Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 1863

May 29, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 7
---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 2

---Because of embarrassment over the arrest of Clement Vallandigham, and the closing of newspapers critical of the Lincoln administration in the Department of the Ohio, Gen. Burnside offers to resign, in a letter to Pres. Lincoln.

---Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sends this letter to Gen. Pemberton in Vicksburg:

JACKSON, May 29, 1863.

 Lieutenant-General PEMBERTON:

 I am too weak to save Vicksburg. Can do no more than attempt to save you and your garrison. It will be impossible to extricate you, unless you co-operate, and we make mutually supporting movements.

 Communicate your plans and suggestions, if possible.

 J. E. Johnston.

---Near Thoroughfare Gap, a detachment of Stuart’s cavalry encounters a detachment of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, and a skirmish results in the retreat of the Rebels, and their loss of four men.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 1863

May 28, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 6

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 1

---Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton is put in temporary command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, as Gen. Stoneman has taken a leave of absence for his health.  Pleasonton finds the Corps over 60% understrength, and begins refurbishing his troops.  His scouts obtain information that indicates that the Rebels are on the move, and Pleasonton opines to Gen. Hooker, “The Rebels always mean something when their scouts become numerous.”  Pleasonton ramps up the watch on the river crossings, with the aid of V Corps infantry under Meade.  He also dispatches the Reserve Brigade of cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford farther upstream towards “Mosby’s Confederacy” in an attempt to interdict Mosby’s raids in that area.

Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, USA

---This morning, in Boston, Massachusetts, large crowds line the streets of the city as the newly trained 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a black regiment, parades on its way to transports that will ship the regiment south to South Carolina to assume its first assignment at the front.  Commanding the regiment is Col. Robert Gould Shaw, 25 years old and newly married.  Shaw is a combat veteran who served in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as a lieutenant and then captain.  Gov. John Andrew purposely calls upon Shaw since his family are wealthy Bostonian bluebloods who are prominent socially and in also prominent in the Abolition movement.  Frederick Douglass has two sons, Charles and Lewis, who join the regiment.  Most of the soldiers are free blacks from the Boston area, with also a good number of men from New York and Pennsylvania, and a contingent of African-Canadian volunteers from Toronto.  The 54th ships out today.

Col. Robert Gould Shaw, 54th Mass. Inf., comm.

---The Washington Chronicle publishes a report from some recently-exchanged naval officers who tell of what they saw while being held in Vicksburg:

The streets of Vicksburgh were fairly studded with rifle pits, and every favorable spot along the wharves or in the suburbs, had there kind of defences constructed on them. Where it was necessary, yards of houses were taken and used in the above manner, and very often earthworks were thrown up around the dwellings. In consequence of these obstructions very few wagons were seen in the streets.

The rebel reports that the people of Vicksburgh had plenty to eat, are pronounced by these officers to be untrue. Very little else but corn bread and small quantities of meat were to be had, these being the only fare of our officers.

---John C. West, a soldier serving in one of the Texas infantry regiments in Hood’s division in the Army of Northern Virginia, writes in his journal about the daily life of a Confederate soldier:

Thursday, May 28th.

While we are encamped life is so monotonous that I do not usually regard it as necessary to keep a diary, but occasionally we have a little variety and spice which is exciting and pleasant. Yesterday we received notice early in the morning to prepare to march five miles to attend a review of our division which was to take place about a mile beyond General Hood’s headquarters. We left our camp about 8 o’clock a. m. and reached the muster ground about 10 o’clock. We found the artillery posted on the extreme right about three quarters of a mile from our regiment.

The brigades, Anderson’s, Laws’, Robertson’s and Benning’s, were drawn up in line of battle, being over a mile long; our regiment a little to the left of the center. As we were properly formed General Hood and staff galloped down the entire length of the line in front and back again in the rear, after which he took his position about 300 yards in front of the center. The whole division was then formed into companies, preceded by the artillery of about twenty pieces; passed in review before the General, occupying about an hour and a march of over two miles and a half for each company before reaching its original position. The spectacle was quite imposing and grand, and I wish Mary and the children could see such a sight. After passing in review we rested awhile and were then again placed in line of battle, and the artillery divided into two batteries, came out on opposite hills in front of us, where they practiced half an hour or more with blank cartridges. This was the most exciting scene of the day except the one which immediately followed, viz: We were ordered to fix bayonets and the whole line to charge with a yell, and sure enough I heard and joined in the regular Texas war whoop. This was the closing scene of the day, after which we marched back to camp. . . .

To-day Companies B and F are variously employed. There is one squad fishing, another has made a drag of brush and are attempting to catch fish by the wholesale. Two or three other squads are intensely interested in games of poker; some are engaged on the edge of the water washing divers soiled garments as well as their equally soiled skins. I belonged to this latter class for a while, and have spent the remainder of the morning watching the varying success or failure of the fishermen and poker-players, and in reading a few chapters and Psalms in the Old Testament and the history of the crucifixion in the New. . . . I went up to a house to-day about half a mile from our picket camp and found a negro woman with some corn bread and butter milk. A friend who was with me gave her a dollar for her dinner, which we enjoyed very much. The woman was a kind-hearted creature and looked at me very sympathetically, remarking that I did not look like I was used to hard work, and that I was a very nice looking man to be a soldier, etc., etc.

