Wilmer W MacElree.

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Mobile and Ohio Boad, he attacked and captured in suc-
cession all the small posts, and destroyed the railroad as far
as the Kentucky line, where he rested on the 25th. Thence
he began to retrace his steps toward the southeast, along
the branch railroad running from Union City through
Dresden. (See map. Frontispiece.) Meanwhile, Sullivan
had been reinforced at Jackson by troops sent back by
Grant from Oxford, and had collected a force of about
4,000 men. He sent this force forward to Humboldt


and Trenton, and then, hearing that Forrest was at Dresden,
marched across to Huntington to intercept his retreat. Tor-
rest, however, passed around his rear, between Huntington
and Humboldt, and would have escaped easily, but for i
delay in crossing his wagons through a muddy stream,
where the bridges had been destroyed. As soon as this was
passed he continued his march toward Lexington, and Sulli-
van pushed after him with all haste, moving south on the
direct road from Huntington to Lexington. On December
31st, at a point known as Parker's Cross Eoads, a few miles
north of Lexington, the leading brigade of Sullivan's com-
mand, and Forrest's troops came in sight of each other on
converging roads, and a fight was inevitable. This bri-
gade numbered about 1,500 men, and Forrest was more
than a match for it; he gradually drove it eastward and
southward from the cross-roads, but the fighting lasted
several hours, and during this time Sullivan was advancing
with his other brigade, and, about 3 p.m., came upon For-
rest's rear. Forrest was then obliged to extricate himself
as best he could, and he succeeded in escaping with a loss
of about 800 men, six guns, and several caissons and am-
munition wagons. Continuing his retreat through Lexing-
ton that night and the following day, he was approaching
Clifton, on the morning of January 1st, when he discov-
ered a regiment of Union cavalry, sent by Dodge from
Corinth, across the road. This was quickly driven off, and
he reached the river bank at noon. Raising the same old flat-
boat which had served him two weeks before, but which had
since sunk, he ferried his men and wagons over, and swam his
animals, and by eight o'clock in the evening he was safe on the
eastern bank of the Tennessee. An additional force of cav-
ahy sent from Corinth did not reach Clifton until January 3d,
and was then merely able to exchange shots across the river.


In this raid Forrest had destroyed the railroad from point
to point throughout the distance of sixty miles from Jack-
son to Columbus ; and with a loss of less than 400 men, he
claims to have killed, wounded, and captured nearly 2,500 of
his enemy. Grant's communications with Columbus and
Washington were cut off from the 19th to the 30th of De-
cember, and the transportation of supplies was interrupted
for a longer period.

While Forrest was thus striking against the upper part of
Grant's communications, another move was made against
that portion of them between Holly Springs and Grand
Jttnction. Just prior to that time, viz., on December 13th,
Grant had sent the greater part of his own cavalry on a raid
against the Mobile and Ohio Eoad in the vicinity of Tupelo.
They were engaged on this expedition, when, on the 19th,
word was received that a considerable body of Confederate
cavalry had left Grenada the day previous, and was moving
northward past Grant's left flank, with the evident intention
of striking his rear. Van Dom had, in fact, taken personal
command of all the cavalry in his army — about 3,500 men —
and moved northward for this purpose. Grant immediately
collected what cavaliy he had left and sent them back as
rapidly as possible to defend the railroad, and at the same
time telegraphed to the commanding oiHcers of Holly
Springs, Grand Junction, and other points in rear, notifying
them of the movement of the enemy's cavalry, and directing
them to be prepared, and to defend their posts at aU haz-
ards. These orders were received and acknowledged on
the afternoon of the 19th, yet, nevertheless, at daylight on
the 20th, Col. Murphy, commanding at Holly Springs, was
completely surprised by Van Dom, and his force of 1,500
men was captured, with the exception of the Second Illinois
Cavalry, who gallantly cut their way out. Van Dorn
stopped for a day to burn up the supplies forming Grant's


depot, estimated at $1,500,000 in value, and then pushed
on northward to Davis's Mills, just south of Grand Junc-
tion, where he was beaten off on the 21st. He then ad-
vanced to Bolivar, where he was unsuccessful in a skirmish
on the 24th, which induced him to retrace his steps. He
^attacked the little post of Middleburg, Just south of Bolivar,
where he was met by a most gallant defence, and was driven
off. He then passed to the east of Grand Jimction, and
reached Bipley on the 25th. Grant had sent all his available
cavalry in pursuit, under Col. Mizner, but the pursuit was
feeble, and Van Dorn was not overtaken. Mizner gave up
the chase beyond Bipley, and Van Dom returned in safety
to Grenada, passing again beyond Grant's left flank.

