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17776Re: [civilwarwest] Re: Death on the Mississippi

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  • GnrlJEJohnston@aol.com
    May 2, 2003
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      I came across an interesting article in the Quartermaster Professional publication by a Captain W. Welch.

      On 12 January, Halleck settled the issue when he telegraphed Grant: "You are hereby authorized to relieve General McClernand from command of the expedition against Vicksburg. Giving it to the next in rank or taking it yourself." Realizing that relieving McClernand and putting Sherman in command would send political ripples all the way back to Washington, Grant chose to personally take command. Upon McClernand and Sherman’s return, he quietly deactivated McClernand’s Army of the Mississippi and reorganized these forces into the four corps. The corps commanders were McClernand, Sherman, Major General James McPherson and Major General Stephen Hurlbut.

       If you notice, this was after McClernand took over command from Sherman and attacked Arkansas Post which in Grant's eyes, was not according to his plan to have Vicksburg.

      Back to Square One

      At this point, Grant was right where he had started two months earlier. He traveled down the west side of the river, stopping northwest of Vicksburg. Grant tried four unsuccessful efforts to reach Vicksburg: two attempts to bypass the city to the south and two to cross the Yazoo Delta to the north.

      The two attempts to bypass to the south involved digging canals through the waterways and rivers on the west side. Breaking levees and lack of engineer equipment caused these attempts to fail. The two attempts to cross the Yazoo Delta at first seemed promising, but the Confederate forces must have expected such attempts. Trees were cut to fall across the water and clog the waterways for the gunboats and ironclads. The date was March 1863 and Grant was still at square one.

      Failure was nothing new to Grant. Since 1854, with his resignation of his commission followed by several projects he attempted as a civilian, he seemed always to fall short of success. Yet, through these failures, Grant seemed to emerge as a confident, respected leader who now enjoyed increasing support from President Lincoln and Halleck.

      Grant thought he should withdraw to the north and attack along the Mississippi Central Railroad - his original intention. However, this strategy would appear as an admission of defeat, something Grant could not afford after his four failed attempts. Grant decided to march his troops south overland on the west side. He would run gunboats and transports at night past the bluffs to assist in crossing the river and then attack Vicksburg from the south.

      Once again, this demonstrates not only Grant's determination to suceed, but in his generalship of being flexible in trying different things to be successful.

      Grant’s Campaign

      Grant and Pemperton’s forces were about equal in size, about 50,000 each. This was not the force ratio Grant wanted to face. Grant organized his corps into three assaulting corps and one corps to protect his rear area. McClernand, Sherman and McPherson would lead the assaulting forces. Hurlbut would be the "stay-behind" commander. Grant started his campaign by sending McClernand south to Hard Times along the west bank to establish and repair a roadway for follow-on forces. Two weeks later Admiral Porter sailed eight gunships and eight transports past the bluffs, losing only one transport. Meanwhile, Grant was thinning Pemperton’s forces on the Vicksburg perimeter through diversions.

      One diversion, commanded by Major General Frederick Steele, was to move a division north of Vicksburg to destroy supply stations and take livestock that Confederate forces needed. More importantly, Steele was to gain Pemperton’s attention to the north, spread his forces, and conceal Union movement to Hard Times. Steele was successful and rejoined Sherman to participate in the campaign. Hurlbut conducted the second diversion. He was to launch a pattern of cavalry raids to strain Pemperton’s already thin defenses. The biggest success of this campaign was that of Colonel Benjamin Grierson. His raid, from the Tennessee-Mississippi border to Baton Rouge, with only 1,000 soldiers drew a division from the defenses at Vicksburg. Sherman had the third diversion. He was to draw forces away from Vicksburg to Haynes Bluff. For this, he loaded 10 regiments worth of troops on transports and instructed every man to "look as numerous as possible." Sherman then moved the transports within view of the Confederate forces at Haynes Bluff, moved them out of sight, reboarded and repeated the process three times. This gave the appearance of 30 regiments instead of 10. This diversion resulted in the Haynes Bluff commander wiring an urgent message to Pemperton: "The enemy are in front of me in force such as has never been seen before at Vicksburg. Send me reinforcements." Meanwhile, Sherman was moving out to join Grant south of Vicksburg to report a mission complete.

      Again, this demonstrates the brilliant generalship of Grant in having the enemy diverse his forces;  having the enemy believe in that they were facing an enormous amount of troops.

