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Gouverneur Morris
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General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
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General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign

What flag is this you carry
Along the sea and shore?
The same our grandsires lifted up--
The same our fathers bore.
In many a battle's tempest
It shed the crimson rain--
What God has woven in his loom
Let no man rend in twain.
To Canaan, to Canaan,
The Lord has led us forth,
To plant upon the rebel towers
The banners of the North.

On January 29, 1863, General Grant took command of the army intended
to operate against Vicksburg, the last place held by the rebels on the
Mississippi, and the only point at which they could cross the river and
keep up communication with their armies and territory in the southwest.
It was the first high ground below Memphis, was very strongly fortified,
and was held by a large army under General Pemberton. The complete
possession of the Mississippi was absolutely essential to the National
Government, because the control of that great river would cut the
Confederacy in two, and do more, probably, than anything else, to make
the overthrow of the Rebellion both speedy and certain.

The natural way to invest and capture so strong a place, defended and
fortified as Vicksburg was, would have been, if the axioms of the art
of war had been adhered to, by a system of gradual approaches. A strong
base should have been established at Memphis, and then the army and the
fleet moved gradually forward, building storehouses and taking strong
positions as they went. To do this, however, it first would have been
necessary to withdraw the army from the positions it then held not far
above Vicksburg, on the western bank of the river. But such a movement,
at that time, would not have been understood by the country, and would
have had a discouraging effect on the public mind, which it was
most essential to avoid. The elections of 1862 had gone against the
government, and there was great discouragement throughout the North.
Voluntary enlistments had fallen off, a draft had been ordered, and the
peace party was apparently gaining rapidly in strength. General Grant,
looking at this grave political situation with the eye of a statesman,
decided, as a soldier, that under no circumstances would he withdraw the
army, but that, whatever happened, he would "press forward to a decisive
victory." In this determination he never faltered, but drove straight
at his object until, five months later, the great Mississippi stronghold
fell before him.

Efforts were made through the winter to reach Vicksburg from the north
by cutting canals, and by attempts to get in through the bayous and
tributary streams of the great river. All these expedients failed,
however, one after another, as Grant, from the beginning, had feared
that they would. He, therefore, took another and widely different line,
and determined to cross the river from the western to the eastern bank
below Vicksburg, to the south. With the aid of the fleet, which ran the
batteries successfully, he moved his army down the west bank until he
reached a point beyond the possibility of attack, while a diversion
by Sherman at Haines' Bluff, above Vicksburg, kept Pemberton in his
fortifications. On April 26, Grant began to move his men over the river
and landed them at Bruinsburg. "When this was effected," he writes, "I
felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equaled since. Vicksburg was not
yet taken, it is true, nor were its defenders demoralized by any of our
previous movements. I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river
and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies, but
I was on dry ground, on the same side of the river with the enemy."

The situation was this: The enemy had about sixty thousand men at
Vicksburg, Haines' Bluff, and at Jackson, Mississippi, about fifty
miles east of Vicksburg. Grant, when he started, had about thirty-three
thousand men. It was absolutely necessary for success that Grant, with
inferior numbers, should succeed in destroying the smaller forces to
the eastward, and thus prevent their union with Pemberton and the
main army at Vicksburg. His plan, in brief; was to fight and defeat a
superior enemy separately and in detail. He lost no time in putting his
plan into action, and pressing forward quickly, met a detachment of the
enemy at Port Gibson and defeated them. Thence he marched to Grand Gulf,
on the Mississippi, which he took, and which he had planned to make a
base of supply. When he reached Grand Gulf, however, he found that he
would be obliged to wait a month, in order to obtain the reinforcements
which he expected from General Banks at Port Hudson. He, therefore, gave
up the idea of making Grand Gulf a base, and Sherman having now joined
him with his corps, Grant struck at once into the interior. He took
nothing with him except ammunition, and his army was in the lightest
marching order. This enabled him to move with great rapidity, but
deprived him of his wagon trains, and of all munitions of war except
cartridges. Everything, however, in this campaign, depended on
quickness, and Grant's decision, as well as all his movements, marked
the genius of the great soldier, which consists very largely in knowing
just when to abandon the accepted military axioms.

