Volume 3, Number 10
Excerpted from his diary of those years and annotated by Hardy A. Kemp
THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN and a THIRTY-DAY FURLOUGH
HOME to STONE COUNTY, MISSOURI
If W. B. Cox was at all uneasy about where the "Nineveh", (1), was taking him, his diary does not reveal it.
As a matter of fact there is little if any thing in the diary from its beginning to its end that reflects undue concern either for Cox's own "safety of person" or for the success of the Union cause. Just then he was being hurried ahead to wait, army-style. It would be fully two months before he would smell powder or fire a shot.
Even after his arrival at Milliken's Bend the long drawn-out millitary standstill between Arkansas Post and the guns at Grand Gulf and Port Gibson would continue to remain unbroken the while, save for another abortive effort at the Yazoo suggested by Grant and attempted by Sherman and Porter.
Meanwhile, the questionable canal digging plus the staggering illness and death rates from disease in this camped-out army together with its increased demands and consequent costs all combined to set the anti-administration, anti-Grant wolves howling again and even louder this time. Coincidentally, the dismal failures in the East first doubled and then re-doubled the growing discouragement and defeatism of the North. Nevertheless, Lincoln and Stanton stood firmly behind Grant while Grant kept his army busy digging and drilling, and thus kept his opponents guessing as to what he was really up to, not to mention his own line and staff who were, almost without exception, fully as much in the dark as to his future plans, (2).
Whatever the case, Grant himself knew what he was doing.
First of all, he knew that he could not again attempt the Grant-Sherman over-land-river plan of the past December without creating the impression that he had to retreat in order to make another start.
Even so, he knew that Washington would never agree to the tremendous expense both in time and in money of such an extensive re-deployment.
To the contrary, Grant was satisfied in his own mind at least that once across the Mississippi without excessively heavy loss and without undue delay in transport he could slash in between Pemberton and Johnston and there turn on them separately.
Moreover, he was reasonably sure he could count on the Confederate forces in Port Hudson, then threatened by Major General N. P. ("Nothing Positive") Banks to sit tight in their fortifications and wonder whether to come out or not when and if business began to pick up around Jackson and Vicksburg.
It is noteworthy here that Grant for the first time would not concern himself so seriously with establishing to his rear large and immobile supply trains. Nor would he depend so heavily upon over-sized and virtually static re-enforcements to his rear. Back in December he had paid heavily to learn that lesson, and again in both time and money.
This time he would hit hard, fast, and often and with every fighting man he had limiting their munitions very largely to what they could carry with them. And they would
live off of the enemy country until he could drive Pemberton out of
or deep into the Vicksburg fortifications where the rebels could be held until
beseigement ended the story.
Grant had full respect for Johnston as a threat to the Union right and to the rear. Sherman, (3), once quoted Grant as saying that Johnston was the only Confederate general he really feared. But Grant surmised and correctly so that Vicksburg could be taken first, and Johnston could be held off meanwhile and disposed of later.
As for getting down-country and getting across the river, Grant from the very beginning had never held a serious hope for the success of his several "canals" for all the effort expended on them. Had they afforded safe by-passes well and good. He would, as he said, have used them, (4). It so happened that not one "canal" was ever successful in that regard.
How much of all this W. B. Cox could have known or suspected either beforehand or afterward appears not at all in his diary. He was a soldier and he was on his way.
Closer to Cox's own problems one would imagine that if he ever thought the Louisiana swamps could not possibly hold more winter mud and water than those in Northeastern Arkansas, he was soon to learn that the mud and water in Louisiana was the same as the mud and water in Arkansas only there was a lot more of it.
Cox was also to learn that dry land on Milliken's Bend was becoming so rapidly preempted that finally for want of hard-standing Grant's army would be strung out for seventy miles along the Louisiana shore with every dry area from Young's Point all the way back up the Bend occupied by troop encampments, supply and munition dumps, and hospitals. Even burial space for the dead from illness, accident, and the endless little skirmishes round-about was severely limited by the high water-table in the ground and by unpredictable wash-outs at the burial sites.
So we begin with W. B. Cox on 6 March 1863.
