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Chapter 23:

  • Vicksburg, the second prize of the war.
  • -- Gen. Grant. -- what his persistency was worth. -- his New scheme of attack. -- two parts of the enterprise. -- Porter's gunboats run the batteries. -- Grant's march from Milliken's Bend. -- blindness of Gen. Pemberton at Vicksburg. -- antecedents and character of this commander. -- his extreme incompetency. -- President Davis blamed. -- his caprice and obstinacy. -- Grant crosses the Mississippi and moves towards Port Gibson. -- Gen. Johnston's telegram to Pemberton. -- critical opportunity of the campaign. -- Pemberton refuses to use it, and disregards Johnston's despatch. -- battle of Port Gibson. -- extraordinary valour of Bowen's command. -- Grant turns grand Gulf and moves upon Jackson. -- Gen. Johnston's arrival at Jackson. -- situation and strength of the Confederate forces. -- evacuation of Jackson. -- Johnston offers a second opportunity of attack to Pemberton. -- the latter disobeys the order and commits a fatal error. -- Sherman's incendiary record in Jackson. -- his use of the fire-brand. -- Grant forces battle upon Pemberton. -- battle of Baker's Creek. -- tremendous exertions of Stevenson's division. -- Gen. Loring fails to support him, remains inactive, and is cut off in the retreat. -- Pemberton's New position upon the Big Black. -- its strength. -- it is shamefully abandoned. -- disgraceful retreat of Pemberton's army. -- the fate of Vicksburg virtually decided at the Big Black. -- Gen. Johnston orders the evacuation of Vicksburg. -- Pemberton entrapped there. -- siege and surrender of Vicksburg. -- confidence of the garrison restored. -- prospect of relief from Johnston. -- how it was visionary. -- two assaults of the enemy repulsed. -- painful operations of siege. -- sufferings of the garrison. -- Johnston has some hope of extricating the garrison. -- Taylor's attack and repulse at Milliken's Bend. -- Pemberton's despatch to Johnston. -- the reply: “something may yet be done to save Vicksburg.” -- Johnston prepares to attack on 7th July. -- Pemberton surrenders on Fourth of July. -- his conference with Grant. -- a terrible day's work. -- extent of the disaster to the Confederate cause. -- surrender of Port Hudson. -- other events in the region of the Mississippi connected with the fall of Vicksburg. -- operations in the Trans-Mississippi. -- battle of Helena. -- object of Gen. Holmes' movement on Helena. -- an extraordinary march. -- an extraordinary council of war. -- Gen. Price protests against an attack. -- he is ordered to take “Graveyard” fort. -- he succeeds. -- the other attacks fail. -- disastrous retreat of Gen. Holmes. -- the campaign in Lower Louisiana. -- Gen. Taylor's capture of Braslear city and its forts -- his operations in the Lafourche country. -- his successes neutralized by the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. -- Banks returns to New Orleans and the enemy holds the entire line of the Mississippi

The object of the enemy's operations, second to Richmond, was distinctly the possession of Vicksburg and the opening of the whole length of the Mississippi River. Enormous efforts had been made to obtain these two great prizes. Five attempts upon Richmond had failed. Three at tempts upon Vicksburg — that of Porter's fleet; that of Sherman's army; and that of Grant, which may be designated as an attempt to force a passage to the rear of the town, including the project of a canal across the isthmus and the enterprises known as the Yazoo Pass and Sunflower Expeditions-had accomplished nothing. Foiled again at Chancellorsville, in the great aim of the Virginia campaign, the enemy turned with renewed vigour upon the second object of the war, and public attention was immediately directed to the great campaign likely to decide the fate of the Mississippi Valley.

Gen. Grant had already obtained a great reputation for persistency-a slight title to merit, it may be remarked, when a commander has at his disposal abundant means, and at his back a government so generous and rich as never to call its officers into account for the loss of life and of treasure in any case of ultimate success. He now proposed to change his plan of operations against Vicksburg. He determined to invest the town, and having turned the defences on the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, to cut off the defenders from all communication with the east. One part of the enterprise was to run Porter's gunboats and a number of transports past the works at Vicksburg; while a land force, consisting of two corps, under Grant in person, should march from Milliken's Bend to Carthage, a distance of thirty-five miles, interrupted by marshes and streams. Both movements succeeded. On the 16th and 22d April, two fleets of gunboats and transports ran the batteries with insignificant disaster, and repeated the lesson that had been taught more than once in the war, that, unless where obstructions have been placed, steamers will run the gauntlet of almost any fire. By the last of April, Grant, having marched down the west bank of the river, and joined Porter's gunboats at Carthage, was ready to execute the next step in his scheme of attacking Vicksburg from the southeast.

