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teenth Corps, under McClernand, the Fifteenth Corps,
commanded by General Sherman, the Sixteenth under
Hurlbut, and the Seventeenth under the brilliant
McPherson. The campaign had begun in earnest.
The problem, as Grant saw it, was l to secure a foot
ing upon dry ground on the east side of the Mis
sissippi from which the troops could operate against

Three schemes were suggested, as follows :

First, to march the army down the west bank of
the Mississippi, cross the river below Yicksburg,
and co-operate with General Banks, who was com
manding an expedition ascending the river from
New Orleans.

Second, to make a canal across the peninsula op
posite Yicksburg, through which the gunboats and
transports could pass, and which was to be kept
open as a line of communication for supplies.

Third, to turn the Mississippi from its course by
opening a new channel, via Lake Providence, and
through various bayous to Bed Biver.

The high water and the general condition of the
neighboring country made the first plan impracti
cable. The second scheme, too, was destined to fail,
owing to the breaking of the levees, and the flooding
of the country. As to the third method, a force was
set to work to develop it, and it was finally found
impossible to secure a practicable channel. An at
tempt to open a route via Yazoo Pass, the Talla^
hatchie, the Yalabusha and the Yazoo Bivers was also
abandoned. There were still no omens of Grant s


fut urc military acumen. But with his usual perse
verance, aud apparently oblivious to sarcastic obser
vations at the North, he determined to place his
army below the fortress of Vicksburg (where Pem-
berton now had between 25,000 and 30,000 men) and
turn Pemberton s left. The latter also had 20,000
men at Grenada and 4, 000 at Jackson, Miss. Grant
would run the river batteries with the gun-boats
and transports loaded with supplies, march his
troops down the west side of the river to the
vicinity of New Carthage, below Vicksburg, and
then ferry them across to the east bank. It was a
desperate attempt and to its successful outcome
Sherman contributed his full share.

A part of the latter s corps was sent up the river
to make a diversion against Pemberton, and this
work was finely accomplished. McClernand was
ordered to New Carthage ; the transports and gun
boats successfully passed the batteries at Vicksburg.
At the end of April Grant joined McClernand, and
then marched to a point opposite Grand Gulf, twenty
miles south of Vicksburg. Pemberton, thinking that
this was merely a demonstration, took more heed to
his right at Haines Bluff, where Sherman was mak
ing the necessary pretense of activity. In this in
stance, at least, the latter proved himself an able

Charles A. Dana, who had recently joined the
forces operating against Vicksburg, in order to give
Lincoln and Secretary Stanton his private views of
the efficiency of Grant then considered a doubtful


quantity at Washington furnishes an attractive es
timate of Sherman about this time. " Everything I
saw of Sherman," he says, " increased my admira
tion for him. He was a very brilliant man, and an
excellent commander of a corps. Sherman s infor
mation was great, and he was a clever talker. He
always liked to have people about who could keep
up with his conversation ; besides, he was genial and
unaffected. I particularly admired his loyalty to
Grant. He had criticised the plan of campaign
frankly in the first place, but had supported every
movement with all his energy. . . . It is a little
remarkable that the three chief figures in this great
Vicksburg campaign Grant, Sherman, and McPher-
son, were all born in Ohio. The utmost cordiality
and confidence existed between these three men, and
it always seemed to me that much of the success
achieved in these marches and battles was owing to
this very fact. There was no jealousy or bickering,
and in their unpretending simplicity they were as
alike as three peas." 1

Before this Sherman had written to his brother :
* Mr. Dana is here. He spent a few hours with me
yesterday, and I went over with him many of the
events of the past year, with the maps and records
with which I am well supplied. Indeed all look to
me for maps and facts. Dana remarked to one of
Grant s staff, incidentally, that he was better pleased
with me than he could possibly have expected."

1 Recollections of the Civil War. Dana was sent to the front
ostensibly as a special commissioner to investigate pay accounts.


