The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Vicksburg

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The American Cyclopædia
Edition of 1879. See also Vicksburg, Mississippi and Vicksburg Campaign on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer. The section on the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War was written by Alfred H. Guernsey.

VICKSBURG, a city and port of entry of Mississippi, county seat of Warren co., on the E. bank of the Mississippi river, about 400 m. above New Orleans and nearly the same below Memphis, Tenn., and on the Vicksburg and Meridian railroad, 45 m. by rail W. of Jackson, the state capital; pop. in 1850, 2,678; in 1860, 4,591; in 1870, 12,443, of whom 6,805 were colored and 1,416 foreigners; in 1875, locally estimated at 15,000. The site is elevated and very uneven, rising in terraces from the river. The streets are narrow but regularly laid out, and some of them are paved. The court house is a magnificent building, which cost about $150,000. About 3 m. N. of the city is an extensive national cemetery. Steamers run tri-weekly to St. Louis, and almost daily to New Orleans. The North Louisiana and Texas railroad, starting from the opposite bank of the Mississippi, extends to Monroe, La. The Vicksburg and Ship Island railroad is in course of construction. Vicksburg is surrounded by a rich cotton-growing region, and is the principal commercial point between Memphis and New Orleans. About 200,000 bales of cotton are shipped annually. The chief manufactories are one of cotton-seed oil, consuming 500 bushels of seed a day, a rolling mill and foundery, the railroad car works, two machine shops, two breweries, four planing mills, several saw mills, a manufactory of boilers, and several of carriages and wagons and of saddlery and harness. There are two banks, with a joint capital of $250,000; four public schools, with an average attendance of about 1,000, white and colored, besides two Roman Catholic and two private schools; a daily and three weekly newspapers; a city hospital; and eight churches, Baptist, Episcopal (2), Jewish, Methodist (2), Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic, besides three or four for colored people. Vicksburg was settled in 1836 and incorporated in 1840. — As early as January, 1861, immediately after the adoption by Mississippi of the ordinance of secession, the governor of the state planted guns at Vicksburg to detain for examination all steamers passing down the river. The capture of New Orleans in April, 1862, gave the federals virtual possession of the Mississippi to this point, down to which the operations from above had cleared the river. On May 18 a portion of Farragut's fleet, under Capt. S. P. Lee, passing up the river, appeared before Vicksburg, and demanded its surrender on pain of bombardment; this was peremptorily refused, but no bombardment ensued. The fortifications on the river side were strengthened, and in June were held by a confederate force estimated at 10,000. On the 28th Gen. Williams with four regiments and eight field guns came up the river and took position opposite the city on the Arkansas side, and began digging a canal across the narrow isthmus formed by the sharp curve of the river. The design was to form a new channel, and thus leave Vicksburg several miles inland; but the river, which often forms for itself a new channel in a single night, refused to pass through that provided for it, and kept on its old course around the bend. On June 28 Farragut bombarded Vicksburg, and succeeded in passing the batteries with little damage; but he thought the place could not then be taken without the coöperation of an army of 12,000 or 15,000 men. Late in August the river began to fall; Farragut was obliged to descend to New Orleans, and for five months no further operations were undertaken against Vicksburg. Meanwhile the confederates had commenced fortifications at Port Hudson on a high bluff about 120 m. below Vicksburg, nearly midway between that city and New Orleans; these soon became very strong, and it seemed necessary to capture them also in order to hold the whole course of the Mississippi. Gen. Pemberton, a personal favorite of President Davis, was made a lieutenant general, although he had seen little service, and was placed in command at Vicksburg, subject to the orders of Gen. J. E. Johnston, who at that time commanded all the forces in Tennessee and Mississippi. Gen. Grant, who commanded the Union forces in these departments, had late in the autumn penetrated far into Mississippi, and in December had approached Vicksburg with about 40,000 men, Pemberton having about 34,000. Grant then sent Gen. W. T. Sherman to attack Vicksburg. His force, when increased from other quarters, was about 42,000. On the 25th Sherman's troops went in transports up the Yazoo river, which falls into the Mississippi a few miles above Vicksburg, whence he endeavored to make his way through a swampy region in- tersected by numerous bayous. After several skirmishes, it was found impossible to force a passage through the swamps, which were passable only by narrow causeways, commanded by batteries, and the attempt was abandoned on Jan. 1, 1863. The entire Union loss was 191 killed, 982 wounded, and 756 missing; that of the confederates was about 150 in all. On the 4th Sherman was superseded in this command by Gen. McClernand, though retaining that of his own corps, the 15th. Grant soon after took command of all the forces operating against Vicksburg. During several weeks he made repeated attempts to find some means by which his army could go by water to some point below the place, and attack it in the rear from the south. The first canal across the isthmus having proved a failure, he undertook to cut a second one further inland; but that was likewise useless, and Grant determined to march the bulk of his army by land, on the western side of the Mississippi, to a point below, cross the river, strike eastward to Jackson, the state capital, and then turning west move upon Vicksburg, taking it in the rear. Finally, on April 30, after an unsuccessful attack on the 29th upon Grand Gulf by Porter's gunboats, which had passed the batteries at Vicksburg, the army reached a point opposite Bruinsburg, where a crossing was effected, and the march toward Jackson began. On May 1 a brisk engagement took place at Port Gibson, 12 m. N. E. of Bruinsburg; the confederates were driven off with a loss of about 700. Grant had left Sherman behind at Milliken's bend, above Vicksburg, to make a feint from that quarter, after which he was to follow on and rejoin the main army. This having been done, the whole resumed their march toward Jackson. Johnston, who had received some reënforcements, sent a few brigades to oppose the advance; these were defeated at Raymond on the 12th, and driven back to Jackson, where Grant arrived on the 14th and burned the workshops, arsenal, and railway depot. Pemberton in the mean while had moved out with 18,000 or 20,000 men as far as Baker's creek or Champion hills, about half way between Vicksburg and Jackson, where Grant attacked him on the 16th, driving him back in confusion to the Big Black river, here crossed by a railroad bridge. There the attack was renewed with success on the morning of the 17th, and on the 18th the Union army crossed the Big Black on floating bridges, and began the formal investment of Vicksburg, just a year from the time when its surrender had been first demanded by Farragut's gunboats. Pemberton contracted his lines, abandoning Haines's bluff, and concentrating all his force in the works around Vicksburg. He had about 25,000 effective men, but was deficient in small ammunition, especially in gun caps, and had rations for only 60 days, with no prospect of more unless the investment could be broken. Johnston, whom illness had prevented from taking personal command there, wrote to Pemberton: “If Haines's bluff is untenable, Vicksburg is of no value and cannot be held; if, therefore, you are invested there, you must ultimately surrender. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies, and march to the northeast;” and he himself moved in such a direction as to expedite a junction. Pemberton replied that it was impossible to withdraw the army, adding: “I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as possible, with the firm hope that the government may yet be able to assist me in keeping this obstruction to the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi river. I still conceive it to be the most important point in the confederacy.” Hoping to carry the place by a coup de main, Grant attacked Pemberton's lines on May 19, but was repulsed, and began a regular siege. He was soon reënforced so as to have nearly 70,000 men, with whom he maintained the investment till the morning of July 3, when Pemberton sent him a note asserting that he was fully able to maintain his position for an indefinite period, but proposing that commissioners should be named on both sides to arrange terms of capitulation. Grant consented to meet Pemberton in person to arrange the terms. The meeting took place at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and the actual surrender followed next morning. The paroled prisoners numbered about 27,000, of whom about three fifths were fit for duty in the trenches, the remainder being sick or wounded. The Union loss, from the crossing at Bruinsburg, April 30, to the surrender, was 943 killed, 7,095 wounded, and 537 missing; in all, 8,575, of whom 4,236 were before Vicksburg. The confederate loss is estimated at about 10,000.