His adventure was a complete surprise to Gen. Pemberton at Vicksburg. This commander, who had been appointed to what the Confederates designated as the department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, had been so blind as to suppose Grant's object was not Vicksburg, but Bragg's army in Tennessee, and as late as the middle of April, he had proposed to order troops to Tullahoma, under the delusion that Rosecrans would be reinforced from Grant's army. The mistake was characteristic of a commander who was in no way qualified for the great trust to which he had been exalted. The appointment of Gen. Pemberton to the defence of [387] Vicksburg was an unfortunate one; it was probably the most unpopular single act of President Davis, who was constantly startling the public by the most unexpected and grotesque selections for the most important posts of the public service. Pemberton had not yet fought a battle in the war. He was a Pennsylvanian by birth; he had been a major in the old United States service; and from this inconsiderable rank, without a single record of meritorious service in the Confederacy, he had been raised by a stroke of President Davis' pen to the position of a lieutenant-general, and put in command of a post second in importance to the Confederate capital. He had previously had some uneventful commands at Norfolk and at Charleston. He was removed thence in consequence of frequent protests; but in each instance with promotion, as if the President was determined to mark his contempt for a public opinion which did not appreciate his favourite, or hoped to inspire a dull brain by adding another star to his collar. He was sent to Vicksburg with a larger command and a more extensive field, to show eventually the accuracy of the public judgment as to his capacity even for subordinate positions. With armies so intelligent as those of the Confederacy, no man unfitted for command could long maintain their confidence and respect. He might intrench himself with all the forms and parade of the schools; but intelligent soldiers easily penetrated the thin disguise, and distinguished between the pretender and the man of ability. So it was at Vicksburg. Pemberton had already given there early evidence of his unfitness for command. While Grant was assiduously engaged under his eye, for months, in preparing the powerful armament which was to spend its force on the devoted fortress, his adversary took no notice of the warning. The water batteries, which might have been strengthened, were afterwards found to be so imperfect as to inflict but slight damage on the gunboats, and permit the run of all the transports of a large army with equal impunity. the fortifications of Grand Gulf, where Grant was now making his next demonstration, had been neglected, until the tardy attempt rendered the accumulation of guns and stores there an easy prey to the enemy. Vicksburg, with an abundant country around it, had only two months instead of twelve months provisions. How was Pemberton engaged? Immersed in official trifles, laboriously engaged in doing nothing, while the murmurs around him and the friction of events had developed personal characteristics which, with want of confidence of officers and men, rendered him highly unpopular. Of a captious and irritable nature, a narrow mind, the slave of the forms and fuss of the schools, Gen. Pemberton was one of those men whose idea of war began with a bureau of clothing and equipment, and ended with a field-day or dress-parade. Warning after warning was sounded; but President Davis turned a deaf ear to them, not, perhaps, that he cared especially for Pemberton, but because his own vanity was so exacting that [388] even to question his infallibility of selection was an offence not to be condoned.

Gen. Grant, having effected a junction with the gunboats below Vicksburg, next determined to turn the works at Grand Gulf, which defended the mouth of the Big Black River, by landing at a point lower down the river. Accordingly he marched by its right flank, crossed opposite Bruinsburg, and on the 30th April landed on the left bank, and immediately pushed forward towards Port Gibson, a small town near the mouth of the Big Black River.

Gen. Pemberton, who appeared to have been at last aroused to a sense of the danger of his position, telegraphed the news of Grant's movement to Gen. Johnston, nominally commanding the Western armies, and then at Tullahona with Bragg. He received orders to attack at once. Gen. Johnston despatched: “If Grant crosses the river, unite all your troops to beat him. Success will give back what was abandoned to win it.” It was the critical opportunity of the campaign. Grant had landed with about 50,000 men. By drawing all his forces from different posts, leaving only enough in Vicksburg to answer Porter's chronic bombardment, Gen. Pemberton could have concentrated nearly 40,000 troops, and these, with the advantage of a difficult country, and with slight field-works, might at all events have delayed Grant until Vicksburg was provisioned, and Johnston had arrived with reinforcements. But we shall see that the bewildered commander, without the resolution to risk a decisive battle, committed the unpardonable errour of allowing his army to be cut up in detail by an enemy with massed forces.

Battle of Port Gibson.

