taught us how to retaliate upon an enemy.

This was a terrible raid and involved a loss to the enemy of more than two millions of dollars. The performance showed how easily the Delta expedition could have obtained possession of the Yazoo River and district as far as the rear of Vicksburg but for the [325] delay at Helena. It also assured the success of the Steele's Bayou expedition, which was undertaken soon after the expedition to Yazoo Pass.

On the 19th of June, Admiral Porter received a notification from General Grant that he intended to open a general bombardment on the city at 4 A. M. and continue it until 10 o'clock. At the appointed time the bombardment commenced all along the army line and was joined on the water side by every gun-boat, the guns on scows and the mortars, until the earth fairly shook with the thundering noise. The gun-boats spread themselves all along in front of the city — cross firing on everything in the shape of a battery — but there was no response whatever — the works were all deserted; even the indefatigable Colonel Higgins, who loved to give his old shipmates a reminder of his gallantry, failed to fire a shot from his spiteful water-battery which had so often defied them.

After the fire was all over on the Union side, the city of Vicksburg was as quiet as the grave — not a soul could be seen. The women had all taken refuge in the shelters built in the hillsides, and every man that could hold a musket or point a bayonet was in the trenches. There they would stay for days and nights, lying in the mud and having what food they could get served out to them there.

The trials and privations which the Confederates suffered at this time can only be described by those who took part in the defence. The day on which they surrendered was a day of jubilee to them, for the Federal commanders served out full rations to everybody, which were eaten with an enjoyment that can only be realized by people who have been on quarter rations for a month.

Every effort was made to bring relief to the Confederates through Louisiana. General Price had been moving about some twelve miles from Young's Point among the swamps and bayous, and it was reported that he intended to seize Young's Point with some ten thousand men and try to provision Vicksburg by the front.

There was only a small force of Federal troops at Young's Point and Milliken's Bend at this time, and Price might have gained a partial success, but nothing substantial.

One attempt was made on Milliken's Bend, and quite a number of the garrison killed, but the gun-boats Choctaw and Lexington went immediately to the relief of our troops and the Confederates were driven off with loss

The Marine Brigade under Brigadier-General Alfred Ellet had joined the squadron and reported to Admiral Porter. This organization consisted of about two thousand men, well equipped and fairly disciplined. General Mower, a very brave officer, had about 8,000 men at Young's Point, and uniting the marine brigade with his troops he marched out to hunt up General Price's army,--found it and scattered it after a short and decisive battle. Price's army now left this district and troubled it no more. This was the last hope of the besieged, if they had ever hoped anything from so forlorn a scheme, and they sat in their trenches waiting for the time when the last ration should be served out.

On the 26th of June, this was the condition of affairs in the city. The gun-boats were by turns throwing shells day and night; the mortars kept up an incessant bombardment. which if it damaged no works demoralized the enemy's troops; a constant fire from the Army and Navy guns in the rear was kept up, day and night, and a 6-inch rifle battery taken from the gun-boats was served with great skill by General McArthur on the left flank. General Mc-Pherson had blown up what was called the citadel of the Confederate works, and mounted on the debris four 9-inch guns from the squadron, and some rifled 30-pounders.

These guns now commanded a large portion of the enemy's works, and when they opened fire the requiem of Vicksburg was sung by the shrieking shell, as they flew through the air carrying death and destruction all over the city.

On the 4th of July, 1863, that historic day was rendered more memorable by the surrender of Vicksburg to the Federal forces after a desperate but vain resistance, in which the Confederates had won the respect of their conquerors by the bravery and endurance displayed during a siege of seven months.

Southern historians have eulogized them for their faithful adherence to a cause which received its death-blow when they surrendered. but as this history is more particularly connected with the boys in blue than with the boys in gray we must leave the latter to the future military historian, who, when the excitements and prejudices of the time have worn away, will no doubt do them justice.

