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Chapter 9:

  • Preparations for the siege
  • -- Grant orders troops from Memphis -- Halleck sends Reenforcements from the East and West -- lack of siege material -- scarcity of engineer officers -- first ground broken 23d of May -- engineer operations -- ingenuity of officers and men -- enemy's defence -- sorties -- Wood's approach -- loss of the Cincinnati -- Tuttle's approach -- Blair's approach -- Ransom's approach -- Logan's approach -- A. J. Smith's approach -- Carr's approach -- Hovey's approach -- Lauman's approach -- Herron's approach -- menacing attitude of Johnston -- correspondence with Banks -- Osterhaus sent to the Big Black -- Blair sent to the Yazoo -- Mower and Kimball sent to Mechanicsburg -- attack on Milliken's bend -- arrival of Herron and Parke -- completion of investment -- fortification of Haine's bluff -- corps of observation -- line of countervallation -- Pemberton prepares for escape -- McClernand relieved -- condition of garrison -- sufferings of inhabitants -- mine of June 25th -- hardships of national troops -- persistency of Grant -- final assault fixed for July 6th -- Pemberton proposes surrender -- terms of capitulation -- interview between commanders -- surrender of Vicksburg -- treatment of prisoners -- Pemberton's headquarters -- garrison paroled and marched out of Vicksburg -- fall of Port Hudson -- opening of Mississippi river -- Sherman sent against Johnston -- Johnston retreats to Jackson -- Sherman besieges Jackson -- Johnston evacuates -- destruction of railroads -- return of Sherman -- results of entire campaign -- congratulations of the President and general-in-chief -- Grant made major-general in regular army -- joy of the country -- Dismay of the rebels.

The assaults on Vicksburg having failed, Grant at once set about his preparations for a siege. The three corps retained the same relative positions they already occupied, Sherman having the right, McPherson the centre, and McClernand the left of the line; but Lauman's division, arriving on the 24th of May, was put on the left of McClernand, where it guarded [332] the Hall's ferry and Warrenton roads; while McArthur's entire command had, by this time, joined the Seventeenth corps. Grant now ordered Prentiss and Hurlbut to send forward ‘every available man that could possibly be spared.’ ‘The siege of Vicksburg is going to occupy time, contrary to my expectations when I arrived near it. To watch the enemy, and to prevent him from collecting a force outside, near enough to attack my rear, I require a large cavalry force. Contract every thing on the line of the route from Memphis to Corinth, and keep your cavalry well out south of there; by this means, you ought to be able to send here quite a large force.’

But even these reenforcements would be insufficient. It was certain that the rebel government would still make strenuous efforts to rescue Vicksburg, and, if possible, drive the besieging force from the advantageous footing it had obtained, at the expense of so much blood and labor and time; and, should this prove impossible, Johnston would undoubtedly endeavor to raise the siege, at least long enough to extricate the garrison. The remnants of the rebel army outside of Vicksburg, with reenforcements already received from the East, were collected at Canton—sure earnest of a determination to strike one more blow; while the inactivity of Rosecrans, in Tennessee, gave ground for fears that, rather than lose all on the Mississippi, the rebels, in order to reenforce Johnston heavily, might withdraw a heavy force from Bragg, who was in front of Rosecrans. Grant was thus obliged, not only to assemble a force sufficient to conduct the operations of the siege, but at the same time to hold the line of the Big Black river, keep Johnston in check, and to cover the Y [333] zoo, from the mouth of that stream to Haine's bluff. The resources of his own department, although considerable, were insufficient for these emergencies. But the general-in-chief appreciated the importance and character of the crisis, and made every exertion to supply Grant's necessities. He did not even wait to be asked, but, as soon as he learned the situation, telegraphed: ‘I will do all I can to assist you. I have sent dispatch after dispatch to Banks to join you.’ In such matters Halleck was never lacking; his patriotism was pure, and his anxiety for success never flagged. If he neither planned victories, nor achieved them, he was always ready to further the plans of others, as soon as it became evident that only through those plans could victory be achieved.

Grant had now about forty thousand men for duty, and on the 23d, orders were given for the axe and the shovel to support the bayonet. The hot season was at hand, the troops had already endured many hardships, they were almost altogether unprovided with siege material, so that the difficulties before the national army were not only formidable, but peculiar. The engineer organization was especially defective; there were no engineer troops in the entire command, and only four engineer officers, while twenty would have found ample opportunity for all their skill.1 Several pioneer companies of volunteers were, however, used for engineering purposes, and, although raw at first, became effective before the close of the siege. There were no permanent depots of siege [334] material; spades and picks were kept at the steam boat landing, on the Yazoo, and in the camps near the trenches; gabions2 and fascines were made as they were needed, by the pioneer companies, or by details of troops from the line. Grant's artillery was simply that used during the campaign, with the addition of a battery of naval guns of larger calibre, loaned him by Admiral Porter. There was nothing like a siege train in all the West, no light mortars, and very few siege-howitzers nearer than Washington; and there was not time to send to northern arsenals for supplies. With such material and means the siege of Vicksburg was begun.

Each commander was at once set to work putting his men into as comfortable camps as could be established in the woods and ravines, and as close to the enemy's works as shelter could be found. Most of the camps were within six hundred yards of the rebel parapet. Camp equipage and working utensils were brought up, and large quantities of quartermaster's and subsistence stores accumulated at the landing, to be hauled to the front whenever required. The number of wagons on hand was limited, and it was not thought desirable to establish large depots of supplies near the lines, to be abandoned in case of an attempt to raise the siege; only three or four days rations, therefore, were kept at the front for issue.

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