The only Confederate force which was to meet the enemy's advance towards Port Gibson was a division of troops under Gen. Bowen. This brave and devoted officer had been left with a few thousand men to confront an overwhelming force of the enemy, as Gen. Pemberton had insisted upon putting the Big Black River between the enemy and the bulk of his own forces, which he declared were necessary to cover Vicksburg. Gen. Bowen had fifty-five hundred men. He was opposed by the corps of Gen. McClernand, numbering probably twenty thousand men. An engagement ensued on the banks of a small stream, which crossed the road from Bruinsburg. The enemy, by the extraordinary valour and constancy of the small force of Confederates, was kept back for an entire day, until just before sunset Gen. Bowen was compelled to fall back, executing a retreat without confusion, and saving the bulk of his army.

The position of Grand Gulf turned, and the battle of Fort Gibson won, [389] Grant pushed his column direct towards Jackson. Gen. Johnston reached Jackson on the night of the 13th May. He received there a despatch from Gen. Pemberton, dated 12th May, asking for reinforcements, as the enemy, in large force, was moving from the Mississippi, south of the Big Black, apparently toward Edwards's Depot, “which will be the battlefield, if I can forward sufficient force, leaving troops enough to secure the safety of the place.”

Before Johnston's arrival at Jackson, Grant, as we have seen, had beaten Gen. Bowen at Port Gibson, made good the landing of his army, occupied Grand Gulf, and was marching upon the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad.

On reaching Jackson, Gen. Johnston found there the brigades of Gregg and Walker, reported at six thousand; learned from Gregg that Maxcy's brigade was expected to arrive from Port Hudson the next day; that Gen. Pemberton's forces, except the garrison of Port Hudson (five thousand) and of Vicksburg, were at Edwards's Depot — the General's headquarters at Bovina; that four divisions of the enemy, under Sherman, occupied Clinton, ten miles west of Jackson, between Edwards's Depot and ourselves. Gen. Johnston was aware that reinforcements were on their way from the East, and that the advance of those under Gen. Gist would probably arrive the next day, and with Maxcy's brigade, swell his force to about eleven thousand.

Upon this information he sent to Gen. Pemberton a despatch, informing him of his arrival, and of the occupation of Clinton by a portion of Grant's army, urging the importance of re-establishing communications, and ordering him to come up, if practicable, on Sherman's rear at once, and adding: “To beat such a detachment would be of immense value. The troops here could co-operate. All the strength you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all-important.”

On the 14th May, the enemy advanced by the Raymond and Clinton roads upon Jackson. Johnston did not propose to defend the town; he had no sufficient force to do so; he therefore ordered Gregg and Walker to fall back slowly, offering such resistance to the march of the Federal columns as to allow time to remove or destroy the stores accumulated in Jackson. This work accomplished, Gen. Johnston retreated by the Canton road, from which alone he could form a junction with Pemberton.

It will be perceived that Grant was now between the two Confederate armies; but he was superiour in numbers not only to each, but to both united. Johnston had proposed the brilliant hazard of crushing an important detachment of the enemy at Clinton, and had urged the paramount necessity of re-establishing communications between the two Confederate forces. Pemberton appears to have been completely blind to these considerations. In disobedience of the orders of his superiour, and in [390] opposition to the views of a majority of the council of war, composed of all his generals present, before whom he placed the subject, he decided to make a movement by which the union with Johnston would be impossible. It was a fatal errour. The irresolute commander had, at first, expected to fight at Edwards's Depot, being unwilling to separate himself further from Vicksburg. When he received Johnston's order to march on Sherman's rear at Clinton, and when the council of war, called by him, approved the movement, he hesitated, did not move for twenty-eight hours, and invented a compromise, in which equally abandoning his own preconceived plan of battle, and disobeying the orders of Gen. Johnston, he moved, not to risk an attack on Sherman, but in another direction towards Raymond, flattering himself that he was about to cut the enemy's communications.

The delay and aberration of Pemberton left Jackson at the mercy of the enemy, and opened the way to Vicksburg. On the 15th April Gen. Sherman's corps marched into Jackson. The incendiary record of this famous officer commenced here; the first of his long list of conflagrations and peculiar atrocities dates with the burning, the plunder, and sack of Jackson. The little town of two main streets, with detached villas, inhabited by wealthy planters, was surrendered to a soldiery licensed to rob, burn, and destroy. Private houses, the Catholic church, the hotel, the penitentiary, and a large cotton-factory were burned. As Sherman's troops marched out, a volume of smoke rose over the devoted town, while here and there rolled up fiercely great masses of flame attesting the infernal work of the man who, not content, in the nineteenth century and in a civilized country, to fight with the sword, had taken a weapon from another age — in the fire-brand of the savage.