How Grand Bluff was finally evacuated by the
enemy ; how Grant, by a series of brilliant yet
hazardous manoeuvres, wherein Sherman assisted so
admirably, defeated Pemberton at Champion s Hill
and then drove him back into the defenses of Vicks-
burg ; how the enemy became demoralized ; how
Pemberton was adroitly " cooped up" all these
features of the campaign are familiar tales. Sher
man, McClernand and McPherson now invested the
works built by the Confederates for the defense of
the city. It seemed like poetic j ustice that Sherman,
on his line of march against Vicksburg, should have
been led to the very point on the Yazoo Eiver
bluffs (May 19th) occupied by the enemy in the De
cember before, when he met with repulse. In secur
ing this position he and Grant, stirred by impatience,
moved in front of their column and "well up
with the advanced skirmishers." There were some
detached works along the crest of the hill, and for a
short time the Confederate bullets whistled merrily
over the heads, and on each side, of the two
generals. How the history of the war might have
been changed if some of the flying lead had hit these
two shining marks ! But they reached the crest in
safety ; the bullets ceased to rain ; Sherman looked
down with unconcealed pleasure from the spot once
so fondly coveted. "He turned to me," relates
Grant, "saying that up to this minute he had felt no
positive assurance of success. This, however, he
said, was the end of one of the greatest campaigns in
history, and I ought to make a report of it at once."


Vicksburg, added Sherman, was not yet captured,
and there was l i no telling what might happen before
it was taken, but whether captured or not, this was
a complete and successful campaign."

It is impossible to underestimate the triumph
which must have filled Grant and his colleague as
they looked back at Vicksburg, and felt how com
pletely they had hemmed in the place. At last
Grant had shown the world that he was no crack-
brained schemer. "We all knew," writes Sher
man, i that General McClernand was still intriguing
against General Grant, in hopes to regain the com
mand of the whole expedition, and that others were
raising a clamor against General Grant in the news
papers at the North. Even Mr. Lincoln and Gen
eral Halleck seemed to be shaken, but at no instant
of time did we, his personal friends, slacken in our
loyalty to him." And so the loyalty of Sherman
was vindicated as he gazed exultantly from the
Yazoo bluffs. No more talk of a crazy Sherman, no
more talk of a drunken, incompetent Grant. Even
if the latter did drink, his brain had not been
fuddled thereby.

Grant soon found that the Confederate works were
too strong to be taken by assault. l We have as
saulted at five distinct points at two distinct times,"
Sherman tells his brother, in a letter dated May
29th, "and failed to cross the parapet. Our loss was
heavy, and we are now approaching with pick and
shovel. ... In the meantime we are daily
pouring into the city a perfect storm of shot and


shells, and our sharp-shooters are close up and fire
at any head that is rash enough to show itself above

Several days later Mr. Dana, who was in General
Grant s headquarters, on a high bluff northeast of
Sherman s extreme left, wrote to his little daughter :
" Every night I sleep with one side of the tent wide
open and the walls put up all around to get plenty
of air. Sometimes I wake up in the night, and
think it is raining, the wind roars so in the tops of
the great oak forest on the hillside where we are en
camped, and I think it is thundering till I look out
and see the golden moonlight in all its glory, and
listen again and know that it is only the thunder of
General Sherman s great guns, that neither rest nor
let others rest by night or by day." Sherman was,
indeed, full of activity throughout this extraordinary

Grant had now settled down to a regular state of
siege ; or, in other words, he saw that he must
starve out the garrison which, skilfully entrenched,
well-armed and stout-hearted, was making so valiant
a defense. Soon the Union engineers were con
structing trenches and batteries, while the firing
from army and navy kept on increasing. In the
city Pemberton, full of anxiety, was cutting down
the rations of his men and wondering whether Gen
eral Joseph E. Johnston would come to his relief
with reinforcements. Johnston, as we know, never
successfully aided Pemberton, although he took the
field and obliged Grant to detail General Blair with