---British Army officer Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle writes in his journal some of the details of his visit to the camp of the Army of Tennessee---in the course of which, he meets exiled Copperhead Clement Vallandigham:

When I arrived I found that General Hardee was in company with General Polk and Bishop Elliott of Georgia, and also with Mr Vallandigham. The latter (called the Apostle of Liberty) is a good-looking man, apparently not much over forty, and had been turned out of the North three days before. Rosecrans had wished to hand him over to Bragg by flag of truce; but as the latter declined to receive him in that manner, he was, as General Hardee expressed it, “dumped down” in the neutral ground between the lines, and left there. He then received hospitality from the Confederates in the capacity of a destitute stranger. They do not in any way receive him officially, and it does not suit the policy of either party to be identified with one another. He is now living at a private house in Shelbyville, and had come over for the day, with General Polk, on a visit to Hardee. He told the generals, that if Grant was severely beaten in Mississippi by Johnston, he did not think the war could be continued on its present great scale.

When I presented my letters of introduction, General Hardee received me with the unvarying kindness and hospitality which I had experienced from all other Confederate officers. He is a fine soldier-like man, broad-shouldered and tall. He looks rather like a French officer, and is a Georgian by birth. He bears the reputation of, being a thoroughly good soldier, and he is the author of the drill-book still in use by both armies. Until quite lately he was commanding officer of the military college at West Point. He distinguished himself at the battles of Corinth and Murfreesborough, and now commands the 2d corps d’arme’e of Bragg’s army. He is a widower, and has the character of being a great admirer of the fair sex. . . . General Hardee’s headquarters were on the estate of Mrs ——, a very hospitable lady. The two daughters of the General were staying with her, and also a Mrs ——, who is a very pretty woman. These ladies are more violent against the Yankees than it is possible for a European to conceive; they beat their male relations hollow in their denunciations and hopes of vengeance. It was quite depressing to hear their innumerable stories of Yankee brutality, and I was much relieved when, at a later period of the evening, they subsided into music.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 1863

May 27, 1863

---Vicksburg -- As Gen. Sherman is anchoring the right flank of his lines on the Yazoo River, his troop movements are bedeviled by a couple of well-placed heavy guns.  Sherman asks Admiral Porter to send around a gunboat to take them out.  As the USS Cincinnati arrives, the Rebel guns open fire on her.  Porter, on a tugboat, directs the fire of a few mortar boats in support, but lost sight of the ironclad as the vessel turned into a bayou.  But several telling shots sank the ironclad, losing 25 men killed and wounded, and 15 missing.
Gen. Banks

The May 27 Assault on Port Hudson
---Assault on Port Hudson – Gen. Nathaniel Banks orders his army of 30,000 to attack the Rebel fortifications at Port Hudson, Louisiana.  Admiral Farragut brings up his gunboats and mortar boats, which lob shells into the fort.  Banks’ attack is poorly coordinated, however, and assault forces under Grover, Weitzel, Augur, and Thomas Sherman are sent forward at different times, so that the Rebel commander, Franklin Gardner, is able to shift forces to strengthen the line being attacked.  In the morning, Weitzel and Grover strike the northern side of the fortress, but their attack bogs down.  The Confederate line has salient that can bring crossfire to almost any spot.  A combined regiment of black soldiers---the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards, , are sent in where there was a strong salient, and the white soldiers had gotten bogged down.  Three Arkansas regiments defend here.  The 1st Regiment, led by a negro commander, Captain Andre Cailloux, rushes forward, passing up the bogged-down white regiments, and reach the wall of the salient; however, without supports, they are unable to hold the position---and when their commander Capt. Cailloux is killed by a cannon round, they fall back.  Over 300 of the 1,000 black soldiers were shot down in the attack.  Later in the day, Augur and Sherman’s divisions were to go forward against the southeastern and southern faces of the Port Hudson lines.  However, Augur is ready before Sherman is, and he waits.  Gen. Banks finds Sherman and his staff sitting down to lunch.  Angrily, he fires Sherman---but Sherman places himself at the head of his column anyway.  Sherman himself is badly wounded, as are both of his successors, and this assault bogs down.  Augur’s men meet a similar fate.  Out of the 13,000 men who partake in the assaults this day, nearly 2,000 of them are shot down.  Rebel losses amount to about 250.  Gen. Banks settles into a regular siege after this.  Confederate Victory.

Losses:    U.S.     1,950+                   C.S.    250

---Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his journal about the internal politics in the government and the impact of the Vicksburg campaign on the mind of the public:

May 27, Wednesday. No decisive news from Vicksburg. The public mind is uneasy at the delay, yet I am glad to see blame attaches to no one because the place was not taken at once. There have been strange evidences of an unreasonable people on many occasions during the War. Had Halleck shown half the earnestness and ability of Farragut, we should have had Vicksburg in our possession a year ago.

Troop of the Louisiana Native Guard

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards, writes in his journal of his progress on the long, drawn-out journey through the South:

27th May (Wednesday).—Arrived at Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, at daylight, and left it by another railroad at 5.30 A.M.

