Page images

Meanwhile, in pursuance of his plan of turning the rebel right, Rosecrans had sent a portion of Van Cleve's Division across Stone River, for the purpose of threatening Breckinridge, who held that part of Bragg's line: Nothing of interest occurred on the 2d, until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when a large rebel force suddenly issued from the woods on the opposite shore of the river, and advanced, in three heavy lines, with great impetuosity, upon Van Cleve's troops, who, after several ineffectual volleys, retired in confusion across the river. On came the enemy, in proud disdain of his opponents, expecting to double up and crush the Union left as readily as he had overpowered McCook's troops two days before. But a far different reception awaited him now. The Union artillery, massed on the ridges that crowned the river bank, awaited but the word to play with full force into the dense columns which swept up with yells of triumph and defiance. At length the range was complete, and a dozen batteries opened such a fire as would have staggered the best troops in the world. The rebels, brave and confident as they were, recoiled in confusion, but, as if by magic, the frequent gaps in their lines quickly closed up, and they resumed the advance, only to encounter a still more close and deadly fire of artillery, to which were now added volleys of musketry. The slaughter was here prodigious, but, with desperate resolution, a portion of the advance was pushed to the river's brink, in the vain hope of storming the opposing batteries. But scarcely a man of those who made the mad attempt lived to return, and gradually the whole force, refusing longer to obey their officers, fell back in irreparable confusion. At this moment, the Union troops dashing across the shallow river with fixed bayonets, drove the routed foe in wild confusion within the shelter of the woods, whence they had emerged scarcely half an hour previous. In this brief but brilliant affair the Union troops inflicted a loss of not less than twenty-five hundred on Breckinridge's Corps, besides capturing a battery, several thousand small-arms, and several sets of colors. Darkness alone prevented Rosecrans from ordering the pursuit to bé continued to Murfreesboro'.

The result greatly depressed Bragg, who judged wisely that the suecesses of the 31st of December had been more than neutralized by the afternoon's disaster. At a council of rebel generals, held on the morning of the 3d, it was determined to retreat on the same night, and at the appointed hour the disheartened and tired columns moved sullenly off in the direction of Shelbyville, twenty miles south of Murfreesboro'. On the fifth, the advance of Rosecrans, under Thomas, entered Murfreesboro', and the enemyhaving by that time got a considerable start, and the roads being almost impassable for artillery, no further pursuit was attempted. After the fatigues of the previous week, the army was greatly in need of rest, and Rosecrans at once went into winterquarters.

General Rosecrans's statement of force and losses in the three days' fighting was as follows:

We moved on the enemy with the following forces:

[blocks in formation]

We fought the battle with the following forces :—

[blocks in formation]

Being 20.03 per cent. of the entire force in action, and three thousand six hundred missing.

He estimated the enemy's force at sixty-two thousand four hundred and ninety men. The rebels estimated their loss at one thousand killed and thirty-five hundred wounded, which is probably not more than fifty per cent. of the whole amount.


Turn of the Tide of War.-New Combinations.-Vicksburg.-Sherman's Attack.Arkansas Post-Renewal of Attempt upon Vicksburg.-Passage of Batteries by the Fleet.-Flanking March of Grant.

THE tide of victory, which had run so uninterruptedly in favor of the North from the beginning of the war, and which had excited the highest hopes of a speedy termination of the war, seemed to have reached its ebb at midsummer, 1862. There had been great success on the part of the Federal arms. Western and Middle Tennessee had been overrun and occupied by the Government troops. The Confederates had been driven out of Missouri. New Orleans had been occupied, and the Federal forces were ascending the Mississippi, while all its strong points above had been seized by the Government, Vicksburg and Port Hudson alone offering obstacles to the free navigation of the river. The sea-coast, from Norfolk, skirting North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, was under the Federal rule, and the limits of the Confederacy seemed to be rapidly contracting under the pressure of the National power.

Suddenly the public were startled with the announcement that the iron-clads, for the first time, had failed to accomplish their object. The Monitor and her consorts had attacked Fort Darling, which had been looked upon as a slight obstruction, and had been repulsed, and that so effectually, that the attack was never renewed. From that moment, the general course of events was adverse to the Federal arms. The defeat of McClellan followed, and other reverses troubled the public mind.

