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Chapter 13: Vicksburg campaign

  • Supports Grant's plans
  • -- despatches to Secretary of War -- General McClernand's services and character -- letter to Huntington -- successful advance of the army -- Participates in all its operations -- occupation of Jackson -- battle of Champion's Hill

In order that Dana should be put on a military footing, and thus be rendered eligible for exchange in case of capture, the Secretary of War caused him to be commissioned as a Major of United States Volunteers, but the functions of Special Commissioner were so much higher, and the man so much greater than his military rank, that no one ever thought of calling him by his actual title. There is no evidence in his correspondence or the records that he ever used it, though he held it throughout the Vicksburg campaign, and till he became Assistant Secretary of War.

With customary promptness, Dana went by Cairo, Columbus, and Memphis to the scene of his new duties. Grant had already gone to the vicinity of Vicksburg, but there were detachments of Confederate troops at various points in western Kentucky and Tennessee engaged in desultory operations, which more or less seriously threatened his communications. The Hungarian patriot, General Asboth, was in command of the national forces at Columbus, Kentucky, while the Confederates had taken temporary possession of Forts Henry and Heiman on the Tennessee River, and were impressing horses and recruits for the Confederate army. Pausing long enough to report [205] what he had heard of these operations, and also of those in the Yazoo country, Dana pushed forward to Memphis, where he arrived March 23, 1863. From this place he sent his first formal despatches to Stanton,1 but he was still too far from the scene of actual operations to gain correct or important information. Grant had sent but little news to General Hurlbut, who was commanding in west Tennessee with headquarters at Memphis, and the steamboats coming from the army below brought but little except “grape-vine” rumors or exaggerated reports of trivial matters. Withal, for one reason or another now difficult to ascertain, Dana remained at Memphis till early in April, when he became convinced that he could gather no information there of sufficient value to transmit. He sent in all some fourteen despatches from that point, but they referred largely to conditions prevailing in the theatre of operations, the location of Confederate forces, the size and navigability of the bayous and rivers, the movements of our gun-boats, the operations of the enemy's guerillas, the location of encampments and fortifications, and the state of affairs within the Confederate lines. This information was in most cases received at second-hand from steamboat captains, occasional officers, deserters, released prisoners, planters, and refugees, and although frequently interesting it was almost entirely useless for practical purposes. Then, too, the necessity of converting his despatches into cipher messages to insure safe transmission through the disturbed districts in the rear, and to conceal their meaning from thoughtless or disloyal telegraph operators, entailed upon Dana much work and anxiety. The system by which this was done was complex and difficult to understand. It therefore [206] involved the necessity of intrusting the codes in use to clerks, or operators, one at each end of the line, and hence with the greatest care was not always entirely safe. Dana, as can well be understood, became a great expert at framing and deciphering code messages, and later became familiar with many other systems, but never came across one which he regarded as safer, simpler, or more satisfactory in every way than the one which he used from the first to last with the War Department.2

In connection with the subject of cipher messages, it may not be out of place to remark that Dana, after the manner of editors, wrote a running hand which, although quite regular, was at times difficult to read, and this occasionally gave additional trouble in the correct transmission of his reports. During a raid in south Virginia, a year later, my own baggage-wagon fell into the hands of the enemy, and along with it a note from Dana, which the captors undertook to publish in a Richmond newspaper, but they were evidently unable to make out either its correct purport or the writer's signature, and hence, fortunately enough, it was so badly bungled in printing that it was both unintelligible and harmless. We laughed about it afterwards, but I had no occasion to think that the incident in any way improved either his writing or his signature.

Perceiving that the information he was forwarding from Memphis was not of sufficient importance to justify the time and effort expended on it, he reported that fact to the secretary and asked permission to join Grant. This seems to justify the inference that the secretary had directed him to give special attention to Memphis; but be this as it may, the secretary on receipt of his suggestion ordered him to go to the army in the field, or to such other [207] place as his own discretion might dictate. He was thus freed from all restrictions, and made haste to take passage on the first transport going down the river.

