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Chapter 6:

On the 8th of December, 1862, Major-General Grant, from his headquarters at Oxford, Miss., ordered Maj.-Gen. W. T. Sherman, then at Memphis, to proceed with his forces ‘down the river to the vicinity of Vicksburg, and with the cooperation of the gunboat fleet, under command of Flag—Officer Porter, proceed to the reduction of that place.’ Accordingly, on Christmas, Sherman's forces, 32,000 strong, with the whole Federal naval squadron of the Mississippi, ironclads and wooden boats, were at the mouth of the Yazoo. On the 26th the land and naval forces proceeded up the river twelve miles to the point selected for debarkation. On landing, Sherman moved his army out in four columns and ordered working parties to unload from his transports ‘all things necessary for five days operations,’ this being considered ample time to enable him to execute General Grant's order. Sherman's plan was by a prompt and concentrated movement to break the Confederate center near Chickasaw bayou.

On the 29th of December the assault was made with the division commanded by Gen. George W. Morgan, together with the brigades of Blair and Thayer of Steele's division; but, according to Sherman's report, his forces ‘met so withering a fire from the rifle-pits, and cross-fire [79] of grape and canister, that the column faltered and finally fell back, leaving many dead, wounded and prisoners in the hands of the enemy.’ General Morgan reported a loss of 1,652 killed, wounded and missing in the assaulting column. ‘When the night of the 29th closed in,’ said Sherman, ‘we had suffered a repulse;’ and realizing his complete failure, with some pathos he added, ‘but it is for other minds to devise the way’ to take Vicksburg and Dromgoole's Bluff or the Yazoo. Following his repulse and defeat, his troops were embarked on board the transports and retired to Milliken's bend.

The Tennessee regiments which participated in this decisive victory were the Third, Col. Calvin J. Clack; Thirtieth, Col. James J. Turner; Sixty-second (Eightieth), Col. J. A. Rowan; Sixtieth, Col. John H. Crawford, and Eighty-first. The last three regiments constituted the brigade of Gen. John C. Vaughn, who reported a loss of 9 killed and 9 wounded, and declared that officers and men held their position ‘with steadiness and nerve.’ Lieut.-Gen. J. C. Pemberton, commanding the Confederate forces, reported that on the left, commanded by Brig.-Gen. John C. Vaughn, the heavy abatis prevented the approach of the enemy except with sharpshooters, who advanced continuously, but were met firmly by his East Tennesseeans; and referring to the assault made by the brigade of F. P. Blair, he said: ‘The Third, Thirtieth and Sixtieth Tennessee regiments occupied the rifle-pits in front and behaved with distinguished coolness and courage.’ It was here that the gallant Maj. F. M. Tucker and Lieut. James P. Bass, Third Tennessee, were killed. Major Tucker stood on top of the earthworks, and fell cheering his men to victory.

General Pemberton called the attention of the war department to the Third, Thirtieth and Sixtieth Tennessee, ‘as entitled to the highest distinction,’ and in an order, dated May 12, 1863, he conferred it upon them by [80] ordering that ‘Vicksburg’ be inscribed upon their banuers.

Brig.-Gen. Stephen D. Lee, who ably commanded the troops that received the assault made by Sherman's forces, said in his official report: ‘Besides the regiments already mentioned for gallantry, I would mention the Third, Thirtieth and Sixty-second Tennessee regiments, occupying the pits where the enemy made their most formidable attack. They displayed coolness and gallantry, and their fire was terrific.’ Colonel Turner of the Thirtieth and Colonel Clack of the Third, the first as major and the other as captain, had received the baptism of fire at Fort Donelson. The distinction then won had its sequel at Chickasaw Bayou.

Later in the campaign against Vicksburg, when Grant, after various failures, had landed south of Vicksburg, and advanced to the railroad between Jackson and Vicksburg, a Tennessee brigade, under Brig.-Gen. John Gregg, which had been on duty at Port Hudson, and was ordered thence to Jackson, made a memorable fight against great odds.

