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Chapter 7:

We will now turn to the field in Northeast Mississippi, where General Price, at Tupelo, confronted Grant and Rosecrans at Corinth.

On July 27-29th, Lee, a Kansas colonel, with 400 cavalry, made a raid from Rienzi to Ripley, captured three Confederates and arrested Judge Thompson and the postmaster. August 4-7th Mitchell's Federal brigade made an excursion to Bay Springs and returned to Iuka after doing some damage and encountering a little skirmishing with the Confederate parties observing them. On August 19th, Colonel Adams, in camp with two companies of Mississippi cavalry at Marietta, was attacked by Colonel Lee, and made a safe retreat toward the headquarters of Armstrong near Guntown. Lee reported that the posting and vigilance of the Confederate pickets were perfect, and it was impracticable to capture them.

On August 27th Colonel Falkner tried his hand at this game and drove in Sheridan's pickets on the Ripley road.

General Price, who had now an army of 13,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 800 artillerymen, was ordered by Bragg to make as strong a show as possible against Grant, to prevent reinforcements being sent to Buell. He could [84] not attack the strong force of the enemy intrenched at Corinth, but he sent Armstrong with his cavalry into West Tennessee. With 1,600 men he reached Holly Springs, August 26th, and was reinforced by 1,100 under Col. W. H. Jackson. At Bolivar Armstrong defeated a force, then crossed the Hatchie, destroyed the railroad bridges between Jackson and Bolivar, and on the return defeated a considerable Federal force near Denmark, capturing two pieces of artillery and 213 prisoners. This blow was returned by an expedition from Memphis which burned the railroad bridge across the Coldwater, after a brisk fight between Grierson's cavalry regiment and a portion of Jackson's and Pinson's regiments and two companies of Mississippi mounted infantry.

On September 2, 1862, Price was notified that Bragg was pursuing Buell toward Nashville, and that he should watch Rosecrans and prevent the junction of the latter with Buell. Word was received from Van Dorn that he would be ready to move from Holly Springs on the 12th to support the army of the West. Price immediately advanced his headquarters to Guntown, and having ascertained that Rosecrans was at Iuka with 10,000 men, he marched in that direction on the 11th with his whole army. The cavalry, under General Armstrong, arrived before the town on the 13th, but found there only a small garrison which retired on the 14th when the remainder of Price's forces came up, abandoning a large amount of stores.

Rosecrans was at Corinth and Grant at Burnsville. The latter feared that Price was about to move to Nashville to join Bragg, and made his dispositions accordingly. Price, indeed, received an order to proceed to Nashville; but he believed that this was given under the impression that Rosecrans had joined Buell, and he resolved that as he had the enemy before him, he should continue to hold him. Accordingly he dispatched couriers to Van Dorn, proposing to again unite the armies and attack Corinth. [85] To this he received reply from Van Dorn asking that the armies meet at Rienzi, and he issued orders for a march to that place to begin on the morning of the 20th. ‘About the same time,’ Price reported, ‘I received from the enemy a demand to lay down my arms because of certain victories they pretended to have gained in Maryland [Sharpsburg]. I replied to the insolent demand through the commanding officer of my cavalry force.’

According to Van Dorn's official report he was on his way advancing north into Tennessee, driving back Hurlbut to Bolivar, Tenn., which was precisely what Grant sought to have him do. Grant had instructed Hurlbut to make a demonstration toward Grand Junction, near where Van Dorn lay with 10,000 men.

Thereupon Grant massed his three divisions at hand against Price, Rosecrans marching from Jacinto with 9,000 men (his report), and Ord with 8,000 north of the railroad. In his report of the battle which followed, Grant candidly stated that his object was to destroy or capture Price's entire army. In this he was defeated by the valor of the Confederate troops.

So it happened that about noon on the 19th, before Price was under way for Rienzi, and when his army was posted rather to repel an attack from the north than the south, his pickets were driven in by Rosecrans' advance on the Jacinto road. Gen. Henry Little, who commanded one of the two divisions of the army, was ordered to meet this attack. He sent Louis Hebert's brigade about a mile south on the Jacinto road, where it took position to defend the cross-roads, where one branch turns off east toward the Fulton road from Iuka. The possession of the latter road by the Federals would have entirely cut off Price's communication with the south, while Ord was pushing forward on the north. But Price, apparently, was not aware of the seriousness of the situation.

About four o'clock Sanborn's brigade of Hamilton's division came up and formed line of battle, and the fighting [86] began. Hamilton soon called up Sullivan's brigade, and Martin's Mississippi brigade was brought into the fight from the other side of Iuka. The Federal advance was checked, and even at times driven back, with fierce and intrepid fighting on both sides. Price and Little, riding into the thickest of the fray, determined to order up the other two brigades of Little's division, as it was apparent that the Federal force was much the larger. In fact, in addition to Hamilton's division, Stanley's was close at hand, and Stanley afterward reported that one of his regiments was heavily engaged, and all more or less so.

