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Vicksburg Battle.


January and February 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, January 15, 1863.


Succinct and Graphic Account of the whole Expedition.



The Disastrous Repulse of the National Forces.



Incidental Matters, &c.

[Special correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

MILLIKEN’S BEND, LA., January 3, 1863,

Twenty-five miles above Vicksburg.

We have met the enemy and they are not ours, but, on the contrary, quite the reverse. It was a favorite axiom of Sam Patch that “some things could be done, as well as others;” but that is a rule that has many exceptions, and Gen. Sherman’s expedition is one of them. Veni, vidi, vici-–in a horn. In other words, we came, we saw, and did not conquer. Having failed to take Vicksburg, the next best thing was to prevent being taken ourselves, and we did it nobly. A dark night is sometimes an excellent institution, especially if it be accompanied with plentiful showers of rain, with a due infusion of fog. Under cover of such a fortunate concentration of events, the right wing of the 13th army corps, under command of Major-General W. T. Sherman, saved its bacon, else your correspondent would now probably be the forced recipient of the hospitalities of the good people of Vicksburg, and subsisting on “corn bread and common doings,” instead of faring sumptuously every day at the bountifully-spread board of the steamer White Cloud.

But the matter is too grave to treat lightly. A stupid blunder, and an ignoble attempt to forestall another general’s laurels, have brought shame and calamity to our country, desolation and woe to more than 2000 households, and peril to the cause of liberty and free government.

When on 20 December last, this noble fleet of over a hundred transports, bearing an immense army, proudly steamed out of the port of Memphis, with colors flying and drums beating, who could have imagined the humiliating finale of such an immense enterprise, inaugurated under such hopeful auspices? Why these hopes were blasted, and who is responsible for such a gigantic disaster, are questions which the American people will insist on having answered. When they are answered, the causes will be found in the mismanagement, incompetence and probable insanity of the commanding General, and the intemperance, negligence and general inefficiency of nearly the whole of the line and field officers of his command. Facts, of the most stubborn kind, as they are gradually developed, will bear this out sweeping assertion. From notes made on the way, and throughout this expedition, I will endeavor to give your readers a brief but faithful account of all the events of interest attending it.


On Saturday morning orders were issued for all the troops to embark on their respective transports, and be ready to move by nine o’clock on Sunday morning, but for want of a system, many unexpected delays occurred, which detained the fleet until late in the afternoon. The scene of confusion which characterized this embarkation was probably never paralleled, except by an army making a precipitate retreat. Companies were separated from their regiments, and officers from their companies; batteries were on one boat, and caissons belonging to them on another; and the horses and artillerymen on still another. The case was just as bad with the cavalry regiments, if not worse. There seemed to have been no places provided for them, and so they and their horses were scattered about on various boats, in little squads, wherever room could be found, and not the slightest attention was paid to putting the men on the same boats with their horses. In case of emergency, to have put a single company of cavalry onshore, mounted and equipped, would have involve the necessity of landing a half dozen boats. Part of this confusion may have been attributable to the fact that on the day previous the army had been paid off for the first time in several months, and men and officers were nearly all lively with drink.


All the transports were crowded to their utmost capacity, and as they had all been hastily pressed into the service without preparation, of course there were no adequate accommodations for the troops, either for comfort or cleanliness. The men were all huddled between decks and on the guards like so many sheep, and at night were compelled to sleep in a space scarcely sufficient for them to stand comfortably in the day time. To make a bad matter worse, nearly every soldier had managed to get a canteen of whisky, enough to keep him drunk for two days with what they had already taken, and for that space of time such a scene of riot and filthiness was scarce ever witnessed. I was shut up on a small boat with such a crowd, and never before realized the full force of the expression, “Hell broke loose.” In the cabin, among the officers, affairs were but little better, so far as sobriety was concerned. A large portion proportion of the officers were drinking and gambling day and night during the entire trip, and their behavior was unbecoming in the extreme. Their conduct excited any other idea, rather than that of a band of patriots going down to fight the battles of their country. Of course there were many noble exceptions, but neither their example more influence could restrain there are more unruly companions.


Until we got below Helena, wood was so scarce on the river that it was only to be obtained by cutting it, either entirely green or from the waterlogged drifts which have caught against the banks. Wherever a good place was discovered, the boats lucky enough to find it landed in all hands went out with axes, and in a few hours enough was obtained to steam on to the next good place.


When the fleet approached Napoleon, Ark., the Post Boy, which is a transportation boat, was in the advance, and as she neared the shore she was hailed by a person bearing a flag of truce, with the information that there was a band of guerrillas just below, waiting to fire upon her. At this time she was the only boat visible, but in a short time the remainder of the fleet made its appearance, and the guerrillas, if there were any, concluded no doubt that we were too many for them. At all events, at this point there was no firing. The houses in the town appeared to be nearly all deserted, but in some of them could be seen persons standing back in the door, as if to escape observation of their neighbors, and waving their handkerchiefs. Napoleon is the place where the first shot was fired at a federal steamer on the Mississippi river, but there may be some Union people there nevertheless.


As we reached this point where a large portion of Gen. Sherman’s army was camped, very little of the city could be seen for the long line of tents stretched along the bank. The fleet stopped there for the night and took on the troops that were to accompany the expedition, and next morning started for Friar’s Point, the first place of rendezvous. It lay there all night apparently without any object, and about nine o’clock next morning again started down the river, and reached Gaines’s Landing, 150 miles below Helena, about two o’clock P. M., where it stopped to wood. As the fleet approached this point the bank appeared to be lined with negroes, who all started down on the shore arriving and shouting and jumping, and cutting all kinds of antics. I learned from some of them that they thought the fleet was going down to set all the slaves free.