Gregg's brigade consisted of the Third Tennessee, Col. C. H. Walker; Tenth and Thirtieth Tennessee (consolidated), Col. Randall W. MacGavock; Forty-first, Col. R. Farquharson; Fiftieth, Lieut.-Col. T. W. Beaumont; First battalion, Maj. S. H. Colms; and the Seventh Texas, Col. H. B. Granbury.

Under the order of Lieutenant-General Pemberton, this brigade left its camp near Jackson, on the evening of the 11th of May, 1863, and camped that night at Raymond. Without definite information or adequate means of obtaining it, no course was left to General Gregg but to await the movements of the enemy. General Pemberton had ‘intimated’ that the main movement of the enemy was towards Edwards depot, but at 10 o'clock a. m. of the next day a Federal force moved up rapidly and opened with artillery upon Gregg's pickets. [81]

General Gregg, misled by the information received from General Pemberton, made his dispositions to capture a brigade of the enemy; but instead of a brigade, encountered Logan's division. He was attacked by three brigades commanded by Brig.-Gens. John E. Smith, E. S. Dennis and John D. Stevenson, with three batteries, and a considerable force of cavalry. Besides all these, General Crocker's Seventh division was hurried into position to support Logan, and finally the whole Seventh army corps, 23,749 strong, commanded by Maj.-Gen. John B. McPherson, was disposed for battle. This great array was met by General Gregg with an aggregate present of 2,500 officers and men, including Bledsoe's Missouri battery of three guns, one of which burst during the action.

General McPherson reported that after ‘a sharp and severe contest of three hours duration’ the Confederates were driven back. General Logan referred to the battle as a ‘terrible conflict’ that ‘raged with great fury for at least two hours.’ The marvel is that Gregg, fighting almost ten times his number of veteran troops, under the ablest leadership in the Federal army, could have held his position for thirty minutes. He was absolutely isolated, no reinforcements expected; but he maintained himself for three hours against great odds. The discipline of his troops was almost perfect, their courage was equal to the great trial to which they were subjected, their regimental commanders were officers of great intelligence and gallantry, and Gregg's generalship was inimitable. No wonder that McPherson reported that he had fought 6,000 troops. Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, commanding the Twenty-third Indiana, declared that he was attacked upon his right and front by the enemy in column, consisting of four lines, and added that the Confederates ‘opened fire from each line in succession’ and continued to advance on him ‘until they were within bayonet reach. Not having time to fix our [82] bayonets, we attempted to beat them back with our muskets, but being overpowered by numbers we were obliged to fall back’ across a creek, where he succeeded in holding his position for an hour and a half, and until the Confederates retired.

The activity and courage of the Confederates caused officers of yet higher rank to overestimate their strength. Brig.-Gen. John D. Stevenson, explaining the disaster to the Third Missouri, reported that ‘the regiment, being at the base of a hill held by the enemy (the Confederates), resolutely advanced to take possession of it, and whilst under a most terrific fire, was ordered by the commanding officer to retreat, and retired in great disorder and with heavy loss, the enemy in front consisting of three regiments.’ These ‘three regiments’ were the Tenth and Thirtieth Tennessee (consolidated), not over 300 strong, commanded by Lieut.-Col. James J. Turner. In the latter's report he stated that he ‘ordered the whole command to cheer and yell and charge the enemy at a double-quick. At them they went, yelling like savages. The enemy stood still and delivered one volley and then broke in utter confusion, and attempted but once to rally on their colors, when we came up within thirty steps, killed their color-bearer, and the rout was complete.’ Turner pushed on 600 yards, and then observing troops in reserve, retired to the crest of the hill from which the Third Missouri had vainly attempted to drive him.