All State capitals appear to resemble one another, and look like bits cut off from great cities. One or two streets have a good deal of pretension about them; and the inevitable “Capitol,” with its dome, forms the principal feature. A sentry stands at the door of each railway car, who examines the papers of every passenger with great strictness, and even after that inspection the same ceremony is performed by an officer of the provost-marshal’s department, who accompanies every train.[1] The officers and soldiers on this duty are very civil and courteous, and after getting over their astonishment at finding that I am a British officer, they do all they can to make me comfortable. They ask all sorts of curious questions about the British army, and often express a strong wish to see one of our regiments fight. They can hardly believe that the Coldstream is really dressed in scarlet. To-day they entered gravely into a discussion amongst themselves, as to whether British troops would have taken the position at Fredericksburg. The arguments on both sides were very amusing, and opinion was pretty evenly divided.

May 26, 1863

May 26, 1863

---Gen. Robert E. Lee, without Jackson to  command half of the Army of Northern Virginia, decides to divide his army into three corps, each corps consisting of 3 divisions.  Although the I Corps remains under James Longstreet, he gives command of the II Corps to Richard Ewell and the new III Corps to A.P. Hill. 

---Confederate cavalry raid Morgantown, West Virginia, taking over 200 horses and many thousands of dollars of private property. 

---Today the New York Times publishes an editorial evaluating Gen. U.S. Grant and his rising legacy:

Gen. Grant and His Splendid Success at Vicksburgh.

The track of this war is strewed with faded and with ruined military reputations. As we look back to the first year of the war, we are absolutely amazed to find how few who then stood out as Generals of mark have retained their place in the public regard. . . . Gen. GRANT’s fame has been steadily gaining from the outset. Though but a man of forty, at the commencement of the war he had seen more hard fighting than any other officer, having been in every battle of Mexico except that of Buena Vista. Yet, when he took command at Cairo, he was not much known, and attracted little attention. The public had set its heart upon other favorites. If he obtained some little praise for crossing the Ohio so promptly and seizing Paducah in anticipation of the rebels, it was lost the same season, by his battle of Belmont, which the public in its inexperienced judgment of that time, insisted upon styling a defeat because an advance was followed by a retreat. It was, in fact, simply an expedition . . . to break up the enemy’s camp, and to prevent reinforcements. . . . This was effectually accomplished, and therefore the movement, though it cost blood, was a complete success.

At Fort Donelson, where Gen. GRANT next appeared on the stage, he won a victory unexampled in its results; but the public still were inclined to attribute it to good fortune rather than to any special military capacity, and were even disposed to find fault that a quarter of the rebel army had been allowed to escape in the night before the surrender. At Pittsburgh Landing [Shiloh], his next scene of action, it was conceded that he fought splendidly; but he was reproached for having been on the enemy’s side of the river at all, without intrenchments and without open communications in the rear. The ultimate victory was again ascribed to nothing but good fortune.

At Vicksburgh, his next theatre of operations, he has labored, everybody admitted, with great energy, yet the impression has generally prevailed that it would be to no purpose. The manifold expedients that he adopted, in order to get a chance at the rebel stronghold, were regarded with a good deal of curiosity, but with very little confidence. The expedient, which at last succeeded, struck the public with not a little surprise. He got his chance at last. The style in which he followed it up — his extraordinary celerity of movement, his striking at unexpected points, his success in thwarting the attempts of the enemy to concentrate, his whipping them in detail every time in six distinct battles, and the magnitude and completeness of his final conquest, which casts into the shade all of the other achievements of the war — all this is now a marvel, and the public is quite ready to accept the conclusion, which the Army of the Tennessee long since formed — that, take him all in all, Gen. GRANT is the most serviceable, and, therefore, the most valuable, officer in the national army.

Why has Gen. GRANT thus at last distanced every other commander? . . . Gen. GRANT, though perhaps possessed of no great military genius, yet combines qualities which, in such a war as this, are even better calculated to insure success, and which scarcely any of his brother Generals have exhibited in similar complete combination.

First, he has absolute singleness of purpose. From the beginning he has addressed himself strictly to the military work he had in hand, without a thought about cotton speculations or about political advantage. . . . Second, his Spartan simplicity of character. . . . Third, his modesty, his straightforwardness, his entire freedom from jealousy. . . . Fourth, whether he has genius or not, he has sound judgment and sterling sense. . . .

And, Fifth, he has, what tells more than all else, a most extraordinary combination of energy and persistence. In these two moral elements, he probably has not his equal. Nothing daunts him, nothing discourages him. . . .

U.S. GRANT — or, as his soldiers style him, Unconditional Surrender GRANT — has given the Confederacy blows such as no other arm has dealt, and, if he is let alone, as we trust he will be, he will in due time bring the whole concern to the dust.

Ulysses S. Grant

---In his Memoirs, Gen. Grant details the problems confronting him in the beginning the siege against Vicksburg:

After the unsuccessful assault of the 22d the work of the regular siege began. Sherman occupied the right starting from the river above Vicksburg, McPherson the centre (McArthur's division now with him) and McClernand the left, holding the road south to Warrenton. Lauman's division arrived at this time and was placed on the extreme left of the line. . . . In the interval between the assaults of the 19th and 22d, roads had been completed from the Yazoo River and Chickasaw Bayou, around the rear of the army, to enable us to bring up supplies of food and ammunition. . . .