On April 5th he reached Helena, Arkansas, whence he sent a despatch to the Secretary of War containing the first information that the turning movement against Vicksburg had begun. The next day, at noon, he reported at Grant's headquarters a few miles above Vicksburg. He had been expected for a fortnight, and was soon perfectly at home and on friendly terms with all the generals and many of the staff and regimental officers. With amazing rapidity he became acquainted with the condition of the army, what it had been doing, the difficulties with which it had been contending, and why it had so far gained no substantial advantage. As stated before, he became specially intimate with Rawlins and myself. As I was in touch with the various parts of the army, all its projects and movements, I was constantly on the go, and it was but natural that Dana should become my companion. Through our daily rides and expeditions, and the conversations and conferences at which he was present, he was shortly informed, not only as to past operations, but as to those which were under way or yet to be undertaken. He got a clear understanding of the operations through the Yazoo Pass, Moon Lake, the Coldwater, and the Tallahatchee; with the efforts of Admiral Porter to reach the Yazoo with his gun-boats through the Rolling Fork, Deer Creek, and Sunflower bayous; with his rescue by a part of Sherman's corps; with the abortive effort to cut a canal across the point opposite Vicksburg; with the failure of the Lake Providence Canal, and the longer route through upper Louisiana, which it promised to open, and with the gradual but certain elimination of every other project to place the army on a firm footing on the highland of Mississippi back of Vicksburg. There was no [208] concealment from him. The purpose of every actual or possible project was made known to him, and gradually his mind was prepared for the great turning movement by which the gun-boats and transports were to be run under cover of darkness by the Vicksburg batteries, while the various corps and divisions of the army were to march across or through the country, which was more or less submerged by high high water by the De Shroon's Landing, New Carthage, or to such other points as could be reached on the west bank of the great river below. This accomplished, the next step was to ferry the artillery across the river to the first landing, from which it could reach the highlands and make its way into the interior, where it could engage the enemy with advantages which would enable it to gain a victory, break his lies of communication, and close in upon the Confederate stronghold which had barred its way for over four months.

As soon as Dana understood the actual situation he became the ardent advocate of this bold and comprehensive plan of campaign. He communicated its main features to the secretary in his first despatch, dated April 6th, but as it was still more or less embarrassed by the ideal of using one or more of the cut-offs, none of which was yet finished, its full significance had not yet impressed itself upon him. His despatch of April 8th was cheerful and encouraging, and that of the 10th still more so. They show that he shared Grant's hope that one of the cut-off lines might be used for getting the troops to New Carthage. He reported the actual length of canal and bayou navigation as thirty-seven miles, and that the river men, as well as Captain Prime, the chief engineer, were confident that it would be practicable for the lighter transports. He added that General Sherman thought there world be no difficulty in opening the passage, but the line would be a precarious one after the army had crossed the [209] Mississippi--that Sherman preferred a movement by the way of the Yazoo Pass against Grenada and Jackson, or an alternative one by the way of Lake Providence to Bayou Tensas and the Red River. While Sherman differed from Grant, and suggested these eccentric movements which would have hopelessly removed the army from its most direct line of operations, Dana thought that Sherman's mind was gradually coming around to an agreement with Grant, whose purpose was now firmly set on following the shortest and most direct line to New Carthage or the vicinity, while the transports should run by the batteries, and the supplies should be brought forward by wagon or barge. Dana informed the government in the same despatch that Admiral Porter was heartily in favor of the plan.

On April 12th Dana wrote to the Secretary of War that, under orders from General Halleck received two days before, the plans had been changed so as to require Grant with his “main force,” after the occupation of Grand Gulf, to form a junction with Banks, who was operating north from New Orleans, and move with him against Port Hudson, instead of “operating up the Big Black towards Jackson and the bridge in the rear of Vicksburg.” This was doubtless to give assurance that the orders from Washington, which must have been known to the secretary, would be carried out. The difficulty of using either the canals, bayous, or the roads, on account of rains and high water, and afterwards on account of low water, were fully described, but this was not all. Recognizing the importance of the personal factor in the success or failure of military operations, Dana, for the first time, commented upon the assignment of the leading generals to their respective parts in the movements now under way. He had evidently adopted the opinions which were prevalent about him on that important subject, and, concurring in [210] them fully, did not hesitate to make them his own. The words in which they were couched have become historical, and as they were the first of the kind to reach the secretary and the President, I give them as they were written:

... The attack on Grand Gulf will be led by McClernand, and though General Grant has not told me so, I conclude he intends the same officer to have command of the further movements against Port Hudson. I have remonstrated so far as I could properly do so against intrusting so momentous an operation to McClernand, and I know that Admiral Porter and prominent members of his staff have done the same, but General Grant will not be changed. McClernand is exceedingly desirous of this command. He is the senior of the other corps commanders. He is believed to be an especial favorite of the President, and the position his corps occupied on the ground here, when the movement was first projected, was such that the advance naturally fell to its lot; besides, he entered zealously into the plan from the first, while Sherman doubted and criticised, and McPherson, whom General Grant would really much prefer, is away at Lake Providence; and though I understand him to approve of the scheme, he has had no active part in it. ...

It is to be noted that while the secretary made haste to thank Dana for his several despatches, he cautioned him in reply that he should carefully avoid giving any advice in respect to the assignment of commands as likely “to lead to misunderstanding and troublesome complications.” From the form of this despatch, it may be assumed that the President at least was not favorably impressed with Dana's remonstrance, and preferred to hear no disparaging judgment in regard to his friend. The substance, if not the exact wording, of the secretary's despatch was promptly brought to Grant's ears, and in turn added to the caution of his procedure from that time forward in [211] regard to McClernand. Notwithstanding the warning Dana had received, it should be noted that in one of his despatches, ten days later, he called the secretary's attention to the fact that one of the transports, which should have been handled with the greatest activity, had been delayed against orders to take on Mrs. McClernand and her servants, as well as to carry certain horses and baggage which should have been left behind. In the same despatch he pointed out a still graver delay at Perkins's Landing, while McClernand was holding one of his brigades for a review and speech by Governor Yates, of Illinois. While these were of themselves matters of but little importance, they were regarded as serious at headquarters, where Dana not only got his account of them, but made it known that he had reported them to the War Department

A few days later the first battle of the campaign was fought near Port Gibson, and as McClernand, the senior general on the field, had behaved with his accustomed gallantry, it seemed to Rawlins and myself a suitable occasion for bringing about a rapprochement between Grant and him. To that end, I suggested that as McClernand had done well, it would be a graceful and friendly act if Grant should thank and compliment him for it; but the breach was wider than any of us supposed. Grant flatly refused, alleging that McClernand had done no more than his duty, and was entitled to no special thanks. This meeting on the edge of the battle-field was a notable one. Grant, always quiet and unassuming, had but little to say. If anything he was more taciturn than usual, while McClernand, conscious of good service, maintained an unbending and strictly formal attitude, which betokened no diminution of his pretensions. As it turned out, these officers were never reconciled, but the breach between them grew wider and wider, till Grant found himself compelled to [212] vindicate his superior authority by relieving the stiff-necked and insubordinate commander of the Thirteenth army corps from further service in the field. That Dana exercised a controlling influence in preparing the mind of the Secretary of War by his despatches for the inevitable end will be made clear in the further course of this narrative.

Let us for the present return to Milliken's Bend whence on April 13th Dana wrote to his friend Huntington an interesting letter, not only defining his new position more clearly, but throwing important light on the course of the Tribune at the outbreak of the war. I quote as follows:

... But you will ask what the deuce I am about away down here with Vicksburg almost in sight, and Grant's big army stretched up and down the river, its white tents affording a new decoration to the natural magnificence of these broad plains. Well, I am here as a “special commissioner” of the War Department, a sort of official spectator and companion to the movements of this part of the campaign, charged particularly with overseeing and regulating the paymasters, and generally with making myself useful. With the generals, big and little, and one or two of them are very rare men-Sherman especially is a man of genius and of the widest intellectual acquisitions — I am on friendly terms, and of course see and know all the interior operations of this toughest of tough jobs, the reopening of the Mississippi. Like all who really know the facts, I feel no sort of doubt that we shall before long get the nut cracked. Probably before this letter reaches New York on its way to you, the telegraph will get ahead of it with the news that Grant, masking Vicksburg, deemed impregnable by its defenders, has carried the bulk of his army down the river through a cut-off, which he had opened without the enemy believing it could be done, has occupied Grand Gulf, taken Port Hudson, and, effecting a junction with the forces of Banks, has returned up the river to threaten Jackson, and compel the enemy to come out [213] of Vicksburg and fight him on ground of his own choosing. Of course this scheme may miscarry in whole or in parts, but as yet the chances all favor its execution, which is now just ready to begin.

