Sunday, May 26, 2013

150-years-ago -- BRAGG vs. BRECKINRIDGE FEUD

Brig. Gen. J.C. Breckinridge
(Library of Congress)
The Richmond Daily Dispatch
May 26, 1863
Gens. Bragg and Breckinridge.
          It is a matter of sincere regret that there should be any jealousies engendered between those who are appointed to lead the armies of the South in her struggle for independence. In his official report of the battle of Murfreesboro, and the engagements immediately subsequent, Gen. Bragg reflected upon Gen. Breckinridge and the gallant division under his command. In a letter to Adjutant-General Cooper, which we publish below, Gen. Breckinridge gives an emphatic and explicit contradiction to material statements contained in Gen. Bragg's report, and a full and confident denial of the justice of the censure cast upon him and his troops:
Headqr's Breckinridge Div's,
Tullahoma, March31, 1863.
To S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.
          Two days ago I read General Braxton Bragg's official report of the battles of Stone river before Murfreesboro', and after a proper time for reflection think it my duty to send you this communication.
          I cannot conceal from myself the fact that so much of the report as refers to my command (except some general compliments to the courage of a portion of my troops on Wednesday, the 31st December,) is in tone and spirit a thorough disparagement of both. This tone runs through all its parts and lies like a broad foundation underneath the whole. At the same time the narrative of events is made to sustain the general spirit.
          While the report of the commanding General fails, as I think, to do justice to the behavior of my division on Friday, the 2d of January, yet its strictures are chiefly leveled at my own conduct as an officer during all the operations. By direct statement and by unmistakable innuendo, it is throughout a reflection upon my capacity and conduct.
          Without referring to its contents in detail, I have to say in respectful terms, that neither its material statements nor its equally material innuendoes can be maintained by proof — that its omission of important facts creditable to my division and myself is as remarkable as many of its affirmative statements — in a word, that in spirit and substance it is erroneous and unjust.
I trust that nothing in the foregoing expressions passes the limit of military propriety, and that plainness of statement will be pardoned to one who, even under the weight of superior military censure, feels that both he and his command have deserved well of their country.
Having met the commanding General repeatedly on the field, and on three occasions in council during the progress of the operations, without receiving from him the least indication of dissatisfaction with my conduct, I was not prepared to see a report, bearing a subsequent date, containing representations at variance with these significant facts. Nor was my surprise lessened when I observed that it was written after a correspondence with his corps and division commanders, (I being one of the latter,) in which he invokes their aid to sustain him, and speaks of them as officers "upon whom I (he) have ever relied as upon a foundation of rock."
          The commanding General having written and forwarded his report before receiving those of his subordinate commanders could have derived no assistance in its preparations from those usual official aids to the Commander-in-Chief, and since his position on the field prevented him from seeing many of the movements, especially those of Friday, the 2d of January, it much concerns all affected by his statements to know something of those other, and to them unknown, sources of information to which he has given the sanction of his influence and rank as the head of the army.
I have felt that it would be improper in a paper of this character to enter upon a detailed vindication; yet in view of the fact that the casualties of war may at any time render an investigation impossible, I hope that it has not been improper for me to place on record this general protest against the injurious statements and inferences of the commanding General, particularly since, not anticipating his censures, I may not have been sufficiently minute in portions of my report.
          And in regard to the action of Friday, the 2d of January, upon which the commanding General heaps so much criticism, I have to say with the utmost confidence that the failure of my troops to hold the position which they carried on that occasion was due to no fault of theirs or of mine, but to the fact that we were commanded to do an impossible thing. My force was about 4,500 men, of these, 1,700 heroic spirits stretched upon that bloody field, in an unequal struggle against three divisions, a brigade, an overwhelming concentration of artillery, attested our efforts to obey the order.
          I have the honor to request that a Court of Inquiry be appointed to assemble at the earliest time consistent with the interest of the service, and clothed with the amplest powers of investigation.
          Of course I do not desire the interests of the service to be prejudiced in the least degree by any matter of secondary importance; accordingly while an early investigation would be grateful to my feelings, I can cheerfully await the time deemed best by the proper authority.
With great respect,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed,) John C. Breckinridge,
Maj. Gen. P. A. C. S.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Lt. Gen. R. S. Ewell
(Library of Congress)
The Richmond Daily Dispatch
June 1, 1863