These were grave events, and resulted, as we have seen, in the act of July 1, calling for three hundred thousand volunteers for the war, and that of August 9, calling for three hundred thousand men for nine months, who were to be drafted unless they promptly volunteered. These six hundred thousand men were designed to open campaigns of great vigor. Rosecrans was to cross Tennessee and penetrate Alabama, the heart of the Confederacy, with an irresistible force, and the Mississippi was to be opened by a grand combination upon Vicksburg from above and below, while the reorganized and re-enforced Army of the Potomac was to renew its march upon Richmond. The six hundred thousand men were soon mustered into the service of the Government, since the large bounties offered to volunteers sufficed to fill the quotas without resort to drafting, and the expeditions and campaigns were opened. These grand combinations unfortunately produced no practical results. The Army of the Potomac, reorganized under Burnside, gained no ground towards Richmond. The Army of the Ohio, under Buell, failed of its mission, and, under Rosecrans, succeeded only in holding West Tennessee, without penetrating Alabama. Grant had made some progress towards the rear of Vicksburg, but had suddenly retrograded when his communication was threatened. The plan for the opening of the Mississippi contemplated an assault on Vicksburg on the 25th of December, Christmas-Day. In that view an expedition was fitted out under General Banks, for New Or leans, whence he was to ascend the river, in company with the fleet under Farragut, while an expedition under General Sherman * was to leave Memphis and descend the river with Commodore Porter, and General Grant was to operate upon the rear of Vicksburg. The main strength of the combination was the expedition under Sherman. This rendezvoused at Memphis and Helena, and on the 26th of December entered the Yazoo River, which empties into the Mississippi River ten miles above Vicksburg. At this time, Sherman was ignorant of the fact that Grant had failed in his co-operative movement. Vicksburg is situated on a high bluff, rising nearly a hundred feet above the water, and facing very nearly to the west. This, as has been previously stated, furnishes a natural defence against any force attempting to get into the rear of the city from the north, of which full advantage had been taken. Where the bluffs approach the Yazoo River there

William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1820, graduated at West Point in 1840, and in the same year was appointed second lieutenant of the Third Artillery. He served in California during the Mexican war, was brevetted captain in 1850, and in 1853 resigned his commission. After engaging in business in San Francisco, he became, in 1858, president of the military academy in Louisiana, but resigned his office at the outbreak of the rebellion. In June, 1861, he was commissioned colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry, and subsequently a brigadier-general of volunteers. He participated in the first battle of Bull Run, and in the ensuing autumn and winter served in Kentucky and Missouri. In the spring of 1862, he commanded a division in Grant's army, and distinguished himself at the battle of Shiloh, earning thereby his promotion to be major general of volunteers. He made an unsuccessful

attack on Vicksburg in December, 1862, and took part in the subsequent campaign against that place under Grant. He accompanied Grant to Chattanooga in October, 1863, soon after marched to the relief of Knoxville, and early in 1864 conducted a successful raid through Southern Mississippi. In March he was placed over the middle division of the Mississippi, and soon after commenced his successful campaign against Atlanta, which he occupied in September. In the suc ceeding November, after driving Hood into Northern Alabama, he commenced his march through Georgia, and reached Savannah in December. Thence he marched north to Goldsboro', N. C., and in April, 1865, received the surrender of Johnston's He now commards the military division of the Mississippi, with the rank of major-general in the regular army.


were constructed formidable batteries, that prevented the passage of all manner of craft. Just above these batteries, and defended by them, they had placed a heavy raft of timber and iron in the stream, making a most effectual blockade.

Thus it was impossible to flank this range of bluffs, and they were to be attacked, if attacked at all, full in front. Against this the enemy guarded themselves by fortifying the entire range, from Vicksburg to Haines's Bluff. These fortifications consisted of abatis in front of the bluffs to a width on the average of a mile. At the foot of the bluff they had rifle-pits the entire way. Above the rifle-pits, and in the face of the bluff, they had constructed batteries mounting one gun each, at short intervals all the way along. On the summit of the bluffs they had earthworks thrown up, ready to cover field artillery whenever it should be desirable to bring it into action from any of these points. Thus these entire ranges of hills were one complete, bristling fortification, dangerous to approach and difficult to capture.