When the boats landed, a negro gave information of a large store of wood of the best quality, amounting to more than two thousand cords, secreted in the timber near the bank, in a place where it would not readily have been found. This was a great prize, and was instantly levied for the use of Uncle Sam. Every soldier able to do duty was sent on shore to pack wood, and by nightfall all the boats were well supplied for nearly the whole trip. Near the wood were some ten or twelve houses, one of them a very fine frame. The negro said the owners had gone to join the Southern army, and the soldiers, without more ado, burned them all down. Many of the negroes, if not all, came on the boats, and are now under the protection of the Army.


At early light the next morning the fleet moved on again, and as Gen. Morgan’s division came opposite a little village known as Wood Cottage Landing some guerrillas, secreted in a clump of undergrowth, fired a volley at one of his transports. To teach them a lesson for the future, Gen. Morgan sent some troops on shore and burnt every house in the neighborhood.


This was to be the last rendezvous of the fleet before it started out for active operations on Vicksburg, and we arrived there about dark on the evening of the 24th December. The next day would be Christmas, and many of the soldiers had the idea that the fleet would sail right in without difficulty, and that they would take their Christmas dinner in Vicksburg. Many invitations were given among friends for dinner at the Preston House. They little dreamed of the disappointment in store for them, or that New Year’s day would find them on the wrong side of the hill.


On the night of the 24th, General Sherman sent out a detachment of troops, under command of Gen. M. L. Smith, to tear up a section of the line of the Vicksburg and Texas Railroad, about ten miles west of Vicksburg. The work was well and quickly done, and the stations at Delhi and Dallas burned. After tearing up about a mile of the road, General Smith discovered that the road was already broken at a point eight miles from Vicksburg, so that the damage to the enemy was not as great as had been anticipated. If the fleet had landed a little higher up the river, the expedition might have been as easily sent to Richmond – a little town thirty miles from Vicksburg, and no further from the river then Dallas or Delhi – and by cutting the road there could give the rebels some thirty odd miles more of hauling to do, and so embarrassed them very much. As it was, the expedition accomplished nothing of any importance, and the delay was a very serious detriment to the main expedition, as, of course, the enemy had ample time and opportunity to learn of our approach, and spies could count every boat as it passed, and take a very approximate estimate of our strength straight to Vicksburg.


From two refugees and several contrabands, who came to the fleet while we lay at this point, it was learned very satisfactorily that there were no more than 15,000 troops at the outside in Vicksburg; and that, although there were rifle pits and breastworks in the rear of the city, there were no soldiers posted there or batteries erected. To take the city was thought to be an easy job.


All of Christmas day the fleet lay at Milliken’s Bend, with the troops on the transports, in a state of total inactivity. Nobody knew what it meant, and everybody was suffering from listlessness and ennui. A few ineffectual attempts were made to get up Christmas festivities; but the usual staples were non est, and the day dragged its slow length along as dismally as can be imagined.


At length, as evening approached, an order was received from General Sherman to prepare to move up the Yazoo early the next morning. Immediately all was life and activity. Long faces disappeared, and the joyful anticipation of at length commencing operations on the enemy was manifested in every countenance.


At daylight next morning all was ready, and the fleet started for its destined port, which it reached on the banks of the Yazoo about noon the same day. Many years ago, about 8 miles below the mouth of the Yazoo, the Mississippi cut a new channel for it self across a bend, coming into the main channel again just above Vicksburg. The Yazoo followed the old channel, and the mouth of the river is, therefore, really from twelve to fifteen miles below where it was originally; but from the old mouth to the new the river is known to pilots as “Old river.” Where the fleet landed was about three miles above Old river, where the right rested, and the left extended to within three miles of Hayne’s Bluff, the intervening space being about six miles.


On entering the Yazoo, the first object that attracted the attention was the ruins of a large brick house and several other buildings, which were still smoking. On inquiry, I learned that this was the celebrated plantation of the rebel General, Albert Sidney Johnston, who was killed at Shiloh. It was an extensive establishment, working over three hundred negroes. It contained a large steam sugar refinery, an extensive steam saw-mill, cotton-gins, machine shop, and a long line of negro quarters.

The dwelling was palatial in its proportions and architecture, and the grounds around it were magnificently laid out in alcoves, with arbors, trellises, groves of evergreens and extensive flower beds. All was now a mass of smoldering ruins. Our gunboats had gone up there the day before, and a small battery planted near the mansion announced itself by plugging away at one of the iron-clads, and the marines went ashore after the gunboats had silenced the battery, and burned and destroyed everything on the place. If anything were wanting to complete the desolate aspect of the place, it was to be found in the sombre hued pendant moss, peculiar to Southern forests, and which gives the trees of funereal aspect, as if they were all draped in mourning. As on almost every Southern plantation, there were many deadened trees standing about in the fields, from the limbs of all of which long festoons of moss hung, swaying with a melancholy motion in every breeze.


The weather, since the starting out of the fleet had, up to this time, been very fine; but as evening now approached, a heavy rain commenced, which, from the appearance of things, bid fair to continue for an indefinite period. The Yazoo river was low and the bank’s steep and about thirty-feet high. Along the edge of the water, and reaching to the foot of the bank, is a dense undergrowth of willows, briars, thorns, vines and live oaks, twined together in a most disagreeably promiscuous manner. To effect a landing of the troops and trains, a way had to be cut through this entanglement, from every boat, and this caused such a delay that it was quite dark before all the troops were got on shore. Tents were pitched for the night, pickets sent out, and the army encamped, anxiously awaiting the dawn of the next day.

