Living Off The Land

Grant was on his own now. He would manage without any help from Banks. He had dealt with McClernand's take-over bid. And he was virtually out of contact with his chiefs in Washington. It was his show.

Things were very different on the Confederate side of the hill. In late November 1862 President Jefferson Davis had put General Jo Johnston in over-all charge of all their forces in the western sector. Davis toured the region in December, stressing to Johnston the key importance of holding Vicksburg. Johnston said he could do it but he needed a further 20,000 men. The reinforcements did not arrive. Jo Johnston was a man seriously out of sorts at this time. He had never fully recovered from the wounds received at the Battle of Seven Pines. He was frequently too sick to work. And he believed that the command he had been given was unmanageable, that his main armies - one in Tennessee, the other in Mississippi - were too far apart to give each other effective support in a crisis. He did not trust Jefferson Davis and had no high regard for his commander in the Vicksburg area, Pemberton.

It was fortunate for Grant that he found himself facing an enemy that was split both physically and psychologically. By 3 May Grant had more than 20,000 men on the east side of the Mississippi and more on the way, but he knew he was outnumbered by the Confederates. Pemberton, he reckoned, had some 25,000 troops in and around Vicksburg, and there were several thousand more in the Jackson area. He had to get between them, smash their communications, keep them guessing about his next moves, and do it all fast.

His dispatches at this time reveal his obsession with speed. On 3 May he wrote to Sherman: it is unnecessary for me to remind you of the overwhelming importance of celerity in your movements.' He told the Commissary at Grand Gulf: 'There must be no delay on account of either energy 46

or formality.' They were ordered to load up '...regardless of requisitions or provision returns'. He told an officer on his staff: 'See that the Commissary loads all the wagons... Issue any order in my name that may be necessary to secure the greatest promptness in this respect... Every day's delay is worth two thousand men to the enemy.' He was interested in every relevant detail. On 6 May he was urging the quartermasters at Grand Gulf to '...rush forward rations with all dispatch... How many teams have been loaded with rations and sent forward? I want to know as near as possible how we stand in every particular for supplies. How many wagons have you ferried over the river? How many are still to bring over? What teams have gone back for rations?'

The troops at the front were sent off in all directions to commandeer every wheeled vehicle and draft animal they could find. They came back with horses and mules and oxen, classy carriages and farm carts, anything that would help to carry ammunition and rations forward on the great adventure. They foraged for food as well and found that there was plenty of it. In his Memoirs Grant recalled: 'Beef, mutton, poultry and forage were found in abundance. Quite a quantity of bacon and molasses were also secured from the country, but bread and coffee could not be obtained in quantity sufficient for all the men. Every plantation, however, had a run of stone, propelled by mule power, to grind corn for the owners and their slaves. All these were kept running while we were stopping, day and night, and when we were marching, during the night, at all plantations covered by the troops.'

While waiting for Sherman's corps to reach them, Grant sent out strong reconnaissance parties from the other two corps to cross the Big Black River at Hankinson's Ferry and convince Pemberton that he now meant to march direct to Vicksburg. This was the obvious next move. But Grant knew

Ronald Volstad Csa

▼ Confederate infantrymen. Left to right: a first lieutenant of the South Carolina Rifles; a private soldier; and a sergeant of the 4th Kentucky Regiment, with Vicksburg on his regimental Colour. (Ron Volstad)

that if he did that, Pemberton would be able to mass his entire force, in good defensive positions, along the broken country south of Vicksburg and he, Grant, would be forced to attack an enemy who probably outnumbered him and who certainly knew the ground better than he did. The fate of his army and the outcome of his long campaign would hang on one battle. Grant had a cleverer idea, one that might take a little longer but which would be much cheaper in lives and more certain of success. He would march east towards Jackson, where the enemy were much fewer in number, and cut the railway link between Pemberton and Johnston. Once again, speed was of the essence.

Fast Marching

On the night of 6 May McPherson pulled his forward brigades back across the Big Black River and first thing next morning marched east to Willow Springs, where he joined McClernand's army corps. On the 7th McClernand pushed on towards Utica while Sherman marched from the Grand Gulf area to Hankinson's Ferry. On the 8th McPherson closed up behind McClernand. So it went on, the whole army progressing in rapid but controlled steps, each corps getting time to rest but always being close enough to the others for contact to be maintained and help given if needed.

Grant swung two of the corps - McClernand's and Sherman's -northwards the further to baffle Pemberton. Was he now rounding on Vicksburg? Or aiming to cut the railway link between Vicksburg and Jackson? In fact, he was still heading for Jackson itself. In the early afternoon of 12 May McPher-son's leading division, pushing along the main road eastwards and only two miles short of Raymond, came under fire. A Confederate brigade with two batteries was blocking their advance. Major General John A. Logan, a prominent politician who was now proving to be a very able fighting commander, was with his leading brigade. He sent a message back asking for prompt support, deployed his men into position and attacked with vigour. The Confederates fled. Logan lost 66 killed and 339 wounded in the brief but fierce encounter; while the Confederates lost 100 men killed, 305 wounded and 415 taken prisoner. 48

As soon as Grant received the news of this little victory, he made another decision. Up to this point he had had troops stationed at the crossings of the Big Black River to prevent the Confederates getting behind him and smashing his communications with Grand Gulf. From now on he was not going to worry about this. The defenders of the crossing-points were ordered to rejoin their divisions. If the Confederates wanted to waste their time looking for lines of communication and supply to destroy, they were more than welcome -if they could find them. Just before sailing off into the blue, Grant dispatched one final message to I lalleck in Washington: 'As I shall communicate with Grand Gulf no more, except it becomes necessary to send a train with heavy escort, you may not hear from me again for several days.' He knew that the conservative Halleck would disapprove of his move, but he also knew that I Ialleck's inevitable order countermanding any such move, could not possibly reach him until the whole thing was done.