It may be that the future will justify you, Greeley, General Scott, and John Van Buren in your idea of “letting the wayward sisters go.” But I judge that it will be long before the body of the American people will adopt that notion. The strongest sentiment of this people is that for the preservation of the territorial and political integrity of the nation at all costs, and no matter how long it takes. In other words, they prefer to keep up the existing war a little longer, rather than to make arrangements for indefinite wars hereafter, and for other disruptions. Let us have it out now and settle forever the question, so that our children may be able to attend to other matters. For my own part, I had rather have one nation and one country with a military government afterwards, than two or three nations and countries with the semblance of the old Constitution in each of them, ending in war and despotism everywhere.

During the eight days that I have been here, I have got new insight into slavery, which has made me no more a friend of that institution than I was before. Between the lower Arkansas line and Cairo, the Mississippi is monotonous and wild enough, but as soon as you come to Louisiana the scene changes, and rich and old plantations begin. The plains stretch far back from the river, with the mansions of the owners embowered in roses, myrtles, oaks, and every sort of beautiful and noble tree, and the negro huts cluster near them. Though I had seen slavery in Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, and Missouri, it was not till I saw these plantations, with all their apparatus for living and working, that I really felt the aristocratic nature of it ....

Yesterday I went down with a flag of truce to the vicinity of Vicksburg, so that I got a capital idea of the town. It is an ugly place, to be sure, with its line of bluffs commanding the channel for full seven miles, and battery piled above battery all the way. The officer who came to meet our flag [214] was a smug young major of artillery, dressed in a new uniform whose buttons bore the letters U. S., while the clasp of his sword was marked with the eagle of Uncle Sam. Our people entertained him with a cigar and a drink of whiskey, of course, or rather with two drinks.... This is an awful country for drinking whiskey. I calculate that on an average a friendly man will drink a gallon in twenty-four hours. I wish you were here to do my drinking for me, for I suffer in public estimation front not doing as the Romans do. ...

In his official letters from Grant's headquarters, as well as in his interesting Recollections of the Civil War, published by D. Appleton & Co. many years afterwards, Dana gives a full account of his own experiences, as well as of the events that came day by day under his observation, hence it is not thought necessary to do more than briefly summarize the statements he has made, except where incidents and adventures occurred which he has failed to recount. Having gained his information directly from Grant, or from his staff-officers and subordinates, his letters are of peculiar value, as showing from time to time the evolution and progress of the different movements, the conduct and attitude of the various officers mentioned, and the nature of the obstacles to be overcome. No history of the campaign which does not take them into account can be relied upon as literally correct. So far as known, no one else connected with the army pretended to make so close a record of what was done. Dana recounts having gone with a staff-officer to inspect a covered emplacement for a heavy rifle behind the levee on the point opposite Vicksburg, by which it was thought great injury might be inflicted on the important buildings of the city. He spent much time, besides, in visiting the sites of the various canals and noting the progress of the work upon them, and at times seemed to base high hopes upon their efficiency. In one instance he quotes me as saying that the work could not be opened [215] in less than a fortnight, when it had been promised in three clays, and it turned out as I had predicted. The fact is that he soon came to the opinion that the various canal and cut-off projects would prove to be of little value, if not entirely impracticable, because of the varying stages of water in the river which must necessarily supply them all. He held that the great river itself would prove to be our best line of communication, because it could neither be cut, nor obstructed, nor be made impassable by any fire the enemy could concentrate upon it by night, and this judgment, based upon experience elsewhere, turned out to be entirely correct. Dana therefore gave his hearty approval to the project of ignoring the canals and running directly by the city, and as opportunity offered did not hesitate to advocate it with General Grant. It is to be observed, however, that he did not go out of the way in his despatches to argue the case with the Secretary of War, but contented himself with mentioning plans in a general way, and with describing events as they actually took place. In all this he made no pretention whatever to technical military knowledge or experience, but relying mainly upon that of others, and upon his own commonsense, had the good-fortune of finding himself rarely ever mistaken.