The Third Tennessee and Seventh Texas were, said General Gregg, ‘in the most trying part of the engagement,’ receiving assault after assault for more than two hours from superior numbers, and finally retired from a flanking fire and a threatened movement in their rear to their original position. The Forty-first Tennessee went to their relief, and rendered the two regiments a great service in protecting their retreat. Colm's battalion was engaged on the right and prevented the enemy from throwing a force between Gregg and the town of Raymond. [83] Later, the Forty-first was sent to support the Tenth, Thirtieth and Fiftieth Tennessee, hotly engaged on Gregg's left, but receiving a dispatch from Colonel Adams, of the cavalry, that the enemy had a large supporting force advancing, the brigade was ordered to withdraw. This, General Gregg said, was effected in admirable order. No pursuit was made, and the command was camped for the night five miles from the battlefield.

The Federal forces lost 322 officers and men killed, wounded and captured; the Confederates, 23 officers and men killed and wounded, and 186 captured. Among the killed were Capt. R. T. Cooper and Lieut. W. W. Rutledge, Third Tennessee; Col. Randall W. MacGavock, and Lieut. John Ames, Tenth Tennessee; Capt. Abner S. Boone, Forty-first Tennessee. Lieutenant-Colonel Beaumont, Fiftieth Tennessee, was wounded in the head by a rifle ball and for a time disabled during the action, but his wound was dressed and he returned to his regiment. Colonel MacGavock, who was killed while gallantly urging his command to the conflict, and was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Turner, was referred to as a brave and meritorious officer and an educated and talented gentleman. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the department, mentioned his loss with much regret. Gregg's brigade continued with the forces under General Johnston during the siege of Vicksburg and participated in the operations for the relief of that city, and the defense of Jackson.

Two other Tennessee brigades in Mississippi were attached to the forces under the immediate command of General Pemberton. One, under Col. A. W. Reynolds, consisted of the Forty-third Tennessee, Col. J. W. Gillespie; Thirty-first, Col. W. M. Bradford; Third (provisional army), Col. N. J. Lillard, and Fifty-ninth, Col. W. L. Eakin. They left Edwards depot, on the Jackson railroad, on the night of May 15, 1863, as the rear guard of Pemberton's army then marching in the direction [84] of Raymond, Miss. On the following morning the brigade, after a sharp skirmish with the enemy, was relieved by S. D. Lee's brigade, and went forward by Gen. C. L. Stevenson's order to guard his trains to Vicksburg, halting and skirmishing occasionally with the enemy. The brigade reached its destination on the 17th, and went into position on the lines.

On the 18th of May the brigade was assigned position on the left of Barton's brigade, which held the Confederate right, the left resting on the Hall's ferry road, the right of Cumming's brigade. The Thirty-first, Fifty-ninth and five companies of the Third were assigned to the ditches; and the Forty-third and the remainder of the Third were held in reserve. Here for forty-seven days these brave sons of Tennessee endured the rain and heat of summer, living on half rations, half clad, daily under fire, without a murmur, says the brigade commander, and bore themselves with constancy and courage.

On the 29th of May the enemy drove in the picket line; but after nightfall the Tennesseeans drove them back and the line was re-established. On the 1st of June the enemy established a battery 800 yards in front of the brigade. This was soon silenced by Capt. F. D. Claiborne's battery of field pieces, but on the night of June 4th the enemy established a battery of four guns of heavy caliber in front of the Tennesseeans. The fire from these guns was constant from the 5th of June until the surrender on the 4th of July. On the 9th of June another battery of 20-pounder Parrott guns was mounted in front of the Tennesseeans, within 400 yards of their line, our pickets having been gradually withdrawn. The enemy advanced to a point 75 yards distant, and there constructed works stronger than those occupied by our troops, these intrenchments being continuous along the brigade front. The enemy's sharpshooters maintained a constant fire, and the exposure of the person was fatal. Frequent successful sorties were made at night, but the [85] force of the enemy was so superior in numbers that it was impossible to hold a position after it was won.