But at this moment the gallant Little fell, instantly killed by a minie ball which pierced his forehead. General Hebert then assumed the division command and kept up the fight with vigor. An Ohio battery posted near the cross-roads was taken and retaken, many soldiers falling in the struggle for its possession. Though large numbers were not actively engaged, the fight was an unusually bloody one. As night came on the struggle ceased. Hebert's other two brigades came up and relieved their worn-out comrades, and Confederates as well as Federals held their lines during the night. Before morning Price, though anxious to renew the battle, was fortunately persuaded by his lieutenants to escape from his dangerous position. Hebert withdrew unmolested from the front of Rosecrans, and Maury's division, facing Ord before Burnsville, also quietly fell back, and the army returned by the Fulton road, the cavalry holding the enemy in check, and on the 22d went into camp at Baldwin. According to Hebert's report, his brigade and Martin's went into battle with 3,179 men. This was the entire Confederate force engaged. On the other hand Rosecrans reported that he had 9,000 on the road, but less than half that many were in the fight. The Federal total loss was reported at 790; the Confederate at 86 killed and 438 wounded.

In this battle the Fortieth Mississippi, Col. W. B. Colbert, [87] recently attached to Hebert's brigade, was distinguished in the attack upon the Federal battery, several pieces being drawn away by details from this command. General Price in his report stated, ‘Colonel Colbert's regiment also proved its worthiness to take its place in this brave brigade, the command of which has by the fortunes of war been already devolved upon its intelligent and brave colonel.’

Col. John D. Martin's, the other brigade engaged, included the Thirty-sixth, Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Mississippi infantry, and the Thirty-seventh Alabama. When they reached the field, Colonel Martin led the first and last regiments in support of Hebert's left, while General Little in person conducted the Thirtysev-enth and Thirty-eighth on the right. Martin pressed forward gallantly, pushing the enemy before him, and after the firing ceased made a charge with his two regiments, capturing several prisoners. In his report, Martin particularly noticed the bravery of Colonel Witherspoon of the Thirty-sixth, Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, and Major Slaton. ‘The men conducted themselves with the coolness and valor of veterans, though for the first time under fire.’ The Thirty-seventh, Col. Robert Mc-Lain, and Thirty-eighth, Col. F. W. Adams, were ordered to the front and under heavy fire, but on account of Little's death did not take an active part in the battle. The regimental loss in killed and wounded was, Thirty-sixth, 22; Thirty-seventh, 32; Thirty-eighth, 8; Fortieth, 49. Previous to the battle of Iuka the Mississippi cavalry regiment of Col. Wirt Adams was distinguished in checking the advance of Ord, and afterward protected the rear during the movement to Baldwin.

Van Dorn and Price united their forces at Ripley on September 28th, and the Mississippi general assumed chief command under orders from the war department. This united army, which was styled the army of West Tennessee, was composed of Price's corps, the army of [88] the West, and Van Dorn's command under Maj.-Gen. Mansfield Lovell.

Price's corps included two divisions, Hebert's and Maury's. Hebert's division had four brigades, the First, under Col. Elijah Gates, mainly Missouri troops; the Second, under Col. W. Bruce Colbert, mainly Arkansas and Texas regiments, but including the Fortieth Mississippi; the Third, under Gen. M. E. Green, composed of the Seventh battalion and Forty-third regiment Mississippi infantry, and three Missouri regiments; the Fourth, under Col. John D. Martin, made up of the Thirty-sixth, Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Mississippi and Thirty-seventh Alabama. Maury's division had three infantry Brigades—Gen. John C. Moore's, in which was the Thirty-fifth Mississippi, with Alabama, Arkansas and Texas comrades; Gen. W. L. Cabell's Arkansas brigade, and Gen. C. W. Phifer's Arkansas and Texas dismounted cavalry. The cavalry brigade of General Armstrong included the two regiments of Slemons and Wirt Adams.

Lovell's division included three infantry brigades—the First, under Gen. Albert Rust, Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky regiments; the Second, under Gen. J. B. Villepigue, which included the Thirty-third and Thirty-ninth Mississippi; the Third, under Gen. John S. Bowen made up of the Sixth, Fifteenth and Twenty-second regiments and Carruthers' battalion, Mississippi infantry, and the First Missouri. Col. W. H. Jackson's cavalry brigade, attached to Lovell's command, consisted of the First Mississippi and Seventh Tennessee. Thirteen batteries were attached to the army, including the Pettus Flying artillery.

Grant had now made his headquarters at Jackson, Tenn., and his army was in position at three points on the railroads converging there: Sherman at Memphis with 6, 500 men; Ord at Jackson and Bolivar with 18,ooo; and Rosecrans at Corinth with 23,000, including strong outposts at Rienzi, Burnsville, Jacinto and Iuka. [89]

Van Dorn estimated that Grant's total strength was about 42,000 men. His own force at Ripley was about 22,000, but he believed that with this inferior number he should act at once, for the enemy was growing stronger and Rosecrans was adding daily to the fortified strength of Corinth. Consequently he decided to attack Corinth suddenly, hoping to surprise and defeat Rosecrans before he could call in his outposts.