The following letter from a member of Hays's Louisiana brigade, gives some idea of the satisfaction in the army at the appointment of Gen. Ewell to the command of Gen. Jackson's old corps:
Camp near Hamilton's Crossing,
May29th, 1863.
For some time past considerable interest was manifested throughout the corps as to who would succeed the late and lamented General Jackson in command of the same. There were, of course, many surmises and much speculation on the subject. Early's division, firmly attached to their former commander, knowing and appreciating his valor and soldier-like qualities, espoused the cause of their favorite chieftain, Gen. R. S. Ewell, and, encouraged by the fact that Gen. Jackson, the sagacious and valiant leader, had in his last moments designated him as a proper successor, felt sanguine as to the result. Nor were they doomed to disappointment. On yesterday reliable information reached camp of his promotion; to-day he arrived, and, as might have been supposed, was received more warmly and cordially. Lieut. Gen. Hill, Gen. Early, and the many officers of the army to whom he has during his military career endeared himself, were present to greet the hero once more returned to the service of his country. Gen. Hays's Louisiana brigade was present in martial review to receive him, and claimed the honor of escorting their former and favorite commander to his temporary abode. Amidst deafening cheers and the rolling sounds of martial music he was once more ushered into active service. May an all-wise Providence shield him, and give victory to the cause of which he is so glorious a champion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

150-years-ago -- THE STONEWALL BRIGADE

Lt. Gen. T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson
The Richmond Daily Dispatch
May 23, 1863

Meeting of officers of the "Stonewall Brigade"
The commissioned officers of this far-famed brigade held a meeting at their camp near Fredericksburg, on the 16th inst., which was presided over by Col. C. A. Ronald, of the 4th Virginia regiment. Col. Nadenbousch, of the 2d Virginia, Maj. Terry, of the 4th Virginia, and Adjutant Hunter, of the 2d Virginia, were appointed to prepare resolutions expressive of the deep sorrow of the brigade at the loss of their great leader, the lamented Jackson.--This committee reported the annexed resolutions, which were adopted by the meeting:
  1. Resolved, that, in the death of Lieut.-Gen. Jackson, the world has lost one of its best and purest men — our country and the Church of God " a bright and shining light"--the army one of its boldest and most daring leaders, and this brigade a firm and unwavering friend.
  2. That General Jackson has closed his noble career by a death worthy of his life, and that while we mourn for him, and feel that no other leader can be to us all that he has been, yet we are not cast down or dispirited, but even more determined to do our whole duty, and, if need be, to give our lives for a cause made more sacred by the blood of our martyrs.
  3. That, in accordance with Gen. Jackson's wish, and the desire of this brigade to honor its first great commander, the Secretary of War be requested to order that it be known and designated as the "Stonewall Brigade;" and that, in thus formally adopting a title which is inseparably connected with his name and fame, we will strive to render ourselves more worthy of it, by emulating his virtues, and, like him, devote all our energies to the great work before us, of securing to our beloved country the blessings of peace and independence.
  4.  That a copy of these proceedings be forwarded to the widow of the deceased and published in the newspapers of the city of Richmond, with a request that they be copied by the papers throughout the State.the meeting was then addressed by Capt. H. K. Douglas, who stated that it was the General's wish that his old brigade should be known as the "Stonewall Brigade." in this connection he moved that a committee of five be appointed to correspond with the Secretary of War, with a view to carry out the 3d resolution of the meeting. The Chair appointed the following committee:--Col. Funk, 5th Va.; Lieut.-Col. Colston, 2d. Va.; Maj-Terry, 4th Va; Capt. Frazier, 27th Va., and Capt Bedinger, 33d Va.
The following resolutions were submitted by Maj. Terry:
  1. Resolved, That it is the desire of this brigade to erect over the grave of Lieut.-General Jackson a suitable monument.
  2. That a committee of five be appointed to carry into effect the above resolution, and that for the purpose the committee be clothed with full power to appoint a treasurer and sub- committees in each regiment, to collect funds, adopt designs, inscriptions, &c.
The resolutions were passed unanimously, and the following committee appointed: Col. J. Q. A. Nadenbousch, 2d Va.; Capt Strickler, 4th Va.; Lieut. Colonel Williams, 5th Va; Lieut. Colonel Shriver, 27th Va.; Lieut.-Colonel Spengler, 33d Va.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

150-years-ago -- SIEGE OF VICKSBURG

Both sides used hand grenades during the siege.
(The Soldier in Our Civil War)