He was present with General Grant, his family and staff, on board the boat occupied as headquarters on the night of April 16, 1863, when the squadron of gun-boats, transports, and barges cut loose from its moorings at the mouth of the Yazoo, and, turning out into the stream without lights or noise, floated rapidly around the great bend into the narrow but swiftly flowing current in front of the town. It was a memorable scene. Silence and darkness brooded over it so thoroughly that it seemed for nearly an hour as though the fleet would not be discovered, and would be permitted to pass by without receiving a single shot from [216] the hostile batteries, but the silence was illusory. When the vessels got abreast of the town they were discovered by the Confederate outlook, and almost at once every gun in position opened upon them. Instantly the scene was lighted by the bursting shells and the glare of burning buildings, which had been fired to illuminate the channel along which the boats were floating. Dana counted over five hundred and twenty-five shots, but few of which took effect. Only one steamboat was destroyed and one disabled. All the gun-boats and the rest of the transports and barges got by in good condition, and were used in ferrying the army to the landing at Bruinsburg below Grand Gulf shortly afterwards.

With this movement of the gun-boats and transports the successful advance of the army became assured, and this raised the spirits of both men and officers. Dana had already ridden several times over the various routes between Milliken's Bend and New Carthage, and had come to see how impossible it was to use the narrow canals and the tortuous bayous, because of the overhanging trees, and how simple it was for the troops to make their way indefinitely along the levees, or through the plantations which were not yet flooded, till a crossing-place could be found. Grand Gulf, just below the mouth of the Big Black River, the second commanding bluff, was found, like Vicksburg, to be too strongly fortified for a direct assault; but, profiting by their recent experience, the gun-boats and transports went by them in the night, and made their first successful landing at De Shroon's plantation, facing Bruinsburg, about sixty miles down the river, where the entire army was safely ferried to the east bank within a dry, short, and easy march of the highlands.

Dana tells us in personal letters that he got his first real insight into the aristocracy and hatefulness of slavery on the splendid plantations which lay in the route of the [217] army on this memorable campaign. At a stately mansion on Roundaway Bayou, surrounded by rich gardens, he and one of the staff-officers, on their way to New Carthage, spent a night, and, in exchange for the protection which their presence insured, received the bountiful hospitality of the proprietress. She had a cook famed far and wide for her Southern dishes, and upon this occasion made such a profuse display of them as caused her to be long and gratefully remembered. It was here that Dana came face to face with slavery, and heard for the first time that the rich planters of the region had taken lordly titles from their extensive estates. It was the innermost recess of slavery, and as the lands were as rich as any in the world, the negro population was denser than he had ever seen it before. He closely scrutinized everything about the place, and became profoundly interested in all he saw. While opulence and comfort surrounded the master and his family, the hard lot of the slaves could not be concealed. It is evident from his conversation, years afterwards, that Dana was deeply touched by what he learned here, and that it did much to confirm his bitter hostility to slavery and his desire to see it entirely abolished by any means the government might find at its disposal.

Although Dana had accompanied Grant and his staff to Smith's plantation, Hard Times, and De Shroon's Landing, and wrote full accounts of the operations up to those points, he was prevented from crossing the river with the first officers and troops, because every possible foot of space on the boats was required for the fighting men and the officers whose duty it was to lead them and to examine and locate the roads by which the advance could be made. All non-combatants, servants, baggage, and extra horses were left behind till the troops were across. It was upon this occasion that General Grant and his staff took only their tooth-brushes, and depended absolutely for subsistence [218] upon what they could carry in their saddle-bags or could filled in the country. Some of the subordinate generals were not so considerate, and, indeed, as soon as the leading army corps had made good its position on the uplands, the necessity for a strict observance of the order disappeared, and it became not only convenient but proper for the troops following to bring forward their impedimenta. Dana, although anxious to get to the front, recognized the importance of the order, and employed his time in sending messages to the Secretary of War, in which he did not fail to comment upon the confusion and delay which prevailed in McClernand's corps. He also called attention to the fact that the paymasters, having finished their work and returned to the North without him, it could be plainly seen henceforth by any observant person that he was not attending to their transactions. It should be noted that it was these despatches which brought a most important reply from Stanton, over his personal signature, dated May 5, 1863, saying:

General Grant has full and absolute authority to enforce his own commands, and to remove any person who, by ignorance, inaction, or any cause, interferes with or delays his operations. He has the full confidence of the government, is expected to enforce his authority, and will be firmly and heartily supported, but he will be responsible for any failure to exert his powers. You may communicate this to him.