On the morning of September 29th he marched out of Ripley and made a feint toward Pocahontas, threatening Bolivar. Grant reported on October 1st, ‘For several days there has been a movement of the rebels south of my front, which left in doubt whether Bolivar or Corinth was to be the point of attack. It is now clear that Corinth is to be the point, and that from the west and southwest. My position is precarious, but hope to get out of it all right.’

Grant had reached his conclusion on finding out, so late as the 30th, that Van Dorn had left La Grange, Tenn.; the Confederate cavalry, thrown out as far as Summerville, having effectually screened Van Dorn's movements. But he had correctly solved the puzzle in time to save Rosecrans, whom he ordered on October 1st to call in his outposts, increasing his force at Corinth to 23,000, and Hurlbut at Bolivar was instructed to watch Van Dorn, this order being followed on the 3d by orders to attack the Confederate rear by way of Pocahontas.

Van Dorn having repaired the bridge over the Hatchie, crossed on the evening of October 2d—leaving Adams' cavalry to guard the rear and protect the train which was parked between the Hatchie and Tuscumbia—and marched to Chewalla, about ten miles from Corinth, driving back a detachment which Rosecrans had sent in that direction. At daybreak on the 3d the march was resumed, following the railroad; and as the old Confederate intrenchments were approached, about three miles from the town, Price formed in line of battle between the Memphis & Charleston and Mobile & Ohio railroads, [90] and Lovell on his right, after some heavy skirmishing.

By ten o'clock all the Federal skirmishers were driven into the intrenchments, and the attack was soon begun by Lovell's division, and extended gradually along the whole line. Although a belt of fallen timber, or abatis, about four hundred yards in width, extended along the whole line of intrenchments, neither this nor the resistance made by the Federals from their sheltered position sufficed to check the triumphant progress of the heroic Southerners, and by half-past 1 o'clock the whole line of outer works was carried, and several pieces of artillery were taken.

Price's men carried the works in their front in about twenty minutes, and advanced to within a mile of Corinth, where at three o'clock the fight was renewed with great fierceness. The enemy was well protected and his artillery, posted on commanding elevations, wrought havoc among the Confederates, who were compelled to fight in the open and on account of the nature of the ground could bring little artillery into action. After a contest of two hours, the indomitable pluck of the Confederates again prevailed, and the enemy took refuge in his innermost works around the town. At the same time Lovell drove the enemy across Indian creek, made an irresistible assault upon the Federal rifle-pits, afterward carried a strong redoubt, and by the close of the day was in line on the bridge south of the railroad, near Price, with Villepigue and Bowen in front and Rust in reserve. Thus, night coming on, the victorious army slept upon their arms within six hundred yards of Corinth.

In this successful onslaught, the sons of Mississippi were unsurpassed in valorous achievement, and many of them lost their lives or fell with severe wounds. Most notable among the dead was Col. John D. Martin, who fell mortally wounded while leading his brigade in a charge against an angle in the outer works. Colonel Leigh, of the Forty-third, was [91] also killed, and Major McDonald, of the Fortieth. Among the wounded were Colonels Moore, of the Forty-third, and McLain, of the Thirty-seventh, Lieutenant-Colonels Terral, of the Seventh battalion, and Campbell, of the Fortieth, and Majors Keirn, of the Thirty-eighth, and Yates, of the Thirty-sixth.

At four o'clock on the morning of the 4th, the Confederate batteries were in position and opened fire upon the town, and an attack was ordered at daylight; but there was a delay until nine o'clock, ascribed to the illness of General Hebert. Price's command swept forward, notwithstanding heavy loss in the face of the fire of the massed batteries of the enemy, took Battery Powell on the left and forced their way into the town. Moore's brigade, after capturing a battery of light artillery, took possession of the Tishomingo hotel and the buildings about the railroad depot, and a part of his brigade entered the innermost works. Phifer and Cabell penetrated as far, more to the left, driving the enemy from their guns. But the gallant Confederates were immediately met by an overwhelming force and were compelled to fall back.

Hebert's division, under General Green, was also distinguished, charging in the face of two lines of fortifications, bristling with artillery, making its way with great rapidity over logs, brush and fallen timber, while masked batteries of the enemy opened upon the brave boys at every stage of the advance. The First brigade, under Colonel Gates, drove the enemy from their intrenchments, taking about forty pieces of artillery. The Fourth and Second brigades, on account of obstructions, were not able to reach the intrenchments in a body. Col. W. H. Moore was mortally wounded while leading the Third brigade in a charge in the town, and Col. Robert McLain, commanding the Fourth brigade, was severely wounded. Major Yates, of the Thirty-sixth, was also among the wounded. [92]

In front of Battery Robinette, at the Federal center, the fighting was terrific. Gates' brigade was first engaged in this vicinity, and Cabell was ordered up to his support, but Gates fell back for want of ammunition after gaining the enemy's works. Then Cabell went up with a yell of ‘Butler,’ drove in the troops before the works and swept up to the cannons' mouths, but was then driven back under a withering fire. Rosecrans related that three assaults were made upon Robinette, and that the last, which he witnessed, ‘was about as good fighting on the part of the Confederates as I ever saw. The columns were plowed through and through by our shot, but they steadily closed up and moved forward until they were forced back.’ The field was covered with dead and dying, and the Confederate forces were exhausted. Many of the regiments were without either ammunition or rations. It was evident that the attack had failed, and preparations were at once made for retreat.