Meanwhile Grant, having ascertained Pemberton's movement, directed McClernand's and McPherson's corps to move by the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad, and by the road from Raymond to meet him. Sherman Lad been ordered to evacuate Jackson and to take a similar direction. Pemberton's disposable force consisted of seventeen thousand five hundred men. On the 16th May, while moving on the road to Raymond, a courier handed him a despatch from Gen. Johnston, stating that, as the attack on Sherman had failed, the only means by which a union could now be effected between the two forces, was that Pemberton should move directly to Clinton, whither Johnston had retired. An order of counter-march was issued. But already heavy skirmishing was going on in Pemberton's front; he found it impossible to extricate himself for a reverse movement; and his situation was such that he was compelled to give battle on the ground selected by the enemy.


Battle of Baker's Creek.

The Confederate line of battle was formed in a bend of what was known as Baker's Creek, across the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad. After a desultory fire, the battle commenced in earnest about noon; Hovey's division attacking the centre of Pemberton's line, held by Stevenson's division, while two other divisions of the enemy threatened to turn the Confederate left. To relieve the centre, Gen. Loring was ordered to attack with his own division and that of Bowen. Gen. Loring did not attack. The enemy remained steadily in his front, in heavy force, occupying a series of ridges, wooded, and commanding each other, and forming a very strong position.

Meanwhile Stevenson's sixty-five hundred troops bore the brunt of the battle, sustained the heavy and repeated attacks of the enemy, broke Hovey's line, and drove it in disorder. But there were three other divisions of Grant's army marching from Raymond, and about to come into action. The only reinforcements that came to Stevenson's overtasked troops, were two brigades of Bowen. Loring was inactive; he again disobeyed orders to move to the left, and remained engaged with the movements of the enemy in his front. Stevenson continued the unequal battle until the enemy's division from Raymond had arrived on the field, when the Confederate line at last gave way and broke in confusion from the field.

Gen. Loring states that he was making dispositions for an attack upon the enemy's right, by which he hoped to “overwhelm it and retrieve the day,” when he received orders from Pemberton to retreat and bring up the rear. If such an attack was designed, it was too late; the day was already lost. The retreat of the Confederates was by the ford and bridge of Baker's Creek. As soon as the enemy realized that they were leaving the field, he moved forward in heavy force. The retreat was covered with great spirit. Brigadier-Gen. Tilghman, of Loring's command, having become separated from it, was left with less than fifteen hundred effective men to sustain the attack of six or eight thousand of the enemy, with a fine park of artillery. But he was advantageously posted; he not only kept the enemy in check, but repulsed him on several occasions, and thus kept open the only line of retreat left to the army. He was killed as he was serving with his own hands a twelve-pound howitzer. His bold stand saved a large portion of the army; but the retreating columns were not yet across the stream. A message was sent to Gen. Loring: “For God's sake, hold your position until sundown, and save the army.” A few moments later, a despatch was received from Gen. Bowen, stating that the [392] enemy had crossed the bridge and out-flanked him, that he had been compelled precipitately to fall back, and that Loring must do his best to save his division. Gen. Loring, having ascertained that it was impossible to attempt the passage of the Big Black at any point, determined to force the rear of the enemy between Raymond and Utica, and to make his retreat through the east and effect a junction with the forces of Gen. Johnston in the neighbourhood of Jackson. He succeeded in doing so with the loss of his artillery.

On the following day, 17th May, Pemberton's shattered and demoralized forces had taken up a position upon the east bank of the Big Black River. The position was a strong one in a bend of the river, sheltered by patches of wood, with marshes extending on either side towards the river. The works were provided with a sufficient quantity of artillery; they were manned by a considerable force; and the position might have been held against largely superiour numbers. But the events of the previous day had demoralized the troops; they abandoned their position at the first assault of a Federal brigade; they left in the enemy's possession eighteen pieces of artillery; they scattered in wild and tumultuous flight. “The retreat,” says Gen. Pemberton himself, “became a matter of sauve qui peut.” By nightfall the fugitive disordered troops were pouring into the streets of Vicksburg, and the citizens beheld with dismay the army that had gone out to fight for their safety, returning to them under the shame of defeat, and in the character of a wild and blasphemous mob.