On the following morning, a scene of confusion ensued which fully equalled that of the embarkation, and, in fact, resulted from it. Companies seeking their regiments, officers seeking their companies; men hunting for missing horses; wagoners seeking their teams, and everybody looking for something which could not be found. The first troops got ashore and brought into line, were Gen. Blair’s brigade, of General Steele’s division, and a brigade each, from General Morgan’s and General M. L. Smith’s divisions. These were ordered out on a reconnaissance, General Blair on the left, and the other brigades on the right. The brigade from General Morgan L. Smith’s division met the enemy’s pickets about a mile and a half from the river, and captured two of them. One of them had quite a number of letters and dispatches, which from their tenor were certainly manufactured for the occasion, and designed to mislead. It was quite apparent, therefore, that it was intended by the enemy that these pickets should be captured. The brigade from General Morgan’s division found the enemy with a battery on the right, two miles from the river, and after a slight skirmish, counter marched and returned to the river, as General Sherman had given peremtory orders that no engagement should be brought on that evening.


Vicksburg is peculiarly situated, being on a hill, with a line of hills surrounding it at a distance of several miles, and extending from Haynes’s Bluff, on the Yazoo, to Warrenton, ten miles below it on the Mississippi. The intervening space is low and swampy, and full of lagoons, lakes, quicksands and bayous. There are few points of approach across it to the hills in the rear of Vicksburg, and these are extremely difficult. The ridge of hills commencing at Haynes’s Bluff, follows the course of the river below at a distance of about four miles, and is about three hundred feet high. Just below Haynes’s Bluff comes in Chickasaw Bayou from the Yazoo, and strikes across the bottom land about midway between the ridge and the river, and heading near Vicksburg.


On Saturday morning, about 10 o’clock, the whole army was drawn up in line of battle, and prepared to make assaults on the enemy’s works at several different points. General Steele’s division was on the left; General A. J. Smith’s on the right; General Morgan’s on the left-center, in General M. L. Smith’s on the right-center.


At Haynes’s Bluff, is a very powerful 8-gun battery and Fort, supported by a force of several hundred infantry. This Fort was the obstacle to our fleet making any further ascent of the Yazoo, and our gunboats had assailed it unsuccessfully on the 24th. While the troops were forming in line of battle, several gunboats were sent up to make another attempt on the battery, but after several hours’ cannonading, the attempt was abandoned as impracticable. The gunboat Benton was completely disabled in the affair, numerous balls having penetrated her sides. The firing from this battery, was remarkable for its accuracy. There were thirty-four shots fired at the Benton, and of the number, twenty-nine struck her, and three balls entered the same porthole. Her brave commander, Captain Gwin, was severely, if not mortally, wounded by a cannon ball, which tore the flesh from his breast and right arm. Five of his men were killed and several more wounded, all the latter by splinters.


After the line of battle was formed, General Morgan L. Smith’s division took the advance, and moved rapidly on the enemy, encountering them about three-quarters of a mile from Chickasaw Bayou. Skirmishing immediately began, and was kept up throughout the day, the enemy contesting every inch of the road, but being gradually pushed back toward the bayou. The evening before, a portion of General Steele’s division had been re-embarked on the transports, and landed above Chickasaw Bayou, for the purpose of attempting to take a battery in the rear, which commanded the only point where a crossing could be made on the extreme right. This was at a place known as Mrs. Lake’s plantation, and the rebels had a force they are in possession of field and house. Owing to the mud and other difficulties, the landing of this portion of General Steele’s division occupied the whole of the day of the 26th, and it did not reach the scene of operations until the morning of the 27th. While General M. L. Smith’s division was skirmishing with the enemy on the right center, General Blair’s brigade and General Morgan’s division had advanced on the left by different routes, and came into position nearly side by side close by Mrs. Lake’s plantation. Skirmishing took place with the enemy’s infantry, and at the same time a masked battery open on Gen. Blair’s brigade. He ordered Hoffman’s Battery to return the fire with shell, and in a few minutes the rebel battery was silenced, and their infantry retreated from the plantation to the cover of a thicket not far off.

By nightfall the enemy had been driven a quarter of a mile of where they were first encountered, and the contest then ceased, both forces resting on their arms, ready to renew the conflict in the morning. During the night, silence and darkness prevailed in both camps. Not a fire was lighted, or a sound made by which either would betray its position to the other. In the night a light wind sprung up, blowing toward the river from the enemy’s position, and the night became clear and frosty. Amid the prevailing silence, and aided by the wind, the sound of cars constantly running could be heard on the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad, no doubt bearing reinforcements to the enemy. During the night, the enemy was no doubt busily engaged in erecting rifle-pits and breast-works, as on the following morning, long lines of them could be seen, where none were visible the night before. Several new batteries were also seen on the heights beyond.


It now became a matter of interest among the troops to know where Gen. Grant was. It had been understood all along that he was to co-operate with Gen. Sherman, and as it was now manifest that the enemy was much stronger than had been anticipated, his presence was anxiously looked for, and all kinds of rumors began to spread in camp as to his whereabouts. Although the reports were very conflicting it came to be generally believe that he had advanced beyond Jackson, and would join Gen. Sherman in the morning of the 27th.


A little before daylight on the morning of the 27th a large rocket was seen to ascend several miles distant from our right center in the direction where it was supposed Gen. Grant would come in on the enemy’s rear. This was believed by the troops to be the signal of his approach, and the enthusiasm of the men was greatly increased by it.