"We landed [from the Nineveh] at 2 p.m. on the west side of the river and went 6 miles and gave chase to a few Rebels. We then got some wine and bacon we wanted and returned to the boat.
"March 7-50 of us went out 5 mi. and got plenty of forage. Water and mud to our horses bellies.
8-I remained at the boat. It rained all day long. All on board at dark. A storm and dark night.
9-We left shore at 6 a.m. and landed at Young's Point at 9 p.m. and got off the boats and lay in the mud and rain all night."
Young's Point is the northeastern tip at Milliken's Bend where the river running from southwest to northeast turns sharply south to flow past the bluffs of Vicksburg, its eastern shore. It is likely that other troops were then being unloaded at Young's Point thus adding to the fairly large number already there, and that Cox's outfit along with others were then taken back up-river to find a camp-site.
"March 10-We moved up the river 2 miles and encamped. Rained all day.
11-We moved into Negro quarters - about 30 in number - which were empty. [Practically all the slaves had already deserted the plantations on Milliken's Bend.]
12-All quiet, foraging. Fine spring-like weather.
13-A scout went out 8 miles and got a quantity of sweet potatoes, etc.
15-All quiet in camp.
16-Company drill - weather warm.
17-Several boats passed up loaded with soldiers.
18-Battalion drill by Major Montgomery.
19-Bombardment going on at Vicksburg. We were ordered to be ready for the field."
Rather than a bombardment of some sort from the batteries at Vicksburg proper, it is more likely that Cox heard the larger guns on Porter's gunboats when they encountered the first serious rebel resistance against Sherman and Porter's unsuccessful effort to reach the Yazoo Highlands via the mouth of the Yazoo, thence through Steele's Bayou, Black Bayou, and up Deer Creek.
Sherman, (5), on lower Deer Creek at the time, explicitly states in his "Memoirs", "During the 19th I heard the heavy Navy guns booming more frequently than seemed consistent with more guerilla operations".
Actually, Porter had run into a sizeable force of Confederate infantry and artillery whereupon both sides immediately and vigorously started slugging it out, - "with murderous intent". Their connonade could easily have been heard from Cox's location on Milliken's Bend.
Although several bodies of troops were
alerted to go to Sherman's and Porter's help, the expedition finally did manage to get out by itself on 28 March 1863, but only after a severe mauling to show for this ill-advised adventure, - and this in spite of some rather special "heroics" on Sherman's part, personally.
Back to Cox again.
"March 20-All quiet in camp.
21-Inspection of camp equipment, horses, etc.
22-All quiet in camp - pleasant weather.
23-Nothing new a wet day.
24-A hard rain fell in the morning. North wind.
25-All quiet in camp.
26-Five regiments came down the river and camped here.
27-We cleaned up camp - A small Scout went 7 miles and back.
28-All quiet in camp.
29-Cold north wind.
30-Cleaned up camp. Weather clear and cold.
31-All quiet in camp. Two regiments started for Richmond, La.
April 1st, 1863-(Wed.) Troops moving West."
Grant was beginning his move. Although his Special Order No. 110, Headquarters, Dept. of the Tennessee, Milliken's Bend, La., was dated 20 April 1863, he had on 29 March 1863 started moving McClernand's troops southward by land across the bayou and swamp country toward a suitable point for crossing the Mississippi.
This route from Milliken's Bend first lay westward around the watery obstacles directly south of the Bend. Thence it progressed more or less southward by way of Richmond,- which does not appear on present day maps, incidentally.
Then the route continued on to New Carthage where Grant had hoped McClernand could get across and take Grand Gulf "before the balance of the troops could get there", (Grant). Mud and water forestalled that hope thus making it necessary to push on to the Perkin's Plantation where the Mississippi River had made another large loop to the west. There, again, it was hoped a crossing could be made to high and dry land above the fortifications of Grand Gulf, (6). Cox continues, "April 2-Quarter-master Wood came to Command from Helena, Ark. with our train. A scout started out.
3-All quiet, Dry weather
4-I worked shoeing horses and mules - preparing to move.
5-Three regiments moved west. I am at work.