The fate of Vicksburg may be said to have been virtually decided, when Pemberton was driven into it, and the lines of the enemy drawn around it. Gen. Johnston so regarded it. When he learned of the disaster at Baker's Creek, he despatched to Pemberton: “If Haynes's Bluff be untenable, Vicksburg is of no value and cannot be held. If, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg, you must ultimately surrender. Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, you must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies, and march to the northeast.” Before the despatch was received Gen. Pemberton had fallen back to Vicksburg.

Of this unfortunate situation Gen. Johnston writes: “c Had the battle of Baker's Creek not been fought, Gen. Pemberton's belief that Vicksburg was his base, rendered his ruin inevitable. He would still have been besieged, and therefore captured. The larger force he would have carried into the lines, would have added to and hastened the catastrophe. His disasters were due, not merely to his entangling himself with the advancing columns of a superiour and unobserved enemy, but to his evident determination to be besieged in Vicksburg, instead of manuring to prevent a siege.”


Siege and surrender of Vicksburg

Gen. Pemberton had in Vicksburg eight thousand fresh troops, not demoralized by defeat. When he arrived in town from the battle-field at Big Black, a general feeling of distrust was expressed in his competency, and the place was regarded as lost. Every one expected Grant's army to march into Vicksburg that night, while there was no means of defence and no spirit in the troops. Gen. Pemberton set to work, reorganizing the army for the last desperate struggle. Gen. Baldwin went out to review the line of defences, and imagining that the first assault would be made on the left wing, he petitioned to be assigned to hold that position with his veteran troops, upon whose fidelity and courage he could depend. The army was placed in position on the lines, and placed in the ditches, with Gen. Baldwin on the left, and Gen. Lee on the right. The centre was held by Gens. Pemberton, Smith, and Forney. As these dispositions were made, the confidence of the troops was gradually restored; they saw the purpose of defence; and they were entertained with the prospect that their besieged condition would soon be relieved by Johnston's army.

But such prospect was not a little visionary. The truth of the situation was that Pemberton had trapped himself in Vicksburg, to surrender to famine what could not be won by assault. Gen. Johnston had come to the Mississippi Department with no army of his own, beyond a few troops, to take charge of Pemberton's, which he found broken to pieces, and the remnants sheltered in Vicksburg. To collect a new army by appeals to the Richmond authorities, the Governor of Mississippi, and other quarters, became his only resource. With all his efforts only twenty thousand men could be raised, many of them raw troops, without field-guns and proper equipment; while Grant had been reinforced to eighty thousand men, besides the co-operation of Porter's fleet. He had also entrenched himself on every side with a difficult river between himself and Johnston. For the latter to have dashed himself against the enemy in such circumstances, might have been esteemed an act of magnificent daring; but it would not have been war. If Pemberton, instead of crowding superserviceable troops in a fortress to consume its scant supplies, or become the victims of disease or war, had thrown sufficient garrison into Vicksburg, and kept at large twenty thousand men, he could have so reinforced Johnston as to have enabled him to act promptly before Grant had entrenched himself, and thus relieve Vicksburg from the purpose of his efforts, by giving him occupation outside. But none of these things were done. Johnston's resources were utterly inadequate to any good purpose; he could not collect a sufficient force to break the investment of Vicksburg; [394] and the prospect even of making a diversion or opening communication with the garrison was uncertain and difficult.

Vicksburg was invested by the enemy on the eastern side: Sherman holding the right of the lines, McPherson the centre, and McClernand the left. A new base of supplies was established, leading from the Yazoo directly to the rear. Guns were planted in opposition to the long, fortified series of works of the Confederates.

On the 19th May, the division of Gen. Blair, and a brigade of Sherman's division assaulted what was thought to be a weak place in the Confederate line of defence. They were severely repulsed. On the 22d a more concerted attack was ordered by Gen. Grant, and the whole line was bombarded by cannon. At an early hour the left, under McClernand, gained a foot-hold at an angle of the works, but was dislodged; and the enemy withdrew from the attack, after having suffered a loss of some twenty-five hundred men disabled. The attempt to take Vicksburg by storm seems to have been abandoned after this; and it was determined to reduce the position by siege and parallel works.

And now commenced a terrible task. Fort was erected against fort, and trench dug against trench. The enemy's sappers constructed their corridors and passages and pits amid a blazing fire of hostile musketry, and the fiercest rays of the summer sun. The Confederates, confined to the narrow limits of the trenches, with their limbs cramped and swollen, never had, by day or by night, the slightest relief. They were exposed to burning suns, drenching rains, damp fogs, and heavy dews. The citizens, women, and children, prepared caves in the hill, where they took refuge during the almost incessant bombardment. Thus, through the months of May and June continued the weary siege. The spirits of the troops were in a measure kept up by news received from Johnston's army, by means of messengers who found a way through the swamps and thickets of the Yazoo.