On the 22d of May, says the same authority, the Forty-third Tennessee reinforced the line held by Gen. Stephen D. Lee, and gallantly assisted in the repulse of the enemy. In this action Capt. Sterling Turner was killed; Asst. Surgeon W. B. Johnson, while attending the wounded, received a mortal wound; Lieut.-Col. David M. Key was seriously wounded, and before his recovery was stricken with malarial fever, but he recovered after a long and doubtful illness. Now in the evening of his days, he enjoys the greatest consideration from his friends and the public, after bearing with honorable distinction the highest civic honors. Colonel Key had drilled and disciplined the regiment under the direction of the noble Gillespie, and made it one of the best in the service.

On the night of June 21st, Capt. A. J. Canood of the Forty-third, with 59 men, part of his own company and a detachment from Captain Wiseman's company, was ordered to assault an intrenched outpost in front of Barkuloo's Georgia regiment. He captured it but could not hold it. Twenty-three of his force were killed and wounded, the gallant Canood received a mortal wound, Lieutenant Cruikshank was killed, and Captain Wiseman severely wounded. On the following night, Capt. W. H. McKamy of the Forty-third, with 47 men, assaulted and carried the same work, but he lost 27 of his command in killed and wounded, and the courageous captain was severely wounded and disabled for life.

The Forty-third was 900 strong when it entered Vicksburg, but forty-seven days of exposure to the burning sun, drenching rains, thick fogs, heavy dews, and the enemy's guns, reduced it to less than half. Its beautiful banner, presented by the ladies of Mt. Sterling, Ky., could show 972 bullet-holes when it was lowered on the 4th of July.

The Third (provisional army), Thirty-ninth and Fiftyninth [86] were conspicuous for their valor and endurance. The men of the Thirty-ninth were naval heroes as well as soldiers. In February, 1863, three companies were detached and ordered down the Mississippi on a steam ferryboat armed with two field pieces, to watch the movements of the gunboat Queen of the West, which had passed our batteries. They proceeded up Red river and captured the gunboat. Then an expedition was fitted out under Maj. J. L. Brent, and the men of the Thirty-ninth assisted in manning the Queen of the West and steamer Webb. Ascending the river, they met and captured, after a desperate conflict, the ironclad Indianola, with her stores and 112 prisoners. Major Brent, commanding the expedition, made honorable mention of Captain Carnes and Lieuts. H. A. Rice and Henry Miller, of the Thirty-ninth. During the siege this regiment lost 20 men killed and wounded.

Brig.-Gen. John C. Vaughn, of Tennessee, commanded a brigade consisting of the Sixtieth Tennessee, Capt. J. W. Bachman; Sixty-first, Lieut.-Col. James G. Rose, and Sixty-second, Col. John A. Rowan. On May 16th, while the disastrous battle of Baker's Creek was pending, Vaughn's brigade was ordered to protect the railroad bridge over Big Black river in rear of Pemberton's line. The entire command in retreat crossed the bridge, yet Vaughn, in momentary expectation of orders to follow, continued to defend a crossing no longer useful.

After daylight next day, Osterhaus' division of the Federal army assaulted the faithful guard of Tennesseeans. Colonel Rose counted seventeen regimental flags passing to his front. After a fierce struggle the enemy gained an open space enfilading Vaughn's entire line, and the position being no longer tenable, a retreat was ordered. The assault of Osterhaus was almost exclusively on the Sixty-first, which met it bravely and with the free use of buckshot and ball, so that the Federals [87] faltered, halted and only advanced under the pressure of the columns in the rear. The brave Sixty-first was almost annihilated; out of 400 who answered to roll-call in the early morning, Colonel Rose led but 112 back to Vicksburg that evening. The Ninth and Fourteenth divisions of the Thirteenth army corps, which assailed the Sixty-first, lost 279 killed, wounded and missing.

During the siege of Vicksburg, General Vaughn made daily reports of his operations, one day recording one wounded in the Sixtieth; the next day one in the Sixtieth, two in the Sixty-second; the next and the next, one killed in the Sixtieth, one in the Sixty-second, one in the Sixtyfirst—repeating this pathetic story from day to day until the surrender on the 4th of July.

