Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

As soon as the news of the arrival of the Union army behind
Vicksburg reached the North, floods of visitors began to pour
in. Some came to gratify curiosity; some to see sons or
brothers who had passed through the terrible ordeal; members of
the Christian and Sanitary Associations came to minister to the
wants of the sick and the wounded. Often those coming to see a
son or brother would bring a dozen or two of poultry. They did
not know how little the gift would be appreciated. Many of the
soldiers had lived so much on chickens, ducks and turkeys
without bread during the march, that the sight of poultry, if
they could get bacon, almost took away their appetite. But the
intention was good.

Among the earliest arrivals was the Governor of Illinois, with
most of the State officers. I naturally wanted to show them
what there was of most interest. In Sherman’s front the ground
was the most broken and most wooded, and more was to be seen
without exposure. I therefore took them to Sherman’s
headquarters and presented them. Before starting out to look at
the lines–possibly while Sherman’s horse was being
saddled–there were many questions asked about the late
campaign, about which the North had been so imperfectly
informed. There was a little knot around Sherman and another
around me, and I heard Sherman repeating, in the most animated
manner, what he had said to me when we first looked down from
Walnut Hills upon the land below on the 18th of May, adding:
“Grant is entitled to every bit of the credit for the campaign;
I opposed it. I wrote him a letter about it.” But for this
speech it is not likely that Sherman’s opposition would have
ever been heard of. His untiring energy and great efficiency
during the campaign entitle him to a full share of all the
credit due for its success. He could not have done more if the
plan had been his own. (*13)

On the 26th of May I sent Blair’s division up the Yazoo to drive
out a force of the enemy supposed to be between the Big Black and
the Yazoo. The country was rich and full of supplies of both
food and forage. Blair was instructed to take all of it. The
cattle were to be driven in for the use of our army, and the
food and forage to be consumed by our troops or destroyed by
fire; all bridges were to be destroyed, and the roads rendered
as nearly impassable as possible. Blair went forty-five miles
and was gone almost a week. His work was effectually done. I
requested Porter at this time to send the marine brigade, a
floating nondescript force which had been assigned to his
command and which proved very useful, up to Haines’ Bluff to
hold it until reinforcements could be sent.

On the 26th I also received a letter from Banks, asking me to
reinforce him with ten thousand men at Port Hudson. Of course I
could not comply with his request, nor did I think he needed
them. He was in no danger of an attack by the garrison in his
front, and there was no army organizing in his rear to raise the

On the 3d of June a brigade from Hurlbut’s command arrived,
General Kimball commanding. It was sent to Mechanicsburg, some
miles north-east of Haines’ Bluff and about midway between the
Big Black and the Yazoo. A brigade of Blair’s division and
twelve hundred cavalry had already, on Blair’s return from the
Yazoo, been sent to the same place with instructions to watch
the crossings of the Big Black River, to destroy the roads in
his (Blair’s) front, and to gather or destroy all supplies.

On the 7th of June our little force of colored and white troops
across the Mississippi, at Milliken’s Bend, were attacked by
about 3,000 men from Richard Taylor’s trans-Mississippi
command. With the aid of the gunboats they were speedily
repelled. I sent Mower’s brigade over with instructions to
drive the enemy beyond the Tensas Bayou; and we had no further
trouble in that quarter during the siege. This was the first
important engagement of the war in which colored troops were
under fire. These men were very raw, having all been enlisted
since the beginning of the siege, but they behaved well.

On the 8th of June a full division arrived from Hurlbut’s
command, under General Sooy Smith. It was sent immediately to
Haines’ Bluff, and General C. C. Washburn was assigned to the
general command at that point.

On the 11th a strong division arrived from the Department of the
Missouri under General Herron, which was placed on our left. This
cut off the last possible chance of communication between
Pemberton and Johnston, as it enabled Lauman to close up on
McClernand’s left while Herron intrenched from Lauman to the
water’s edge. At this point the water recedes a few hundred
yards from the high land. Through this opening no doubt the
Confederate commanders had been able to get messengers under
cover of night.