At daylight on Sunday morning, the enemy commenced the battle by a heavy cannonade on General Blair’s brigade and General Morgan’s division from the battery across the bayou, which the detachment from General Steele’s division had been sent out to flank, and at the same time the conflict was renewed by General M. L. Smith’s division, and the enemy in his front, General Smith leading in person. After an hour’s hard fighting, he drove the enemy from their position, and seeing that he could drive them across the bayou, started out to the front with his Chief of Staff, Chas. McDonald, Acting Adjutant General, and two orderlies, to look for a place where he could cross his army in the pursuit, designing to keep the enemy between him and their batteries until he was ready to make a charge on the latter. He discovered a point where a sand-bar had formed in the bayou, and which could be passed without difficulty, and as he was in the act of turning his horse to return to his command, a volley of about seventy shots was fired at him from a force concealed in an adjacent canebrake. One of the shots took effect in his hip, the ball passing in an oblique direction, and lodging in his spine, where it was wedged so tightly that the surgeons could not remove it.

The wound is not supposed to be mortal, but it disables him from further service at present. He evinced great coolness on the occasion, merely turning to his Chief of Staff, and remarking, “Charley, I’ve got one of them.” He then rode on for a half a mile as if nothing had happened, hoping to get to the rear without his men knowing that he was wounded, fearing its demoralizing effect on them. He was unable to proceed further as he rapidly became faint from loss of blood, and had to be taken in an ambulance to his headquarters on one of the transports. The ball has since been extracted, while he was under the influence of chloroform, and his prospect of recovery is now good. He was wounded at a very inopportune moment, and the results [sic] was the loss of the advantage he had gained over the enemy, who now retreated successfully across the bayou and took refuge behind their entrenchments. The command then devolved temporarily upon General Stuart, who seemed somewhat bewildered by the sudden charge which had devolved upon him, but in a short time he recovered his equanimity, and kept up during the day a constant skirmishing with his forces, but without accomplishing anything of any importance. The opportunity of successfully storming the enemy’s batteries in that position was lost by the delay necessarily occasioned by the change of commanders, and it could not be regained.


In the mean time Gen. Blair’s brigade was busily engaged in building a bridge across the bayou by Mrs. Lake’s house, which it succeeded in doing under a very heavy fire, and the brigade passed over in safety, with the loss of but few men. Among these was Colonel John B. Wyman, 13th Illinois infantry, who was killed by a ball passing through his right breast and emerging below the right shoulder blade. He was an efficient officer and accomplished gentlemen, and greatly beloved by all who knew him.


Between Gen. Steele’s and Gen. Morgan’s divisions there was a long slough, making in from the bayou, and at a point extending into a lake by a few hundred yards extent. During the day it became a matter of importance to establish a communication between these two divisions, and Captains Green, Scammon and Lokalski, of Gen. Steele’s staff, were sent out to reconnoiter for a road. After much seeking, they found a place where infantry could cross, but which was impracticable for artillery or cavalry. As long as they advanced they saw no signs of an enemy, but when they started to return they found the whole woods full of sharpshooters, and they had to run the gauntlet for a half mile amid the constant crack of rifles from foes concealed behind trees. They put spurs to their horses, and by rapid flight managed to escape unharmed.


There appears to have been thus far no general plan of battle, in which each commander was assigned a specific part, but the whole operation of the day seem to have been merely a series of skirmishes in which each division commander acted on his own responsibility. Orders were given promiscuously, and obeyed when they suited the ideas of the officer receiving them. In several cases parts of brigades were taken and commanded by officers of other divisions than the one to which they were attached, and in one instance grave consequences very nearly resulted. Gen. Thayer had placed in his brigade in line with the intention of crossing the bayou south of Mrs. Lake’s house, and had given orders that when the first regiment moved, the other three should follow. Gen. Thayer moved the first regiment forward, and under a heavy fire succeeded in crossing the bayou with considerable loss, and turned his men on a road through the woods, and was soon shut out from view of the remaining regiments, but naturally supposed they were following.

In the meantime General Steele had sent word to Gen. Morgan that he needed reinforcements at a particular point, and asked for a regiment. Gen. Morgan thereupon ordered away the 2nd regiment of Gen. Thayer’s brigade, and the 3rd and 4th followed them, according to the orders issued by Gen. Thayer. Gen. Morgan sent word to the latter of the change, but the messenger being killed in crossing the bayou, Gen. Thayer had no knowledge of it, and when he reached the enemy’s front, found himself in the face of the superior force without any support. He was compelled to beat a hasty retreat at the very moment when he believed himself on the point of accomplishing an important achievement. The day passed without any considerable results. The rattling of musketry and booming of cannon had been incessant throughout the day, but when the evening came all the firing ceased, except an occasional gun fired at night by our batteries, in which met with no response. It afterwards appeared that the enemy spent the night in constructing a second line of rifle pits, about two hundred yards in the rear of the first.


No accurate estimate could be made of our loss during the day, but from the best accounts attainable it appeared to be small, not exceeding fifty killed and two hundred wounded. The army was still bivouacking, but tents were sent out for the wounded, into which they were conveyed, and received all the attention possible. At sundown, when the firing ceased, Gen. Blair’s brigade returned from across the bayou and took a position on Gen. Morgan’s right, and to the left of Gen. M. L. Smith’s division. At the extreme right was Gen. A. J. Smith’s division, where it had remained all day; and Gen. Steele was in the rear on the left, as a reserve.