While under ordinary circumstances such a communication might be regarded as uncalled for and even unnecessary, it will be remembered that Grant himself had up to that time been more or less in disfavor, that McClernand had been promised the command,3 and so far as known [219] had not been directly informed that the President's plans had been changed. In view of the further fact that McClernand had been acting throughout the campaign with ill-concealed impatience of restraint, if not in disregard of orders, the information sent by Dana to the secretary, and doubtless shown by him directly to the President, was of the greatest importance. There can be no doubt that it was so regarded, or that Stanton's straightforward and emphatic instructions gave to Grant specific authority for the action which he was daily becoming more and more confident he would be compelled to take finally. This authority, it will be observed, was not dated till several days after the battle of Port Gibson, and could not have reached him by steamer and courier from the end of the telegraph at Cairo till about the middle of May. It was, of course, communicated to Grant as soon as received, and it is known that it gave him great satisfaction.

Meanwhile, as soon as a sufficient number of troops had crossed the river to make good their lodgment on the Mississippi uplands, Dana also crossed, but without his horse or baggage, and made his way on foot towards the front, some ten miles away. On the road he overtook General Grant's son Frederick, then a lad of fourteen, who had also been left behind. Hearing the reverberation of cannon, they knew that the action was on, and, although the day was an unusually hot one, exerted themselves to the utmost to rejoin the general and staff. They got a lift from a quartermaster's wagon, and soon found themselves at a field hospital in the rear of the fighting line. Here they got sight of a pile of legs and arms which had just been amputated, and which gave them the first sign either had ever seen of an actual battle. Tarrying here but a few moments, they pushed along till they overtook an officer who had picked up a pair of old gray carriage horses, which he gave to them. They found a couple [220] of old citizen saddles and poor bridles at a farm-house near by, which enabled then to mount and make their way to headquarters, where they were received with a hearty welcome. They were complemented for their pluck and enterprise, but laughed at for their sorry outfit, which they nevertheless clung to with determination till the fortune of war brought them a better one.

It was on May 2d that Dana reported at headquarters near Port Gibson. As the army had been enabled to cross the Bayou Pierre and push the enemy back towards the Big Black, Grant had resolved to ride into Grand Gulf with an escort and thus shorten his communications with the North. This he did the next day. Dana, Rawlins, and I accompanied him, and it was while we were at Grand Gulf that Grant first made known his determination to cut loose from his base as soon as his trains, now on the way, could join him, and live off the country while moving in the direction of Jackson and against the railroads crossing there. In his despatch, dated May 4th, Dana says:

... General Grant intends to lose no time in pushing his army towards the Big Black Bridge and Jackson, threatening both and striking at either as is most convenient. As soon as Sherman comes up and the rations on the way arrive, he will disregard his base and depend upon the country for meat and even for bread. Beef cattle and corn are both abundant everywhere. . . . General Grant is of the opinion that Pemberton will endeavor to bring on the decisive battle within the next ten days.

At one o'clock of the 4th Grant left for Hankinson's Ferry, but Dana tarried a while longer at Grand Gulf to send off his despatches and letters, and did not rejoin till later in the day. From that time forward he was never absent from the side of General Grant, except while riding [221] with me from one part of the army to the other. He sent despatches to the Secretary of War whenever he could get them through, which was only occasionally. On May 5th, from Hankinson's Ferry, he reported the position and movements of the various parts of the army, again alluded to the incompetency of McClernand, and indicated that as soon as Sherman's troops arrive the general advance would begin. On the 8th he wrote from Rocky Springs, giving the changes in the station of the troops, and making the statement that Colonel Prime, the chief engineer, had reported the final failure of the shorter road across the peninsula in front of Vicksburg. On the 10th he reported from Rocky Springs that the forward movement was progressing favorably in the general direction of the Jackson & Vicksburg Railroad, that the army would rest that night at ten or twelve miles from the railroad, and that General Grant was advancing his headquarters to Auburn. It took just ten days for this message to reach Washington. During this period he wrote no despatches, because communication by the way of Grand Gulf had become too roundabout and dangerous, and the shorter route by Vicksburg had not yet been opened. The army — was getting farther and farther into the interior, and was engaged in making a series of marches and gaining a series of victories which were destined to make Grant's name immortal.