It was from no want of ability on the part of our military leaders that this surrender was not brought about sooner, but owing to the magnitude of the Confederate defences, which were intended to keep at bay any force the Federal Government could bring against them, and calculating that even were the city to be enveloped by troops the Confederacy could always send a sufficient number from the South to raise the siege. No doubt the will and energy were with the [326] Confederates to do as they thought could be done, but the great oak that has been torn and twisted by the winds for centuries must succumb at last to a tornado: the Confederacy had now received many telling blows, and its strength had begun to fail.

Many could see the end of the rebellion, and no one knew how near it was, better than the Confederates themselves. If doubts still remained with any of them, the fall of Vicksburg, the opening of the Mississippi from the Northern States to the sea, and the complete severance of the three most important States (as regarded supplies from others) would have removed their delusion. But they still fought on, though it was only with the spirit of the game-cock which strikes at random while the life-blood is flowing from its veins

History has seldom had an opportunity of recording so desperate a defence on one side, with so much ability, courage, perseverance and endurance on the other. The Army of the Tennessee covered itself with honor of which no one can ever deprive it.

Though the Navy performed naturally a less conspicuous part than the Army, yet it did its duty in a manner which not even the most exacting could find fault with. Less zeal on the part of its officers and men would doubtless have extended the siege to some indefinite time.

A short summary of the work done by the Navy during the last forty days of the siege, may not be amiss. It will assure those who served at this critical period in the Navy, that they are not forgotten, and that their names will go down to history, honored as they deserve to be.

The mortar boats were kept at work for forty days, night and day, throwing shells into every part of Vicksburg and its works, some of them even reaching the trenches in the rear of the city. Three heavy guns placed on scows, one 9-inch, one 10-inch, and a 100-pounder rifle were placed in position a mile from the town, and commanded all the important water batteries. They kept up an incessant and accurate fire for fourteen days, while the path of the missiles was filled with destruction.

Five 8-inch, four 9-inch, two 42-pounder rifled guns and four 32-pounder shell guns were landed from the gun-boats at different points during the siege at the request of the officers commanding divisions, or of General Grant, and whenever officers and men could be spared from the fleet they were sent on shore to work the guns. As no dissatisfaction was expressed by the officers in command, it was presumed that the sailors performed their duty well.

The banks of the Mississippi were so watchfully guarded from Vicksburg to Cairo that the Army transports went through with troops and stores, for a distance of about 450 miles, without molestation. The marine brigade, under Brigadier-General Ellet, was constantly landing along the river to break up guerilla warfare. Without a watchful eye on the Mississippi, on the part of the Navy, the operations of the Army would have been often interrupted. Only one Army steamer was disabled during the siege operations, and six or seven men killed on board of her.

When the whole of our Army was in the rear of Vicksburg, with the exception of a small force at Young's Point under General Mower, and that place was attacked by Major-General Price with 12,000 men, the marine brigade and the gun-boats united with General Mower's force to put the Confederates down, which was effectually done; and General Grant was satisfied that Young's Point would be taken care of by the Navy, while he was engaged in reducing the monster on the east bank of the Mississippi.

When the Army and Navy started out to capture Vicksburg the Mississippi was closed against the Federal forces from Helena to Port Hudson. This latter place fell shortly after the surrender of Vicksburg and the river was thus open to the sea.

There was no longer a doubt that the rebellious states were divided, and that the uninterrupted navigation of the “father of waters” and its tributaries was soon to be restored to the Union. So satisfied were the Confederate leaders that Vicksburg was the key to this great network of water which enriched the vast domain through which it found its way to the sea, that they staked their cause upon its retention. When they failed in this effort they were almost in their last throes, though their vitality enabled them to prolong the struggle (that was impoverishing and ruining their country,) for some time longer.

But there could be no hope of success for the Southern cause, when the great slave power which had controlled so many miles of the banks of the Mississippi no longer existed. The chain which held slavery together was broken, and the commerce of the nation went rejoicing on its way to the great ocean, once more to barter with the people of the outside world.

