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Sherman ordered to
Pemberton had halted at Grenada, and adopted the Yalabusha as his line for defense. At Oxford, on December 8th, Grant, in an interview with Sherman, gave him his final orders, which were to leave three pass down the Mis- Out of his four brigades and march back to Memphis, distant about one hundred miles, and there organize, as quickly as he could, some new troops which had come from the North, and proceed to attack Vicksburg by way of the river. Sherman was authorized to take from the force at Helena as many men. as could be spared. Accordingly, he obtained there about 6000, under General Steele. He had already organized three divisions at Memphis, under A. J. Smith, Morgan, and M. L. Smith. These four divisions, embarking about the middle of December, were convoyed by the gun-boat fleet under Admiral Porter, and proceeded straight for Vicksburg.
CAPTURE OF HOLLY SPRINGS.
Grant's plan was, that while Sherman moved rapidly by the river against Vicksburg, he would himself attack Pemberton very vigorously and advance to the rear of the city by land-or, while he was holding the enemy, Sherman might seize the place. At that date no army had cast loose from a river or railroad as a base of supply, and Grant intended to make use of the Central Mississippi, which had been repaired up to Oxford. Holly Springs was therefore retained as a grand dépôt and hospital. While Sherman was moving down the river, Van Dorn, with the Confederate cavalry, executed a brilliant operation, which proved fatal to the expedition of Grant. He passed round Grant to the east, and suddenly captured Holly Springs (December 20th), then guarded only by a single regiment commanded by Colonel Murphy. "The surprised camp surrendered 1800 men and 150 officers, who were immediately paroled. The extensive buildings of the
Grant's dépôt at Holly Springs destroyed.
CAPTURE OF HOLLY SPRINGS.
Mississippi Central Dépôt, the station-house, the enginehouse, and immense store-houses filled with supplies of clothing and commissary stores, were burned. Up town, the court-house and public buildings, livery-stables, and all capacious establishments, were filled ceiling-high with medical and ordnance stores. These were all fired, and the explosion of one of the buildings, in which was stored one hundred barrels of powder, knocked down nearly all the houses on the south side of the square." The value of the property destroyed was more than two millions of dollars. Grant had warned Murphy by telegraph that he was about to be attacked, and had dispatched re-enforcements to him. In an order issued December 23d, Grant says, "It is with pain and mortification that the general commanding reflects upon the disgraceful surrender of this place, with all the valuable stores it contained, on the 20th instant, 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 advance of the enemy northward the evening previous. With all the cotton, public stores, and substantial buildings about the dépôt, it would have been perfectly practicable to have made, in a few hours, defenses sufficient to resist with a small garrison all the cavalry brought against them, until the re-enforcements which the commanding officer was notified were marching to his relief could have reached him."
This serious loss compelled Grant to restore his communications and to send to Memphis for
His march south
ward at once ar- new supplies. Concluding that, with the Confederates superior to him in cavalry, and
the country full of hostile people, he could not rely safely on the railroad, he determined to give up that line of attack, and move his whole army to Vicksburg down the Mississippi River.
Sherman, in the mean time, ignorant of what had transSherman reaches pired at Holly Springs and Oxford, had the Yazoo River. pushed on and landed up the Yazoo River, and had made an attack at Chickasaw Bayou, on the bluffs between Vicksburg and Haines's Bluff.
The high range of land lying between the Big Black and the Yazoo is known as Walnut Hills. These are about two hundred feet above the average height of the river. The Mississippi impinges against them, making a steep bluff at Vicksburg, and for about two miles above and several below on the
east bank; but all the ground on the west is alluvium.
The topography near Vicksburg.
THE CHICKASAW BAYOU.
The present Yazoo leaves the hills at a point about twenty-three miles above its existing mouth, at a place known as Haines's Bluff. That mouth is about ten miles above
Vicksburg, so that an irregular triangle of alluvium lies between the Yazoo and the Walnut Hills. The Yazoo in old times evidently clung to these hills, and has left old channels or bayous of deep stagnant water or mud, and the whole triangle is cut into every imaginable form by these bayous. The present river and the old bayous are all leveed against high water, and the lands are very fertile. The levees vary in height from four to fourteen feet; their shape is the same as that of a military parapet; interior slope 45°, superior slope from twelve to fourteen feet for a roadway, exterior slope about one in four. These levees entered largely into the Confederate system of defenses.
Where the levee is continuous, as along the Mississippi River, and along the bayou from Vicksburg to Haines's Bluff, a separate roadway is made behind it. Along such a road masses of infantry and artillery could move perfectly under cover.
The face of the hills between Vicksburg and Haines's Bluff is very abrupt, and cut up by numerous valleys and ravines. On the ridge behind, out of sight, is a road, with numerous paths cut down to it. Every hill-top had its telegraph station, and signal corps could be seen telegraphing the movements of the boats and troops.
The Chickasaw Bayou is a small stream flowing between the bluffs and the river. These clay
bluffs, which are here more than two hundred feet high, are very steep; the alluvial swamp between them and the river, with its quicksands and boggy bayous, is covered with cottonwood, cypress, and a dense growth of tangled vines.
On reconnoitring the ground, Sherman found that immediately in his front was the bayou, passable only at two points, on a narrow levee and on a sand-bar, commanded by the enemy's sharp-shooters on the opposite
bank. Behind this was an irregular strip of beach, or table-land, on which were rifle-pits and batteries, and behind that a high, abrupt range of hills, scarred with rifle. trenches and crowned with heavy batteries. The country road from Vicksburg to Yazoo City ran along the foot of these hills, and served the enemy as a covered way along which he moved his artillery and infantry promptly, to meet the national forces at any point where they might try to cross the bayou.
SHERMAN'S ATTEMPT AT CHICKASAW.
The attack was rendered exceedingly difficult by the The difficulties of swampy nature of the country. A fortified Sherman's attempt. line, fifteen miles in length, had been constructed by the Confederates. Through this it was Sherman's intention to pierce. He determined to make the real attempt at the head of Chickasaw Bayou, and at another place where the bayou is barely passable by infantry in single file; but, at the same time, feints were to be made at Haines's Bluff, Vicksburg, and as many intermediate points as possible. Morgan's division moved The battle of Chick- along the line of Chickasaw Bayou, M. L. Smith was about a mile to his right, A. J. Smith still farther to the right, and Steele on the north, or farther side of the bayou; but before the real assault Steele had reported that it was absolutely impossible for him to reach the foot of the bluff, by reason of the swamp and submerged ground. He was therefore recalled, and sent to re-enforce Morgan.
As soon as Steele's leading brigade (F. P. Blair's) had reached the ground, Morgan being ready, the assault was ordered. Under a severe fire from the enemy, Blair's brigade and De Courcy's of Morgan's division crossed the bayou, drove the Confederates from their first rifle-pits, and pushed to the country road that runs along the base of the hills. There, being unsupported, they were subjected to a heavy cross-fire from batteries on the hill, and