My line was more than fifteen miles long, extending from Haines' Bluff to Vicksburg, thence to Warrenton. The line of the enemy was about seven. . . . The ground about Vicksburg is admirable for defence. On the north it is about two hundred feet above the Mississippi River at the highest point and very much cut up by the washing rains; the ravines were grown up with cane and underbrush, while the sides and tops were covered with a dense forest. Farther south the ground flattens out somewhat, and was in cultivation. But here, too, it was cut up by ravines and small streams. The enemy's line of defence followed the crest of a. . . . Deep ravines of the description given lay in front of these defences. As there is a succession of gullies, cut out by rains along the side of the ridge, the line was necessarily very irregular. . . . Generally therefore, or in many places, their line would run from near the head of one gully nearly straight to the head of another, and an outer work triangular in shape, generally open in the rear, was thrown up on the point; with a few men in this outer work they commanded the approaches to the main line completely. . . .

We had no siege guns except six thirty-two pounders, and there were none at the West to draw from. Admiral Porter, however, supplied us with a battery of navy-guns of large calibre, and with these, and the field artillery used in the campaign, the siege began. The first thing to do was to get the artillery in batteries where they would occupy commanding positions; then establish the camps, under cover from the fire of the enemy but as near up as possible; and then construct rifle-pits and covered ways, to connect the entire command by the shortest route. The enemy did not harass us much while we were constructing our batteries. Probably their artillery ammunition was short; and their infantry was kept down by our sharpshooters, who were always on the alert and ready to fire at a head whenever it showed itself above the rebel works. . . .

There were no mortars with the besiegers, except what the navy had in front of the city; but wooden ones were made by taking logs of the toughest wood that could be found, boring them out for six or twelve pound shells and binding them with strong iron bands. These answered as cochorns, and shells were successfully thrown from them into the trenches of the enemy.

 The labor of building the batteries and intrenching was largely done by the pioneers, assisted by negroes who came within our lines and who were paid for their work; but details from the troops had often to be made. . . . By the 30th of June there were two hundred and twenty guns in position, mostly light field-pieces, besides a battery of heavy guns belonging to, manned and commanded by the navy. We were now as strong for defence against the garrison of Vicksburg as they were against us. . . .

---James A. Graham, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, serves in the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and writes home of the sporadic sparring between Rebel troops and the Yankee troops that occupy so much of coastal North Carolina:

Camp near Kinston

May 26th 1863

My dear mother,

We have just returned from a trip after the Yankees. Last Friday morning we received orders to be ready to march and about eleven o’clock we left camp and started in the direction of Gum Swamp, on the road to Newbern, where it was reported that our forces were engaged with the Yankees.  Soon after we started I heard that the enemy had surrounded and taken the whole of the 56th Reg’t and a part of the 25th Reg’t also.

I met some of those Reg’t soon after and found out that the 25th Reg’t had escaped and also part of the 56th, but could hear nothing of Robert except that he was very likely taken prisoner.

About five or six miles from Kinston our Brigade formed line of battle and commenced advan-cing on the Yankees who had already taken the back track toward Newbern.  We caught up with the Yanks after a short while and had a little skirmish-ing and artillery firing with them, but they soon skedaddled and we followed right on their track.

We kept the chase up till about midnight skirmishing with them whenever we could catch up with them and trying out artillery on them when they were too far for our rifles.  Their artillery would reply once in a while.  Next morning we came up with them at Core Creek, drove their pickets across the creek and followed them till night, driving then as far as Batchelor’s Creek about 8 miles from Newbern, and then started on our return.

We reached Camp yesterday morning pretty well tired and as dirty and black a set as I ever saw. . . . Our company lost no men at all and our Brigade very few, al-though we were in front all the time, for it was a hard matter to get up wit the Yanks and they always ran whenever we fired on them.  I met Robert yesterday morn-ing as we came to Camp.  He got out all safe after laying in the swamp some time.  Lt. Ray, the 1st Lt. of his company, was wounded and taken prisoner I understand.  Johnny told me that 19 of his men were taken.  We are camped about 3 or 4 miles from Kinston in the same camp we occupied a little over a year ago. I think we will very likely stay here some time.  I must close.  Love to all.  Write soon

Your affectionate son

James A. Graham

P.S. I have seen Uncle James Bryan several times since we have been at Kinston but have not seen Uncle John yet, as we started on this trip just about the time he came home.

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle, a British officer, writes in his journal, making observations about some of the wounded Confederates he meets on his journey:

The spirit with which wounded men return to the front, even although their wounds are imperfectly healed, is worthy of all praise, and shows the indomitable determination of the Southern people. In the same car there were several quite young boys of fifteen or sixteen who were badly wounded, and one or two were minus arms and legs, of which deficiencies they were evidently very vain.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 1863

May 24, 1863

—Pres. Lincoln and Sen. Doolittle of Wisconsin visit three military hospitals in Washington. The New York Herald reports: "The President expressed his gratification at the excellent condition of the hospitals and the comfortable condition of the patients. He shook hands with over one thousand soldiers, nearly all of whom were able to stand up. The soldiers seemed highly delighted as the President grasped them by the hand."

—Sergeant Alexander P. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, writes in his journal of what soon becomes a routine of the siege:
Sunday, 24th — The rebels tried to shell us again this morning, but could not get range of us. There was not much fighting today, our men having orders not to advance. Our siege guns, mortar boats and gunboats are throwing shells into the rebels day and night. We were relieved from picket this afternoon by another regiment.