That 4th of July was a happy day to all those who had joined in the herculean efforts to bring about the desired end. At a certain hour the American flag was to be hoisted on the court-house where the Confederate emblem had so long flaunted in the face of the Union forces. At the moment the flag went up every vessel in the river, gun-boats and transports, decked with flags, [327] started from above and below to reach the levee in front of the city, sounding their steam whistles and firing a national salute that seemed like a renewed attack.

The flagship Black Hawk had scarcely reached the levee when General Grant and many of his officers rode up, and dismounting, went on board, where they were received with that warmth of feeling and hospitality that delights the heart of a sailor. The leader, who with his Army had achieved the greatest victory of the war, now received the congratulations of the officers of both Army and Navy, and although no one would judge from his manner that anything remarkable had happened yet he must have felt that this was the triumph of his life.

Sherman was one of those whose absence was regretted by all, but he was off with a division of the Army in pursuit of General Johnston, who had been lingering in the vicinity of Jackson in hopes of rendering aid to the besieged. He was too formidable an enemy to be allowed to remain near the prize which had been so hardly won, and Sherman had gone to show him that he must move his headquarters somewhere else.

But even while engaged on so important a duty, Sherman did not forget those of the Navy with whom he had co-operated for so many months, and he wrote a letter to the Admiral in which he expressed his satisfaction at the final result of the siege. This letter is so like the warm-hearted and gallant soldier, that no one can help feeling pleasure when he reads it, and it is here inserted.

Headquarters Expeditionary Army, Black River, July 4, 1863.
Dear Admiral — No event in my life could have given me more personal pride or pleasure than to have met you to-day on the wharf at Vicksburg — a Fourth of July so eloquent in events as to need no words or stimulants to elevate its importance.

I can appreciate the intense satisfaction you must feel at lying before the very monster which has defied us with such deep and malignant hate, and seeing your once disunited fleet again a unit, and better still, the chain that made an enclosed sea of a link in the great river broken forever.

In so magnificent a result I stop not to count who did it. It is done and the day of our nation's birth is consecrated and baptized anew in a victory won by the united Navy and Army of our country.

God grant that the harmony and mutual respect that exist between our respective commanders, and shared by all the true men of the joint service, may continue forever, and serve to elevate our national character, threatened with shipwreck.

Thus I muse as I sit in my solitary camp out in the woods, far from the point for which we have jointly striven and so well, and though personal curiosity would tempt me to go and see the frowning batteries and sunken pits that have defied us so long, and sent to their silent graves so many of our early comrades in the enterprise, I feel that other tasks lie before me, and time must not be lost.

Without casting anchor, and despite the heat and the dust, and the drought, I must again into the bowels of the land, to make the conquest of Vicksburg fulfill all the conditions it should in the progress of this war.

Whether success attend my efforts or not, I know that Admiral Porter will ever accord to me the exhibition of a pure and unselfish zeal in the service of our country.

It does seem to me that Port Hudson, without facilities for supplies or interior communication, must soon follow the fate of Vicksburg and leave the river free; and to you the task of preventing any more Vicksburgs or Port Hudsons on the bank of the great inland sea.

Though further apart, the Navy and Army will still act in concert, and I assure you I shall never reach the banks of the river or see a gun-boat but I will think of Admiral Porter, Captain Breese, and the many elegant and accomplished gentlemen it has been my good fortune to meet on armed or unarmed decks of the Mississippi Squadron.

Congratulating you and the officers and men of your command at the great result in which you have borne so conspicuous a part,

I remain, your friend and servant,

W. T. Sherman, Major-General. Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding Fleet.

Army and Navy vied with each other in their efforts to alleviate the discomforts of those who had spent so many months under a merciless fire and suffered all the miseries attending a siege. The commanding General set the example by giving all the provisions, visions, stores and transportation General Pemberton required for the officers and men of his Army, who had been paroled and allowed to return to their homes. The naval officers opened their stores for those officers who had families, and though they did not leave Vicksburg in much style, they were comparatively comfortable after suffering so many evils.