six brigades to hold Min in check. Then Grant re
ceived reinforcements ; seventy thousand men now
threatened Vicksburg ; its investment was more
complete than before. The engineers continued
their mining operations, while the men within the
fortress waxed thinner, and the heart of Peniberton
grew more troubled. In the meantime, General
McOlernand was relieved of his command, after
Sherman and McPherson had complained of a " ful
some" order which he had published to his own
corps, the Thirteenth, and which did gross injustice
to the soldiers of the other corps. The star of this
soldier-politician was no longer u in the ascendant."
On the 22d of June Grant received information
that General Johnston had crossed the Big Black
Eiver, in order to attack the Union forces in the
rear, and thus raise the siege. He at once ordered
Sherman to the command of all the troops from
Haines Bluff, on the Yazoo, to Big Black Elver a
force numbering quite half the troops about Vicks
burg. But Johnston abstained from assaulting the
besiegers, and wisely so, as Grant thought, t i because
it would simply have inflicted loss on both sides
without accomplishing any result." By this time,
outside help failing, the garrison was doomed. The
" Yankees" began to boast that they would cele
brate the coming Fourth of July in Vicksburg.
The picket lines of the contending forces were so
close to each other, in places, that the " Yanks"
and "Eebs" could carry on an animated conversa
tion. " When are you coming into town ? " asked a


Confederate picket. On the Fourth ! replied a
"Yank," and the boast was not an idle one.

It was while Sherman was watching for the ex
pected approach of General Johnston that he had
one of those curious experiences which are possible
only in a fratricidal conflict. As he was riding along
his line, near a farm known as "Parson" Fox s,

he heard that the family of a General W , of

Louisiana, were "refugeeing" in the neighborhood.
The wife of this general happened to be spending the
day at "Parson" Fox s, and thither Sherman went,
for he found that her son had been one of his pupils
in the military academy in Louisiana. He rode into
the place accompanied by his staff and escort, and
discovered "Parson" Fox and a number of ladies
sitting on the porch. To one of these ladies, who
was Mrs. W , Sherman politely introduced him
self, explaining that he was the same Sherman who
had been superintendent at Alexandria, and inquir
ing, in kindly fashion, after her son, the cadet.

Mrs. W - replied that the boy was at that mo
ment inside of Vicksburg, serving as an artillery

"And how is your husband, General W f"
inquired Sherman, in his desire to be courteous, for
he had known the general before the war.

The poor woman burst into tears. t i You killed
him at Bull Run, where he was fighting for his
country ! " she cried. At this all the women on the
porch went into hysterical lamentations, and the
discomfited Sherman beat a hasty retreat. He


could face a great army, but not the tears of a heart
broken wife.

This interview, however, did not end the incident.
It was the day before the Fourth of July when, as
Sherman sat at his bivouac by the roadside, he saw
a wretched horse, led by a small pickaninny, coming
across a cotton-field toward him. Upon the horse

was Mrs. W , presenting a sad and dreary


Sherman ran forward, helped the unhappy lady
to dismount, and asked what had brought her out
in such guise.

"I know that Vicksburg is going to surrender, "
she cried, i i and I want to go there right away to see
my boy ! "

Sherman tried to dissuade her from the attempt,
and did all he could to console her ; but she held her
point with all the warm-hearted obstinacy of a
mother who must see her child and will not be denied.
At last the general, who could not forget that he
had children of his own, gracefully surrendered.
He gave her a letter to General Grant, asking him
to give the mother the earliest opportunity of seeing
her son. There was a distance of about twenty miles
between Sherman and Grant, but off the lady rode
on her scrawny charger, and it is pleasant to know
that she finally saw the boy, who had escaped un
harmed from the shot and shell fired into the fortifi
cations. A few hours later Sherman received word
from Grant that negotiations for the surrender of
Vicksburg were in progress.


About ten o clock on this very morning white
flags suddenly appeared on portions of the Confeder
ate works. At last the starving- out process, so
much grimmer and so much surer than a hundred
assaults, had won. General Pemberton sent two
of his officers to Grant, bearing a letter propos
ing an armistice, with capitulation in view. "I
make this proposition," he wrote, with a bravado
that a conqueror might pardon, i i to save the further
effusion of blood, which might otherwise be shed to
a frightful extent, feeling myself fully able to main
tain my position for a yet indefinite period."

Grant was like Sherman, in that he always had a
chivalrous respect for the courage of the South un
like certain stay-at-home politicians who never could
speak of Confederates save as " cowardly traitors,"
etc. He replied to Pemberton that he would expect
the unconditional surrender of the city and garrison,
but he added : * t Men who have shown so much en
durance and courage as those now in Vicksburg
will always challenge the respect of an adversary,
and I can assure you will be treated with all the re
spect due to prisoners of war."