—Kate Cumming, a nurse in a Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, writes about the inaccurate rumors afflicting all loyal Southern hearts:
May 22.—All kinds of bad news is floating about; viz: Jackson, Mississippi, burnt to the ground; Vicksburg fallen, etc. The fall of Vicksburg has cast a gloom over all, but it is not the Confederacy, and the enemy will have to do some hard fighting before they take that. Many are calling General Pemberton, who was in command, a traitor.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23, 1863

May 23, 1863

—On this date, Pres. Lincoln confers with Sec. of the Navy Gideon Welles, Asst. Sec. of the Navy Gustavus Fox, Sec. of War Edwin Stanton, and General Henry W. Halleck. Their topic: a proposed coordinated attack on Charleston.

—On this date, Pres. Lincoln also offers command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch, one of Hooker’s corps commanders. Couch turns down the offer, citing his poor health, suggesting Meade instead.

Maj. Gen. Darius Couch, USA

—Sergeant Alexander P. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, writes in his journal of his regiment’s activities in the opening moves of the Siege of Vicksburg, as well as a stark description of a field hospital’s grisly work:
Saturday, 23d — We started this morning at daylight and marched five miles to General McPherson’s headquarters at the center of the army. Here we lay until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when we marched back to our old place on the extreme left. The rebels again commenced to shell us, but the shells went over our heads. The Eleventh Iowa went on picket. Our men are shelling the rebels from all sides, and they are falling back behind their fortifications. When passing the headquarters of the Seventeenth Army Corps today, I saw a most dreadful sight at the field hospital ; there was a pile, all that a six-mule team could haul, of legs and arms thrown from the amputating tables in a shed nearby, where the wounded were being cared for.

—Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd, of the 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, writes in his journal of incidents on picket duty outside of the fortifications of Vicksburg:
MAY 23D.—Our regiment lay in the rifle pits to-day, watching the enemy. For hours we were unable to see the motion of a man or beast on their side, all was so exceedingly quiet throughout the day. After dark we were relieved, and as we returned to the camp the enemy got range of us, and for a few minutes their bullets flew about us quite freely. However, we bent our heads as low as we could and double-quicked to quarters. One shot flew very close to my head, and I could distinctly recognize the familiar zip and whiz of quite a number of others at a safer distance. The rebels seemed to fire without any definite direction. If our sharpshooters were not on the alert, the rebels could peep over their works and take good aim; but as they were so closely watched they had to be content with random shooting. . . . We think Grant’s head is level, anyhow. The weather is getting hotter, and I fear sickness; and water is growing scarce, which is very annoying. If we can but keep well, the future has no fears for us.

—Edwin E. Mason, of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, writes home with news. He has apparently been ill: 
Ward #3 Hospital, Convalescent Camp, Washington, DC May 21, 1863

Dear Mother,

I sit down to write a few lines to let you know where I ‘be.’ At present I am in Hospital at convalescent Camp near Alexandria, distant- 3 miles; from Washington 7. I wrote to you first at Baltimore and sent a likeness and a gold pen and some money. I forget how much. I received $29 at Harrisburg and when I wrote, or had wrote for me, for I was sick at the time of the second letter. I gave the fellow all the money I had left. . . . I spoke about Sundays fight and my running away Sunday night. Till then I thought soldiering all very fine. But I would rather have been at home. . . . The plan I sent you is the one back of the City: of course they are not correct but give you an idea how they are filled in. I didn’t fight there, but at Chancellorsville. We crossed at Kelly’s Ford. . . . That Battle brought me to my senses and if I ever come home again, won’t I work I’ll dig my finger nails off. All of you work in concert and you will do better. When at home I thought pa could work all time just as well as not. But I have found my mistake too late. . . . I will send home every cent I can get hold of. . . .

Your affectionate and wayward Son,
goodbye Edwin E. Mason
Mason writes again, two days later, to his sister:
Ward #3 Hospital, Convalescent Camp, Washington, DC May 23, 1863
Dear Sister, I received yours of the 19th this morning. I am most well. I came here a week ago last Thursday with the measles. I ‘staid’ in Camp Distribution till I was broke out 2 and a half days before the Doct. knew what ailed me. so much for him and his knowledge. You chided me for going forth – fight – my country’s battles. Ba! The way of it was this, that not hearing from you, I determined to go to my Regiment. . . . and fetched up at Chancellorsville. It is a very large place consisting of one house and lots of trees. In the ‘hottes’ of the fight, and I assure you there was somoe fighting done that day, we chaged on a battery that was mowing us down like grain before the reaper and ‘fit’ about 15 min. But of no avail. Behind the battery was a Regiment of infantry in ambush. They rose with a yell that made my hair start, and poured a volley into our men who stand it? we didn’t for we run like sheep. We was so cut up it was determined to send us across the river.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes the latest news from the Western Theater and the Vicksburg Campaign. Note how Grant’s relentless advance on Vicksburg is characterized as having "fled towards Vicksburg":
Grant entered the State of Mississippi by crossing the river five miles below Grand Gulf, with from sixty to one hundred thousand men, including a heavy force of cavalry.