These two simultaneous raids of Forrest and Van Dom
had a most decisive effect upon the issue of the campaign.
Van Dorn destroyed the depot of accumulated supplies, and
Fon-est destroyed the on]y road by which fresh supplies
could be brought up. The country had been exhausted by
the support of two armies subsisting on it in part for several
months. There was no alternative for Grant but to fall
back and open direct communications with Memphis. He
immediately put his army on three-quarter rations, made
preparations to gather up whatever food was still left in the
country, and issued orders to fall back behind the Talla-
hatchie on December 21st. On the 23d Grant wrote from
Holly Springs to "The Commanding Officer, Expedition
down the Mississippi," saying that the Confederate raids
had broken up his communications, that he had fallen back
behind the Tallahatchie, and that any farther advance on
his part was impracticable. He would therefore be unable
to hold the enemy on the Yallabusha, except by a mere de-
monstration. This was six days before Sherman attacked at
Chickasaw Bluffs, and, had the letter reached him, it would


doubtless have modified Sherman's operations. But it had
to go by courier to Memphis, and there await a boat going
down the river. McClemand arrived at Memphis before
any boat left, and the letter was delivered to him. Sher-
man, therefore, did not hear of its contents until communi-
cated to him by McClemand on January 3d, several days
after his assault had been made. There was no communica-
tion of any kind between Grant and Sherman from the time
the latter left the vicinity of Oxford, on December 8th, until
the arrival of the steamer which brought McClemand.

During the last week in December, Grant gradually with-
drew a portion of his troops from the Tallahatchie, sending
them to the vicinity of Grand Junction, with orders to re-
open and guard the railroad from Memphis to Corinth. He
remained in person at Holly Springs, and the greater part
of McPherson's command was posted in advance on the Tal-
lahatchie. Telegraphic communication had meantime been
re-established with Washington, via Columbus, and on
January 8th Grant received a telegram from Halleck, dated
the night before, saying that Kichmond papers had been
received, giving full accounts of Sherman's repulse at Chick-
asaw Bluffs, and urging him in the strongest language to
take all disposable force in Mississippi and West Tennessee,
and reinforce Sherman at once. Grant immediately gave
orders to abandon Holly Springs and move back to the
vicinity of Grand Junction. He then repaired to Memphis,
arriving there on January 10th, sent letters of inquiry to
McClemand and Porter, and telegraphed to St. Louis for
transportation to take 16,000 men to Vicksburg.

It is now necessary to follow the course of Sherman's move-
ments down the Mississippi. He reached Memphis on his
return from Oxford, as already stated, on December 12th ; and
immediately sent dispatches of Grant's and his own to Por-


ter, at Cairo, asking for the co-operation of his fleet, and to
the Chief Quartermaster at St. Louis, requiring transports
for 30,000 men to be at Memphis in time to start on the
18th. It was short notice, but by the energy of Col. Robert
Allen and Capt. L. B. Parsons, sisty-seven boats arrived at
Memphis on the morning of the 19th, and the embarkation
began on the same day. Porter's fleet had arrived the pre-
vious day. Sherman had brought back with him the divi-
sion of M. Ij. Smith, and at Memphis he found the new regi-
iments sent forward by McClemand ; these he organized
into two divisions, under A. J. Smith and G. W. Morgan.
The troops at Helena were organized into a fourth division
under Brig.-Gen. P. Steele. The whole force amounted to 50
regiments and 10 batteries, and numbered in all about 32,000
men with 60 guns. The expedition left Memphis on De-
cember 20th, stopped at Helena on the 21st to pick up
Steele's division, resumed its journey on the 22d, and reached
Milliken's Bend, twenty miles above Vicksburg, before day-
light on the 25th. Here A. J. Smith's division was landed
on the Louisiana shore, to advance against and break up the
railroad coming into Vicksburg from the west, over which
great quantities of supplies were transported to the Confed-
erates. On the 26th, the remaining three divisions contin-
ued on to the mouth of the Yazoo Eiver, and moved up that
river thirteen miles, where they disembarked on the bottom
lands between the Yazoo Eiver and the Walnut Hills. A. J.
Smith's division rejoined them the next day.