On Monday morning the enemy still remained intrenched in force on the opposite bank of the bayou, and their line of defenses could be seen extending for at least two miles up the bluffs. Batteries were seen planted in every assailable point, and it was evident that the rebels had exerted a most commendable industry during the night, and had prepared to make the most determined resistance to our anticipated assault. The position was naturally strong, and all the appliances of military art and skill had been brought into requisition to make it a second Gibraltar. Far back on the highest peak of the hill they had erected a signal station, overlooking all the battle-ground, and far removed from the reach of shot or shell. By the aid of a glass the persons in charge of the station could be easily seen; and, during the entire day, every movement of our troops was signaled to the commanding General. Many spectators were also posted there with glasses, among whom were a number of women.


It had been arranged that an at an early hour on Monday morning a concerted attack should be made on the enemy’s works at four different points, and to do this it was found necessary to construct three bridges across the bayou so that artillery could be taken over. Accordingly, by daylight parties were sent out to undertake this dangerous enterprise. Wherever men appeared with this view, the enemy immediately commenced a heavy cannonade upon them, and their batteries appeared to have been so skillfully placed as to command every point where a bridge was possible. Gen. A. J. Smith, at the extreme right, put a bridge across within two miles of Vicksburg, but he was not brought into requisition. Gen. Blair had already got a bridge across at Mrs. Lake’s house, and Gen. Stuart, commanding Gen. Morgan L. Smith’s division, decided to attempt the crossing at the sandbar, where Gen. Smith had intended to cross when he was wounded. The bank of the bayou opposite this part was about fifteen feet high, and it was further increased by an embankment or levee of three feet in height. This bank was very steep, and the land being sandy, the sides had caved in so that the brow overhung about a foot and a half. To ascend it was utterly impossible without digging a road, and this would have to be done under a deadly fire from the enemy. The road across the sandbar was about two hundred yards in length, exposed to a double cross fire, and the only approach to it was over a flat bottom covered with fallen trees.

After consultation with Colonel Giles Smith, brother of Gen. M. L. Smith, who had now been assigned the command of the division, Gen. Stuart resolved to attempt the enterprise. The 6th Missouri Regiment, under command of Lieut. Col. Blood, was detailed to lead the van. It was necessary first to send two companies over to dig away the bank, so that when the brigade came over it could rush up and storm the works. The duty was so perilous, that Col. Blood was unwilling to detail any companies, and called for volunteers – one company to take picks and spades, and the other muskets. Company F, Capt. Bouton, and Company K, Capt. Buck, volunteered for the duty. The plan was to make an excavation under the bank, without breaking the surface through but so that it could be caved in at any moment. Amid the plaudits of their comrades, the two brave company started on their perilous march. A perfect storm of bullets met them on the way, and with the loss of more than a tenth of their number, they effected the crossing. No more desperate enterprise was ever undertaken, and none more successfully achieved. Once under the protection of the bank, they commenced plying pick and spade in a manner indicating their appreciation of the fact that they had no time to spare.

In the meantime, to keep down the enemy’s sharpshooters, who were endeavoring to reach over and fire at them down the bank, the 13th Regulars were posted on the right, and the batteries from General Steele’s and General Morgan’s divisions on the left. These kept up a continual fire until the work was completed. Meanwhile, General Morgan prepared to assault the hill from the south side of the bayou, supported by Generals Blair and Thayer, but General Blair having already crossed the bayou, led the assault himself. The signal for General Stuart’s brigade to attempt the crossing at the sand-bar was to be heavy firing from General Morgan’s division, the assault then to be made in concert. General Blair, being in the advance, led his brigade upon the first line of rifle pits, and after a hard but brief struggle, drove the enemy to their second line. Between the two lay a sort of ditch or small slough, with mud and quicksand in the bottom. As General Blair advanced his horse got inextricably mired, and the General coolly slid down his head, and led his brigade the remainder of the way on foot. The other mounted officers seeing the difficulty abandoned their horses also. On arriving at the second line of rifle pits another charge was made, supported by Hoffman’s battery, and the enemy was again routed and driven into a thicket, or willow grove.

The 13th Ohio then came up, and in a hand to hand conflict drove them from the thicket and took possession of it, but were in turn driven out by a heavy cannonade from the enemy’s batteries on the hill. The enemy then commenced retreating up the hill, Gen. Blair’s brigade pursuing them, when all of a sudden, the enemy, from a masked battery, opened a most deadly and destructive fire upon them, with grape and canister. In a few minutes, the ground was covered with the dead and dying. The brigade went into the action with less than 1,900 men, and of this number, 645 were lost in killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. Col. Thomas C Fletcher, 31th Missouri infantry, was wounded and taken prisoner, and Lieut. Col. Dister, was killed. The 31st Missouri lost 16 officers in killed and wounded, and the 29th Missouri, 9. Of the 58th Ohio, only 175 men were left. This ended the assault on the hill at this point, and Gen. Blair with the remainder of his brigade, fell back to his position on the right of General Morgan.


The heavy firing from Gen. Morgan’s division, which was to have been the signal, not being heard, and the excavation under the bank being completed, the men sheltered themselves under it the best they could and waited as patiently as the circumstances would permit for the next move. Our Sharpshooters of the 13th Regulars still kept up a fire to prevent firing from the bank, and in some instances their aim was too low, and the consequences once was that they shot dead two of our own men. The men sent up a shout of “fire higher,” and the rebels on the banks attempted to drown their voices by superior numbers shouting “fire lower,.” The parties were so close together that when the rebels reached their guns over the bank and depressed them those below could easily have crossed bayonets with them. Conversation could easily be carried on, and one rebel cried out, “What regiment is below?” On being answered that it was the “6th Missouri,”, he replied, “it is too brave a regiment to be on the wrong side.”