He has received no reinforcements from Louisiana, but receives accessions constantly from the west bank of the river. His transportation is all on the river, and must cling to the river bank.

We evacuated Grand Gulf, falling back and fighting towards Jackson, followed by the enemy, who entered Jackson with 50,000 men on the 16th.

Gen. Johnston reached Jackson on the 13th, and fell back to Canton. The Yankees committed various excesses during their two days occupation of Jackson, such as burning churches and private houses, tearing jewelry from the persons of citizens, gutting residences, etc. They then fled towards Vicksburg, followed by Gen. Johnston who is constantly receiving reinforcements.
Vicksburg has five months supplies of every kind, and can be taken only when the force defending it has exhausted these supplies.

The Yankees report the capture of Alexandria, La, but the report is not credited.
Edwin Forbes, Return from Picket Duty

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, 1863

May 22, 1863
Battle of Vicksburg, Day 2 – Grant, having given his soldiers two days of rest, comes up with a better plan of attack, having all three corps attack in concert.  Artillery bombards the fortifications during the night, from 220 cannon, and the large guns from Admiral Porter’s river flotilla.  The ground attack is scheduled to begin at 10 AM.  Led by 150 volunteers with scaling ladders, Sherman’s men drive down the Graveyard Road once again, as on May 19, but his corps is unable to breach the Rebel line.  McPherson launches his attack along the Jackson Road, into the Confederate center, and some of his troops even get within 100 yards of the Confederate line.  McClernand’s attack on the left is less effective; at one point he requests more troops, claiming he has captured two forts, which is a lie.  The attacks bog down, and it is clear to Grant that he must lay siege. 

Losses:    U.S.   3,199                     C.S.   500 (or less)

Union assaults on Vicksburg fortification
Union troops attempting the Vicksburg parapet

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, writes about the public rumors of Vicksburg’s investment:

We have sad rumors from Vicksburg. Pemberton, it is said, was flanked by Grant, and lost 30 guns, which he abandoned in his retreat. Where Johnston is, is not stated. But, it is said, Vicksburg is closely invested, and that the invaders are closing in on all sides. There is much gloom and despondency in the city among those who credit these unofficial reports. It would be a terrible blow, but not necessarily a fatal one, for the war could be prolonged indefinitely.

The Attack of May 22 at Vicksburg

---Col. Judson Kilpatrick of the Federal cavalry makes a name for himself by leading a raid throughout several counties in Virginia, assisted by a gunboat.  Kilpatrick’s raid captures large number of livestock, and puts to the torch large stores of grain and flour.
---Gen. Sherman’s troops land at Haines Bluff, north of Vicksburg, thus enabling the U.S. Navy to establish a base for supplying Grant’s army.

—Gen. Ulysses S. Grant telegraphs news of his investment around Vicksburg to General-ion-Chief Henry W. Halleck in Washington: 

NEAR Vicksburg, May 22, 1863,
VIA MEMPHIS, May 25.    

General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
   Vicksburg is now completely invested. I have possession of Haynes' Bluff and the Yazoo; consequently have supplies. To-day an attempt was made to carry the city by assault, but was not entirely successful. We hold possession, however, of two of the enemy's forts, and have skirmishers close under all of them. Our loss was not severe. The nature of the ground about Vicksburg is such that it can only be taken by a siege. It is entirely safe to us in time, I would say one week, if the enemy do not send a large army upon my rear. With the railroad destroyed to beyond Pearl River, I do not see the hope that the enemy can entertain of such relief.
    I learn that Jeff. Davis has promised that if the garrison can hold out for fifteen days he will send 100,000 men, if he has to evacuate Tennessee to do it.
    What shall I do with the prisoners I have?

    U. S. GRANT,

May 21, 1863

May 21, 1863

---Battle of Plains Store, Louisiana -- Gen. Nathaniel Banks and the Army of the Gulf, after campaigning in southern Louisiana over the last couple of months, converges on Port Hudson from several directions.  In addition, reinforcements  come from New Orleans.  Banks has 30,000 opposing Confederate Gen. Franklin Gardner’s 7,500.  On this date, Gen. Christopher Auger, with a Federal division, drives back advance Rebel forces north of Port Hudson---but only after six hours of delay and charge and countercharge.  Thus, Auger creates a staging area north of the Confederate bastion, and cutting off the Rebels’ last escape route.  The Siege of Port Hudson is under way.  Union Victory.

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, USA


---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes this editorial, offering an overly optimistic picture of what is happening to Confederate fortunes on the Mississippi:

Affairs at Vicksburg.

We present under our telegraphic head all the news we have from this important point. It is natural that much anxiety should be felt with reference to the defence of this place, and, without presuming to know more than others, we predict that all will be well there on the great day of trial of strength between the two armies. There is nothing, in our judgment, in the recent repulse of Gen. Pemberton to lead to the belief that there is any danger of the fall, immediate or remote, of Vicksburg. We are informed from various sources that our forces within the entrenchments, extending from the city as far back as the Big Black, have a supply of provisions sufficient to subsist them for four months.

In the late fight only a portion of our forces were engaged, and Gen. Johnston, who is now in command of all the forces employed for the protection of the place, with the reinforcements sent to his aid, had not arrived in time to participate in the struggle. His dispatch the day subsequent to the fight was dated forty miles from the scene of the engagement. From all we can gather we are decidedly hopeful as to the final issue.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 1863

May 20, 1863

---Steamers Kate, Margaret, Jessie, and Annie run the blockade into Charleston with valuable cargoes.