On the 14th General Parke arrived with two divisions of
Burnside’s corps, and was immediately dispatched to Haines’
Bluff. These latter troops–Herron’s and Parke’s–were the
reinforcements already spoken of sent by Halleck in anticipation
of their being needed. They arrived none too soon.

I now had about seventy-one thousand men. More than half were
disposed across the peninsula, between the Yazoo at Haines’
Bluff and the Big Black, with the division of Osterhaus watching
the crossings of the latter river farther south and west from the
crossing of the Jackson road to Baldwin’s ferry and below.

There were eight roads leading into Vicksburg, along which and
their immediate sides, our work was specially pushed and
batteries advanced; but no commanding point within range of the
enemy was neglected.

On the 17th I received a letter from General Sherman and one on
the 18th from General McPherson, saying that their respective
commands had complained to them of a fulsome, congratulatory
order published by General McClernand to the 13th corps, which
did great injustice to the other troops engaged in the
campaign. This order had been sent North and published, and now
papers containing it had reached our camps. The order had not
been heard of by me, and certainly not by troops outside of
McClernand’s command until brought in this way. I at once wrote
to McClernand, directing him to send me a copy of this order. He
did so, and I at once relieved him from the command of the 13th
army corps and ordered him back to Springfield, Illinois. The
publication of his order in the press was in violation of War
Department orders and also of mine.



On the 22d of June positive information was received that
Johnston had crossed the Big Black River for the purpose of
attacking our rear, to raise the siege and release Pemberton.
The correspondence between Johnston and Pemberton shows that all
expectation of holding Vicksburg had by this time passed from
Johnston’s mind. I immediately ordered Sherman to the command
of all the forces from Haines’ Bluff to the Big Black River.
This amounted now to quite half the troops about Vicksburg.
Besides these, Herron and A. J. Smith’s divisions were ordered
to hold themselves in readiness to reinforce Sherman. Haines’
Bluff had been strongly fortified on the land side, and on all
commanding points from there to the Big Black at the railroad
crossing batteries had been constructed. The work of connecting
by rifle-pits where this was not already done, was an easy task
for the troops that were to defend them.

We were now looking west, besieging Pemberton, while we were
also looking east to defend ourselves against an expected siege
by Johnston. But as against the garrison of Vicksburg we were
as substantially protected as they were against us. Where we
were looking east and north we were strongly fortified, and on
the defensive. Johnston evidently took in the situation and
wisely, I think, abstained from making an assault on us because
it would simply have inflicted loss on both sides without
accomplishing any result. We were strong enough to have taken
the offensive against him; but I did not feel disposed to take
any risk of losing our hold upon Pemberton’s army, while I would
have rejoiced at the opportunity of defending ourselves against
an attack by Johnston.

From the 23d of May the work of fortifying and pushing forward
our position nearer to the enemy had been steadily
progressing. At three points on the Jackson road, in front of
Leggett’s brigade, a sap was run up to the enemy’s parapet, and
by the 25th of June we had it undermined and the mine charged.
The enemy had countermined, but did not succeed in reaching our
mine. At this particular point the hill on which the rebel work
stands rises abruptly. Our sap ran close up to the outside of
the enemy’s parapet. In fact this parapet was also our
protection. The soldiers of the two sides occasionally
conversed pleasantly across this barrier; sometimes they
exchanged the hard bread of the Union soldiers for the tobacco
of the Confederates; at other times the enemy threw over
hand-grenades, and often our men, catching them in their hands,
returned them.

Our mine had been started some distance back down the hill;
consequently when it had extended as far as the parapet it was
many feet below it. This caused the failure of the enemy in his
search to find and destroy it. On the 25th of June at three
o’clock, all being ready, the mine was exploded. A heavy
artillery fire all along the line had been ordered to open with
the explosion. The effect was to blow the top of the hill off
and make a crater where it stood. The breach was not sufficient
to enable us to pass a column of attack through. In fact, the
enemy having failed to reach our mine had thrown up a line
farther back, where most of the men guarding that point were
placed. There were a few men, however, left at the advance
line, and others working in the countermine, which was still
being pushed to find ours. All that were there were thrown into
the air, some of them coming down on our side, still alive. I
remember one colored man, who had been under ground at work when
the explosion took place, who was thrown to our side. He was not
much hurt, but terribly frightened. Some one asked him how high
he had gone up. “Dun no, massa, but t’ink ’bout t’ree mile,”
was his reply. General Logan commanded at this point and took
this colored man to his quarters, where he did service to the
end of the siege.

As soon as the explosion took place the crater was seized by two
regiments of our troops who were near by, under cover, where they
had been placed for the express purpose. The enemy made a
desperate effort to expel them, but failed, and soon retired
behind the new line. From here, however, they threw
hand-grenades, which did some execution. The compliment was
returned by our men, but not with so much effect. The enemy
could lay their grenades on the parapet, which alone divided the
contestants, and roll them down upon us; while from our side they
had to be thrown over the parapet, which was at considerable
elevation. During the night we made efforts to secure our
position in the crater against the missiles of the enemy, so as
to run trenches along the outer base of their parapet, right and
left; but the enemy continued throwing their grenades, and
brought boxes of field ammunition (shells), the fuses of which
they would light with portfires, and throw them by hand into our
ranks. We found it impossible to continue this work. Another
mine was consequently started which was exploded on the 1st of
July, destroying an entire rebel redan, killing and wounding a
considerable number of its occupants and leaving an immense
chasm where it stood. No attempt to charge was made this time,
the experience of the 25th admonishing us. Our loss in the
first affair was about thirty killed and wounded. The enemy
must have lost more in the two explosions than we did in the
first. We lost none in the second.

From this time forward the work of mining and pushing our
position nearer to the enemy was prosecuted with vigor, and I
determined to explode no more mines until we were ready to
explode a number at different points and assault immediately
after. We were up now at three different points, one in front
of each corps, to where only the parapet of the enemy divided us.

At this time an intercepted dispatch from Johnston to Pemberton
informed me that Johnston intended to make a determined attack
upon us in order to relieve the garrison at Vicksburg. I knew
the garrison would make no formidable effort to relieve
itself. The picket lines were so close to each other–where
there was space enough between the lines to post pickets–that
the men could converse. On the 21st of June I was informed,
through this means, that Pemberton was preparing to escape, by
crossing to the Louisiana side under cover of night; that he had
employed workmen in making boats for that purpose; that the men
had been canvassed to ascertain if they would make an assault on
the “Yankees” to cut their way out; that they had refused, and
almost mutinied, because their commander would not surrender and
relieve their sufferings, and had only been pacified by the
assurance that boats enough would be finished in a week to carry
them all over. The rebel pickets also said that houses in the
city had been pulled down to get material to build these boats
with. Afterwards this story was verified: on entering the city
we found a large number of very rudely constructed boats.

All necessary steps were at once taken to render such an attempt
abortive. Our pickets were doubled; Admiral Porter was notified,
so that the river might be more closely watched; material was
collected on the west bank of the river to be set on fire and
light up the river if the attempt was made; and batteries were
established along the levee crossing the peninsula on the
Louisiana side. Had the attempt been made the garrison of
Vicksburg would have been drowned, or made prisoners on the
Louisiana side. General Richard Taylor was expected on the west
bank to co-operate in this movement, I believe, but he did not
come, nor could he have done so with a force sufficient to be of
service. The Mississippi was now in our possession from its
source to its mouth, except in the immediate front of Vicksburg
and of Port Hudson. We had nearly exhausted the country, along
a line drawn from Lake Providence to opposite Bruinsburg. The
roads west were not of a character to draw supplies over for any
considerable force.

By the 1st of July our approaches had reached the enemy’s ditch
at a number of places. At ten points we could move under cover
to within from five to one hundred yards of the enemy. Orders
were given to make all preparations for assault on the 6th of
July. The debouches were ordered widened to afford easy egress,
while the approaches were also to be widened to admit the troops
to pass through four abreast. Plank, and bags filled with
cotton packed in tightly, were ordered prepared, to enable the
troops to cross the ditches.

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