Although Gen. Johnston was too weak to save Vicksburg, he entertained some hope of extricating the garrison. With this view Gen. Taylor, commanding in the Trans-Mississippi, was ordered to co-operate with Pemberton from the west bank of the Mississippi. But the movement miscarried; Taylor's attack on the Federal camp at Milliken's Bend was repulsed; and all hope of help from the West was ultimately abandoned.

On the 22d June a despatch was received from Pemberton by Gen. Johnston, suggesting that the latter should make to Grant “propositions to pass this army out, with all its arms and equipages,” and renewing his (Pemberton's) hope of his being able, by force of arms, to act with Johnston, and expressing the opinion that he could hold out for fifteen days longer. Johnston was moved by the determined spirit of the despatch. He replied: “Something may yet be done to save Vicksburg. Postpone [395] both of the modes suggested of merely extricating the garrison. Negotiations with Grant for the relief of the garrison, should they become necessary, must be made by you. It would be a confession of weakness on my part, which I ought not to make, to propose them. When it becomes necessary to make terms, they may be considered as made under my authority.”

On the 29th June, field transportation and other supplies having been obtained, Johnston's army marched toward the Big Black, and on the evening of July 1st encamped between Brownsville and the river.

Reconnoissances, which occupied the second and third, convinced Gen. Johnston that the attack north of the railroad was impracticable. He determined, therefore, to make the examinations necessary for the attempt south of the railroad-thinking, from what was already known, that the chance for success was much better there, although the consequences of defeat might be more disastrous.

On the night of the 3d July a messenger was sent to Gen. Pemberton with information that an attempt to create a diversion would be made to enable him to cut his way out, and that Johnston hoped to attack the enemy about the 7th.

On the Fourth of July Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg. The explanation has been made in his behalf that he never received Johnston's despatches, encouraging the hope that both Vicksburg and the garrison might be saved; and Gen. Pemberton has declared that had he received these despatches: “I would have lived upon an ounce a day, and have continued to meet the assaults of all Grant's army, rather than have surrendered the city until Gen. Johnston had realized or relinquished that hope.”

As it was, he determined to surrender Vicksburg on the anniversary of the Fourth of July for the very singular reason that it would gratify the enemy's “vanity” to enter the stronghold of the great river on that particular day, and that such a concession might procure better terms than at any other time. The preliminary note for terms was despatched on the 3d July. Correspondence on the subject continued during the day, and was not concluded until nine o'clock the next morning. Gen. Pemberton afterwards came out, and had a personal interview with Grant, in front of the Federal line, the two sitting for an hour and a half in close communion. A spectator says: “Grant was silent and smoking, while Pemberton, equally cool and careless in manner, was plucking straws and biting them as if in merest chit-chat.”

It was a terrible day's work for such a display of sangfroid. It was the loss of one of the largest armies which the Confederates had in the field; the decisive event of the Mississippi Valley; the virtual surrender of the great river; and the severance of the Southern Confederacy. The numbers which surrendered at the capitulation of Vicksburg were twentythree [396] thousand men, with three Major-Generals, and nine Brigadiers, upwards of ninety pieces of artillery, and about forty thousand small-arms. Weakness from fatigue, short rations, and heat, had left thousands of the troops decrepit. Six thousand of them were in the hospitals, and many of them were crawling about in what should be convalescent camps. Four thousand citizens and negroes, besides Pemberton's army, included all the souls within the walls of Vicksburg. When we consider that these people had for a month and a half been in daily terrour of their lives, never being able to sleep a night in their homes, but crawling into caves, unable to move except in the few peaceful intervals in the heat of the day, we may appreciate what a life of horrour was theirs.

The first result of the surrender of Vicksburg, was the fall of Port Hudson, and the consequent supremacy of the Federal arms along the entire length of the Mississippi. Gen. Banks had invested this place; he had made two assaults on the 27th May and on the 14th June; and he had been repulsed by Gen. Gardner, who held the place with about five thousand men. When the news was communicated to Gardner that Vicksburg had surrendered, knowing that all hope of relief was at an end, he determined that it was useless to prolong resistance, and on the 9th July surrendered himself and the garrison as prisoners of war.

