Today in History:

55 Series I Volume XXIV-I Serial 36 - Vicksburg Part I


by assault. There were many reasons to determine me to adopt this course. I believed an assault from the position gained by this time could be made successfully. It was known that Johnston was at Canton with the force taken by him from Jackson, re-enforced by other troops from the east, and that more were daily reaching him. With the force I then had, a short time must have enabled him to attack me in the rear, and possibly succeeded in raising the siege.

Possession of Vicksburg at that time would have enabled me to have turned upon Johnston and driven him from the State, and possessed myself of all the railroads and practical military highways, thus effectually securing to ourselves all territory WEST of the Tombigbee, and this before the season was too far advanced for campaigning in this latitude. I would have saved the Government sending large re-enforcements, much needed elsewhere; and, finally, the troops themselves were impatient to possess Vicksburg, and would not have worked in the trenches with the same zeal, believing it unnecessary, that they did after their failure to carry the enemy's works.

Accordingly, on the 21st, orders were issued for a general assault on the whole line, to commence at 10 a. m. on the 22nd. All the corps commanders set their time by mine, that there should be no difference between them in movement of assault. Promptly at the hour designated the three army corps then in front of the enemy's works commenced the assault. I had taken a commanding position near McPherson's front, and from which I could see all the advancing columns from his corps, and a part of each of Sherman's and McClernand's. A portion of the commands of each succeeded in planting their flags on the outer slopes of the enemy's bastions, and maintained them there until night.

Each corps had many more men than could possibly be used in the assault over such ground as intervened between them and the enemy. More men could only avail in case of breaking through the enemy's line or in repelling a sortie. The assault was gallant in the extreme on the part of all the troops, but the enemy's position was too strong, both naturally and artificially, to be taken in that way. At every point assaulted, and at all of them at the same time, the enemy was able to show all the force his works would cover.

The assault failed, I regret to say, with much loss on our side in killed and wounded, but without weakening the confidence of the troops in their ability to ultimately succeed.

No troops succeeded in entering any of the enemy's works with the exception of Sergeant Griffith, of the Twenty-first [Twenty-SECOND] Iowa Volunteers, and some 11 privates of the same regiment. Of these none returned, except the sergeant and possibly 1 man. The work entered by him, from its position, could give us no practical advantage, unless others to the right and left of it were carried and held at the same time.

About 12 m. I received a dispatch from McClernand that he was hard pressed at several points, in reply to which I directed him to re-enforce the points hard pressed from such troops as he had that were not engaged. I then rode around to Sherman, and had just reached there when I received a SECOND dispatch from McClernand, stating positively and unequivocally that he was in possession of and still held two of the enemy's forts; that the American flag then waved over them, and asking me to have Sherman and McPherson make a diversion in his favor. This dispatch I showed to Sherman, who immediately ordered a renewal of the assault on his front. I also sent an answer to McClernand, directing him to order up McArthur to his assistance, and started immediately