After a meeting and some correspondence between
Grant and Pemberton, the latter yielded up Vicks
burg. About 31,000 prisoners were surrendered on
parole, together with 172 cannon, some 60,000 mus
kets, and a large quantity of ammunition. On the

1 After Grant entered Vicksburg he saw Union soldiers taking
bread from their haversacks, and handing it to their late ene
mies. " It was accepted with avidity and with thanks."


afternoon of the same day, the Fourth of July, Grant
sent the following despatch to Halleck :

i The enemy surrendered this morning. The only
terms allowed is their parole as prisoners of war.
This I regard as a great advantage to us at this mo
ment. . . . Sherman, with a large force, moves
immediately on Johnston, to drive him from the

The capture of Yicksburg, coming at the same
time as the defeat of General Lee at Gettysburg,
carried joyousness and hope into the hearts of the
loyal Northerners. The croakers began to hide their
diminished heads, and Grant and Sherman were ac
claimed the heroes of the day while Meade,
McPherson and the others also soon learned
the truth of the axiom that nothing succeeds like
success. The Confederates surrendered Port Hud
son on July 9th ; the Mississippi River was now
in possession of the Federal forces ; and the Army
of the Tennessee was enabled to unite with the Army
of the Gulf, thus making a line of division in the
Confederate states. Furthermore, Pennsylvania no
longer stood in fear of an invasion by Lee.

With a pride that may easily be condoned, after
the slurs he had suffered, Sherman writes to his
brother: "The fall of Vicksburg, and consequent
capitulation of Port Hudson, the opening of the
navigation of the Mississippi, and now the driving
out of this great valley the only strong army that
threatened us, complete as pretty a page in the
history of war and of our country as ever you could


ask my name to be identified with. The share I
have personally borne in all these events is one in
which you may take pride for me. You know I
have avoided notoriety, and the press, my standard
enemy, may strip me of all popular applause; but
not a soldier of the Army of the Tennessee but knows
the part I have borne in this great drama, and the
day will come when that army will speak in a voice
that cannot be drowned."

The press, however, generously accorded due
praise to the victorious generals. Even the New
York Herald, once so lugubrious, became almost
ecstatic. "New York was electrified," it says,
" with the joyful news of the surrender of Vicksburg
on the Fourth of July. Of all the days in the
calendar this was the day to give the most powerful
moral effect, in the loyal and in the rebellious states,
to this great achievement. The splendid victory of
General Meade, on the 3d in Pennsylvania, and this
magnificent triumph of General Grant on the l glo
rious Fourth, 7 a thousand miles away on the Missis
sippi, are two of the most remarkable, ominous and
appropriate events, in a chronological view, of all
the strange and wonderful coincidences of the war.
We may now say, without a misgiving or reserva
tion, that not only have we broken the backbone,
but the head and front of the Rebellion ; that its
days are numbered, and that a general collapse from
Virginia to Texas is close at hand." And gaining
in enthusiasm, as the leader continues down the
page, the Herald predicts that Lee s retreating


army will speedily be captured or cut to pieces.
* i In anticipation of this decisive work, we may say
that even at this moment the rebellion is sup
pressed" (July 8, 1863).

The Herald of course was going too fast. Lee s
army escaped, and although the " backbone" of the
Rebellion was broken, the " head" was not crushed
until nearly two years later. There was still great
work to do, with Sherman as one of the chief partic
ipants. For his services in the Vicksburg cam
paign he was made a brigadier-general in the reg
ular army, with a commission to date, appropriately,
from July 4, 1863. He was now ready for greater



As soon as General Johnston heard of the fall of
Vicksburg he retired with his army to Jackson,
Miss., being "too late, 7 as he telegraphed to the
Eichmond government, to retrieve the campaign.
A number of critics, including some on his own side
of Mason and Dixon s line, seemed to think that he
might have been more aggressive in his attempts to
help General Pemberton. But, for the matter of
that, Pemberton was criticised for his necessary sur
render. Failure in war always brings a variety of
condemnation, just and unjust.