Lovell's division, which had not attacked on the morning of the 4th, formed to protect the retreat, which was not molested during the afternoon by Rosecrans, whose force was evidently also in no shape to immediately renew the fight. The retreat was continued on the 5th to Davis' bridge on the Hatchie, but the bridge was found in the hands of Hurlbut. Moore's brigade, now but 300 men, was thrown across, but the enemy was strongly posted and Moore, reinforced by Phifer, was swept back over the bridge, losing four guns. All that Maury's division, reinforced by Villepigue, could do, was to check the enemy's advance until Van Dorn could find another crossing place. If Rosecrans had promptly followed Van Dorn, as ordered by Grant, the Confederate army could hardly have escaped. He did set out on the 5th, with McPherson's fresh brigade in advance, but before he could bring up strength enough to overcome the strong resistance of Bowen's brigade, guarding the rear, Van [93] Dorn was safely crossing the Hatchie at a bridge six miles south of Davis', and Bowen crossed the Tuscumbia, burning the bridge behind him and saving all the trains.

In this very important contest on the Tuscumbia, Carruthers' battalion and the Fifteenth Mississippi and some companies of Jackson's cavalry carried off the honors. Among the Mississippi commands especially mentioned for gallantry at Corinth was the Twenty-second Mississippi, which, with the Ninth, led in the first attack of Lovell's division. The Thirty-fifth fought nobly, and at Davis' bridge only forty men were left, commanded by Lieutenant Henry. General Villepigue mentioned for conspicuous gallantry Col. D. W. Hurst, Thirty-third, who drove the enemy from their intrenchments at the head of his regiment with empty guns, and Col. W. B. Shelby, Thirty-ninth, who rallied his men at great personal risk from a temporary disorder.

This unfortunate battle is graphically described in a letter written soon afterward by Capt. E. H. Cummins, of Maury's division, to General Beauregard. After noting that they occupied without great loss the rifle-pits, which were not obstinately defended, and then pushed on to the inner line of works constructed by the Yankees near the intersection of the railroads, he relates that during the night a great rattling of wagons and shouting of teamsters were heard, which he and others took to mean that Rosecrans was evacuating. But in the morning they found themselves in an exposed position under a fire of artillery immensely superior to what their fourteen guns could answer. Nevertheless, they entered the town, and Hebert occupied the works on the ridge northwest of Beauregard's old headquarters. ‘But we scarcely got in when we met and were overwhelmed by the enemy's massive reserves. Our lines melted under their fire like snow in thaw. The fragments who escaped formed again before we got beyond the fire of the batteries, and Lovell came over and became the rear guard, [94] and we fell back nine miles that night. Our division did not number 800 men. Next morning we fell back, intending to retreat by the same route by which we had approached, but found the passage of the Hatchie river disputed by Hurlbut's corps, 12,000 strong, which had marched across from Bolivar and reached Pocahontas before us. The bridge was about two miles from Pocahontas. Moore's and Phifer's remnants of brigades crossed and were again gobbled up, and we lost one battery. The rest of the division got up and, though greatly exhausted, managed to hold the enemy in check for two hours, the other fragments of brigades and regiments composing Hebert's division coming up feebly and supporting. We gave up the attempt to cross and fell back again and marched by another route to the south. The enemy had burned the bridge by which we now hoped to get out, but Frank Armstrong, who proved our salvation, had, with great foresight and energy, rebuilt it. The enemy did not pursue with any great vigor, and we saved everything but our wounded, and some of them. Bowen lost part of his train. We brought off two captured guns and lost five, and brought along 300 prisoners. I do not know the loss of the army. Price is reduced from 10,000 to between 5,000 and 6,000. Lovell has not suffered a great deal. The enemy's force I do not know. When we got into Corinth he swallowed up seven brigades of as good fighting men as I ever saw in about twenty minutes. He had abundance of artillery of heavy caliber. I saw 10-inch shot in the field. More than half of the line officers of Price's army are killed, wounded and missing. After all that has happened, I am happy to say that the morale of the army, or what is left of it, is astonishingly good.’

The official report of casualties at Corinth and on the Hatchie shows that Hebert's division lost 182 killed, 1,033 wounded and 526 missing; Maury's division, 246 killed, 832 wounded and 1,449 missing; Lovell's division, [95] 77 killed, 285 wounded, 208 missing. Total, 505 killed, 2,150 wounded and 2,83 missing. The Federal loss at Corinth alone was 355 killed, 1,841 wounded and 324 missing. At the Hatchie Grant estimated the loss to be 400 or 500.

