There is a long tongue of land from the Louisiana side extending
towards Grand Gulf, made by the river running nearly east from
about three miles above and nearly in the opposite direction
from that point for about the same distance below. The land was
so low and wet that it would not have been practicable to march
an army across but for a levee. I had had this explored before,
as well as the east bank below to ascertain if there was a
possible point of debarkation north of Rodney. It was found
that the top of the levee afforded a good road to march upon.

Porter, as was always the case with him, not only acquiesced in
the plan, but volunteered to use his entire fleet as
transports. I had intended to make this request, but he
anticipated me. At dusk, when concealed from the view of the
enemy at Grand Gulf, McClernand landed his command on the west
bank. The navy and transports ran the batteries successfully.
The troops marched across the point of land under cover of
night, unobserved. By the time it was light the enemy saw our
whole fleet, ironclads, gunboats, river steamers and barges,
quietly moving down the river three miles below them, black, or
rather blue, with National troops.

When the troops debarked, the evening of the 29th, it was
expected that we would have to go to Rodney, about nine miles
below, to find a landing; but that night a colored man came in
who informed me that a good landing would be found at
Bruinsburg, a few miles above Rodney, from which point there was
a good road leading to Port Gibson some twelve miles in the
interior. The information was found correct, and our landing
was effected without opposition.

Sherman had not left his position above Vicksburg yet. On the
morning of the 27th I ordered him to create a diversion by
moving his corps up the Yazoo and threatening an attack on
Haines’ Bluff.

My object was to compel Pemberton to keep as much force about
Vicksburg as I could, until I could secure a good footing on
high land east of the river. The move was eminently successful
and, as we afterwards learned, created great confusion about
Vicksburg and doubts about our real design. Sherman moved the
day of our attack on Grand Gulf, the 29th, with ten regiments of
his command and eight gunboats which Porter had left above
Vicksburg.

He debarked his troops and apparently made every preparation to
attack the enemy while the navy bombarded the main forts at
Haines’ Bluff. This move was made without a single casualty in
either branch of the service. On the first of May Sherman
received orders from me (sent from Hard Times the evening of the
29th of April) to withdraw from the front of Haines’ Bluff and
follow McPherson with two divisions as fast as he could.

I had established a depot of supplies at Perkins’ plantation.
Now that all our gunboats were below Grand Gulf it was possible
that the enemy might fit out boats in the Big Black with
improvised armament and attempt to destroy these supplies.
McPherson was at Hard Times with a portion of his corps, and the
depot was protected by a part of his command. The night of the
29th I directed him to arm one of the transports with artillery
and send it up to Perkins’ plantation as a guard; and also to
have the siege guns we had brought along moved there and put in
position.

The embarkation below Grand Gulf took place at De Shroon’s,
Louisiana, six miles above Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Early on
the morning of 30th of April McClernand’s corps and one division
of McPherson’s corps were speedily landed.

When this was effected I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever
equalled since. Vicksburg was not yet taken it is true, nor
were its defenders demoralized by any of our previous moves. 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. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from
the month of December previous to this time that had been made
and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object.

I had with me the 13th corps, General McClernand commanding, and
two brigades of Logan’s division of the 17th corps, General
McPherson commanding–in all not more than twenty thousand men
to commence the campaign with. These were soon reinforced by
the remaining brigade of Logan’s division and Crocker’s division
of the 17th corps. On the 7th of May I was further reinforced by
Sherman with two divisions of his, the 15th corps. My total
force was then about thirty-three thousand men.

The enemy occupied Grand Gulf, Haines’ Bluff and Jackson with a
force of nearly sixty thousand men. Jackson is fifty miles east
of Vicksburg and is connected with it by a railroad. My first
problem was to capture Grand Gulf to use as a base.

Bruinsburg is two miles from high ground. The bottom at that
point is higher than most of the low land in the valley of the
Mississippi, and a good road leads to the bluff. It was natural
to expect the garrison from Grand Gulf to come out to meet us and
prevent, if they could, our reaching this solid base. Bayou
Pierre enters the Mississippi just above Bruinsburg and, as it
is a navigable stream and was high at the time, in order to
intercept us they had to go by Port Gibson, the nearest point
where there was a bridge to cross upon. This more than doubled
the distance from Grand Gulf to the high land back of
Bruinsburg. No time was to be lost in securing this foothold.
Our transportation was not sufficient to move all the army
across the river at one trip, or even two; but the landing of
the 13th corps and one division of the 17th was effected during
the day, April 30th, and early evening. McClernand was advanced
as soon as ammunition and two days’ rations (to last five) could
be issued to his men. The bluffs were reached an hour before
sunset and McClernand was pushed on, hoping to reach Port Gibson
and save the bridge spanning the Bayou Pierre before the enemy
could get there; for crossing a stream in the presence of an
enemy is always difficult. Port Gibson, too, is the starting
point of roads to Grand Gulf, Vicksburg and Jackson.

McClernand’s advance met the enemy about five miles west of Port
Gibson at Thompson’s plantation. There was some firing during
the night, but nothing rising to the dignity of a battle until
daylight. The enemy had taken a strong natural position with
most of the Grand Gulf garrison, numbering about seven or eight
thousand men, under General Bowen. His hope was to hold me in
check until reinforcements under Loring could reach him from
Vicksburg; but Loring did not come in time to render much
assistance south of Port Gibson. Two brigades of McPherson’s
corps followed McClernand as fast as rations and ammunition
could be issued, and were ready to take position upon the
battlefield whenever the 13th corps could be got out of the way.

The country in this part of Mississippi stands on edge, as it
were, the roads running along the ridges except when they
occasionally pass from one ridge to another. Where there are no
clearings the sides of the hills are covered with a very heavy
growth of timber and with undergrowth, and the ravines are
filled with vines and canebrakes, almost impenetrable. This
makes it easy for an inferior force to delay, if not defeat, a
far superior one.

Near the point selected by Bowen to defend, the road to Port
Gibson divides, taking two ridges which do not diverge more than
a mile or two at the widest point. These roads unite just
outside the town. This made it necessary for McClernand to
divide his force. It was not only divided, but it was separated
by a deep ravine of the character above described. One flank
could not reinforce the other except by marching back to the
junction of the roads. McClernand put the divisions of Hovey,
Carr and A. J. Smith upon the right-hand branch and Osterhaus on
the left. I was on the field by ten A.M., and inspected both
flanks in person. On the right the enemy, if not being pressed
back, was at least not repulsing our advance. On the left,
however, Osterhaus was not faring so well. He had been repulsed
with some loss. As soon as the road could be cleared of
McClernand’s troops I ordered up McPherson, who was close upon
the rear of the 13th corps, with two brigades of Logan’s
division. This was about noon. I ordered him to send one
brigade (General John E. Smith’s was selected) to support
Osterhaus, and to move to the left and flank the enemy out of
his position. This movement carried the brigade over a deep
ravine to a third ridge and, when Smith’s troops were seen well
through the ravine, Osterhaus was directed to renew his front
attack. It was successful and unattended by heavy loss. The
enemy was sent in full retreat on their right, and their left
followed before sunset. While the movement to our left was
going on, McClernand, who was with his right flank, sent me
frequent requests for reinforcements, although the force with
him was not being pressed. I had been upon the ground and knew
it did not admit of his engaging all the men he had. We
followed up our victory until night overtook us about two miles
from Port Gibson; then the troops went into bivouac for the
night.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

CAPTURE OF PORT GIBSON–GRIERSON’S RAID–OCCUPATION OF GRAND
GULF–MOVEMENT UP THE BIG BLACK–BATTLE OF RAYMOND.

We started next morning for Port Gibson as soon as it was light
enough to see the road. We were soon in the town, and I was
delighted to find that the enemy had not stopped to contest our
crossing further at the bridge, which he had burned. The troops
were set to work at once to construct a bridge across the South
Fork of the Bayou Pierre. At this time the water was high and
the current rapid. What might be called a raft-bridge was soon
constructed from material obtained from wooden buildings,
stables, fences, etc., which sufficed for carrying the whole
army over safely. Colonel J. H. Wilson, a member of my staff,
planned and superintended the construction of this bridge, going
into the water and working as hard as any one engaged. Officers
and men generally joined in this work. When it was finished the
army crossed and marched eight miles beyond to the North Fork
that day. One brigade of Logan’s division was sent down the
stream to occupy the attention of a rebel battery, which had
been left behind with infantry supports to prevent our repairing
the burnt railroad bridge. Two of his brigades were sent up the
bayou to find a crossing and reach the North Fork to repair the
bridge there. The enemy soon left when he found we were
building a bridge elsewhere. Before leaving Port Gibson we were
reinforced by Crocker’s division, McPherson’s corps, which had
crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg and come up without
stopping except to get two days’ rations. McPherson still had
one division west of the Mississippi River, guarding the road
from Milliken’s Bend to the river below until Sherman’s command
should relieve it.

On leaving Bruinsburg for the front I left my son Frederick, who
had joined me a few weeks before, on board one of the gunboats
asleep, and hoped to get away without him until after Grand Gulf
should fall into our hands; but on waking up he learned that I
had gone, and being guided by the sound of the battle raging at
Thompson’s Hill–called the Battle of Port Gibson–found his way
to where I was. He had no horse to ride at the time, and I had
no facilities for even preparing a meal. He, therefore, foraged
around the best he could until we reached Grand Gulf. Mr. C. A.
Dana, then an officer of the War Department, accompanied me on
the Vicksburg campaign and through a portion of the siege. He
was in the same situation as Fred so far as transportation and
mess arrangements were concerned. The first time I call to mind
seeing either of them, after the battle, they were mounted on two
enormous horses, grown white from age, each equipped with
dilapidated saddles and bridles.

Our trains arrived a few days later, after which we were all
perfectly equipped.

My son accompanied me throughout the campaign and siege, and
caused no anxiety either to me or to his mother, who was at
home. He looked out for himself and was in every battle of the
campaign. His age, then not quite thirteen, enabled him to take
in all he saw, and to retain a recollection of it that would not
be possible in more mature years.

When the movement from Bruinsburg commenced we were without a
wagon train. The train still west of the Mississippi was
carried around with proper escort, by a circuitous route from
Milliken’s Bend to Hard Times seventy or more miles below, and
did not get up for some days after the battle of Port Gibson. My
own horses, headquarters’ transportation, servants, mess chest,
and everything except what I had on, was with this train.
General A. J. Smith happened to have an extra horse at
Bruinsburg which I borrowed, with a saddle-tree without
upholstering further than stirrups. I had no other for nearly a
week.

It was necessary to have transportation for ammunition.
Provisions could be taken from the country; but all the
ammunition that can be carried on the person is soon exhausted
when there is much fighting. I directed, therefore, immediately
on landing that all the vehicles and draft animals, whether
horses, mules, or oxen, in the vicinity should be collected and
loaded to their capacity with ammunition. Quite a train was
collected during the 30th, and a motley train it was. In it
could be found fine carriages, loaded nearly to the top with
boxes of cartridges that had been pitched in promiscuously,
drawn by mules with plough, harness, straw collars, rope-lines,
etc.; long-coupled wagons, with racks for carrying cotton bales,
drawn by oxen, and everything that could be found in the way of
transportation on a plantation, either for use or pleasure. The
making out of provision returns was stopped for the time. No
formalities were to retard our progress until a position was
secured when the time could be spared to observe them.

It was at Port Gibson I first heard through a Southern paper of
the complete success of Colonel Grierson, who was making a raid
through central Mississippi. He had started from La Grange
April 17th with three regiments of about 1,700 men. On the 21st
he had detached Colonel Hatch with one regiment to destroy the
railroad between Columbus and Macon and then return to La
Grange. Hatch had a sharp fight with the enemy at Columbus and
retreated along the railroad, destroying it at Okalona and
Tupelo, and arriving in La Grange April 26. Grierson continued
his movement with about 1,000 men, breaking the Vicksburg and
Meridian railroad and the New Orleans and Jackson railroad,
arriving at Baton Rouge May 2d. This raid was of great
importance, for Grierson had attracted the attention of the
enemy from the main movement against Vicksburg.

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