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Vicksburg, "the Heroic City."-Its Value to the Confederacy.-An Opportunity Lost by Butler. — Lieutenant-general Pemberton.-A Favorite of President Da vis.-The President's Obstinacy.-Blindness of Pemberton to the Enemy's Designs.-His Telegram to Johnston.-Plan of U. S. Grant.-Its Daring.-THE Battle OF PORT GIBSON.-Exposure of General Bowen by Pemberton.-The First Mistake.— Pemberton's Disregard of Johnston's Orders.-Grant's advance against Jackson.Johnston's Evacuation of Jackson.-His Appreciation of the Situation.-Urgent Orders to Pemberton.-A Brilliant Opportunity.-Pemberton's Contumacy and Stupidity. His Irretrievable Error.-Yankoe Outrages in Jackson.-THE BATTLE OF BAKER'S CREEK, &c.-Stevenson's Heroic Fight.-Alleged Dereliction of General Loring.-His Division Cut Off in the Retreat.-Demoralization of Pemberton's Troops.-The Enemy's Assault on the Big Black.-Shameful Behavior of the Confederates.-A Georgia Hero.-Pemberton and the Fugitives.-His Return to Vicksburg.-Reoriminations as to the Disaster of the Big Black.--How Pemberton Was in the Wrong.Johnston Orders the Evacuation of Vicksburg.-Pemberton's Determination to Hold It.
VICKSBURG had already become famous in the history of the war, from the cupidity of the enemy and the gallantry of its resistance. The habitual phrase in the Yankee newspapers was "the three strongholds of the rebellion, Richmond, Vicksburg, and Charleston." The possession of Richmond would have given an important éclat to the enemy, and some strategic advantages. That of Charleston would have given him a strip of sea-coast and an additional barrier to the blockade. Vicksburg was a prize almost as important as Richmond, and much more so than Charleston. It was the key of the navigation of the Mississippi, and the point of union between the positions of the Confederacy on the different sides of this river.
At the time of the fall of New Orleans, the defence of Vicksburg was not even contemplated by the authorities at Richmond; and the city was given up for lost by President Davis, as appears by an intercepted letter from one of his family. It was a characteristic want of appreciation of the situation by the Confederate Administration. It is not improbable, that it Butler had had the enterprise and genius to direct a land attack against Vicksburg, it might have readily fallen, on ac
count of the feeble nature of its defences and the insufficiency of its garrison. But the tyrant of New Orleans was a man utterly destitute of military ability, whose ferocious genius was expended in a war upon non-combatants. He let slip the golden opportunity which the pre-occupation of Beauregard with Halleck gave him to operate upon Vicksburg, and at once complete the Yankee victory, which had been gained at the mouth of the Mississippi.
The time the enemy gave for strengthening the defences of Vicksburg was improved; and we have seen in another volume how it passed comparatively unscathed through one bombardment; how it resisted Sherman's expedition of 1862; and how it defied the gigantic enterprises of the enemy to encompass it with the waters of the Mississippi turned from their channel. But, unfortunately, the battle of Corinth had placed its destinies in the hands of a commander who had not the confidence of the army; who encountered a positive hostility among the people within the limits of his command; and whose haughty manner and military affectation were ill-calculated to win the regard of the soldier or reconcile the dislike of the civilian.
But a short time after the battle referred to, Major-general Earl Van Dorn was removed from command, and Major-general Pemberton was placed in command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and, in consequence of his being outranked by both General Van Dorn and General Lovell, was soon after appointed a Lieutenant-general. He was raised by a single stroke of President Davis's patronage from the obscurity of a major to the position of a lieutenant-general. He had never been on a battle-field in the war, and his reputation as a commander was simply nothing. He was entirely the creature of the private and personal prejudices of President, Davis. Never was an appointment of this president more selfwilled in its temper and more unfortunate in its consequences It might have been supposed that the fact that Pemberton did not command the confidence of his troops or of any considerable portion of the public would, of itself, have suggested to the President the prudence of a change of commanders, and dissuaded him from his obstinate preference of a favorite. But it had none of this effect. The Legislature of Mississippi solicited the removal of Pemberton. Private delegations from
Congress entreated the President to forego his personal prejudices and defer to the public wish. But Mr. Davis had that conceit of opinion which opposition readily confirms; and the effect of these remonstrances was only to increase his obstinacy and intensify his fondness for his favorite. To some of thein he replied that Pemberton was “a great military genius,” not appreciated by the public, and destined on proper occasion to astonish it.
General Pemberton took command amid the suppressed murmurs of a people to whom he was singularly unwelcoine. The first evidence of his want of comprehension was his ignor.. ance and bewilderment as to the enemy's designs. We have referred to the failure of the canal projects. The enemy, after iong-continued and streneous efforts to reach the right flank of Vicksburg, by forcing a passage through the upper Yazoo river, finally relinquished his design, and on the nights of the 4th and 5th of April, re-enibarked his troops, and before daylight was in rapid retreat. About the same time a heavy force of the enemy, which had been collected at Baton Rouge, was mostly withdrawn and transferred to western Louisiana, leaving but one division to occupy that place.