Rosecrans exuberantly reported that he had defeated an army of 38,000 men with little more than half their numbers; inflicting a loss of 1,423 killed (left upon the field and buried by him), and 5,692 wounded, according to his estimate; and that he had taken 2,268 prisoners, among whom were 137 field officers, captains and subalterns, 14 stand of colors, 2 pieces of artillery, 3,300 stand of small arms, 45,000 rounds of ammunition and a large lot of accouterments.

Van Dom retreated to Holly Springs but little disturbed by the pursuit of Rosecrans, who, when he had reached Ripley, was ordered back by Grant, who ordered an expedition to cover his return which went seven miles south of Grand Junction and destroyed the railroad bridge at Davis' Mills.

On October 1st, Lieut.-Gen. John C. Pemberton had been assigned to the command of the department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and he assumed his duties October 12th, Van Dorn remaining in command of the forces in the field. In the reorganization of the Confederate forces which followed, the Mississippi infantry in the army of the West was concentrated in a brigade of Maury's division, consisting of the Thirty-fifth, Thirty-sixth, Thirty-seventh, Thirty-eighth, Fortieth, and Forty-third regiments and Seventh battalion.

With the 1st of November General Grant began a movement on Grand Junction with three divisions from Corinth and two from Bolivar. ‘If found practicable,’ he telegraphed Halleck, ‘I will go on to Holly Springs and maybe Grenada, completing railroad and telegraph as I go.’ At the same time an expedition was prepared at Memphis to sail down the river against Vicksburg, of [96] which Sherman was finally given command on Grant's insistence. Butler was expected to make a similar expedition up the river from New Orleans, and Curtis was instructed to send troops across the Mississippi against Grenada. The combination was a formidable one, and contemplated the concentration of about 100,000 men for the purpose of capturing Vicksburg, and in fact securing possession of the whole of northern Mississippi.

Pemberton had a very small force to oppose this gigantic combination, and he made urgent calls for reinforcements as early as October, when it became apparent what was on foot.

Grant was at La Grange, Tenn., November 9th, and a cavalry reconnoissance sent on toward Holly Springs discovered that that place had been evacuated. On the 9th General Pemberton had ordered Van Dorn and Price and Lovell back to the south bank of the Tallahatchie, where fortifications were begun. Price was posted between Abbeville and the Tallahatchie bridge, Lovell near the ford at the mouth of the Tippah, and General George with his State troops put on guard at Oxford. Grant brought his army up to Holly Springs about two weeks later, repairing the railroad as he marched, and established his depot of supplies at the point he had now reached.

About the same time Van Dorn's rear was threatened by a Federal expedition from Arkansas, under Gen. A. P. Hovey, consisting of 5,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, which landed at Delta and Friar's Point and moved toward Charleston. Pemberton again called for reinforcements, and suggested that Bragg in Tennessee move against Grant's communications, and Holmes send over 10,000 men from Arkansas. Bragg replied that he would order Forrest to make a diversion in West Tennessee, and Holmes positively refused to lend any assistance, on the ground that such a step would lose Arkansas to the Confederacy. [97]

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the secretary of war on November 24th assigned Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to command of the region embracing western North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, Lieutenant-General Pemberton remaining in command in Mississippi, with Van Dorn in command of the army of West Tennessee, which was mainly Lovell's division, and Price in command of his army of the West, now reduced to some 4,000 men, who were all anxious to recross the Mississippi, but were held under orders which Price loyally supported, though he shared fully the feelings of the soldiers. For the purpose of correspondence and reports, General Johnston was to establish his headquarters at Chattanooga, or such other place as in his judgment would best facilitate ready communication with the troops within his command, and to repair in person to any part of his command whenever his presence might for the time be necessary or desirable.

There was unfortunate confusion in the department at this time—a lack of confidence on the part of the soldiers and citizens; and with many so intense was this feeling that they lost enthusiasm and gave themselves up to hopeless endurance of whatever might come as inevitable. One citizen, at least, at this juncture suggested to President Davis that he give the State his own presence as an encouragement. ‘Plant your own foot upon our soil; unfurl your banner at the head of your army; tell your own people that you have come to share with them the perils of this dark hour,’ implored this anxious Mississippian.

Pemberton reported on December 5th the advance of Grant on the Central railroad, the movement of Hovey and starting of Sherman down the Mississippi, adding that at the same time a demonstration was made from below on Port Hudson, La., within his department. He stated that Port Hudson was now held by about 5,500 men [98] strongly intrenched; that Vicksburg was strongly fortified and held by about 6,000 men under General Smith; while he had confronting Grant, including cavalry and artillery, about 22,000 effectives. On December 1st he felt compelled to abandon the Tallahatchie and fall back on Grenada, making the Yallabusha his line of defense.

Grant, following up, made his headquarters at Oxford, and his cavalry advanced as far as Coffeeville, where they were defeated on December 5th by troops under command of Gen. Lloyd Tilghman; the Twenty-third Mississippi, Lieut.-Col. Moses McCarley; the Twenty-sixth, Maj. T. F. Parker; and the Fourteenth, Major Doss, being the principal Confederate forces engaged.