These events on the Mississippi constituted a reverse, which the resources of the Confederacy, neither in men nor means, could endure without great strain. Across the river the train of disaster appears to have extended. The fall of the strongholds of the Mississippi resulted in the retreat of our army from Little Rock, and the surrender to the enemy of the important valley in which it was situated; while a campaign auspiciously begun in Lower Louisiana was abandoned in consequence of the release of Banks' forces from the siege of Port Hudson. To these events we must now take the reader so as to gather up the several threads of the narrative of the war in the West.

Operations in the Trans-Mississippi-battle of Helena.

In the month of May it was deemed advisable by Gen. E. Kirby Smith, then commanding the Trans-Mississippi Department, that a demonstration should be made on the west side of the river in order that Vicksburg might be relieved. He accordingly directed Gen. Holmes to put the troops in Arkansas in motion to operate against Helena, a place on the west side of the river eighty miles south of Memphis and three hundred miles north of Vicksburg. It was occupied by a garrison of four thousand Federal troops, with a gunboat in the river.

On the morning of May 31st most of the troops in Arkansas were put [397] in motion for an advance. The weather was very wet, the creeks all full, and the ground covered with water. For the expedition Gen. Holmes had Price's Division of infantry, consisting of Parsons' Missouri Brigade numbering 1,000, and McRay's Arkansas Brigade of 400; Fagan's Brigade of Arkansas infantry, numbering 1,500; and Marmaduke's Division of Arkansas and Missouri cavalry, numbering 2,000; making a total of 4,900. These several commands formed a junction at Jacksonport, and on the morning of 22d June commenced their march in the direction of Helena. It was a toilsome and dangerous march-one of the most extraordinary recorded in the history of the war. The infantry were in water to their waists on two-thirds of the road. Heavy details of worn-out men were employed in dragging the wagons through difficult places. The mules would be unhitched, a long rope fastened to the wagon, and a hundred men pull it through. There was no pontoon train, and over the swollen streams bridges of floating logs would be constructed, which a loaded wagon would sink several feet under water. In making this terrible march, twelve days were consumed, and on the evening of the 3d July the jaded men had reached within four miles of Helena.

Precious time had been lost. A council of war was called, in which occurred a remarkable scene. Gen. Holmes explained the strength of the position to be attacked. Helena was surrounded by a range of rough, wooded hills, which shut it into the river, except a narrow bottom next the river, both above and below. The place was defended by three prominent forts, one protecting the approach by the north, one at the south, and the “Grave-yard” fort, in the rear of the centre of the city.

Gen. Price was not in favour of an attack. He argued that the enemy was doubtless expecting them, and had concentrated as many troops as he deemed sufficient to defend the place, and that, if it had been necessary to call troops from Vicksburg for this purpose, the object of the expedition had already been accomplished, and the only action of the troops should be to operate so as to detain such reinforcements at Helena. He thought this might be done most effectually by surrounding the place, cutting off the enemy's supplies, both from the country and the river, and harassing him t y picket-fighting. Even if Helena were taken, he thought it would be a dearly-bought victory; it was untenable; and if any of the garrison escaped, and doubtless they had transports in waiting, their expulsion would but strengthen the enemy at Vicksburg, thereby defeating the very object of the expedition.

Gen. Holmes wanted the eclat of victory. He replied with warmth: “Gen. Price, I intend to attack Helena immediately, and capture the place, if possible. This is my fight. If I succeed, I want the glory; and if I fail, I am willing to bear the odium.” Then turning to the other officers, he said: “At twelve o'clock, to-night, we move towards Helena.” Gen. Marmaduke, with his command, was ordered to attack the northern [398] fort; Gen. Fagan was to attack the southern fort; and Gen. Price was to assault and capture the centre fort — the attack to commence simultaneously at day-light.

About day-break the first gun fired was by the battalion of sharpshooters belonging to Parsons' brigade, who encountered an outpost of the enemy. Price moved in column of division, the 9th Missouri Infantry in advance. The hills were high, the ravines deep; but the men pressed forward in good order, the enemy shelling them at every step of the march. When the last ridge was reached, the command was halted, and the men rested and closed up, ready for the assault. They were now within two or three hundred yards of the fort. By this time the firing had commenced on the right and left, and it was known that Fagan and Marmaduke were at work. The command was given by Gen. Price to charge with fixed bayonets. The troops moved in gallant style, at the run, over and through fallen timber and roughly constructed abatis, up hills, and into gullies. They were never checked once, and were soon in possession of the fort.