---At Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, a brigade of Native American troops loyal to the Union attack and drive back a Confederate force from taking over the fort as the Rebels crossed the Arkansas River at that point.

Union cavalryman

May 19, 1863

May 19, 1863

---Battle of Vicksburg, Day 1 – In an attack that was supposed to put all three of Grant’s corps in motion in a simultaneous move, McPherson’s and McClernand’s corps are not in position. Sherman’s corps attacks alone on a salient strong point in the Confederate line called Stockade Redan.  The extremely rough ground makes it nearly impossible for the advancing Yankees to keep their units in any kind of formation.  Sinkholes, deep gorges, tangles of woods and hidden swamplands all retard the Federal advance---and when they approach the fortifications, they find that trenches have been dug in front, and only scaling ladders will allow them to go over the walls.  Logan and Quinby’s divisions also send attacks against the 3rd Louisiana Redan, to no avail.  Darkness halts the attack, and the Yankees withdraw to their original positions.

Losses:     U.S.   942                           C.S.   70

---Brig. Gen. T.K. Smith, of Frank Blair’s division in Shermans’ corps, writes an account of his brigade’s operations in the frustrating assault against the Confederate fortifications at Vicksburg:

At the appointed hour the signal was given, and at the command “forward” the troops advanced gallantly and without hesitation, it was almost vain to assay a line, owing to the nature of the ground, yet three times, under a most galling and destructive fire, did these regiments halt and dress upon their colors; the nerve and self-possession of both officers and men perfect; not a man flinched from his post. Having advanced some 400 yards, I discovered that the men were thoroughly exhausted, and halted the left wing under the crest of a hill from 65 to 75 yards from the ditch and parapet, and where they were comparatively sheltered from the small-arms of the enemy. Returning to reconnoiter the position of my right wing under the crest of a hill, from my view by the embankment of the road, I perceived their colors advanced to the very base of the parapet, and also that my brigade was alone, unsupported on the left or right, save by portion of the Thirteenth Regulars, . . .\

To the left, as far as I could see(and from an elevated point I had great range), not a soldier to be seen, and only an occasional puff of smoke from the rifle of a sharpshooter, concealed far away among the hills, revealed the fact that we had friends near us outside of our DIVISION. Therefore I determined . . . wait for further orders, especially as from the position my left wing occupied (that which General Ewing is now fortifying) great execution could be done by my men upon the sharpshooters of the enemy, who from the trees close behind the works, were picking off our officers with devilish skill.

Returning to the front, I sent an aide-de-camp to General Blair with report. I received in answer orders from General Sherman “to get my men as close to the parapet as possible, and be ready to jump in when they began to yield,” coupled with the assurance that McPherson was well engaged, and that General Grant was on the ground, and that the artillery, of the enemy, which began to enfilade us, would be silenced. I ordered my men to cease firing and fix bayonets, with intent to charge, when, upon closer view, I discovered the works too steep and high to scale without proper appliances. . . .  therefore I determined to maintain the position and await developments. The sequel to the attempt at assault is my guarantee for the course I pursued.

. . . A most deadly fire was kept up, and none of the enemy ventured his head above the wall who failed to pay the penalty. At the same time [my] right wing, with stern determination, maintained their ground. Their loss had been fearful. . . . Captain after captain had been shot dead; field-officers were falling; still, there was no flinching. I communicated through my aides.

As night fell, I received a verbal order, through an unusual source, to fall back to my original position. . . .

At General Blair’s headquarters I received the following written orders:
Brigade commanders will collect the forces of their respective regiments, and occupy the last ground from which they moved to the assault to-day, where their men will be well covered, advancing a line of skirmishers as near as possible to the enemy’s works, for the purpose of occupying his attention. They will be prepared to assault at day break in the morning.

By order of Major General F. P. Blair,&c.,

---Union artilleryman Jenkin Lloyd Jones, of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, writes in his journal about the action at Vicksburg, detailing his battery’s position in reserve, and of their coming up and being deployed:

Darkness closed hostilities and we limbered up and passed to the front about a mile, and planted our battery on a hill, very steep and high, doubling teams to go up. Relieved the 11th Ohio who had been engaged all day against a fort, using up all their ammunition. Cannoneers silently set to work levelling off a position; the horses unhitched and tied under a gin house. We lay down on the bare, rough ground, clothes all on, but it prevented not our sleeping.

---Private Robert M. Magill, of the 39th Georgia Infantry Regiment in Vicksburg, is very aware of his army’s situation, and records the day’s results in his journal:

Tuesday, 19th.—We are surrounded; considerable cannonading on Chickasaw Bayou. Federal Regiment reported captured on the left. Our division on right wing occupying from the railroad to the river. Yankees charged, but were driven back with loss. Sharp shooting our artillery.