It was curious to see, an hour after the surrender, the soldiers of the two armies fraternizing as if they belonged to the same party; there was not, in fact, much difference between them, only one party had gone off on the wrong track, and, owing to bad leaders, had drifted considerably out of their course. Confederate officers on horseback would join naval officers, who, mounted on the sorry-looking steeds which had been loaned them, were riding about the city, and chat with them as pleasantly as if they were honored guests. Groups of officers in blue and gray mingled together in the most friendly manner.

Officers who visited houses where there were ladies, were received courteously if not warmly, and it was difficult to realize that the people of this battered city had been within a few days doing all they could to harm those with whom they now seemed to be on such pleasant terms. The people of Vicksburg were thoroughly subdued, they had gone through so much misery and endured so many privations that any change was acceptable.

Besides, their conquerors had been generous far beyond their expectations, and had [328] furnished them the means to depart and meet again their absent friends, with whom they had not communicated for many days.

The regret of being conquered was mitigated by the promised pleasure of seeing their loved homes, and getting away from scenes which continually reminded them of the horrors which they had undergone for so many months. Over 5,000 had died in hospital or been killed in the trenches since the close siege had commenced, and many must have left there with deep regrets for the loss of loved ones, who were buried in the soldier's cemetery without a stone to mark their resting places.

As time moves on and the military and naval history of the war are being chronicled by impartial authors, the facts connected with the most important events are being brought to light.

The war has been mostly written up through the reporters, who accompanied the Armies of the Republic, and although they have described the scenes in a most graphic manner, yet their accounts were given a coloring that detracted from, rather than embellished, the picture.

There was no scene of action during the war where more misrepresentations were made, or where less desire seemed to be manifested by the newspaper correspondents to do justice to both the naval and military movements, than at Vicksburg, and to read the numberless accounts that were transmitted from these to the various newspapers, one would form an altogether erroneous opinion of what took place.

Some of these descriptions of events were written with only a desire to please the public, and they were of a sensational character — pleasant reading over a breakfast table, but far from being history.

Many of the correspondents wrote from hearsay. and were not near the scene of action which they so graphically described, and the people at the North, greedy to drink in the news from distant battlefields, were satisfied to believe the wanton mistakes which were sent abroad without revision. and adopted them as the true version of affairs.

It was not, and is not now, generally understood, that the operations against Vicksburg were a combination of Army and Navy, in which each commander acted on his own responsibility, neither having received any instructions from their several Departments.

The plans for the capture of Vicksburg from the first to the last were arranged by General Grant and Admiral Porter. and carried out to the end with that unanimity of purpose which always leads to success.

General Grant never undertook any movement without consulting the commander of the Mississippi Squadron, while the latter never did anything without consulting General Grant, and thus a harmony of action prevailed which probably never was obtained in any other military and naval co-operation.

Grant and Porter were of assimilated rank, and neither could give an order to the other; therefore it was only through that high courtesy bred in a purely military school, that so perfect an understanding could be arrived at, or that the wishes of either military or naval commander could be anticipated.

Some naval officers, after the reduction of Vicksburg, were disposed to find fault with General Grant for not being more demonstrative in his remarks concerning the work the Navy had performed; but Grant was never a demonstrative man; he left it to the Commander-in-chief of the Mississippi Squadron to mention the services of his own officers and vessels, and would, no doubt, have thought it peculiar if the naval commander had undertaken to go into an elaborate eulogy on the performances of the Army. But Grant, in his last days, did not forget the great help he received from the naval part of the expedition to capture Vicksburg. In his reminiscences of the war, he says:

The Navy under Porter was all it could be during the entire campaign. Without its assistance the campaign could not have been successfully made with twice the number of men engaged. It could not have been made at all in the way it was, with any number of men without such assistance. The most perfect harmony reigned between the two arms of the service. There never was a request made, that I am aware of, either of the Flag-officer or any of his subordinates, that was not promptly complied with.