6-Nothing new. I remained in camp. Weather fine.
7-Troops landing from above. All quiet in camp.
8-Brigade review of the troops by Gen. McClernand. It was a fine day and the troops looked fine.
9-Brigade drill by different Generals. I worked all day.
10-Another Brigade takes up the line of march.
11-All quiet in camp. I am still at work, expecting to move.
12-Raining and muddy. Gen. Burbages [Burbridge's] Brigade marched out for Richmond, La. Four gun-boats went down the river - [as far as they dared go at the time].
"April 13-Still raining. Gen. Gormans Division landed from Helena, Ark. [trying to detour the swamps].
14-Still raining. Troops marching west.
15-The 6th Mo. took up the line of march at 10 a.m. Marched all day and got but 8 miles. Our train stuck fast in the mud over night.
16-We pryed out and moved forward 4 miles and encamped, but at a fine time for soldiers, in the church house in Richmond.
17-We left camp at 8 and marched 10 miles and encamped on Gen. Homes' [Holmes'?] negro quarters."
It would appear that Cox was somewhere out around Richmond and thus could not have seen or heard the first run past the Vicksburg batteries on the night of April 16, 1863. Thus he makes no mention of it under that date.
"April 18-We remained in camp. I shod horses all day.
19-All quiet in camp.
20-Nothing new in camp.
21-We scouted back to Richmond and drove in a drove of cattle and sheep.
22-We were paid off by Major Sullivan. I received $54.50. All quiet in camp. The blockade was run at 10 o'clock at night be fore Vicksburg, with 11 transports, two were sunk, the rest no injured, not one was killed."
Curiously enough, Cox's figures agree reasonably well with the run of April
16-17 which, it is assumed, he did not witness personally. That being the case,
it is equally possible and for the same reasons that he did not see the second
run, either, although his date agrees with it, namely, the night of 22 April
1863. No matter. Be it said to his credit he knew about it, and that he recognized
its importance enough to get the story into his memoirs somehow, someway.
As for the second run, Grant knew that the "road" through the swamps would not accomodate the southward movement of the three Army Corps he was about to cross over into Mississippi, much less keep them supplied even in part once they were over even though he could manage to take and hold both Grand Gulf and Port Gibson on his roundabout way to Vicksburg.
Consequently, and all along, he had been accumulating something of a flotilla of river steamers and supply barges to maintain troop movement and supply, (7). Thus, by 22 April 1863 he was ready to chance a second run, but his civilian river captains were not. That is to say, they were not about to undertake the running of the Vicksburg Gauntlet. No, Thank you, General. Grant, however, soon found to his great gratification that Logan's "Egyptians", (experienced Mississippi and Ohio River men from southern Illinois) eagerly volunteered for the job and, as expected, succeeded wonderfully in getting this important river equippage past Vicksburg and above Grand Gulf where within a very short time it proved to be, "the difference", and in a very large way.
Again to Cox's diary.
"April 23-All quiet in camp.
24-The signals were raised through the Milliken's Bend to Perkin's Plantation. Gen. Smith's Division moved at dark.
25-The 17th Army Corps came up from Milliken's Bend [Practically all of the remainder of McPherson's troops, the XVII Army Corps.]
26-We left camp at 7 A.M., marched 8 miles and encamped on Gen. Fisks farm or rather in his door-yard.
27-We remained in camp. Rained All day.
28-We left camp at 5 A.M., marched through mud and encamped on Perkin's Plantation, within one mile of the river. We are now near the intended crossing place. By this time the troops had a fairly good road thrown up clear through from Milliken's Bend, a space of 40 miles through the swamps, where it was thought an Army could never travel."
All told, the building of this "road" and its success was one of the well-nigh incredible achievements of Grant's Vicksburg Campaign.
To go back a bit his, (8), modest description of it is as follows, "By the 6th of April McClernand had reached New Carthage with one division and its artillery, the latter ferried through the woods by [locally built] boats. A better method had to be devised since before long there would not be enough depth to use boats; nor would the land be dry enough to march over.... Four bridges had to be built across bayous, two of them each over 600 feet long, making about 2000 feet of bridging in all.... The bridges were so substantial that not a single mishap occurred in crossing all the army with artillery, cavalry, and wagon trains, except the loss of one seige gun (a thirty-two pounder). This.... broke through the only pontoon bridge we had in our march across the penisula..." (Grant, p. 242-245.)