These hUls are simply a portion of the gi-eat bluff bound-
ing the valley of the Mississippi Eiver on the east. The
waters of the Mississippi run sharp against this bluff at
Vicksburg, but just above that city the river and bluff
diverge, the latter trending off to the northeast, and not
being met again by the Mississippi short of Memphis, a dis-
VIII.— 4


tance of over two hundred miles in a straight line. The
space between the river and the bluflf, which is sixty miles
wide at its widest part, is low bottom land filled with innum-
erable creeks and bayous and lakes marking former beds of
the river. All of these waters are drained southeastwardly
into the Yazoo Eiver, which runs along the base of the
bluff for over one hundred miles, and is formed at its head
by the Tallabusha and Tallahatchie Elvers, draining the
high land north and east of Grenada.

It was Sherman's intention to descend the Mississippi
as rapidly as possible, and, while Grant held the bulk of
Pemberton's force on the Tallabusha, near Grenada, to
surprise, if possible, the Confederates at Vicksburg, and
gain possession of a point of the Walnut Hills, near
Haines' bluff, twelve miles northeast of Vicksburg, from
which his force could be supplied by the Mississippi
and Yazoo Bivers. Then, if he was strong enough, he
would take Vicksburg himself; if not, he hoped to cut
the railroad between Vicksburg and Jackson, and then
defend himself on the banks of the Yazoo until Grant's
force, pushing Pemberton south from Grenada, could join
him. The whole plan was based on the idea of a surprise
on Sherman's part, and a co-operation between the two
armies. It entirely miscarried. The co-operation of Grant's
force was rendered impossible, as we have seen, by the de-
struction of his supplies and communications by Van Dom
and Forrest ; and the anticipation of a surprise was not real-
ized. The Confederates not only had spies in Memphis,
and in every plantation along the river bank, but they had
small detachments of cavahy, partisans, and guerillas con-
cealed along the river. Sherman's progress was reported by
them with great accuracy twice a day from the hour of leav-
ing Memphis. These reports reached Pemberton on De-


cember 23d and 2itli from so many different sources as to
leave no doubt of their accuracy. The whole plan was
thus revealed to Johnston and Pemberton, who immediately
took steps to frustrate it.

On the 23d, Vaughn's brigade was ordered from Grenada
to Vicksburg, followed on the 25th by one brigade, and
on the 26th by the other brigade of Maury's division.
These movements were quickly made by rail. On the 26th
word was received that Sherman's troops were landing up
the Yazoo, and Pemberton immediately went in person to
Vicksburg, ordering Price's corps, at Grenada, and Steven-
son's division, lately arrived at Jackson from Chattanooga,
to follow him. Instead, then, of having to contend with
the 6,000 men forming the garrison of Vicksburg, Sher-
man had not less than 12,000 men in front. of him in for-
tified positions along the bluff. The bluff was fully two
hundred feet high, and had an unbroken view of the
whole bottom land as far as the Yazoo. A thousand men
posted in trenches on this bluff ought easily to keep
off, and slaughter ten thousand moving to attack, and the
enterprise was doomed to failure. Sherman, however,
knew nothing of the arrival of Confederate reinforcements,
and having proceeded thus far, it was out of the ques-
tion for him to withdraw without making a vigorous as-

Sherman landed his troops at Johnson's plantation, oppo-
site the mouth of Steele's bayou, on December 26th. The
triangular space between Vicksburg, Haines' Bluff, and
Johnson's plantation is bounded by the Yazoo Eiver on one
side, and the Walnut Hills on the other. It is low, allu-
vial land, overflowed in the highest stages of the river,
and filled at.all times with a number of bayous and swamps.
In the whole twelve miles between Haines' Bluff and Vioks-



burg there were but five points where it was practicable
to pass from the Yazoo through the network of bayous to


Chickasaw Bluffs. December 29,

the bluffs. All of these points were coumianded by Con-
federate batteries. At the point where Sherman landed he
had Chickasaw Bayou on his left and a former bed of the


Yazoo, commonly known as " the Lake," in his front. Still
farther to his left was another stagnant bayou called Thomp-
son's Lake. Chickasaw Bayou, Thompson's Lake, and " the
Lake " all unite at a point about two miles from the Yazoo
and half a mile from the blu£fs, and at this point a small
brook running out from the hills empties into them.