On the Confederate side the confusion was mounting. On 9 May President Davis had ordered Jo Johnston to get himself to Mississippi quickly and take over operational command. Johnston, complaining that he was really too ill, reached the state capital, Jackson, on the evening of 13 May to find that earlier that same day the Federals had cut the direct railway link with Vicksburg. He sent a telegraph message to Richmond: 'I am too late.' He had only 6,000 troops to defend Jackson from the attack in overwhelming numbers that would surely come the following day.

General Pemberton, meanwhile, was trying to reconcile conflicting orders. President Davis had told him to hold Vicksburg at all costs. Now Johnston was telling him to muster all his available forces and confront Grant's army. This was probably the right strategy but not so easy to implement. Virtually without cavalry, Pemberton was finding it impossible to obtain firm information about Grant's movements and he was perplexed that Grant's supply lines could not be located. Furthermore, he had an uneasy feeling that if he pulled all his men out of Vicksburg, Grant might give him the slip and take the city. If that happened, it would be very hard -with supplies and reinforcements pouring down the river to sustain Grant's hold on the city - to prise

▼ The men of McPher-son V 7th Division make the charge that broke the Confederate defences at

Jackson. Colonel Holmes's 2nd Brigade lost 30 men killed in this attack.

The Land That The Confederates Wanted

him out again. So Pemberton compromised, left a strong garrison in Vicksburg and moved about with the rest of his army on the northern side of the Big Black River, too far away from the next action to have any influence on it.

By nightfall on 13 May, as Jo Johnston arrived in Jackson, Grant had his forces in position for the next day's attack. Sherman's army corps was camped at Raymond. McPherson's was a few miles north-east at Clinton on the railway line. McCler-nand's corps was behind them, covering the rear. It rained heavily during the night and most of the men were sleeping in the open. It was still raining at daybreak when the two corps set off eastwards on the roads that converged on Jackson. Stretches of the roads were under a foot or so of water but they pressed on and by 11 a.m. both corps were deployed for the attack.

▼ The men of McPher-son V 7th Division make the charge that broke the Confederate defences at

Jackson. Colonel Holmes's 2nd Brigade lost 30 men killed in this attack.

The fight that followed was fierce but brief. On both fronts, the initial assaults were held. Grant, who was with Sherman on the right of the line, suggested that a strong unit be sent to probe the Confederate defences farther round to the right. This was done and it was found that there were no defences at all. Johnston, seeing that his troops had been turned, ordered a rapid retreat northwards. Seventeen Confederate guns fell into Grant's hands and Jackson was his. McPherson had lost 37 men killed and 228 wounded. Sherman had only four killed and 21 wounded.

The day's action had been closely watched by Grant's son Fred, who had been in close attendance on the army's march inland from the Mississippi. He later recalled an incident as they were advancing towards Jackson that morning: 'While passing through a piece of dense woods on the way, the enemy's sharpshooters opened fire on us. One of the staff shouted to my father that they were aiming at him. His answer was to turn his horse and dash into the woods in the direction whence the bullets were coming.' Fred was among the first to reach the cen-

Battle Grand Gulf


xxxx pemberton bowen johnston (in retreat north)





Bovina i Station I

Edward's '

Depot Champion /





16 May:

Battle of Champion Hill

1 "i Areas depicted in 1___i bird's eye views xxxx


The Advance to Vicksburg

17 May:

Battle of Big Black River

tre of Jackson: 'At this time I saw a mounted officer with a Union flag advancing towards the Capitol. I followed him into the building and entered the Governor's room, which had been hastily abandoned. Returning to the street, I saw the officer in the act of raising the Union flag over the building. Father and his staff, advancing at the head of the army, soon reached the State House, where I joined them, and went with them to the Bowen House, the best hotel in Jackson, where we took the room in which General Joseph E. Johnston had slept the night before.1

For a while Jackson suffered a period of destructive anarchy. There were many Confederate stragglers and deserters at large, some run-away Negro slaves, and men from the Federal forces who were determined to celebrate their success with looting and rowdyism. Convicts escaped from the city gaol and they joined in. Grant organized patrols to restore order. Then, on the morning of 15 May Grant ordered Sherman to destroy the city, it being a railway and manufactory centre for materiel. Sherman, a thorough man, '...did the work most effectually', as Grant put it. A few weeks later, in July, Jo Johnston was once again in Jackson and 50

Sherman was besieging it. When Johnston slipped away overnight, Sherman moved in and set fire to most of what was left. So many buildings were destroyed that the city was wryly called 'Chim-neyville' because of the innumerable brick chimneys sticking up from the charred ruins.

► Sherman's men enjoyed the task of rendering Jackson useless as a rail centre.

► Far right: the fires started by Sherman's men were still blazing in Jackson when the Confederate soldiers marched back into the city. There was a rapturous reception; but only a few weeks later they marched out again as Sherman's army corps approached from the west, to complete their devastation of the city.

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