It was now nearly evening, and the men had tasted no food since before day, and one of them called out, “Have you got anything to eat up there, I’m hungry?” Immediately a large loaf of corn bread was thrown on the bank to them, and was welcomed heartily. The signal for the assault still being unheard, and a heavy rain coming up, it was deemed advisable by Capt. Bouton to send back a messenger for further orders, and private Mallaby volunteered to undertake the dangerous exploit. He crossed in safety, and in a few minutes the remainder of the gallant 6th, led by Lieut. Col. Blood, darted over to their assistance, amid a renewed shower of bullets, and made the passage with the loss of one sixth their number. Col. Blood was wounded in the left shoulder by a ball, which, striking against memorandum, glanced, or it would have passed through his body. His wound is not dangerous. Lieut. Vance was the only officer killed. By the time Lieut. Col. Blood got is regiment across, the day was hopelessly lost by the repulse of the army at other points, and about dark he received orders to retire at discretion. Under cover of the rain and darkness he brought is regiment back, a company at a time, until all were over, without loss of a man and only two wounded slightly.


Not until the night was pitchy dark did the firing all cease, and floods of rain were now descending as if we were to have a second edition of Noah. The ground where the fighting was done was all low and marshy, and soon the water and mud were several inches deep. No preparations, whatever, had been made for the wounded, all the accommodations having been exhausted on the wounded of the day before, and all that pitiless night and all the next day, the wounded lay in their agony on that oozy bed, under a soaking rain, uncared for, and many who had fallen on their faces and were unable to turn themselves, smothered in the mud, and many more died from the exposure. It is horrible to think of.


The only means I had of arriving at any idea of our loss is by common rumor, which places it at about two thousand in killed, wounded and captured. That is the estimate, made in the rough by the commanding general, according to common report. I know of nothing to lead me to think the number under estimated. The heaviest loss was in General Blair’s brigade, consisting of the 13th Illinois infantry, 29th, 30th and 31st Missouri infantry, and Hoffman’s Ohio battery. This brigade acted most heroically, and General Blair showed himself an able and brave commander.


Where all acted so bravely, it seems almost invidious to mention individual cases, but there were several instances which came to my knowledge, which should not be passed over. Sgt. Bailey, of Co. F, 6th Missouri infantry, did himself great credit by placing himself at the head of his company, when the commissioned officers were unaccountably absent, and leading them across the bayou under the enemy’s heaviest fire. Private Mallsby, company F; Sgt. Mark Anthony, company D; and B. F. Ingram, Lieut. Col. Blood’s orderly, also distinguished themselves by acting as volunteer messengers to cross the bayou with dispatches, when to do so was apparently to rush on certain death. Each of these brave men crossed three times during the day, and Anthony and Mallsby were both severely wounded.

Private F. W. Taylor, of Belleville, Ill., was promoted for bravery on the field during the last day’s action. While the two companies of the 6th Missouri were crossing the sandbar, five of their number were shot down, in the hurried advance their picks and spades were not taken up. After they got under the bank it was found very important to have those implements, and private Madison, company K, went out and got them, although several hundred shots were fired at him, he was unharmed.


Gen. Sherman expressed himself as well satisfied with the behavior of all his troops, but said the 6th Missouri deserve to be immortalized. General Stewart said he never read of more heroic conduct in the annals of warfare.


The heavy rains of last night and the consequent condition of the low, swampy ground, prevented the possibility of any military operations on this day, by land. General Sherman sent out parties with flags of truce, to bury the dead and bring away the wounded, and the whole day was consumed in the discharge of this melancholy duty. It was discovered that the enemy had carried off all the slightly wounded as prisoners of war, leaving only those who were unable to walk. All the dead had been robbed of their haversacks, and many of the bodies stripped of their outer clothing. During the day, many rebel soldiers came down to the flags of truce and manifested a disposition to be quite friendly, and in some instances, assisting in burying the dead. They also brought a few Vicksburg papers of that morning, containing a glowing account of the battle, and jubilating and over the repulse of the Yankees. They estimated the numbers engaged in the battle, at three thousand on the part of the rebels, and fifteen thousand on the part of the Federals. The weather had cleared off as suddenly in the morning as the rain had come up on the evening before, and the beauty of the day, with its soft and languid air, illy harmonized with the mournful work in which our army was engaged. By night, the last sad office of burying the dead was completed, and the wounded were borne from the field to the hospital boats.


The condition of the ground was still such as to prevent any operations on the Yazoo swamps, and Gen. Steele proposed to Gen. Sherman that a division be sent up the Yazoo on the transports, as near to Haynes’s Bluff as they could get without coming within range of the guns from the battery, and that the troops then land and assault the works in the rear while the gunboats engage the batteries in front. After consultation with the other division commanders, Gen. Sherman approved the plan and detailed Gen. Steele’s division to carry it into execution. At an early hour in the afternoon, the troops designated were embarked on the transports, reinforced by the 6th and 8th Missouri regiments from Gen. Morgan L. Smith’s division. The expedition was ordered to sail at daylight on the following morning, but when daylight came it was accompanied by a dense fog which did not clear away until nearly noon. The expedition was then abandoned.


After the fog cleared away, the troops were again landed, and during the remainder of the day remained idly and listlessly in camp, in momentary expectation of receiving an order for a movement of some kind. Toward evening a horsemen was seen riding along the shore distributing orders to the various boats, and soon the roll of the drums along the lines indicated the reading of an order. Groups of anxious listeners gathered around each regimental commander as he read the order, which proved to be an order for every regiment to embark on its original transport, and be ready to move by daylight in the morning. Soon all was hurry and bustle, loading on horses, teams, batteries and stores, and mustering the men on board, and long before midnight everything was on the transports except the hospital teams and ambulances, and a few pickets.