This should afford satisfaction to those naval officers who for a time doubted General Grant's generosity. Words of ordinary praise coming from him were of more import, than words from a man who was too lavish of his commendations. Those last words of Grant's were grains of gold, and will go down in history, never to be erased from the book of fame.

The commander of the Mississippi Squadron was contented with General Grant's reticence in regard to naval movements before Vicksburg. He felt satisfied that he alone could do full justice to the brave officers and men who served under him, as will appear from the following letter written after the surrender of Vicksburg.

[detailed report of Acting-Rear-Admiral Porter.]

U. S. Mississippi Squadron, Flag-Ship Black Hawk, off Vicksburg, July 13, 1863.
Sir — I have made reports to the Department of the different actions that have occurred on this river since the investment of Vicksburg; and it now [329] remains for me to give credit to the different officers who have participated in the events transpiring here.

When I took command of this squadron this river was virtually closed against our steamers from Helena to Vicksburg. It was only necessaryto impress the officers and men with the importance of opening communication with New Orleans, and every one, with few exceptions, have embarked in the enterprise with a zeal that is highly creditable to them, and with a determination that the river should be opened if their aid could effect it.

With such officers and the able general who commanded the Army I have not feared for the result, though it has been postponed longer than I thought it would be.

First and foremost, allow me to speak of Captain Pennock, fleet captain and commandant of station at Cairo. To him I am much indebted for the promptness with which he has kept the squadron supplied with all that was required or could be procured.

His duty has been no sinecure. and he has performed it with an ability that could not have been surpassed by any officer of the Navy. He has materially assisted me in the management of the Tennessee and Cumberland squadrons, keeping me promptly informed of all the movements of the enemy, and enabling me to make the proper dispositions to check him, exercising a most discreet judgment in moving the vessels to meet the rebels when there was no time to hear from me.

The war on the banks of the Tennessee and Cumberland has been carried on most actively. There has been incessant skirmishing between the guerrillas and gun-boats, in which the rebels have been defeated in every instance. So constant are these attacks that we cease to think of them as of any importance, though there has been much gallantry displayed on many occasions.

Lieutenant-Commanders Phelps and Fitch have each had command of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, and have shown themselves to be most able officers. I feel no apprehension at any time with regard to movements in that quarter. Had it not been for the activity and energy displayed by Lieutenant-Commander Fitch, Captain Pennock and Lieutenant-Commander Phelps, General Rosecrans would have been left without provisions.

To Captain Walke, Commander Woodworth, Lieutenant-Commanders Breese, Foster, Greer, Shirk, Owen, Wilson, Walker, Bache, Murphy, Selfridge, Prichett, Ramsay and Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant Hoel, I feel much indebted for their active and energetic attention to all my orders, and their ready co-operation with the Army corps commanders, at all times, which enabled them to carry out their plans successfully.

The Benton, Lieutenant-Commander Greer, Mound City, Lieutenant Byron Wilson, Tuscumbia, Lieutenant-Commander Shirk. Carondelet, Acting Lieutenant Murphy, and the Sterling Price, Commander Woodworth, have been almost constantly under fire of the batteries at Vicksburg since the forty-five days siege commenced.

The attack of the 22d of May, by the Benton, Mound City, Carondelet and Tuscumbia on all the water batteries, in which three were silenced and four guns injured or dismounted, was one of the best contested engagements of the kind during the war.

On the next attack of the same gun-boats, when General Grant opened all his batteries for six hours, the river batteries were all silenced and deserted, and the gun boats moved up and down the river without having a shot fired at them, showing the moral effect of the first attack.

The attack of the Cincinnati Lieutenant-Commander Bache, on the outer water battery will long be ranked among the most gallant events of this war; and though Lieutenant Bache had the misfortune to have his vessel sunk under him, he well deserves the handsome commendations bestowed upon him by the Department.