---Confederate artilleryman George Michael Neese, with Chew’s Virginia Battery in the Shenandoah Valley, wistfully notes the coming of Spring in his journal with a most poetic flair:

May 19 — This was a beautiful day. Nature has her grand glories on exhibition now, with azure skies and balmy air. Spring, the smiling young dame, is decorating the landscape with new beauties every day, and the fair face of nature reveals a thousand unimagined beauties to those whose admiration has ripened into love for the beautiful children of the sunshine that unfold and display their charming beauties with a thousand lovely tints as they drink deep at the fount of gold that unlocked their treasure of fragrance and unclasped their enchanting loveliness.
—As a result of a military tribunal, Clement Vallandigham of Ohio is convicted of treason, and sentenced to Federal imprisonment, which Lincoln does not want. He sends an order to Gen. Burnside in Ohio to take Vallandigham and dump him into Confederate territory
SIR:—The President directs that without delay you send C. L. Vallandigham under secure guard to the Headquarters of General Rosecrans, to be put by him beyond our military lines; and in case of his return within our lines, he be arrested and kept in close custody for the term specified in his sentence.

By order of the President: E. R. S. CANBY, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 1863

May 18, 1863

---Gen.  McClernand gets his engineers to throw a pontoon bride across the Big Black, and his troops march over.  Farther upstream, Grant has McPherson cross and Sherman even farther upstream.  The road to Vicksburg is open, and it is only 12 miles away.  By nightfall, McClernand’s troops are only 4 miles from Vicksburg, and McPherson and Sherman are close at hand and link up in a line that covers at least ¾ of the Vicksburg defenses.  The Siege of Vicksburg is underway.

---Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd, of the 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, writes in his journal of the victorious advance of Grant’s troops over the Big Black, and their quick pace in closing up the trap at Vicksburg:

As we crossed the river and marched up the bank, a brass band stood playing national airs. O, how proud we felt as we marched through the rebel works, and up to the muzzles of the abandoned guns that had been planted to stay our progress. Every man felt the combined Confederate army could not keep us out of Vicksburg. It was a grand sight, the long lines of infantry moving over the pontoons, and winding their way up the bluffs, with flags flying in the breeze, and the morning sun glancing upon the guns as they lay across the shoulders of the boys. Cheer after cheer went up in welcome and triumph from the thousands who had already crossed and stood in waiting lines upon the bluff above. This is supposed to be the last halting place before we knock for admittance at our goal—the boasted Gibraltar of the west.

Our division has made a long march to-day, and we have bivouaced for the night without supper, and with no prospect of breakfast, for our rations have been entirely exhausted. Murmurings and complaints are loud and deep, and the swearing fully up to the army standard.

Rainy Day Picket Duty, by Edwin Forbes

---News apparently does not travel as accurately as desired in the South.  The Daily Journal of Wilmington, North Carolina publishes an editorial that is patently wrong about the fortunes of Grant’s Yankee army in central Mississippi:

The news received to-day by telegraph is less discouraging than any we have had for some days past.  At last we get something from Jackson and the West.  As we knew, Jackson was entered last week by the Federals.  It would seem that they must have been checked in their advance, as they are retreating, after having done much damage.  It is to be hoped that they will be made to regret their sudden advance into the interior. Vicksburg and Port Hudson still stand and the enemy’s base and communications are threatened.  We shall look for further news from that quarter with much interest.

---Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, the titular chief of this department, writes to Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton after the battle of Champion Hill, urging Pemberton to abandon Vicksburg---that between saving the city and saving the army, he must save the army, and that if he is trapped in Vicksburg, he will have to surrender and lose both, since Johnston does not have the means to raise the siege that surely must ensue.  In answer, Pemberton writes this letter, with a strange argument that abandoning Vicksburg will make his 30,000 men unfit for service: that they will then lack “such morale and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy”:

Vicksburg, May 18, 1863.

General JOSEPH E. Johnston:

    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, in reply to mine by the hands of Captain [Thomas] Henderson. In a subsequent letter of same date as this latter, I informed you that the men had failed to hold the trenches at Big Black Bridge, and that, as a consequence, Snyder's Mill was directed to be abandoned. On the receipt of your communication, I immediately assembled a council of war of the general officers of this command, and having laid your instructions before them, asked the free expression of their opinions as to the practicability of carrying them out. The opinion was unanimously expressed that it was impossible to withdraw the army from this position with such morale and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy. While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and it was at the same time reported that they were crossing the Yahoo River at Brandon's Ferry, above Snyder's Mill. I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as is possible, with the firm hope that the Government may yet be able to assist me in keeping this obstruction to the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.

     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,\

    Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

Strangely enough, Pemberton, in disobeying Johnston's order (or suggestion, at least) has sealed the fate of his nearly 30,000 now trapped in Vicksburg.

---The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, writes in his journal about some common reservations about Gen. Joseph Hooker’s moral liabilities:

Senator Doolittle came to see me to-day. Has faith, he says, but fears that General Hooker has no religious faith, laments the infirmities of that officer, and attributes our late misfortune to the want of godliness in the commanding general.

---In Britain, in the House of Lord, the Marquis of Clanricarde charges that the United States has been lax and even flawed in respecting the rights of British ship owners of ships seized by the U.S Navy in the course of blockade duty.  The Foreign Secretary, the Earl Russell, makes a speech in reply, saying that the Crown has investigated such claims and so far can find no legal fault with the way the Union has dealt with British ships.  Russell goes on to categorically deny Crown complicity in the escape of the CSS Alabama (built in Liverpool) from British waters, and that Britain has no desire to interfere unfairly in the Civil War in America.