Although the "road" finally totalled something over 40 miles, it gave in-coming troops hard-standing at the Perkins Plantation eight to twelve miles below New Carthage, still some distance to a position for a landing just above Grand Gulf.
There was not a great deal of certainty about crossing at that point, and Grant after a personal reconnaisance decided with some disappointment that there was not a suitable landing area above Grand Gulf. Moreover, he found that Grand Gulf itself was situated on bluffs almost as high and as steep as Vicksburg's. Thus Grand Gulf was almost as invulnerable to head-on effort or flanking action as Vicksburg itself.
Accordingly, McClernand's troops were again set in motion from the Perkins Plantation for the Hard Times Plantation and Landing farther down the river nearly opposite Grand Gulf. Some of the steamers which had gotten below Vicksburg in the second run were only useful as barges to be towed by
other less severely injured so that only about 10,000 men could be moved by
water past that point. The others were marched around Lake St. Joseph by day
or down the levee after night. Again, three large bayous had to be bridged but
that was done without too much delay, (9).
On April 27, 1863 with McClernand's corps all at Hard Times with McPherson's following close behind. Grant planned for the Navy to attack on April 29 and silence the Grand Gulf batteries; whereupon, McClernand, having been ordered to crowd as many men and as much artillery and munitions as possible aboard available transports, was to push across and open an assault on Grand Gulf's land fortifications.
After several hours' bombardment, how ever, the Navy withdrew, "seeing their efforts were entierly unavailing", (Grant, 9). Nevertheless, they were more effective than had been supposed judging from the lack of serious resistance to Porter's successful run-past that night, so that,-" by the time it was light the enemy saw our whole fleet, iron dads, gunboats, river steamers and barges quietly moving down the river three miles below them, black, or rather blue, with National troops", (Grant, 9). Other Bodies of the Union troops, "marched across the point of land to DeShroon's (on the west bank) unobserved under the cover of night".
There they were embarked for a short down-river passage to Bruinsburg, a relatively un-used east-bank landing where Grant's whole force was to be poured onto Mississippi soil and thrust forward with all might and speed possible to take Port Gibson and, if possible, the bridges on the line upland to Grand Gulf before the garrison there could oppose them.
We now come to what must have been a deep disappointment to W. B. Cox.
At the time, presumably, he was at or near Hard Times. Action had begun and his outfit was being readied to take part in it.
Cox writes, "April 29-We mustered for pay by Major [Colonel] Wright. The 6th started at 10 A.M., leaving camp and equipment and train. I was left at work on our old wagons.
He would catch up with them later, to be sure, but in reading these words there seems to be more here than simply, "I was left at work on our old wagons".
For one thing, "his old wagons", were not the only wagons left behind. Grant had ordered all trains left behind,-even his own mess gear and personal belongings-until the crossing was successful and the troops well on their way inland. Grant was, "going for broke for sure", his plan all along.
If W. B. Cox spent any time con gratulating himself over missing the whistle of Confederate lead in the dash and plunge of, "the Sixth", past Port Gibson and on up the Jackson road, he does not write it in his diary. At the outset he did miss some slam-bang fighting including a 16 hour and 50 mile stretch in the saddle during which and through active contact with the retreating enemy, his "Sixth" kept their division commander, Osterhaus, aware of his surroundings in an altogether hostile land, (10).
Cox could very well have congratulated himself on this turn of luck, but everything on his record seems to indicate that he sorely missed the fun.
Back to Cox's diary, April 29, "The cannonading was distinctly heard at Grand Gulf for half the day then ceased. It was then ours.
First sentence, correct; the second needs correction.
It would be May 3, before Grant and a small escort would leave the pell-mell, smash-ahead to turn aside and see what was left at the "Gulf."