In the meantime Hovey was taken care of by Colonel Starke's cavalry and the various outposts, and after skirmishes at the mouth of the Coldwater on the Yockhapatalfa, at Mitchell's Cross-roads and Oakland, he retreated to the Mississippi river, having done little damage except burning some bridges and sinking the steamer New Moon on the Tallahatchie. Grant waited at Oxford for Sherman to make his way down the river, but the latter did not reach Friar's Point with his advance until December 21st, and meanwhile a great change in the situation had been wrought by the Confederate cavalry. On the 19th Nathan B. Forrest, then a brigadier-general, a brilliant soldier in whose exploits Mississippi felt a motherly pride, as his youth had been spent in this State, drove the strong Federal garrison from Jackson, Tenn., and then made a clean sweep of the enemy and their stores and the railroads north of Jackson, drawing 20,000 Federals from Corinth, Grand Junction and La Grange.

On December 20th, General Van Dorn, in command of the cavalry of Pemberton's army, advanced by way of Pontotoc, and struck an equally effective blow at Holly Springs, surprising the garrison and burning up all the supplies and trains collected at that place, the value of [99] which he estimated at a million and a half dollars. Grant reported the loss at $400,000 in property and 1,500 men taken prisoners. He at once fell back to Holly Springs and occupied the line of the Tallahatchie, abandoning the plan of advancing between the Big Black and Yazoo to meet Sherman on the latter river. Van Dorn also attacked Davis' Mill, but without so much success. About the same time a Federal raid had been made from Corinth down the Mobile & Ohio railroad as far as Tupelo, and the forces made an ineffectual effort to check Van Dorn at Pontotoc.

Early in December President Davis visited Chattanooga, where Johnston's headquarters were, and going on to Murfreesboro, consulted with General Bragg regarding the reinforcement of Vicksburg. On his return to Chattanooga he ordered General Johnston to detach 10,000 men under Gen. C. L. Stevenson to report at Vicksburg. The President and General Johnston then visited Mississippi together, and reaching Jackson on December 19th found the legislature in session, it having been called together by Governor Pettus to bring out the remaining militia resources of the State. Mr. Davis and General Johnston and staff next visited Vicksburg, where on December 21st and 22d they inspected its defenses. While there Generals Johnston and Smith agreed upon an estimate of the additional force needed for the defense of the department and Vicksburg, and on December 22d General Johnston addressed a letter to Mr. Davis inclosing General Smith's letter (of estimates) to him.

In this letter among other things, General Johnston said, ‘Our great object is to hold the Mississippi. The country beyond the Mississippi is as much interested in that object as this, and the loss to us of the Mississippi involves that of the country beyond it. The 8,000 or 10,000 men which are essential to safety ought therefore, I respectfully suggest, to be taken from Arkansas, to return [100] after the crisis in this department. I firmly believe, however, that our true system of warfare would be to concentrate the forces of the two departments on this side of the Mississippi, beat the enemy here, and then reconquer the country beyond it which he might have gained in the meantime.’ Mr. Davis thereupon, while at Vicksburg, addressed a letter to Gen. T. H. Holmes, inclosing copies of Generals Johnston's and Smith's letters to himself, and after pressing upon him his own as well as General Johnston's view of the vital importance of preventing the enemy's getting control of the Mississippi and dismembering the Confederacy, continued, ‘It seems to me, then, unquestionably the best that you should reinforce General Johnston so as to enable you successfully to meet the enemy, and by his defeat destroy his power for future operations against you as would be irresistible by your isolated force, and by the same means to place the army here in such condition as would enable it in turn to reinforce you when the season will make it practicable for you by active operations to expel the army from Arkansas. * * * I hope you will be able to detach the required number of men to reinforce General Johnston to the extent set forth in the accompanying letters. * * * Whatever may be done should be done with all possible dispatch.’

On December 29th Gen. T. H. Holmes acknowledged the receipt of Mr. Davis' letter with inclosures, to ‘Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the department of the West,’ and while concurring in all that had been said as to the importance of holding Vicksburg, ‘which can scarcely be exaggerated,’ he replied, among other things, that while it was painful to him to have failed for any reason to render the desired assistance, he considered it imperative to retain all his small force, which had been greatly exaggerated—not exceeding at any time 22,000 effective men, for the defense of the valley of the Arkansas. [101]

Returning to Jackson, Mr. Davis and General Johnston, December 26th, addressed the legislature and the large crowd of citizens in attendance. The President then visited Pemberton's army at Grenada, and subsequently returned to his post of duty at Richmond, having greatly cheered and inspired Mississippi by his presence in the hour of trial.