During these busy and exciting days and nights the battle of Raymond was fought, the city of Jackson was captured, the depots of supply, the railroad crossing, and the bridges at that place were destroyed, the railroad to Vicksburg was occupied and broken, the decisive victory at Baker's Creek, or Champion's Hill, was gained, the passage of the Big Black was forced, and the remnant of Pemberton's army was driven into Vicksburg, where it was closely besieged, and finally forced to surrender. [222] During the whole of this time Dana acted as aide-de-camp, and took part in most of the decisive movements. It was my good-fortune to carry Grant's orders to McClernand and McPherson, who were operating in different quarters, to supervise the destruction of the Confederate bridges and the construction of our own, and Dana was my inseparable companion. We were riding or working night and day, and although the distances to be covered were generally from thirty to forty miles per day, we enjoyed every minute of the time. On the day the battle of Raymond was fought we covered the distance between Auburn and Raymond twice each way, and did not get back to headquarters till nearly midnight.

At Jackson we passed one night in comfortable beds and had a fair supply of Southern food. On asking for our bill the next day, to include General Grant and the entire staff, the manager answered that it would be sixty-five dollars, whereupon I handed him a brand new Confederate treasury note for one hundred dollars. At this, after some hesitation, he said, “Oh, if I take that I shall be compelled to charge you ninety-five dollars.” To which I replied, much to the amusement of Grant and Dana, who were looking on, “That's all right-and you needn't mind the change.”

This turned out to be a most unfortunate transaction, for an over-ardent Southerner who had witnessed what had taken place promptly reported it to the first Confederates who occupied the city after we withdrew, and they made haste to burn the hotel, because its manager had dared to discriminate in favor of Yankee money as against that of the Confederacy.

Dana often recurred to the incident as the first sure indication he had observed that the Southern people were losing confidence in their cause, and were beginning to fear that the Confederacy itself was doomed to failure. [223]

It was while at Jackson that Dana received and delivered to Grant Stanton's remarkable despatch of May 5th, “giving him full and absolute authority” to enforce his own commands, and to remove any person who by ignorance, inaction, or any other cause, might interfere with or delay his operations, and this sealed the friendship of Dana and Grant till sometime after the latter became President of the United States. It was also at Jackson that Grant learned that Johnston, the Confederate generalissimo in that quarter, had ordered Pemberton to march out from Vicksburg and attack him in the rear. This new but not unexpected condition of affairs necessitated rapid marches and hard-fought battles, in all of which Dana participated. He did his full part as a staff-officer, as well as an observer, marching in the rain, sleeping in churches and farm-houses, and living off of the country. As he traversed the country he noted the condition of the crops, the abundance of food, and the absence of men of military age. It was at Champion's Hill that he got new and more accurate ideas of the Federal generals, and especially of Logan, Hovey, Crocker, McClernand, and McPherson. It was at the passage of the Big Black that he witnessed the splendid charge of Lawler's intrepid brigade, under the personal leadership of that fearless old soldier and of his young and ardent adjutant-general, Captain Bluford Wilson. It was at that river that he assisted all night in the construction of four separate floating bridges, out of cotton bales, gin-houses, pontoons, and railroad-bridge materials, so that the victorious troops might press on at daylight and close in upon the fortifications of Vicksburg without delay. It is not too much to say that he got a better idea of the real merits of our generals, and gained more practical knowledge of actual military operations, in the final ten days of that campaign, than would have been possible in any other period of the [224] war. His own conduct was admirable from first to last, and he never ceased to regard that as the most exciting ten days he ever passed. He always spoke of it as the most brilliant campaign of Grant's career, and one of the most brilliant known to history.

1 All of Dana's despatches to the Secretary of War and to General Grant, from this date till the end of the war, may be found in the Official Records by reference to the general index, serial No. 130.

2 Recollections of the Civil War, p. 22 et seq.

3 See Badeau, Military History of U. S. Grant, vol. i., appendix to chap. v., p. 60 et seq.-correspondence between Grant and McClernand.

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