      Grant, with McClernand, was at Hard Times and ready to cross the river. Grand Gulf was to their front with Confederate forces. Porter’s gunboats had little effect. Grant was beginning to think his plan had failed, but luck was on his side. An escaped slave gave Grant information about a good road at Bruinsburg. Grant moved his forces further south. On 1 May, he was finally on the east side. Grant began establishing a supply base while waiting for Sherman and his forces.


      Grant’s Most Critical Decision

      Grant was getting supplies from Memphis. This line of supply was too long, and Union forces had to get past the bluffs. Grant knew if he waited for supplies, Vicksburg would have time to be reinforced. Pemperton would also expect Grant to move north and attack from the south. Grant decided not to wait for supplies, to move to Jackson and to attack Vicksburg from the rear. The Union leaders in Washington did not support this "carry-what-you-can" plan and sent a message to Grant to wait for resupply coordination from Baton Rouge. This message arrived too late. Grant was in the execution phase.

      Was Grant's inititive insubordiate  to the message from Washington to wait for resupply coordination.  I think not.  Since he initiated his movements prior to receiving notification, the notice from Washington was moot.  As it turned out, Grant's forces did live off the land and supplies from Banks at Baton Rouge was not that much needed.

      Sherman joined Grant on 7 May, the same day Grant would begin his movement to Jackson. He moved his forces through Rocky Springs to Raymond. McClernand was ordered to move directly north to Auburn. Grant wanted Pemperton to think his next target was Champion’s Hill. McPherson and Sherman arrived at Raymond on 12 May after a quick battle that resulted in Confederate forces retreating to Jackson. McClernand joined up with Grant at Raymond. Grant ordered McPherson to move to Clinton to destroy the railroad to prevent reinforcements and resupply, then move eastward to Jackson. Sherman was to attack Jackson from Raymond and McClernand was to stay in Raymond and protect the rear and reinforce McPherson or Sherman.

      Again, a sound tactical strategy

      Jackson, MS, had 6,000 Confederate troops to Grant’s 25,000 Union troops. Jackson was taken easily. General Joe Johnston, the commander at Jackson, retreated his forces north to Canton. Grant’s decision to continue his advance without supplies was the key to this victory. Had the Union forces waited for resupply, Confederate forces would have grown to 15,000 troops with another 9,000 close behind. Grant was now in position to take the key he initially came to take: Vicksburg.

      Grant's initiative paid off again

      Johnston sent word to Pemberton to join him at Clinton. Together, the Confederates would attack Grant from the rear. At the same time, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, ordered Pemperton to hold Vicksburg at all costs. Pemberton followed Davis’ order and decided to meet Grant at Champion’s Hill. At the end of one of the bloodiest battles of the Vicksburg Campaign, the Union prevailed. Grant continued his movement to Vicksburg.

      IMHO,  neither Davis nor Pemberton adhered to the chain of command.  Davis should have given the order to JEJ to be relayed to Pemberton, rather than giving the order to Pemberton directly.  Pemberton should have obeyed the order from JEJ to join him at Clinton, which in the long run,  he may have lost Vicksburg, but would save his army. 

      At this point, the Confederate morale was very low while the Union’s confidence was increasing. Union forces seemed invincible. Grant’s success was having a definite impact.

      From documents that I have read, at this period of time, Confederate morale in Pemberton's command was high, not low.

      When Grant reached Vicksburg in mid-May, he attempted two assaults that failed. The second assault on 22 May had worse results than the first on 17 May. Realizing his conventional attacks would not work, Grant decided to "settle down to regular siege operations." Pemperton could not get supplies in and no Confederate could get out. Grant knew Pemperton would not last long. Grant also received reinforcements to increase Union numbers to 70,000 to Pemperton’s 30,000 Confederates.

      In early July, Pemperton began negotiations with Grant for the conditions of surrender. On 4 July 1863, the Confederates surrendered. Grant sent a message to Washington that the campaign was over, the Mississippi was open all the way to the Gulf, and the Confederacy was split.

      It took seven months, but in the end, strength and generalship prevailed.  Were mistakes made -   yes, quite a few.  Was Washington's (also McClernand's) decision to use the waterways to claim victory over Vicksburg a mistake -  again IMHO  yes.  Did Vicksburg's defeat have a catastrophic effect on the Confederacy /
      IMHO only morally.  Yes, it did divide the Confederacy, but that division was not harmful to the Confederacy.

      You can click on the link given here to get a good map of the Vicksburg campaign.



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