So blind was Pemberton to the designs of the enemy, that for many weeks he continued to believe that the object of the movements of Ulysses S. Grant—the last commander sent from Washington to contest the prize of the Mississippi-was not Vicksburg, but Bragg's army in Tennessee. In this delusion, and the self-complacent humor it inspired, he telegraphed to General Johnston, on the 13th of April: "I am satisfied that Rosecrans will be reinforced froin Grant's army. Shall I order troops to Tullahoma ?" The aberration was soon dispelled. A few days after this despatch, information obtained from Memphis indicated that Grant's retrogade movement was a ruse; and thus suddenly Pemberton was called upon to prepare for one of the most extraordinary and audacious games that the enemy had yet attempted in this war.
We know that it is customary to depreciate an adversary in war, by naming his enterprise as desperation, and entitling his buccess as luck. We shall not treat with such injustice the enemy's campaign in Mississippi. Iu daring, in celerity of movement, and in the vigor and decision of its steps it was the most remarkable of the war. The plan of Grant was, in brief, nothing else than to gain firm ground on one of the Confederato tlanks, which, to be done, involved a march of about one hundred and fifty miles, through a hostile country, and in which communication with the base of supplies was liable at any moment to be permanently interrupted. In addition, a resist ance to his advance could be anticipated, of whose magnitudo nothing was certainly known, and which, for aught he knew, might at any time prove great enough to annihilate his entire . army.
The plan involved the enterprise of running a fleet of transports past the batteries, crossing the troops from the Louisiana shore, below Vicksburg, to Mississippi, and then marching the · army, by the way of Jackson, through the heart of the Confederacy, so to speak, to the rear of Vicksburg. On the night of the 22d of April, the first demonstration was made, in accordance with the newly-formed plan, by the running past our batteries of three gunboats and seven transports.
Grand Gulf is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi river, immediately below the mouth of the Big Black river. It was not selected as a position for land-defence, but for the protection of the mouth of the Big Black, and also as a preautionary measure against the passage of transports, should The canal before referred to prove a success, which then seemed Fighly probable. The necessary works were constructed under The direction of Brigadier-general Bowen, to defend the batteries against an assault from the river front, and against a direct attack from or across Big Black.
THE BATTLE OF PORT GIBSON.
The enemy having succeeded in getting bis transports past Vicksburg, an attack on Grand Gulf was anticipated. Twelve miles below this, at the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, is Brainsburg, and at this point the enemy landed in heavy force, on the 30th of April, and prepared for an advance movement.
As soon as General Bowen received information of the landing of the enemy, he crossed Bayou Pierre, and advanced tuwards Port Gibson, sitated several miles south-east of Grand
Gulf. In the vicinity of this place General Buwen met the enemy advancing in full force, and immediately prepared for battle, having previously telegraphed to Vicksburg for rein. forcements. He was left with a few thonsand men to confront an overwhelming force of the enemy, as Pemberton had in sisted upon putting the Big Black between the enemy and the hulk of his own forces, which he declared were necessary to cover Vicksburg.
Early on the morning of the 1st of May, General Green, who had been sent out on the Brainsburg road with about a thousand men, encountered the enemy. He was joined by General Tracy, with not more than fifteen hundred me. The enemy's attack was sustained with great bravery until between nine and ten o'clock, when, overwhelnied by numbers and flanked on the right and left, General Green had to fall back. Courier after courier had been sent for General Baldwin, who was on the way with some reinforcements, but his troops were so utterly exhausted that he could not get up in time to prevent this. Just as the retreat was taking place General Baldwin arrived, and was ordered to form a new line about one mile in rear of General Green's first position. General Baldwin had no artillery, and that ordered np from Grand Gulf had not arrived. Colonel Cockrell, with three Missouri regiments came mp soon after. General Bowen now had all the force at his command on the field, excepting three regiments and two battalions, which occupied positions which he could not remove them from until the last moment. 'He ordered them
up about one o'clock, but only one of them arrived in time to cover the retreat and burn the bridges. Between twelve and one o'clock General Bowen attempted, with two of Colonel Cockrell's regiments, to turn the enemy's right flank, and nearly succeeded. The enemy formed three brigades in front of a battery, to receive our charge. The first was routed, the second wavered, but the third stood firm, and after a long and desperate contest, our troops had to give up the attempt. It is probable, however, that tliis attack saved the right from being overwhelmed, and kept the enemy back until nearly sunset. All day long the fight raged fiercely, our men everywhere maintaining their ground. Just before sunset a desperate attack was made by the enemy, they having again received fresh