In landing, Steele's division formed the extreme left, on
the left of Chickasaw Bayou, Morgan's division came neit
on the right of that bayou, M. L. Smith's division next, and
A. J. Smith's on the right, following the road leading from
Johnson's plantation direct to Vioksburg. These positions
were taken on the 27th, and during that day the four col-
umns moved forward skirmishing slightly with the enemy.
On the 28th a general advance was made, in the nature of
a reconnoissance, as far as the lake in front of the bluff ; in
this reconnoissance M. L. Smith was seriously wounded
in the hip and obliged to leave the field, a loss greatly
regretted by Sherman in his report. On the left, Steele
found his way blocked by Thompson's Lake, which could
only be crossed on a narrow corduroy causeway, completely
enfiladed by one of the enemy's batteries, which would mow
down the narrow head of column as fast as the men could
show themselves ; he was therefore ordered to return to
the Yazoo Eiver, cross back in the transports to the other
side of Chickasaw Bayou, and come up in support of Mor-
gan's division ; this he did during the afternoon and night
of the 28th. In the centre, Morgan, who had the only pon-
toon train in the command, laid it across a small bayou sup-
posing it to be the old lake near the bluff; on reaching the
latter he found that there was a natural crossing over it.
On the right A. J. Smith advanced along the main road on a
line with the other columns. There was considerable skir-
mishing throughout the day with the advanced pickets of


the Confederates, but the losses were slight, the. Confed-
erates retiring to the bluff. The troops passed the night
of the 28th in position along the lake paraUel to the
bluff and about five hundred yards from it. The next
morning (29th) further reconnoissances were made and or-
ders were then given for the assault. The main attack was
to be made against the centre of the enemy's Hue by Mor-
gan's division, supported by Steele's ; A. J. Smith, with the
division of M. L. Smith and one brigade of his own, was to
cross a narrow sand bar across the lake about a mile below
the point of Morgan's attack, and then advance against the
levee, on the other side of which the Confederates were
strongly intrenched ; this attack was to be a demonstration
in the nature of a diversion in favor of Morgan, or a real at-
tack, according to the amount of success achieved. On the
extreme right the rest of A. J. Smith's division was to make
a demonstration on the road to Vioksburg.

At twelve o'clock the signal for the assault was given and
immediately De Courcy's brigade of Morgan's division
crossed the lake and advanced through a terrible fire over
the half mile of gently sloping ground in the nature of a
glacis, which led up to the Confederate works on the bluff.
On his left, Blair's brigade of Steele's division crossed the
lake near its junction with Chickasaw Bayou, and made a
similar advance through an equally hot fire. These two
brigades reached the enemy's works, but they were entirely
unsupported; Thayer's brigade of Steele's division took a
wrong direction and only one regiment was brought into ac-
tion ; Lindsey's brigade attempted to build a bridge across
the lake on De Courcy's right, but did not succeed and did
not cross the lake at all ; Sheldon's brigade of the same di-
vision was not brought into action further than to come up
in rear of Lindsey where it lost a dozen men by stray shots.


The attack of M. L. Smith's division was not successful ; one
regiment in the lead, the Sixth Missouri, crossed the sand-
bar but found that the only way to climb the levee was by a
narrow path barely wide enough for two men abreast ; the
Confederates were almost over their heads, and but forty feet
from them, and it was impossible to advance against their
fire on this narrow path ; this regiment therefore sheltered
itself by digging out part of the bank of the levee with their
hands and remained there until darkness enabled them to
retreat. The whole brunt of the assault was made by the
two brigades of De Courcy and Blair, and one regiment
(Fourth Iowa) of Thayer's brigade, numbering not more
than 6,000 men in all ; they advanced with the utmost gal-
lantry right up to the Confederate works, but arrived there
they looked around and saw that nothing was coming to
their support. The other two brigades of Morgan's divi-
sion did practically nothing to assist them. Cut to pieces
by front and cross fire, De Courcy's and Blair's men were
finally forced to yield, and between 3 and 4 p.m. they fell
back and reorossed the levee. De Courcy's brigade lost
about 700, Blair's 743, and the Fourth Iowa 111 men ; the
losses in the rest of the force amounted to less than 400,
the exact total being 1,929, viz.: 191 killed, 982 wounded,
and 756 missing. The batteries against which the attack
was made were defended by only six regiments of S. D.
Lee's brigade, which formed a part of the original garrison
of Vicksburg under Martin L. Smith. Their loss was less
than 100 men, and the entire losses of the Confederates dur-
ing the skirmishing of the 27th and 28th and the assault of
the 29th was only 57 killed, 120 wounded, and 10 missing ;
total 187.