Pressing forward, Grant met the enemy, numbering between seven and eight
thousand, at Raymond, and readily defeated them. He then marched on
toward Jackson, fighting another action at Clinton, and at Jackson he
struck General Joseph Johnston, who had arrived at that point to take
command of all the rebel forces. Johnston had with him, at the moment,
about eleven thousand men, and stood his ground. There was a sharp
fight, but Grant easily defeated the enemy, and took possession of the
town. This was an important point, for Jackson was the capital of
the State of Mississippi, and was a base of military supplies. Grant
destroyed the factories and the munitions of war which were gathered
there, and also came into possession of the line of railroad which ran
from Jackson to Vicksburg. While he was thus engaged, an intercepted
message revealed to him the fact that Pemberton, in accordance with
Johnston's orders, had come out of Vicksburg with twenty-five thousand
men, and was moving eastward against him. Pemberton, however, instead
of holding a straight line against Grant, turned at first to the south,
with the view of breaking the latter's line of communication. This was
not a success, for, as Grant says, with grim humor, "I had no line of
communication to break"; and, moreover, it delayed Pemberton when delay
was of value to Grant in finishing Johnston. After this useless turn to
the southward Pemberton resumed his march to the east, as he should have
done in the beginning, in accordance with Johnston's orders; but Grant
was now more than ready. He did not wait the coming of Pemberton.
Leaving Jackson as soon as he heard of the enemy's advance from
Vicksburg, he marched rapidly westward and struck Pemberton at Champion
Hills. The forces were at this time very nearly matched, and the
severest battle of the campaign ensued, lasting four hours. Grant,
however, defeated Pemberton completely, and came very near capturing
his entire force. With a broken army, Pemberton fell back on Vicksburg.
Grant pursued without a moment's delay, and came up with the rear guard
at Big Black River. A sharp engagement followed, and the Confederates
were again defeated. Grant then crossed the Big Black and the next day
was before Vicksburg, with his enemy inside the works.

When Grant crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg and struck into the
interior, he, of course, passed out of communication with Washington,
and he did not hear from there again until May 11, when, just as his
troops were engaging in the battle of Black River Bridge, an officer
appeared from Port Hudson with an order from General Halleck to return
to Grand Gulf and thence cooperate with Banks against Port Hudson.
Grant replied that the order came too late. "The bearer of the despatch
insisted that I ought to obey the order, and was giving arguments to
support the position, when I heard a great cheering to the right of our
line, and looking in that direction, saw Lawler, in his shirt-sleeves,
leading a charge on the enemy. I immediately mounted my horse and rode
in the direction of the charge, and saw no more of the officer who had
delivered the message; I think not even to this day." When Grant reached
Vicksburg, there was no further talk of recalling him to Grand Gulf or
Port Hudson. The authorities at Washington then saw plainly enough what
had been done in the interior of Mississippi, far from the reach of
telegraphs or mail.

As soon as the National troops reached Vicksburg an assault was
attempted, but the place was too strong, and the attack was repulsed,
with heavy loss. Grant then settled down to a siege, and Lincoln and
Halleck now sent him ample reinforcements. He no longer needed to ask
for them. His campaign had explained itself, and in a short time he
had seventy thousand men under his command. His lines were soon made so
strong that it was impossible for the defenders of Vicksburg to break
through them, and although Johnston had gathered troops again to the
eastward, an assault from that quarter on the National army, now so
largely reinforced, was practically out of the question. Tighter and
tighter Grant drew his lines about the city, where, every day, the
suffering became more intense. It is not necessary to give the details
of the siege. On July 4, 1863, Vicksburg surrendered, the Mississippi
was in control of the National forces from its source to its mouth, and
the Confederacy was rent in twain. On the same day Lee was beaten at
Gettysburg, and these two great victories really crushed the Rebellion,
although much hard fighting remained to be done before the end was

Grant's campaign against Vicksburg deserves to be compared with that of
Napoleon which resulted in the fall of Ulm. It was the most brilliant
single campaign of the war. With an inferior force, and abandoning
his lines of communication, moving with a marvelous rapidity through a
difficult country, Grant struck the superior forces of the enemy on the
line from Jackson to Vicksburg. He crushed Johnston before Pemberton
could get to him, and he flung Pemberton back into Vicksburg before
Johnston could rally from the defeat which had been inflicted. With an
inferior force, Grant was superior at every point of contest, and he won
every fight. Measured by the skill displayed and the result achieved,
there is no campaign in our history which better deserves study and

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