Up to this time the soldiers, although they knew they had been repulsed, had no idea they were defeated; and the construction they put on the movement was, that it was a ruse to induce the enemy to advance from their intrenchment into the bottomland. But why, it was asked, if that is the case, put all the wagons and heavy batteries on board at the expense of so much labor and inconvenience? The answer was, that there were a great many secession sympathizers along with the expedition, and that it was necessary to deceive them also, lest they give information of the ruse to the enemy. Daylight came, and the expedition did not move, and noon came in the fleet was quietly moored to the shore. That it was a ruse was now no longer doubted, and the pickets brought in word that the enemy was advancing toward us by the left. An order was immediately given for the fleet to sail, while a small force was sent out to hold the enemy in check, assisted by the gunboats.


By three o’clock in the afternoon the last boat passed out at the mouth of the Yazoo, where just one week before it had sailed in so triumphantly. The expedition which was to have taken Vicksburg so easily, ingloriously and ignominiously fled, leaving the exulting foe in undisputed possession of the battleground.


At the mouth of the Yazoo the fleet was met by the steamer Tigress, having on board Gen. McClernand. General Sherman reported to him, and in a short time issued the following order:


General Order, No. 5.]
Pursuant to the terms of General Order No, 1 made this day by Gen. McClernand, the title of our army ceases to exist, and constitutes in the future the Army of the Mississippi, composed of two “army corps,” one to be commanded by Gen. G. W. Morgan and the other by myself. In relinquishing the command of the Army of the Tennessee, and restricting my authority to my own “corps,” I desire to express to all commanders, to the soldiers and officers recently operating before Vicksburg, my hearty thanks for the zeal, alacrity and courage, manifested by them on all occasions. We failed in accomplishing one great purpose of our movement, the capturing of Vicksburg, but we were part of a whole. Ours was but part of a combined movement, in which others were to assist. We were on time. Unforeseen contingencies must have delayed the others.

We have destroyed the Shreveport road, we have attacked the defenses of Vicksburg, and pushed the attack as far as prudence would justify, and having found it too strong for our single column, we have drawn off in good order and good spirits, ready for any new move. A new commander is now here to lead you. He is chosen by the President of the United States, who is charged by the Constitution to maintain and defend it, and he has the undoubted right to select his own agents. I know that all good officers and soldiers will give him the same hearty support and cheerful obedience they have hitherto given me. There are honors enough in reserve for all, and worked enough, too. Let each do his appropriate part, and our nation must in the end emerge from this dire conflict purified and ennobled by the fires which now test its strength and purity. All the officers of the general staff not attached to my person will hereafter report in person and by letter to Maj. Gen. McClernand, commanding the Army of the Mississippi, on board the steamer Tigress, at our rendezvous at Gaines’s Landing, and at Montgomery point.

By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman.


Very apologetic, and very boastful, is the above order. I once read of a boy, who quarreling with another boy, said: “Dern you, if I can’t lick you, I can make mouths at your sister.” Perhaps the reader may fail to see that General Order No. 5, is an amplified parody of that transaction, but I think not.


It is an old and very true saying, that straws show which way the wind blows. Perhaps I can furnish the public with a straw or two, which will not only show the way it blows, but why it is set so strongly in a particular direction. When I was at Holly Springs, just after Gen. Sherman had returned from there, I overheard a conversation at the Provost Marshal’s office, in which one soldier said to another, “I was lying in my tent when old Bill was here (meeting Gen. Sherman) and he and Gen. Stuart came by my tent and talked. I heard him say to Gen. Stuart, ‘it will never do to let Gen. Grant get to Vicksburg at the same time we do, or he will take all the credit. If I can get a division from him it will not weaken him much, and will strengthen me greatly. Then with what forces I can pick up at Memphis and Helena, we can go in kiting.’”

This may possibly account for why he was “on time,” and so much ahead of Gen. Grant, who, I presume, was one of the “others” who were to “to assist.” It was also known to Gen. Sherman that the president had selected and designated Gen. McLaren and as his open his agent” to command the expedition. This may account for the haste in which Gen. Sherman started from Memphis before he got the expedition half organized. He no doubt expected to take Vicksburg quite easily, and so confident was he of reaping all the glory, that on the way down he was quite hilarious over the conceit, and wondered “what Mc (meeting Gen. McClernand) would think of it when he found out he had got the start of him?” Alas, for human vanity! The bladder is punctured and the wind let out, and it is to be hoped never to become so inflated again.


All the principal New York, St. Louis and Chicago papers had correspondence with Gen. Sherman’s army, and from time to time, as dispatch boats went up the river from the fleet, sent to their respective papers full and detailed accounts of all matters pertaining to it, that could interest the public, without giving information to the enemy. These accounts were obtained with great labor and at great personal risk, especially the accounts from the battlefield. Gen. Sherman not only detained these accounts, but committed the heinous crime, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, of violating the seals and perusing the contents. That he will escape all punishment due his crime, except the condemnation of public opinion, no one can doubt; but nevertheless, he is morally just as guilty as though he had been tried by a jury of his peers and convicted. The outrage is inexcusable in any aspect. If he feared information being given to the enemy, he would have been justified as a war measure in detaining the correspondence, and no correspondent would have complained, although he might have felt unreasonably annoyed; but the violation of the sanctity of a private seal admits of no palliation.