[Excerpted from National Park Service
Publication, “Vicksburg: The  Opening
Of the Mississippi 1862-63"]

After May 25, when [Maj. Gen. U.S.] Grant began siege operations,
only two attempts were made to break through the Confederate defenses, neither of which succeeded.
Sherman, holding the Union right opposite the strong Fort Hill position, determined to neutralize the upper river batteries with naval aid. On May 27 the gunboat
Cincinnati, protected by logs and bales of hay, moved into position and engaged the several river batteries
of that sector. Subjected to a deadly plunging fire which "went entirely through our protection — hay, wood, and iron," Cincinnati went down with her colors nailed to the stump of a mast. 

A month later the Federals attempted to pierce the defense line by exploding a mine under the 3rd
Louisiana Redan. From the head of Logan's Approach, which had reached the exterior slope of the
redan, a tunnel was dug under the three-sided fort
and packed with 2,200 pounds of powder. Mean-
while, the Confederate garrison had heard the miners'
picks at work beneath the redan and began a coun-
termine in a grim race for survival. On June 25, as
the entire Union line opened fire to prevent the
Southerners from shifting reinforcements, the mine
was detonated. The blast severely damaged the
redan and gouged out a crater 40 feet wide and 12
feet deep. The 45th Illinois Infantry Regiment leaped
from the approach and drove forward. Having antici-
pated this kind of maneuver, the redan's garrison
had previously withdrawn to a new defense position
to the rear. Now the Confederates pinned down the
Illinoisans in the crater under a murderous fire. A
sharp firefight continued for the next 24 hours, then
the Federals withdrew. A second mine was detonated
under the redan on July 1 : still others were being pre-
pared by Union engineers at the time of the surrender.
By the beginning of July the Army of Vicksburg 
had held the line for six weeks, but its unyielding 
defense had been a costly one. Pemberton reported 
10,000 of his men so debilitated by wounds and 
sickness as to be no longer able to man the works, 
and the list of ineffectives swelled daily from the 
twin afflictions of insufficient rations and the devas- 
tating fire of Union artillery and the searching 
volleys of Union sharpshooters. Each day the con- 
stricting Union line pushed closer against the Vicks- 
burg defenses, and there were indications that Grant 
might soon launch another great assault which, even 
if repulsed, must certainly result in a severe toll of 
the garrison. 
Pemberton's foremost objective in prolonging the 
defense of Vicksburg was to afford Johnston and the 
Confederate government time to collect sufficient 
troops to raise the siege. Unfortunately, circum- 
stances worked against his plan. Gen. Robert E. 
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia began its invasion 
of the North shortly after Grant invested the city, 
and no troops could be spared from that quarter. 
Only a limited number of men were available from 
other areas. 
By the first week of June, reinforcements from 
Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia had in- 
creased Johnston's force to 31,000 troops. Grant, 
anticipating that Johnston would move against his 
rear, sent reinforcements from Kentucky, West Ten- 
nessee, and Missouri to construct and man a strong 
outer defense position facing the probable line of 
advance. This gave Grant two lines of works — one 
to hold Pemberton in, the other to keep Johnston 
out. While Confederate Secretary of War James A. 
Seddon counseled Johnston that '"the eyes and hopes 
of the whole Confederacy are upon you. with the full 
confidence that you will act, and with the sentiment 
that it is better to fail nobly daring, than, through 
prudence even, to be inactive," Johnston notified his 
government on June 15: i consider saving Vicks- 
burg hopeless."" 
On July 1 Johnston moved his army of four infantry 
divisions and one cavalry division to the east bank of 
the Big Black River, seeking a vulnerable place to 
attack Grant's outer defenses. His reconnaissance 
during the next three days convinced him that no 
practical crossing of the Big Black River lay north of 
the railroad bridge. On July 3 Johnston received defi- 
nite word of the fall of Vicksburg. On the following 
day he began withdrawing his army toward Jackson. 
Sgt. Janes Bishop White of the 60th Tennessee Infantry of Vaughn's Brigade on the northern end of the Confederate defenses. (Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress) 
Efforts by Confederate forces in the Trans-Missis-sippi to assist the Vicksburg garrison were checked by Union troops holding the Young's Point, Mil- 
liken's Bend, and Lake Providence enclaves, sup- 
ported by Admiral Porter's gunboats. At Milliken'sBend, on June 7, there was a savage fight in whicha brigade of blacks suffered heavy losses during  an attack by a brigade of Texans. The timely arrival of Union gunboats compelled the Texans to withdraw. This was the first Civil War battle in which blacks played the major role. 
Faced with dwindling stores and no help from 
the outside, Pemberton saw only two eventualities:"either to evacuate the city and cut my way out orto capitulate upon the best obtainable terms." Contemplating the former possibility, he asked his division commanders on July 1 to report whether the physical condition of the troops would favor such a hazardous stroke. All but two of his division and brigade commanders were unanimous in their 
replies that siege conditions had physically distressed so large a number of the defending army thatan attempt to cut through the Union lines would bedisastrous. Pemberton's only alternative, then, was surrender. 
Although not requested, Pemberton also received 
the verdict of his army in a message from an 
unknown private, signed "Many Soldiers." Taking 
pride in the gallant conduct of his fellow soldiers "in 
repulsing the enemy at every assault, and bearing 
with patient endurance all the privations and hard- 
ships," the writer requested the commanding general 
to "think of one small biscuit and one or two 
mouthfuls of bacon per day," concluding with the 
irrefutable logic of an enlisted man: "If you can't 
feed us, you had better surrender us, horrible as the 
idea is." 
At 8 a.m. on July 3 Chaplain R. L. Howard of the 
124th Illinois Infantry located near the Shirley 
House noticed "a white flag away to our left on the 
rebel works. Soon another appeared, and another 
and, directly, one in front of us. The firing ceased, 
and all was still, the first time since May 25th, thirty- 
nine days. Soon greybacks began to show themselves 
all along the lines. Heads first, cautiously, then 
bodies, and we straightened up too, in many places 
only a few yards from them. The works were mounted 
and we looked each other in the face, the line of 
motley and the line of blue. How eager we all were 
to see, and what did it all mean?'' A few hours later 
Grant and Pemberton met beneath an oak tree on a 
slope between the lines to begin negotiations for the 
surrender of the 29,500-man garrison. No accord was 
forthcoming at this meeting. Following an exchange 
of communications, an agreement was reached early 
the next morning. It had been 14 months since 
Farragut's warships had first engaged the Vicksburg 
batteries, seven months since Grant's first expedi- 
tion against the city, and 47 days since the appear- 
ance of the Federal army on the city's eastern 
approaches. On the morning of July 4, 1863, while 
Northern cities celebrated Independence Day, the 
Army of Vicksburg was formally surrendered. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