On Christmas day General Sherman had his forces, consisting of the divisions of A. J. Smith, Morgan L. Smith, George W. Morgan and Frederick Steele, embracing 30,000 men, at the mouth of the Yazoo. Before concentrating there, he had sent out detachments to destroy the railroad running west from Vicksburg in Louisiana. On the 26th Sherman's fleet moved up the Yazoo, preceded by the gunboats; and on the next day he landed his divisions both above and below Chickasaw Bayou. The Confederate line which confronted Sherman was about fourteen miles long, the right consisting of strong fortifications at Snyder's Mill and Drumgoole's Bluff on the Yazoo, the left the fortified city of Vicksburg. A line of bluffs, leaving the river at Vicksburg, runs directly to Snyder's, and in front of it is the course of an old river bed, the half toward Snyder's being impassable swamp and the half next Vicksburg a narrow lake opening into the Mississippi near the city and connecting on the north with Chickasaw Bayou, which runs thence due north to the Yazoo. Sherman landed Steele's division beyond the bayou, and the remainder of his army on the island of low land cut off by the lake and bayou from the Confederate position, and began a forward movement at once. For a week before, the gunboats had held the Yazoo river. He sent the two divisions of the Smiths toward the end of the lake next Vicksburg, where it could be crossed at the race-track and at the Indian mound or sand-bar. Morgan was to advance on the west side of the bayou and Steele on the east.

After driving in the Confederate pickets on the 27th, [102] Sherman reconnoitered the ground ‘as well as possible,’ he says, ‘and found it as difficult as could possibly be from nature and art. Immediately in our front was a lake passable only at two points—on a narrow levee and on a sand-bar which was perfectly commanded by the enemy's sharpshooters that line the levee or parapet on its opposite bank. Behind this was an irregular strip of bench or table land, on which was constructed a series of rifle-pits and batteries; and behind that a high, abrupt range of hills whose scarred sides were marked all the way up with rifle-trenches, and the crowns of the principal hills presented heavy batteries. The country road leading from Vicksburg to Yazoo City was along the foot of these hills, and answered an admirable purpose to the enemy as a covered way along which he moved his artillery and infantry promptly to meet us at any point at which we attempted to cross this difficult bayou. Nevertheless, that lake, with its levee parapet, backed by the lines of rifle-pits, batteries and frowning hills, had to be passed before we could reach terra firma and meet our enemy on anything like fair terms.’

Steele, on his line of advance beyond the bayou, found the difficulties confronting him just as great, Sherman. reported. He followed substantially an old levee (Blake's) back from the Yazoo to the foot of the hills, but found that in order to reach the hard land he would have to cross a long corduroy causeway with a battery enfilading it, others cross-firing it, with a similar line of rifle-pits and trenches before described.

The Confederate forces in Vicksburg at this time were still under the command of Maj.-Gen. Martin L. Smith, who was reinforced from Bragg's army by the Georgia brigade of Seth M. Barton, the Tennessee brigades of John C. Vaughn and John Gregg, and the Alabama brigade of E. D. Tracy. Brig.-Gen. Stephen D. Lee, a distinguished soldier who had been conspicuous in the operations of the army of Northern Virginia as a colonel [103] of artillery, was put in command of a provisional division which included a number of regiments and battalions and artillery, among which were the Third Mississippi, Third battalion State troops, Fourth regiment, Col. Pierre S. Layton; Thirteenth and Thirty-fifth regiments; Forty-sixth regiment, Lieut.-Col. W. K. Easterling; the Mississippi batteries of Capt. Robert Bowman, Capt. J. L. Wofford, Lieut. Frank Johnston, Capt. N. J. Drew, Maj. S. M. Ward's light artillery, and Johnston's cavalry company.

General Lee was given charge of the line of defenses from Vicksburg to Snyder's Mill on Christmas day, and he at once made skillful arrangements for meeting the enemy. Judging the approaches nearest Vicksburg sufficiently protected by abatis of fallen timber, and the defenses at Snyder's not likely to be assailed, he stationed the First Louisiana and two guns at the mound, or sandbar, four regiments and a battery at the head of Chickasaw Bayou, and a regiment between the mound and the bayou. Rifle-pits were hurriedly thrown up at the mound and the bayou, and across the lake timber was felled for an abatis.

On the 26th the fighting began with Morgan's advance on the west side of the bayou, which was gallantly held in check by Col. W. T. Withers with the Seventeenth Louisiana, two companies of the Forty-sixth Mississippi, and a section of Wofford's battery, stationed between the bayou and lake. ‘Early on the morning of the 27th,’ General Lee reported, ‘the enemy appeared in force and attacked Colonel Withers with violence. The colonel retired for a short distance up the bayou to a piece of woods, and held his ground against a largely superior force. The enemy also appeared in force in the woods in front of the Indian mound, driving in our skirmishers across the lake. They also appeared at Blake's levee, at the same time attacking our batteries at Snyder's Mill. They evidently had excellent guides, attacking us at [104] every point where it was possible to reach the road.’ On the morning of the 28th, the enemy again attacked the woods held the previous day by Colonel Withers, but now by Col. Allen Thomas' Louisiana regiment. Thomas held his ground against at least a brigade and a battery of six guns until noon, when he retired, rapidly followed by the enemy, who was checked by a volley from Colonel Hall's Louisiana regiment in rifle-pits at the lake. The enemy also attacked Colonel Morrison at the mound in heavy force, and placed several batteries opposite to him which kept up a continuous fire.