Price's division had done the work assigned it. Heavy guns from the gunboat in the river now commenced playing upon the captured fort. The men sheltered themselves, as well as they could, and awaited further orders. Meanwhile Fagan had moved against the southern fort, and when within two hundred yards of it, had commenced a fire of small-arms, which provoked such a heavy response of artillery, that his men were compelled to fall back. Twice was the assault repeated, and with the same , result. Marmaduke met with no better success. Gen. Holmes, seeing the failures of Fagan and Marmaduke, ordered two regiments of Parsons' brigade to attack the southern fort in the rear. The movement was attempted; but under the fire of the gunboat and the cross-fire of the other two forts, and that of the whole infantry force of the enemy, it was impossible to advance. Fagan and Marmaduke having withdrawn their forces, it became necessary to attempt the withdrawal of Price's division. With the whole force of the enemy concentrated upon this division, and separated as it was from any support, its retreat was one of mortal peril at every step. It was accomplished with heavy loss. The battle was lost; six hundred Confederates had been disabled, and about four hundred taken prisoners. Gen. Holmes the next morning commenced his march back to Little Rock. The white flag had been run up at Vicksburg; all hope of the connection of the Trans-Mississippi with the eastern portions of the Confederacy was at an end; and Gen. Holmes had made the first step of the retreat which, at last abandoning Little Rock, was to surrender to the enemy the most valuable portion of Arkansas. 1


The campaign in lower Louisiana.

Almost contemporary with these disastrous events was a remarkable episode of success in the lower country of the Trans-Mississippi, which had, at one time, kindled in the South the hope of the recapture of New Orleans, but finally came to naught on account of insufficient forces.

In tile latter part of June, Gen.DickTaylor, who commanded in Lower Louisiana, organized an expedition upon Brashear City and its forts. Col. Majors, who commanded a brigade of cavalry on the Atchafalaya, was ordered to open communication by way of the lakes with Gens. Mouton and Green, who were to co-operate in front of the enemy's position. The junction having been made by Majors, after a successful campaign through the Lafourche country, a combined attack was made on Brashear City on the 22d June, and the forts taken at the point of the bayonet. Eighteen hundred prisoners were captured, nearly five million dollars worth of stores, and a position occupied that was the key to Louisiana and Texas.

It was thought that the capture of Brashear City might force the enemy to raise the siege of Port Hudson, and that Banks would be driven to the choice of abandoning his operations against this place or losing New Orleans. But these expectations failed; the second diversion to relieve Vicksburg and Port Hudson was too late; and Gen. Taylor, learning of the fall of these strongholds and the consequent release of Banks' forces, [400] was no longer able to hold the Lafourche country, and was compelled to abandon the territory he had won. The last serious effort on the line of the Mississippi was at an end; a great prize had passed in the hands of the enemy beyond redemption; and it was already said, by extravagant newspapers in Washington and New York, that the dawn of a conquered peace was breaking upon the country.

1 An esteemed correspondent writes us these personal incidents of the Battle of Helena:

Gen. Holmes is a brave man, and was under the hottest fire. After the centre fort had been captured, and the heavy fire from the gunboat and the two other forts had been opened on it, Gen. Holmes was standing on the parapet, eagerly looking for Fagan, who was his favourite, to plant his colours on the fort he was attacking. While thus standing, Gen. Parsons, who was sheltering himself in the fort, bawled out: “Come down, General! you will be hit. Don't you hear the shot whistling around you?” “I have the advantage of you, Gen. Parsons, I am deaf, and cannot hear them.”

Another incident of the battle should be recorded as a just tribute to the memory of a brave man. At the battle of Prairie-Grove, Lt. Richard Spencer, of the 9th Missouri Infantry, was taken sick, and was unable to engage in the fight. While at Jacksonport en route for Helena, he was again taken sick. At Prairie-Grove his colonel had accused him of cowardice, and said that his sickness was a mere excuse to keep out of the fight. When the command left Jacksonport, the surgeon of the regiment advised Lieut. Spencer to remain in hospital, which he refused to do. On the march, the surgeon noticing that he was quite unwell, repeatedly urged him to ride in an ambulance, which he declined. Once on the march it became necessary to detail an officer to remain in charge of some baggage, and Spencer was detailed for the purpose. He refused to obey the order, and told his colonel that he had been accused of cowardice for not going into the former fight, and that now he was determined to go if he had to drag his body into action; that he had rather die than live under such an imputation. He was finally excused from remaining with the baggage. Scarcely able to walk, he marched to Helena, led his company into the fort, and was shot dead through the head.

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