First at Vicksburg

Confederate Lines, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 19 May 1863. In this assault against bitter resistance the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry, lost forty-three percent of its men, but of the attacking force, it alone fought its color up the steep slope to the top. General Sherman called its performance "unequalled in the Army" and authorized the 13th Infantry to inscribe "First at Vicksburg" on its color. Although it took two more months of hard fighting to capture Vicksburg and split the Confederacy, no episode illustrates better the indomitable spirit of Americans on both sides. (U.S. Army Military History)

[Excerpted from National Park Service
Publication, “Vicksburg: The  Opening
Of the Mississippi 1862-63"]
Artillery positions and forts (lunettes, redans, and
redoubts) had been constructed at salient and com-
manding points along the exterior line. The earth
parapets of the forts were up to 20 feet thick. In
front of most of these the Confederates had dug a
deep, wide ditch so that any assaulting troops who
managed to reach the work would still have a high
steep wall to climb to get into it. Lines of rifle-pits or
entrenchments, for the most part protected by para-
pets and ditches, covered the ground between the
strong points. Where spurs jutted out from the main
ridges, forward artillery batteries provided a deadly
crossfire against attacking lines. During the early
phase of the siege, the Confederates mounted as
many as 115 cannon (including a few heavy siege
guns) along the defense perimeter. The River Batter-
ies contained an additional 31 heavy guns and s(Mnc
field pieces.

The area's topography greatly strengthened the
Confederate position. Over the centuries, running
water had eroded the region's soil into deep gullies
and ravines, creating a broken and complicated
terrain that seriously obstructed Union movements.
The Confederates had cut down most of the trees
fronting their lines to permit a clear field of fire and
to further hinder advancing troops. Several hundred
yards away, roughly parallel to the Confederate
position, was a ridge system not so continuous and
more broken than that occupied by Pemberton's
army. Along this line the Union army would eventu-
ally take position and begin siege operations.