To Lieutenant-Commander Ramsey, of the Choctaw, was assigned the management of three heavy guns placed on scows and anchored in a position to command the town and water batteries. Every gun the enemy could bring to bear on these boats was fired incessantly at them, but without one moment's cessation of fire on the part of our seamen, though the enemy's shots and shells fell like hail among them. This floating battery completely enfiladed the enemy s batteries and rifle-pits in front of General Sherman, and made them untenable.

The mortar-boats were under charge of gunner Eugene Mack, who for thirty days stood at his post, the firing continuing night and day.

He performed his duty well and merits approval. The labor was extremely hard, and every man at the mortars was laid up with sickness, owing to excessive labor. After Mr. Mack was taken ill, Ensign Miller took charge and conducted the firing with marked ability. We know that nothing conduced more to the end of the siege than the mortar firing, which demoralized the rebels, killed and wounded a number of persons, killed the cattle, destroyed property of all kinds, and set the city on fire. On the last two days we were enabled to reach the outer works of the enemy by firing heavy charges of twenty-six pounds of powder; the distance was nearly three miles, and the falling of shells was very annoying to the rebels, to use the words of a rebel officer, “your shells intruded everywhere.”

Lieutenant-Commander Breese has been very efficient in relieving me of a vast amount of duty, superintending personally all the requirements made on the Navy, and facilitating the operations of the Army in every way that laid in his power. In every instance where it was at all possible to bring the Black Hawk into action against the enemy's batteries, he has not hesitated to do so, though she is not fortified exactly for such a purpose. His long range guns have done most excellent service at different times.

I beg leave to mention the different commanders of the light draughts who have carried out my orders ders promptly, aided in keeping guerillas from the river, convoyed transports safely, and kept their vessels in good condition for service, viz: Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant George W. Brown, commanding Forest Rose; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant C. Dominey, commanding Signal; Acting-Volunteer Lieutenant J. H. Hurd, commanding Covington; Ensign Win. C. Hanford, commanding Robb; Acting-Master J. C. Bunner, commanding New Era; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant John Pierce, commanding Petrel; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant J. V. Johnstone, commanding Romeo; Acting-Master W. E. Fentress, commanding Rattler; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant T. E. Smith, commanding Linden; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant E. C. Brennan, commanding Prairie Bird; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant J. Goudy, commanding Queen City. There are others who deserve commendation, but these seem to be the most prominent.

The action of the 4th of July, at Helena, wherein the Taylor participated so largely, has already been reported to the Department.

There is no doubt left in the minds of any, but that the Taylor saved Helena, for, though General Prentiss fought with a skill and daring not excelled in this war, his little force of thirty-five hundred men were fast being overpowered by the enemy with eighteen thousand men, when the Taylor took a position and changed the fortunes of the day.

I must not omit to mention Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenants [330] Hamilton and Richardson of the powder vessels Great Western and Judge Torrence. They were unremitting in their attention to their duties during the siege, supplying without de lay every requisition made on them by the Army and Navy, and volunteering for any service.

When the Army called on the Navy for siege guns, I detailed what officers and men I could spare to man and work the batteries.

Lieutenant Commander Selfridge had command of the naval battery on the right wing in General Sherman's corps. This battery was worked with marked ability, and elicited the warmest praises from the commanding general. One thousand shells were fired into the enemy's works from Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge's guns. His services being required up the river, I relieved him a few days before the surrender, and Lieutenant-Commander Walker supplied his place and conducted the firing with the same ability.

Acting-Master Charles B. Dahlgren was ordered to report to General McPherson for duty, and was assigned the management of the 9-inch guns, which were admirably served.

Acting-Master Reed, of the Benton, had charge of the batteries at Fort Benton-so named by General Herron in honor of the occasion. General Herron generously acknowledged the services of those I sent him, which communication I enclose with this report.