Another gallant command was the First Tennessee regiment of heavy artillery, Col. Andrew Jackson, Jr., Lieut.-Col. Robert Sterling, Maj. F. W. Hoadley. The regiment was composed of the companies of Captains Dismukes, Weyland, Norman, Parks, J. B. Caruthers, T. N. Johnston and J. P. Lynch. The upper batteries from Fort Hill to the upper bayou were worked by the Tennessee artillery. After the investment of the city, May 18th, unsuccessful attacks on the batteries were daily made for the next week. Col. Edward Higgins, chief of artillery, reports that on the morning of the 27th of May the enemy's ironclad gunboat Cincinnati, mounting 14 guns, was observed approaching our upper batteries, while four ironclads approached the lower batteries. In the engagement, which resulted in the complete repulse of the enemy and the sinking of the Cincinnati, great credit was accorded to Capts. J. P. Lynch and T. N. Johnston, of the First. Daily for the next month these batteries were subjected to a constant fire, and our loss was severe. Among the killed was Maj. F. W. Hoadley, First Tennessee, commanding the upper water battery, of whom Colonel Higgins said: ‘This battery was exposed constantly to an unceasing fire of mortars, Parrott [88] guns and sharpshooters. The gallant major was always at his post and fell with his face to the foe, struck in the breast by the fragment of a shell.’ Among the officers who most distinguished themselves by their gallantry and unceasing vigilance during the siege was, according to the same authority, ‘Colonel Jackson, First Tennessee artillery, who with his gallant regiment bore the brunt of the labors and dangers of the siege, and was always ready, day or night, for any duty to which he might be called.’ In this high commendation he included Lieutenant-Colonel Sterling and Captains Lynch and Johnston of the same regiment.

On the 25th of May, Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, with an army of 20,000 men, invested Port Hudson, La., where Maj.-Gen. Franklin Gardner was in command of the Confederate forces, and after thorough preparation this fortified post was assailed by Banks' army and the fleet commanded by Admiral Farragut. General Banks anticipated the easy capture of the garrison, but he met a determined resistance and was signally defeated, with a loss of 293 killed and 1,549 wounded. On the 10th and 14th of June, assaults were again made without success; and after the last attack, becoming convinced that he could not carry the works by assault, Banks set about the slower operations of a siege, making approaches and skirmishing from day to day, aided actively by the fleet. Farragut maintained the fire from his mortar guns during the whole of every night, the only injury inflicted on the Confederates being banished sleep and the forcing of our artillery officers and men to constant watchfulness without relief. During the day the besieging army kept up an active artillery fire.

This continued from the 25th of May to the 8th of July, when General Gardner surrendered his command as prisoners of war. General Gardner, in commending his men for their gallantry and constant labors in the defense, stated that his surrender was not on account of [89] the fall of Vicksburg or the want of provisions or ammunition, but from the exhaustion of his men, who had been without rest for more than six weeks.

The First Tennessee heavy artillery, Company G, Capt. James A. Fisher; the First light artillery, Company B, Lieut. Oswald Tilghman; the improvised Tennessee battalion, Capt. S. A. Whiteside, composed of details from the Forty-first, Forty-second, Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, Fifty-third and Fifty-fifth Tennessee regiments, were all constantly engaged, and rendered services of great value. At all hours under the fire of Farragut's fleet, they lost only 4 killed and 6 wounded. Among the killed was Lieut. Thomas B. Cooke, of the heavy artillery.

The only published report of the siege by a Confederate officer was made by Capt. C. M. Jackson, of the staff of General Gardner. He informed General Johnston, on the 9th of July, that provisions were exhausted, and that it was impossible to cut a way out on account of the proximity of the enemy's works. Our casualties during the siege were 200 killed, and between 300 and 400 wounded. At the time of surrender there were only 2,500 men for duty. Banks reported to General Halleck that he had ‘not more than 14,000 effective men.’ He lost 706 killed, 3,145 wounded and 307 captured.

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John Gregg (14)
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James J. Turner (5)
N. P. Banks (5)
T. N. Johnston (4)
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James G. Rose (3)
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