Maj. Gen. Martin Luther Smith
(Library of Congress)
The two men most responsible for fort if ring Vicksburg
were Maj. Gen. Martin Luther Smith who had previously helped to plan the
defenses of New Orleans, and his chief engineer, Maj. Samuel H. Lockett. At
the time of Farragut's 1862 naval attack. Smith was Vicksburg 's commanding officer. During the 1862 siege, he commanded Pemberton 's left wing.

On the scattered natural bridges of high ground
spanning the ravines, six roads and one railroad
entered Vicksburg. To guard these access points, the
Confederates had constructed nine defensive works-
Fort Hill on the river north of the city. Stockade
Redan, Third Louisiana Redan, Great Redoubt,
Second Texas Lunette, Railroad Redoubt, Fort Gar-
rott (also known as Square Fort), Salient Work, and
South Fort on the river below Vicksburg. The Con-
federate divisions defending the city were, north to
south, those commanded by Maj. Gen. Martin L.
Smith, Maj. Gen. John H. Forney, and Maj. General
Stevenson. Maj. General Bowen's division was held
in reserve. The Army of Vicksburg at the beginning
of the siege numbered about 31 ,000 men. Grant listed
his strength, shortly after the siege began, at 50,000.

By midday of May 19 [Maj. Gen. U.S.] Grant had deployed 20,000
of those troops behind Vicksburg. In the north, Sher-
man's corps was in position opposite the Confederate
left, extending from the river (at the present loca-
tion of the national cemetery) to Graveyard Road.
McPherson's corps, on Sherman's left, stretched
from near Graveyard Road to near Baldwin's Ferry
Road, while the front of McClernand's corps ex-
tended from Baldwin's Ferry Road southward toward
the Square Fort. About 500 yards separated the
opposing armies.

Grant had had little opportunity to assess the
strength of the Vicksburg defenses because Confed-
erate skirmishers had slowed his army's approach,
thus preventing a close inspection of the Southern
fortifications. Nevertheless, the Union commander
decided to launch an immediate attack, reasoning
that the longer he waited the stronger those defenses
would become. He ordered an assault for 2 p.m. on
the 19th.

[Maj. Gen. W.T.] Sherman's troops, whose early arrival had enabled
Grant to launch the attack, advanced under heavy
fire against the Confederate left. Although they got
close to the works, they failed to breach the defenses
and withdrew. McPherson and McClernand, not yet
in good position for attack, could do little more than
advance several hundred yards closer to the de-
fense line. Grant lost 1,000 men testing the Vicks-
burg defenses and discovered an unyielding army
manning the works. Confederate losses were slight.

Although the probing operation of the 19th had
failed, Grant did not despair but continued to ponder
what important results a successful assault would
achieve. Such a move, however costly, would save a
long siege. In the end, fewer men might be lost, and
a growing threat to the Union rear— General [J.E.] John-
ston raising troops near Jackson for the relief of
Vicksburg— could be eliminated by quickly capturing
Vicksburg and throwing the entire Union strength
against Johnston. In addition, the Federal troops,
spirited by recent victories and impatient to seize the
prize for which they had campaigned so long, would
work more zealously in the trenches with pick and
shovel if they were certain that a siege was the only
alternative. With 40,000 troops available. Grant is-
sued orders on the 21st for another assault against
Vicksburg the following day.
Pvt. Thomas Booker of Company B,
28th (Thomas') Louisiana Infantry, helped
stop the Federal assaults at several
different points on the defense line.
(Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of

The Union assault of May 22 was centered against the Confederate line along a front from a point midway between Fort Hill and Stockade Redan to Square Fort. The felled trees and thick undergrowth, as well as the precipitous faces of the ravines, restricted the scope of Union maneuver. In preparation for the attack, field batteries were run forward and emplaced to provide a covering fire for the infantry, and troops were advanced into concealed posi-
tions—in places within 200 yards of their objective. To prevent Pemberton from shifting his forces from one threatened point to another, the infantry attacks were to begin simultaneously at 10 a.m. Watches of all Union commanders were synchronized. Reserves were posted to exploit a breakthrough.