Sherman's troops remained in their positions close to the
lake during the night of the 29th. He at first thought of


renewing the assault in the morning, but concluded that the
position was too strong, especially as the enemy would now
concentrate all his force upon the point where the attack
had been made. He therefore determined to hold his pres-
ent ground, but send 10,000 men to try an assault higher
up the river at Haines' Bluff. Porter agreed to escort the
transports and cover the landing, and the movement was
fixed for the night of December 31st. The troops were
selected and embarked during the night, and Sherman
then returned to his original position, intending to engage
the enemy there as soon as cannonading should be heard
above. At daylight, however, he received word that the fog
was so dense that the boats could not move, and the affair
must be postponed until the next night. During the day
he received further word from Porter that, on the next
night, the moon would not set untU 5.25 a.m., so that the
landing could not be made in darkness. Porter considered
the affair too hazardous under these circumstances, and it
was therefore abandoned.

The position in which Sherman's troops were now situated
was extremely disagreeable and dangerous ; they were biv-
ouacked in the low, marshy, bottom land, where a slight
rise in the river any night might swamp and drown the
whole command; the water-marks on the trees ten feet
above the ground had an ominous look, and all were of
opinion that any further assaults were impracticable. Sher-
man therefore determined to re-embark his men, and return
to the mouth of the Yazoo Eiver, which was done without
opposition from the enemy on January 2d. Here he met
McClemand, who had reached Memphis on December 28th,
left on the 30th, and ai-rived at MiUiken's Bend on Janu-
ary 1st. He exhibited his orders placing him in com-
mand of the river expedition, and Sherman immediately re-


linquished the command, and, in his own -words, " subsided
quietly into the more agreeable office of a corps com-
mander," with the intention to " endeavor to make it a good

The project of a combined movement on Vioksburg,
partly by land and partly by the river, thus ended in com-
plete failure. The failure was due to the destruction of
Grant's supplies through the cowardice or incapacity of the
officer in command at Holly Springs, and to the formidable
character of the Confederate position for defence, both of
which were contingencies ■which could not have been fore-
seen. Yet it cannot be forgotten that the Mississippi was
opened from Cairo to Memphis in the most brilliant and suc-
cessful manner by the campaign from Fort Henry to Corinth,
conducted in rear of the river by a united army ; that all at-
tempts against Vicksburg by the river failed, and, after
months of unsuccessful efforts through creeks and bayous, it
was finally taken by a campaign against its rear, starting from
the south of Vicksburg. It is therefore a question for dis-
cussion whether it would not have been better to have estab-
lished a base at Memphis, repaired the railroad south of that
point, and advanced with every available man united in a
single force, along the Mississippi Central Railroad, for the
purpose of bringing Pemberton to battle and crushing him.
If he declined battle, he must either have retreated on Mo-
bile, leaving Vicksburg free, or else have retreated into Vicks-
burg, whence he could have been followed as far as Haines'
Bluff, and a base established there, as was done in the
spring of 1863. The risks of such a movement were far less
than in the final campaign from Bruinsbm'g through Jack-
son to Haines* Bluff. It will be remembered that a direct
movement from Memphis against the rear of Vicksburg was
the one suggested by Grant in his letter to Halleck, of Oc-


tober 26th, before he had any intimation of the plans of
Halleck or the President. Grant, however, had only a lim-
ited discretion in the matter, and the responsibility for the
movements ia December, 1862, whether wise or nnwise,
mnst rest with the anthorities in Washington. While Grant
approved, and even urged, the movement down the river,
yet aU other movements were rendered impossible by his

There is one other feature which must be stated in order
to complete the discussion of this first movement against
Vicksburg, and that is the co-operation expected from New
Orleans. No allusion has hitherto been made to it, because
there was no such co-operation, but it was fully intended

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Online LibraryWilmer W MacElreeThe army in the civil war.. → online text (page 6 of 21)