I have endeavored to do justice to all who were immediately engaged in the struggle for the mastery of the Mississippi. To the Army do we owe immediate thanks for the capture of Vicksburg; but the Army was much facilitated by the Navy, which was ready at all times to co-operate. This has been no small undertaking. The late investment and capture of Vicksburg will be characterized as one of the greatest military achievements ever known. The conception of the siege originated with General Grant, who adopted a course in which great labor was performed, great battles were fought and great risks were run. A single mistake would have involved us in difficulty, but so well were all the plans matured, so well were all the movements timed, and so rapid were the evolutions performed, that not a mistake has occurred from the passage of the fleet by Vicksburg and the passage of the Army across the river, up to the present time. So confident was I of the ability of General Grant to carry out his plans when he explained them to me, that I never hesitated to change my position from above to below Vicksburg. The work was hard, the fighting severe, but the blows struck were incessant.

In forty-five days after our Army was landed, a rebel Army of 40,000 men had been captured, killed and wounded, or scattered to their homes perfectly demoralized, while our loss has been only about 5,000 killed, wounded and prisoners, and the temporary loss of one gun-boat.

The fortifications and defences of the city exceed anything that has been built in modern times, and are doubly unassailable from their immense height above the bed of the river.

The fall of Vicksburg insured the fall of Port Hudson and the opening of the Mississippi River, which, I am happy to say, can be traversed from its source to its mouth, without apparent impediment, the first time during the war.

I take this opportunity to give to Mr. Fendall and Mr. Straus, assistants in the Coast Survey, the full credit they deserve for their indefatigable industry.

Since they have been attached to the Squadron, they have been connected with almost every expedition that has been undertaken; they have kept both Army and Navy supplied with charts, when they could not otherwise be obtained; they were found ready at all times to go anywhere or do anything required of them, whether it was on a gun-boat expedition or in the trenches before Vicksburg, engineering, when the general-commanding asked for volunteers from the Navy.

They have added to our collection of maps many geographical corrections which are valuable, and they have proved to me that no squadron can operate effectively without a good corps of surveyors.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Congratulatory letter to Rear--Admiral Porter on the surrender of Vicksburg.

Navy Department, July 13, 1863.
Sir-Your dispatch of the 4th instant announcing the surrender of Vicksburg on the anniversary of the great historic day in our national annals, has been received.

The fall of that place insures a severance of the rebel territory, and must give to the country the speedy uninterrupted navigation of the rivers which water and furnish the ocean outlet to the great central valley of the Union.

For the past year the key to the Mississippi has been Vicksburg, and so satisfied of this was the rebel chief who pioneered the rebellion and first gave the order to open the fires of civil strife, that he staked his cause upon its retention.

By the herculean efforts of the Army under the admirable leadership of General Grant, and the persistent and powerful co-operation of the Navy, commanded by yourself, this great result, under the providence of Almighty God, has been achieved.

A slave empire, divided by this river into equal parts, with liberty in possession of its banks, and freedom upon its waters, cannot exist.

The work of rescuing and setting free this noble artery, whose unrestricted vital current is essential to our nationality, commenced with such ability by the veteran Farragut and the lamented Foote, and continued by Davis, is near its consummation.

You have only to proceed onward and meet that veteran chief whose first act was to dash through the gates by which the rebels assumed to bar the entrance to the Mississippi, whose free communication to and above New Orleans he has ever since proudly maintained.

When the squadrons of the Upper and Lower Mississippi shall combine, and the noble river be again free to a united people, the nation will feel its integrity restored, and the names of the heroic champions who signalized themselves in this invaluable service, will be cherished and honored.

Present and future millions on the shores of those magnificent rivers which patriotism and valor shall have emancipated, will remember with unceasing gratitude, the naval heroes who so well performed their part in these eventful times.

To yourself, your officers, and the brave and gallant sailors who have been so fertile in resources, so persistent and enduring through many months of trial and hardship, and so daring under all circumstances, I tender, in the name of the President, the thanks and congratulations of the whole country, on the fall of Vicksburg.

Very respectfully, etc.,

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding Mississippi Squadron, Vicksburg, Miss.

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