The attack on the Stockade Redan by Maj. Gen.
Francis P. Blair's division of Sherman's corps exemplified the day's action in method and result. Blair's men were faced with formidable obstacles: the route of advance along the Graveyard Road was covered by Confederate fire, and access to the redan itself was rendered difficult by steep exterior slopes and
by a deep ditch fronting the works. The night before,
Sherman had decided that a bridge would be needed
by his men to span the ditch. Only one source of
lumber could be found — a frame house in which
General Grant was sleeping. Informed of the need.
Grant dressed and watched the house quickly torn
down for bridging material.

At the stroke of 10, the artillery bombardment of
the fortifications ceased and the "Forlorn Hope," a
volunteer band of 150 men, surged along Graveyard
Road toward the redan. They carried planks to
bridge the ditch and ladders to scale the steep
exterior slope. The Confederates held their fire until
the column issued from a cut in the road 400 feet
away. Then the Southern soldiers "rose from their
reclining position behind the works, and gave them
such a terrible volley of musketry" that the road
soon was nearly obstructed by the bodies of the
killed and wounded, "the very sticks and chips
scattered over the ground jumping under the hot
shower of Rebel bullets."

A Federal color-bearer managed to place a flag on
the exterior slope. The galling fire forced the rem-
nants of attack formations that had reached the
redan to take cover in the ditch. Attempting to pre-
vent the defenders from firing down into the ditch.
Federal infantry swept the top of the redan with
withering volleys. The Confederates fought back,
using artillery shells as hand grenades and rolling
them down among the Union troops pinned in the
ditch. In the face of ferocious resistance, the morn-
ing attack ground to a halt at the Stockade Redan.

Union flags were also placed on the slopes of the
Railroad Redoubt, the Great Redoubt, and at the
rifle-pits near the Second Texas Lunette. At the
Railroad Redoubt a tenuous breach was made in the
Confederate defenses by McClernand's troops. A
small band of lowans led by Sgts. Joseph Griffith and
Nicholas Messenger crawled through a gap blasted
by Union artillery at the salient angle, entered the
redoubt, and drove out most of the remaining de-
fenders. Later a dozen Confederates inside the re-
doubt surrendered. Other Federal troops clung to
the slopes or took cover in the ditch.

Encouraged by his partial success, McClernand
asked Grant for reinforcements and a renewal of the
attacks. One of McPherson's divisions marched to
augment McClernand's striking power. Grant or-
dered Sherman and McPherson to create a diversion
in McClernand's favor. All assaults in the afternoon
were shattered by a resolute Confederate defense.
The afternoon attacks, the last massive assault 
against Vicksburg, served only to increase Federal 
losses and to intensify an already bitter contro- 
versy over McClernand's military performance. 
Union casualties on May 22 totaled 3,200. A month 
later McClernand was replaced by Maj. Gen. Ed- 
ward O.C.Ord. Confederate casualties were comparatively

National Park Service

Sunday, May 19, 2013

150-Years-Ago -- The Battle of Champion Hill, Miss.

Battle of Champion Hill, Miss. May 16, 1863.
(Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 13, 1863, p. 185.)

[Excerpted from National Park Service
Publication, “Vicksburg: The  Opening
Of the Mississippi 1862-63"]
On May 15 [Lt. Gen. J. C.] Pemberton marched to the southeast
from near Edward's Station with 23,000 men, his
route further separating him from [Gen. J.E.] Johnston to the
northeast. Meanwhile, [Maj. Gen. U.S.] Grant continued to push
westward toward Vicksburg, continuing to exploit
the wedge he had driven between Johnston's and
Pemberton's forces. On the morning of the 16th
Pemberton received a despatch from Johnston or-
dering him to move to the northeast and unite with
Johnston's force. Pemberton obeyed this order, but
as his troops were countermarching they were struck
near Champion Hill by forward elements of Grant's
advancing army.
Pvt. Henry Augustus Moore, 15th Miss
Inf.. The 15th Mississippi fought at the
Battle of Champion's Hill. (Liljenquist
Family Collection, Library of Congress

The Battle of Champion Hill centered around a
crescent-shaped ridge some 73 feet higher in eleva-
tion than the surrounding countryside near the Cham-
pion plantation home. At stake was the control of
three converging roads leading from the east toward
Edwards Station. Of Pemberton's three divisions,
Loring's covered the Raymond Road, Bowen's was
in position on Loring's left, and Carter L. Stevenson's
guarded the Middle and Jackson roads. The battle
opened in earnest shortly before noon on the 16th,
when Brig. Gen. Alvin P. Hovey's Union division
attacked along the Jackson Road (the north road)
which passed over the crest of Champion Hill.
General Logan's division drove against the ridge on
Hovey's right. From the crest, Stevenson's troops
opened a heavy fire on the advancing Union lines,
but were driven back in bitter fighting. Bowen's
division, shifted north to reinforce Stevenson's bal-
tered brigades, counterattacked on Hovey's front
and forced the Federals from the slopes and crest of
the hill.