Only two motives suggest themselves for this tyrannical act of surveillance – one, a pitiful inquisitiveness as to what correspondent said of him; and the other, a design of using their notes to assist in making out his official report, in the absence of any adequate arrangements made by him for getting details expeditiously. Major J. H. Hammond, his chief of staff, and in charge of the postal arrangements, lent himself as the pliant tool of Gen. Sherman in this nefarious business, by pretending a great desire to facilitate the transmission of correspondence, but no sooner had he inveigled the unsuspecting victims into trusting their dispatches to his care, then he immediately turned them over to his master. Two days before the expedition sailed, Gen. Sherman issued an order, very ingeniously worded, so as not to mention correspondents, but yet placing it in his power to hold them under his thumb when he had got them in a position where they could not help themselves. Extraordinarily enough, this order was not promulgated until the very moment when the fleet left Helena, and there was no opportunity for anyone to return if so disposed. With no possibility of stopping or returning the poor correspondents were completely at his mercy. The order was as follows:

MEMPHIS, TENN., December 18, 1862.

General Order, No. 8.

I. The expedition now fitting out is purely of a military character, and the interests involved are of too important a character to be mixed up with personal and private business. No citizen, male or female, will be allowed to accompany it unless employed as part of a crew or as servants to the transports. Female chambermaids to the boats and nurses to the sick alone will be allowed, unless the wives of captains and pilots actually belonging to the boats. No laundress, officers or soldiers wife must pass below Helena.

II. No person whatever, citizen, officer, or sutler, will, on any consideration, buy or deal in cotton or other produce of the country. Should any cotton be brought on board of any transport going or returning, the Brigade Quartermaster, of which the boat forms a part, will take possession of it, and invoice it to Capt. A. R. Eddy, Chief Quartermaster at Memphis.

III. Should any cotton or other produce, be brought back to Memphis by any chartered boat, Capt. Eddy will take possession of the same, and sell it for the benefit of the United States. If accompanied by its actual producer, the planter or factor, the Quartermaster will furnish him with a receipt for the same to be settled for on proof of his loyalty at the close of the war.

IV. Boats ascending the river may take cotton from the shore for bulkheads to protect their engines or crew, but on arrival at Memphis it will be turned over to the Quartermaster with a statement of the time, place and name of its owner. The trade in cotton must await a more peaceful state of affairs.

V. Should any citizen accompanied the expedition below Helena in violation of these orders, any colonel of a regiment or captain of a battery will conscript him into the service of the United States or any unexpired term of his command. If he show a refractory spirit unfitting him for a soldier, the commanding officer present will turn him over to the captain of the boat as a deckhand, and compel him to work in that capacity without wages until the boat returns to Memphis.

6. Any person whatever, whether in the service of the United States or transports, found making reports for publication, which might reach the enemy, giving them information, aid and comfort, will be arrested and treated as spies.

By order of Major-General Sherman.
J. H. HAMMOND, Major and A. A. G.


Notwithstanding Gen. Sherman’s pretended seal to prevent information being given to the enemy, it is a well known fact that scores of rabid secessionists accompanied the expedition, and generally in Government employment. For instance, many of the pilots, engineers, mates and captains of the transports were openly avowed Southern sympathizers, and whenever the boats landed these persons were allowed to go on shore and communicate with any one they pleased. Especially was this the case at Milliken’s Bend, only twenty-five miles from Vicksburg, where the fleet lay for thirty hours.

At this point for large Parrott guns [on] the General Anderson, which was the ordnance boat, were found to have balls rammed home without powder in them. And the supply pipe to the boilers was cut in the hold. With great difficulty the balls were gotten out by putting powder in at the touch-hole, a few grains at a time. I did not learn that any investigation had been instituted as to who were the guilty parties, but as two engineers were found missing, it is safe to infer that they were the ones.


On the evening of the 7th the fleet reached the mouth of the White River, and for nearly two days lay at its rendezvous at Montgomery Point, just above it. It was understood that a portion of it would go up White river and the remainder up the Arkansas, for some purpose not stated. On the morning of the 9th the steamer White Cloud left the fleet for St. Louis with the mail, and the City of Memphis with the sick and wounded; and on the former boat I took passage as bearer of my own dispatches and a multitude of letters from the soldiers to the “loved ones at home.”



HOLLY SPRINGS, MISS., Dec. 21, 1862.

Special Field Orders, No. 23.]


It is with pain and mortification that the general commanding reflects upon the disgraceful surrender of the place, with all the valuable stores it contained, on the 20th inst.; and that without any resistance except by a few men, who form an honorable exception; and this, too, after warning had been given of the enemy northward, the evening previous. With all the cotton, public stores and substantial buildings about the depot, it would have been perfectly practicable to have made, in a few hours, a defense sufficient to resist, with a small garrison, all the cavalry force brought against them until the reinforcements which the commanding officer was notified were marching to his relief could have reached him.

The conduct of officers and men in accepting paroles, under the circumstances, is highly reprehensible, and to say the least, thoughtless. By the terms of the Dix-Hill cartel each party is bound to take care of their prisoners and to send them to Vicksburg, or a point on the James river, for exchange, on parole, unless some other point is mutually agreed upon by the generals commanding the opposing armies.

By a refusal to be parolled, the enemy, from his inability to take care of the prisoners, would have been compelled either give or refuse them unconditionally or to have abandoned further aggressive movements for the time being which would have made their recapture, and the discomfort sure of the enemy almost certain.

The prisoners paroled at this place will be collected in camp at once by the post commander, and held under close guard until their case can be reported to Washington for further instructions.

Commanders throughout the department are directed to arrest and hold as above all men of their commands and all stragglers who may have accepted their paroles upon like terms.

The general commanding is satisfied that a majority of the troops who accepted a parole did so thoughtlessly and from want of knowledge of the cartel referred to, and that in the in future they will not be caught in the same way.

By order of Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant.