ILLINOIS in the CIVIL WAR

part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant

Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.

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CHAPTER IV. THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN--BATTLE OF JACKSON, MISS.--BATTLE OF CHAMPION HILL, MISS.--CHARGES AT VICKSBURG, MISS.-- THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG, MISS.

Note: This web page is the last of three for chapter 4.

THE CHARGE

On May 22nd, A. D. 1863, at 10 o'clock a.m., the regiment took an advanced position on the left of Fort Hill. The command had been in line of battle four or five hours before the movement was executed. While making the charge that carried the regiment to that position, at the brow of the last hill in front of the Confederate works, the line was somewhat exposed to the fire of the enemy, and eight or nine men were wounded, the brigade had orders to secure that position, and, after doing so, to remain there until the brigade next on its right, of General Logan's division, should advance. Then the whole line was to have moved on the enemy's works. While there two or three more men were wounded. The day was excessively hot, and it was necessary that the command should lie flatly on the ground to be protected from the enemy's guns. The hillside squarely faced toward the sun. While there a considerable number of men were sunstruck. The brigade on the right did not move, and consequently this command advanced no farther.

At 2 o'clock p.m., the brigade was withdrawn from that position, and moved about three miles to the left, under orders to support some of General McClernand's forces. At 3:30 o'clock p.m., it reached General McClernand's lines, just north of the railroad leading into Vicksburg from Jackson. Instead of being placed as support, merely, the brigade was immediately ordered to charge the enemy's rifle pits, located between two large forts. It was reported that the batteries in those forts had been silenced. The statement was soon proved erroneous. The brigade was formed for the charge and ready to make it at 4 o'clock p.m. The formation was in two lines. The Ninety-Third Illinois and the Twenty-sixth Missouri in front, the Ninety-Third Illinois being again on the left and the Twenty-sixth Missouri on the right. The Fifth Iowa was behind the Twenty-sixth Missouri, and the Tenth Iowa was behind the Ninety-Third Illinois. Between the line where the brigade was so formed and the rifle pits there were two ridges, not more than thirty or forty rods apart, which formed the two sides of a shallow ravine. The rifle pits were not more than forty rods beyond the west side of that ravine. The south end of the ridge, on the west side of the ravine, was quite low, and, a short distance farther south, sank to the general level. The south end of the rifle pits, and the fort located there, were a little south of southwest from the south end of that ridge, and commanded the major part of the ravine. The lines of the enemy's range, from those points, cut across the line of the west ridge, and over the south end of it, at an angle of fifty degrees, or more. Under those conditions the brigade had orders to charge across the ravine, rest behind the brow of the west ridge, and, from thence, make the final charge on the rifle pits. If a soldier might at any time , or at all, weigh his life, in the scale, against his honor, that was a time to determine which he would lose.

The rifle pits and forts were filled to their utmost capacity, and the glitter of Confederate arms in the evening sunlight told only too plainly how desperate the venture was. Time and time and again that day the Federal troops had charged, and charged, and charged, and gained no tenable position on the line of the enemy. It was much like marching men to their graves in line of battle. But there was little time for cool calculations. The voice of the brigade commander ended that. The command being given, the brigade moved forward, at first in common time. "Double-quick, march!" rang out, in clear and penetrating tones, from Colonel Boomer. As the enemy's fire began to reach the ranks, the brigade swept over the first ridge and into the ravine. The storm of bullets and shot and shell that was there hurled against those lines was simply appalling. Increasing the speed every second, the command rushed across the ravine to the protection afforded by the ridge on the other side, and there halted. Over forty men of the Ninety-Third Illinois had fallen in less than a minute and a half. On the left, near the south end of the ridge, it was necessary to lie prostrate on the ground to be protected from the guns of the enemy. While resting there, Col. George B. Boomer, the brigade commander, was instantly killed, probably by a shot from a gun of a Confederate sharpshooter. Colonel Putman, of the Ninety-Third Illinois, immediately assumed command. After a little delay, he called the lines to attention, for the final charge. The brigade rose up, but only to take one quick glance into the jaws of certain death. The sheet of flame, from thousands of muskets, that burst from those rifle pits in front, the thousands of bullets that came whistling over, and screaming shells and grape and canister from both forts, foretold nothing less than the complete annihilation of the entire command if it should pass beyond the protection of that ridge. The whole brigade, as a single man, went down to its prostrate position more quickly than it had risen. Colonel Putman immediately reported to General Carr, (the charge having been made in front of the lines of his division), that the enemy was heavily reinforced in front, and that the brigade would advance no farther without positive orders so to do. He received orders back, from General Carr, that the command should remain where it was until dark, and the withdraw. That was done.

It was near midnight when the last of the dead and wounded were removed from the ravine. The sun went down, nor moon, nor stars gave any light upon the field. The darkness was both shroud for the dead and garb of mourning for the living. A heavy mist was falling. The night was painfully silent. The profound quiet was only occasionally broken by sounds from moving troops in the rear, or by the inquiries of those, now seeking their commands, who had escaped, under cover of darkness, from their places of concealment and protection where they had taken refuge when their lines had been shattered and broken and repulsed by the enemy earlier in the day. With only bare ground for beds, and rocks for pillows, it was not a night for sleep. On May 23rd, at 3 o'clock p.m., the brigade moved back to its own command, and was placed in reserve, in rear of the lines occupied by General McPherson's corps. This command had been four days within range of the enemy's guns, and a considerable part of that time under fire. It was now given a chance to breathe a little more freely for a short time.

THE SIEGE

It was now generally understood that no further attempt would be made to take Vicksburg by assault, and the siege was immediately entered upon. It may be true, as has been stated, that the assault made on the 22nd was necessary to satisfy the army that the place could not be so taken, in order that it might the more contentedly and zealously enter upon a long and tedious siege. Certain it is, that the enemy, flushed with the victories on five separate battlefields, during the campaign, before reaching the city, (the battle at the Big Black River, on the morning of the 17th of May, having been omitted from these pages, because this command was not engaged in it), was not only not averse to it, but actually clamored for the assault.

It is not intended, in this volume, to enter into the details of the siege beyond what is necessary to show the part of the Ninety- Third Illinois in it in such manner that its movements can be identified. The besieging lines were immediately formed, with General Sherman's corps on the right, extending from the Yazoo River, or Bayou, to the right of General McPherson's corps, which occupied the center of the lines. General McClernand's corps, (the command of which was finally transferred to General Ord), occupied the left. Other forces soon arrived, and were located on different parts of the lines, particularly on the left. Heavy siege guns and batteries were soon planted all along the lines, from the Yazoo, above the city, to the Mississippi River, below it. A large number of gunboats and mortorboats, in the Mississippi, closed the lines around the fated city, and vigorously prosecuted the siege from that side, bombarding the place every day and night. Forts were constructed everywhere, trenches and roadways were cut through the hills and in the ravines at every conceivable angle, under the direction of skillful engineers, and the Federal lines gradually advanced to positions closer and closer to the Confederate works. The undermining of the Confederate works, particularly Fort Hill, in front of General Logan's division, was vigorously prosecuted, and counter-mining, by the enemy, was indulged in to some extent. Almost every command in the army participated, more or less, in these operations, which were general. The rule was, that some progress should be made, and was made, and some advantage gained, every day. The enemy must be securely held until he should surrender.

And he was, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was all the time making vigorous efforts to gather an army, in the rear, sufficient to raise the siege. His forces must of necessity be kept east of the Big Black River. And they were. Such was the general situation, and the general progress of events, and the results.

During the 24th and 25th days of May, the Ninety-Third Illinois rested in the camp taken on the 23rd.

thumbnails  of VicksburgScenes of Vicksburg, Mississippi [78 Kb, JPG]

On the 26th, the regiment, and brigade, again moved to the front, and occupied the position from which it moved on the morning of the 22nd, and continued to occupy the same position until the 21st day of June, inclusive. During that period, the regiment was on the skirmish line as often as every second day, and many times during the intervening days also. Within that period, one man was wounded.

On the 3rd day of June, General Quimby was assigned to another command, and Gen. John E. Smith became the commander of the Seventh Division, and continued in command until the close of the war. On June 22nd, the command left the lines immediately around Vicksburg, and marched seven miles, in a northeasterly course, toward the Big Black River; and on the 23rd, marched nine miles farther in the same direction. On the 24th, the regiment moved four miles, camped on Bear Creek, and remained there that day and the next. On the 25th, a small force of guerrillas fired a volley or two into the camp and then ran away. No one was hurt. On the 26th, the command marched back toward Vicksburg, about five miles, to McCall's Plantation, and remained there the three days following. On the 30th, the regiment, and brigade, after moving three miles, took position, facing toward the east, in the rear line around Vicksburg, to aid in the defense against the forces of General Johnston, which were then threatening the rear of the besieging army. July 1st to 6th, inclusive, the command remained in the position occupied on June 30th.

On the morning of July 4th, A. D. 1863, Vicksburg was surrendered. On that occasion, General Pemberton turned over to General Grant more than 31,000 prisoners of war, including about fifteen Generals, about one hundred and twenty-five cannon and eighty siege guns, arms and munitions of war for more than 50,000 men, and a large amount of public property, such as railroad locomotives and cars, steamboats, etc., and a large quantity of cotton. Everything was surrendered except the side arms and individual property of officers. Negotiations for the surrender began on the 3rd. It was said that General Logan's division was fully prepared for a Fourth of July celebration, in which the other commands around the city were expected to participate, the prominent features of which were to have been the explosion of the mines laid by that division under Fort Hill, and a general assault, all along the lines, upon the enemy's works. General Pemberton, as was reported, being apprehensive that such events might then transpire, and also fearful of the result, and being satisfied that General Johnston's army would not be able to raise the siege, and that there was no longer any hope of relief from any other source, surrendered the place at an earlier date than had been anticipated. Information of the surrender reached the army on the rear lines, along the Big Black River, soon after noon that day, and that army immediately became delirious with joy. It was one continuous round of very demonstrative rejoicing from that moment until late that night, and, in fact, it continued all night. Nothing like it was ever witnessed before, and its equal never afterward. The demonstrations at the close of the war were sufficiently hilarious, but that occasion was tumultuous. The surrender of Vicksburg was thought to be, as it really was, the beginning of the end.

General McPherson issued the following congratulatory order, which was read on the color line of every regiment in the corps.

"Headquarters Seventeenth Army Corps,
"Department of the Tennessee.
"Vicksburg, Miss., July 4th, 1863.
"General Order No. 20.
"Soldiers of the Seventeen Army Corps:

"Again I rejoice with you over your brilliant achievements and your unparalleled success. Hardly had your flag floated to the breeze on the Capitol of Mississippi, when, springing to the call of your noble commander, you rushed upon the defiant columns of the enemy, at Champion Hill, and drove him in confusion and dismay across the Big Black to his defenses within the stronghold of Vicksburg.

"Your assaulting columns, which moved promptly on his works on the 22nd of May and stood for hours undaunted under a withering fire, were unsuccessful only because no men could take the position by storm. "With tireless energy, with sleepless vigilance, by night and day, with battery and rifle pit, with trench and mine, you made your sure approaches, until overcome by fatigue and driven to despair in the attempt to oppose your irresistible progress, the whole garrison of over thirty thousand men, with all their arms and munitions of war, have on this, the Anniversary of our National Independence, surrendered to the invincible troops of the Army of the Tennessee. The achievements of this hour will give a new glow in the patriot's heart which kindles at the mention of Bunker Hill and Yorktown.

"This is, indeed, an auspicious day for you. The God of Battles is with you. The dawn of a conquered peace is breaking upon you; the plaudits of an admiring world will hail you wherever you may go; and it will be an ennobling heritage, surpassing all riches, to have been of the Seventeenth Army Corps on the Fourth day of July, A. D. 1863.

"JAMES B. McPHERSON,
"Major General."

On the 5th and 6th, a considerable part of the Confederate army, on their way out from Vicksburg, then under parole, and without arms, passed the camp of the Ninety-Third Illinois. They were treated courteously, and many of them seemed to appreciate it. Many of the Union soldiers, divided the contents of their haversacks with hungry Confederates. It was "bread cast upon the waters." How much of it was lost can never be known. But it was humane, and that was sufficient for the victorious army.

The Vicksburg campaign, however, was not yet ended. General Johnston had gathered a considerable army, perhaps about 25,000 men, on the east side of the Big Black River, and that force must be defeated and dispersed. General Sherman had been in immediate command of the rear lines, and was then there. The remainder of his corps, and a part of General McPherson's, not already there, were sent to him, and he immediately crossed the Big Black River and moved against the forces of General Johnston. General Johnston at once retired to Jackson, and there made a stand the second time. General Sherman followed him.