Grant was now compelled to reinforce his hard-
pressed right. Massed Union artillery batteries opened
a concentrated fire on the ridge, followed by heavy
and repeated infantry attacks along the entire line.
For the third time the hill changed hands. Pember-
ton was unable to rally his troops against these
attacks, and the divisions of Bowen and Stevenson
retreated. Loring's division managed to hold the
Raymond Road open long enough for the rest of the
army to withdraw across Baker Creek, but was cut
off from the main body when Federal artillery
brought the crossing under fire. (Loring was finally
able to join Johnston after a long three-day march.)
Pemberton retreated toward Vicksburg and that
night took up positions along Big Black River about
12 miles east of Vicksburg.

The battle of Champion Hill (or Baker's Creek, as
it is sometimes called) was the bloodiest action of the
Vicksburg campaign. Federal troops on the field
numbered 32,000; Confederates totaled 23,000.
Pemberton lost nearly 4,000 men, not counting
Loring's division, which never returned to his army.
Grant listed casualties of 2,500, with Hovey losing
one-third of his division killed and wounded.

Not knowing that Loring's division had been cut
off, Pemberton intended to make a stand at the Big
Black River to hold the bridges open for Loring to
rejoin the main force. The Confederates had con-
structed a line of earthworks across the mile-wide
bottom land enclosed in a loop of the river. Now,
with their backs to the river, troops of Bowen's
division and Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn's reinforced
brigade awaited the Union onslaught.

Before dawn on the 17th, the Union army contin-
ued its march toward Vicksburg. Grant, still hoping
to win the race for the city, had sent Sherman's corps
along a parallel route to the north. At mid-morning,
McClernand's corps sighted the Confederate line
and prepared to assault. Before the deployment was
complete. Brig. Gen. Michael Lawler's brigade
charged ''with a shout" and smashed the Confeder-
ate center held by Vaughn's Tennesseans. Other
Federal units drove against the ruptured line, causing
the Confederates to break and head for the bridges
in disonler. After his army's withdrawal, Pemberton
ordered the bridges burned, effectively halting Union
pursuit. In the confusion Grant captured more than
1 ,700 prisoners along with 18 artillery pieces.
Lt. Gen. Gen. J.C. Pemberton.
(Library of Congress)
As Pemberton's army fell back toward the de-
fenses of Vicksburg, Grant's engineers began con-
struction of bridges across the Big Black River.
Trees, cotton bales, and lumber from nearby build-
ings were used as bridging materials. The bridges
were completed by torchlight during the night. On
the following morning, May 18, McClernand's corps
crossed the river near the burned railroad bridge;
McPherson's corps crossed near Amsterdam. Sher-
man's corps, utilizing the only pontoon bridge carried
by Grant's army, crossed the river at Bridgeport.

The Union army, now within a few miles of its
long-sought objective, had in 18 days completed one
of the most noteworthy campaigns of the war.
Marching deep into enemy territory, it had success-
fully lived off the country while fighting and winning
five engagements and inflicting critical losses in men
and equipment, had prevented Johnston and Pember-
ton from joining forces, and had driven the Army of
Vicksburg into the defenses of the city.

By noon of May 18, with Grant's advance ex-
pected momentarily, Pemberton believed the de-
fenses of Vicksburg were strong enough to stand off
the Union army until Johnston received sufficient
reinforcements to raise the expected siege and pre-
vent the loss of the Mississippi River. There, while
inspecting his defenses, Pemberton received a des-
patch from Johnston advising him not to stay and try
to defend the city, which Johnston felt was already
doomed. Military necessity demanded, he wrote,
that ''instead of losing both troops and place, we
must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late,
evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies and march
to the northeast."

Unwilling to yield the city without a fight, Pember-
ton assembled another council of war and placed the
order before his senior officers. They were of unani-
mous opinion that it would be "impossible to with-
draw the army from this position with such morale as
to be of further service to the Confederacy." As the
council reached its decision to remain and fight.
Union guns opened on the works. The siege of
Vicksburg had begun. 
(National Park Service)