Sherman, with a force raised to nearly 50, 000 men,
crossed the Big Black Eiver and concentrated his
army within twenty miles of Jackson. The march
was a distressing one, owing to the intense heat ; nor
did the fact that the streams crossed by the columns
were filled with dead cattle, thrown there by the
swiftly retreating Confederates, make the movement
any more attractive. Sherman, however, was al
ways prompt in his marches ; he was soon closely
besieging Johnston at Jackson, and shelling the town
from every direction. The latter was in no position
to stand an operation of this character, so he made
preparations to slip away quietly to the eastward.


On the morning of July 17th Sherman found the
place evacuated, and so took possession of it. Pur
suit was useless. There were, of course, a number
of Confederate sick and wounded whom Johnston
was obliged to leave behind. To these Sherman
issued medicines and food, while a large quantity of
rations was given to the half-starved families living
in the town. This was only a fair exchange, when
it is considered that Grant s army, by foraging, had
laid waste the country for fifty miles around Vicks-
burg. Grant himself (who was now a major-general
in the regular army) had thus written to Sher
man : * i Impress upon the men the importance of
going through the state in an orderly manner, ab
staining from taking anything not absolutely neces
sary for their subsistence while traveling. They
should try to create as favorable an impression as
possible upon the people. 7 Evidently the time was
not yet ripe for the advent of Sherman s " bum
mers" those light-fingered gentlemen who were
destined to make his name execrated for a generation
in the South.

Sherman was now ordered back to Vicksburg.
Near the city he encamped his corps, and remained
inactive for a short time. While here his heart
must have been gladdened by a letter which he re
ceived from John Sherman. " With you," says the
senator, "it [the press] has been especially lauda
tory. Even your old enemy, the Cincinnati Gazette,
has in several recent numbers spoken of you in very
complimentary terms and without any apparent


recollection that it has libeled you for months.
Indeed, it is now unnecessary for you to care for de
fenders." l

We may defy newspaper opinion as we will, but
we are all human enough to rejoice when a journal
changes from an enemy into a friend. And thus
Sherman was happy, as he looked after army routine,
with Vicksburg in the near distance, and pursued
his favorite occupations of letter- writing and anath
ematizing the politicians. One long and interest
ing letter was addressed to General Halleck, in re
sponse to an invitation to submit certain ideas,
which might be conveyed to Mr. Lincoln, on the
coming question of " reconstruction 7 in Louisiana,
Mississippi and Arkansas. The gist of Sherman s
advice was to i i raise the draft to its maximum, fill
the present regiments to as large a standard as pos
sible, and push the war, pure and simple." In this
communication it will also be seen that the writer,
impelled by his own line of thinking, the inevitable
trend of military operations, and the passions
naturally engendered by what he calls a "fratricidal
war," had developed into a species of radical. He
was not an * Abolitionist, " or a mawkish sentimen
talist about the "poor colored brother," but yet as
much of a radical in his way as was Mr. Jeiferson
Davis in his way.

" I would deem it very unwise at this time, or for
years to come," he wrote to Halleck, " to revive the
state governments of Louisiana, etc. , or to institute
1 " The Sherman Letters, " page 210.


iii this quarter any civil government in which the
local people have much to say. They had a govern
ment so mild and paternal that they gradually for
got they had any at all, save what they themselves
controlled ; they asserted an absolute right to seize
public moneys, forts, arms, and even to shut up the
natural avenues of commerce. They chose war
they ignored and denied all the obligations of the
solemn contract of government, and appealed to
force. We accepted the issue, and now they begin
to realize that war is a two-edged sword."

This was a slightly different view from that of
Jefferson Davis, who afterward in referring to these
times, spoke of i L those terrible scenes of wrong and
blood in which the government of the United States,
driven to desperation by our successful resistance,
broke through every restraint of the Constitution, of
national law, of justice, and of humanity." Sher
man s stand was somewhat different, too, from the one
he had taken less than four years before, when he
wrote to John Sherman, from Louisiana, that "it
would be the height of folly to drive the South to des
peration." But such a change in sentiment was
inevitable. Sherman s views grew fiery, perforce,
just as did the views of many honest Southerners.
The time for compromise on either side had passed ;

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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 8 of 22)