These formidable works were held by the combined armies of Pemberton and Price, amounting to some fifty thousand troops, with one hundred and sixty guns, who had concentrated after Grant had returned to Holly Springs on the 20th. The attack and reduction of these works promised to be a matter of extreme difficulty. On Saturday morning, the 27th, the Benton and other boats made an attack on Haines's Bluff, about twenty miles from the mouth of the Yazoo River. While this was in progress, the same day, General Sherman landed his forces on the right bank, ten miles up the river. The line of battle was at once formed. General A. J. Smith took the right, General Morgan L. Smith the right centre, General Steele the left centre, and General G. W. Morgan the extreme left. Our line was formed in this order parallel with the bluffs, and in the edge of the timber that skirts the abatis, bringing it about a mile from the enemy's lines. The advance of the line was through almost impracticable ground. The old roads had been destroyed, and felled trees and other obstacles were profusely strewn in the path. It was therefore found to be impracticable to carry out General Sherman's design of pushing on to the bluffs the same night. On Monday morning there was a heavy fog until eight o'clock, when a bombardment began from one hundred and fifty guns, which for some hours rained shot upon the bluffs, without much apparent effect. Finally the line of infantry began to emerge from the woods in which it was formed. In front of Morgan L. Smith, on the right centre, was a bayou which it was necessary for the troops to pass. In front of Steele was a broad plain, covered with abatis, and cut up with gullies in which were sharpshooters, and Morgan on the left encountered similar obstacles. The advance of Smith to cross the bayou was made with great courage and determination, but was met with a terrific fire which staggered and forced back the column. Smith rushed to the head to hold his men to their work, when he received a shot which compelled him to quit the field, and his men, who were now without a leader, and exposed to a withering fire, fell back. On his right, General A. J. Smith crossed the bayou, but won the ground slowly, amid the gullies and felled trees, where his men were exposed

to a biting fire, which they could not effectually return. Their numbers rapidly wasted in the fierce struggle, when they were opportunely aided by the opening of a battery upon the Confederate force which was pressing hard upon the Fifty-fourth Ohio and Eighth Missouri. Meantime the divisions of Steele and Morgan had pushed through all obstacles, and with great determination had cleared the rifle pits and gained considerable ground, some of the men, with rare courage, even reaching the bluffs, but in numbers too weak to hold the ground. The position proved, however, to be too strong to be carried, and the line retired to the camping-ground of the previous night. A violent storm and rain, such as usually succeeds heavy cannonading, set in soon after, and drenched the weary men resting on their arms, causing suffering to the numbers of wounded that strewed the plain in front.

In consequence of the wound of General M. L. Smith, General A. L. Smith was placed in command of his division, and General Burbridge succeeded to the command of Smith. On the 2d January, General McClernand arrived and assumed command of the army, by virtue of his priority of commission. He held a council of war, in which it was determined to abandon the siege, since, through the failure of Banks, Farragut, and Grant to co-operate as previously intended, the force was not sufficient. The men were accordingly promptly embarked, and retired to Milliken's Bend, twelve miles above the mouth of the Yazoo. The Arkansas River was now navigable, and it was determined to strike a blow at Arkansas Post. General Gorman, who was in command at Helena, received orders to co-operate in the movement. The expedition proved completely successful, and on the 11th January the place was captured, with five thousand prisoners. Three other forts were also captured-St. Charles, Duval's Bluff, and Desare. The main body then returned to Vicksburg, and, being largely re-enforced by troops under General Grant, who now assumed the chief command, landed on the Louisiana side, five miles below the mouth of the Yazoo, and commenced to reopen the canal begun in the previous year across the tongue of land in front of Vicksburg, and designed to turn the channel of the river. A force of five thousand men was put to work to enlarge the canal, with a view of floating through the troops and landing them for the attack of Vicksburg on its southern side. The Union fleet concentrated there comprised one hundred and seven vessels, of which ninety-six were transports and nineteen gunboats, the latter being under the command of Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter.

While the canal was in process of digging, the troops were concentrated at Milliken's Bend for reorganization and drill. Little of interest occurred in the progress of the work until the 2d of February, when the ram Queen of the West ran the batteries at Vicksburg down the river without injury, arriving at Natchez the same evening. She soon after made an excursion up the Red River to attack Fort Taylor. On the way up she captured, February 17th, the Confederate steamer Eva, and forced her pilot, John Burke, to take the vessel up to the batteries, which were not far ahead, although when he was placed at the wheel under a guard, he informed the commander of the Queen that they were fifteen miles distant. He then ran close

« PreviousContinue »