The advance of Steele on the levee had given General Lee much uneasiness, and he had increased his force there on the night of the 27th, placing Colonel Withers, First Mississippi artillery, in charge, with the Forty-sixth Mississippi, Seventeenth Louisiana and Bowman's battery. The main fighting on the 28th was done at that point, Steele appearing in force on the levee with artillery, ‘but was handsomely held in check and driven back by Colonel Withers' command, the Forty-sixth Mississippi and two Napoleon guns under Lieutenant Johnston doing admirable work.’ On the same day a small infantry force which had been landed at Snyder's Mill was withdrawn, only the gunboats remaining to amuse themselves with fire at long range.

Sherman now determined to make his attack in force at the bayou where Thomas had been pushed back. He withdrew Steele from the other side of the bayou and put him in with Morgan. By this arrangement he chose to attack at the apex of a triangle while Lee held the base and two sides, as the latter officer has pointed out.

Early on the morning of the 29th, Lee withdrew Hall from the rifle-pits beyond the lake, leaving open to Sherman the approach which he had selected, through the abatis, the mucky shallow at the head of the bayou and the tangled marsh, to the dry ground on which Lee awaited him. Morgan advanced cautiously and took possession [105] of the abandoned rifle-pits, and at the same time attempted to throw a pontoon bridge over the lake on his right, which was thwarted by a few well-directed shots from Wofford's battery and Lieutenant Tarleton's section of Ward's artillery. To meet the effort to pontoon, Lee pushed his line two regiments to the left and called Colonel Layton's Fourth Mississippi from Snyder's Mill.

Morgan protested against the proposed assault, but Sherman was determined that it should be made, and it is related that he said that 5,000 men would be lost before Vicksburg could be taken, and they might as well be lost there as anywhere. So Morgan sent forward the brigades of Blair and De Courcy and Thayer. Only one regiment of the latter took part in the assault, leaving nine Federal regiments engaged.

‘After 10 a. m.,’ Lee reported, ‘a furious cannonade was opened on my position by the enemy, he at the same time arranging his infantry to storm my position. At 11 a. m. his artillery fire ceased and his infantry, 6,000 strong, moved gallantly up under our artillery fire from eight guns, crossing the lake at two dry points, one being in front of the vacated pits and the other about 200 yards from my line. Here our fire was so terrible that they broke, but in a few minutes they rallied again, sending a force to my left flank. This force was soon met by the Twenty-eighth Louisiana and the Forty-second Georgia and handsomely repulsed. Our fire was so severe that the enemy lay down to avoid it. Seeing their confusion the Twenty-sixth and a part of the Seventeenth Louisiana were marched on the battlefield, and under their cover 21 commissioned officers and 311 non-commissioned officers and privates were taken prisoners, and four stand of arms captured. The enemy left in great confusion, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. About eighty of their wounded were treated in our hospitals. Their dead on the field numbered 200. Many of their wounded were allowed to be carried off by their [106] infirmary corps immediately after the fight. In this day's fight their casualties could not have fallen short of 1,000. Immediately after the battle the fire of their sharpshooters was redoubled. They would not allow my command to care for their wounded.’ The Federal report of their loss in this bloody affair was 154 killed, 757 wounded, 528 missing; in all, 1,439. Lee's loss was 36 killed, 78 wounded and three deserted; total, 124.

During the same day an assault was made by A. J. Smith at the sand-bar, where General Barton, who had arrived with his brigade, was posted. The Federals made five efforts throughout the day to take the breastworks by storm—three times gained the crest of the parapet, once made a lodgment and attempted to mine, but on every occasion was repulsed with heavy loss. The ground for 150 yards in front of the breastworks gave frightful evidence of the slaughter which occurred here.

Just after the battle, Maj.-Gen. Carter L. Stevenson arrived and took command of the forces. On the 30th the attack was renewed on Barton, but not with much vigor, and the 31st was given to the burial of their dead by the Federals. Sherman gave up hope of breaking the Confederate line in the place where he was now ‘bottled,’ and arranged with Admiral Porter for a night movement by water to Snyder's Mill, where 10,000 men should be landed while Porter held the batteries down. But the last night of 1862 was too foggy and the first night of 1863 was too bright; and on the next day the whole Federal army was embarked to leave their swampy covert for Milliken's Bend. As Sherman was embarking Lee and Withers advanced and attacked him, following the Federals up to the Yazoo river. The Second Texas rushed up almost to the boats, delivering their fire with terrible effect on the crowded transports, which moved off most precipitately. This little affair was not reported by Sherman.

In this successful repulse of the second attack on Vicksburg, [107] Withers' five batteries of light artillery were particularly distinguished. A part of the battalion, as has been observed, supported by the Forty-sixth Mississippi, alone held in check Steele's division at Blake's Levee. In the fight of the 29th their services were invaluable. Colonel Withers in his report particularly commended the gallantry of Maj. B. R. Holmes, Capt. J. L. Wofford (who fired the first gun at the enemy), Lieutenants Lockhart and Weems, Lieut. Frank Johnston, Captain Bowman, Lieutenant Tye , Lieutenant Duncan and Lieutenants Cottingham and Guest

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