In July 7th, the Third Brigade, including the Ninety-Third Illinois, marched to the Big Black River, six miles, and camped near the railroad bridge, and remained there until the 12th, inclusive. On the 13th, the command marched again, to Champion Hill, and camped on that battlefield. It was an uncanny place for the camp of that brigade. It was midsummer. But the foliage of the trees there was half green and half in the colors of autumn. Yellow leaves, on branches cut by bullets and shot and shell and grape and canister during the battle there, were hanging everywhere among those that were still green, and told only too plainly how sanguinary the conflict had been. A few unknown skulls, some of them marked "C. S. A.," were found on different parts of the field, and added much to intensify the weird feelings inspired by such surroundings. All felt a sense of relief when the command moved the next morning. On the 14th, the march was continued to Clinton; and on the 15th, to the lines around Jackson.

thumbnail of VicksburgScenes of Vicksburg [54Kb, JPG]

General Sherman had reached Jackson on the 9th, and had invested the place as early as the 12th, extending his lines to the Pearl River above and below the city. His army there must have numbered nearly, if not quite, 40,000 men, and he must have had nearly a hundred cannon planted on the hills. On the night of the 16th, General Johnston evacuated the place, crossed Pearl River, burned the bridges behind him, and fell back to Meridian, about a hundred miles east of Jackson. Nothing less than that was safe distance then. General Sherman's army pursued the Confederates as far as Brandon, and then returned to the west side of the Big Black River.

The Ninety-Third Illinois had no part in the capture of Jackson the Second time. On the same day the command reached the line around Jackson, it returned to Clinton. On the 16th, the regiment marched to Bolton; on the 17th, to Champion Hill again, and camped there the second time; on the 18th, to Edward's Station, and remained there until the 22nd, inclusive. On the 23rd, the command moved to the railroad bridge over the Big Black River, wading through water, of varying depth, nearly every foot of the distance, seven miles, and remained at that place the next day. On the 25th, the regiment marched to Vicksburg, and camped just inside the fortifications, on the hills east of the city, and remained there until the 30th, inclusive. On the 31st, the regiment moved two miles, and went into camp in the city, and there remained, doing post duty, the average detail being about eighty men daily, until the 11th day of September following, and inclusive.

On the 12th day of September, A. D. 1863, the regiment embarked on the steamer Schuyler, and again moved up the Mississippi River. It was rumored that the destination was Little Rock, Arkansas, but it was not generally credited. It was soon proved to be another false rumor. On the 15th, the command reached Helena, Arkansas, disembarked and went into camp, and remained there until the 29th, inclusive. On the 30th, the regiment embarked on the steamer Liberty No. 2, and again moved up the river, reaching Memphis, Tennessee, at midnight. October 1st, the command disembarked, and went into camp a mile and a half north of the city, and remained there the next day. While the command was leaving the steamer, some member of the regiment shouted: "Change cars for Chattanooga and all points east." That settled it.

While these movements were not a part of the Vicksburg campaign, they have been included in this chapter, for no better reason, perhaps, than that of chronological separation from the campaign which followed. The Vicksburg campaign was really ended when General Sherman's army returned from Jackson to the west side of the Big Black River, after the second capture of that place. The large Confederate army that blocked the great waterway of the West had been completely destroyed as a military force, defeated, captured, dispersed and scattered to the four winds. The total loss of the enemy was not only an army of over 50,000 men, with all its arms and munitions and equipment, but the great states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, with their wealth of supplies, were now severed from the other states of the Confederacy.

The Federal losses at the siege of Vicksburg, from May 19th to July 4th, have been stated, probably correctly, at 545 killed, 3,688 wounded, and 303 captured and missing; making the total loss 4,536.

The losses of the Ninety-Third Illinois were 4 killed, 10 mortally wounded, and 41 wounded, not mortally; making the total loss 55. The total loss was sixteen and two-thirds percent of the number engaged. Those who were sunstruck on the 22nd day of May are not included.

From the date of its departure from Helena, Arkansas, April 13th, until its arrival at Memphis, Tennessee, October 1st, inclusive, covering the whole period of the Vicksburg campaign, and more, the regiment traveled by water about seven hundred miles, and marched about three hundred and thirty miles.


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