There it was soon learned that the enemy had waited in vain for the arrival of re-enforcements from Vicksburg. Sherman's noisy bluff at making another amphibious attempt on the Yazoo Highlands had caused Grand Gulf's assistance then comming at a dead run to be turned back at the same speed without ever coming within sight of the "Gulf"- a most successful bluff, if ever there was one, (11).
Moreover, on the night of May 2-3 the "Gulf" garrison being in no position one way or another to fall upon the Blue Tide then roaring into Mississippi slipped away northward to the fortifications of Vicksburg leaving the "Gulf's" landing facilities and anchorage a
welcome prize to the Union advance.
On April 30, Cox noted, "Heavy cannonading at Vicksburg. Pleasant weather". That was Sherman.-still bluffing.
"May 1st 1863 Fri.-Fighting at Port Gibson. I was at work but could hear the cannonading distinctly. [Post Gibson was taken that date while Grant's advance forged ahead on the Jackson Road.]
2-All quiet in camp. Brother James and I went out 4 miles in the Canebreaks and swamps and bought some chickens, eggs and butter.
3-I went to a very rich Doctor's farm with the forage train, but he and his family had moved off and left his fine dwelling worth $50,000, which was burned shortly afterwards.
4-I went out 6 miles through the swamps with some of the boys to Mr. Flouries and back to camp. 3000 Rebels [prisoners] passed our camp.
5-I remained in camp. Steele's Division passed on the route for Grand Gulf.
6-I went out to Dr. Montgomery's farm with our Wagon-master's cook. We got 50 mules which we put to our wagons.
7-I went out and killed me a squirrel and gathered a mess of dew-berries. I baked a pie and fried my squirrel. Law; what a mess I had.
8-I remained in camp. Mrs. Kirkneart baked my old gobbler that I had captured, so we had a fine dinner.
9-I gathered berries and baked a few pies, etc. In the evening we loaded our wagons to move.
10-6 O'Clock found us on the march. We marched 15 miles [back] up the river on the levee. I drove the team.
11-We left camp at - A.M. Marched through Richmond and went to Milliken's Bend and encamped in the yard of an old, rich planter.
12-I drove the team back 4 miles and got a load of corn.
13-All quiet in camp. I spent the forenoon writing. The afternoon I rode down to the levee. On returning I found the wagons loading to move but had to wait for the arrival of a boat."
This retrograde movement of supply trains was to pick up and load as much supply and munitions as possible for trans-river shipment to the Yazoo Highlands once Vicksburg became so invested that Haines' Bluff could be taken from the rear.
Grant had long foreseen the urgent need to move his great supply base across the river to a place not only well above the Vicksburg batteries but one safe from rebels still prowling the Louisiana woods and swamps south and west of Milliken's Bend. He needed also to have a standing on land not subject to river over-flow. Thus the Yazoo Highlands had been his goal all along.
And again he was right in his projections for hardly was the move complete before "Dick" Taylor and his rebels attacked the "Bend" in a, "hit-and-run", that would have been disastrous had their raid been carried out only a few days or a week or so earlier. As it happened Taylor and his men were too late to do much damage to Grant's over-all effort, (12).
To continue with Cox, "May 14-Raining. A transport came up at 12 and took on the Cavalry [of the rear guard]. Another came at 4 p.m. We got all the wagons aboard, then left the shore at 5 and landed [across from] Young's Point at 8 p.m. Lay aboard all night.
May 15-We got off the boat at 8 a.m. and drove up the levee one mile through mud and rain and camped in a dooryard where all the buildings had been burned.
16-Cool wind. I rode down to within 2 miles of Vicksburg and viewed the city. Can nonading heavy in the rear all day. [Battle of Champion's Hill].
17-I rode down again and found a very fine berry patch under the range of rebel batteries. They fired several shots at us but the shell burst in the air. They did no damage, but we skeedaddled without our berries-that was the worst of it all. [First Battle of the Black River Bridge was going on at the time.]
18-I spent the forenoon baking pies. Heavy cannonading all day. [The advance from Black River, Bridgeport, and Chamion's Hill.
19-Cool air. Heavy cannonading on the right flank by Steele's Division. He came into their breastwork."
Thus a line was being opened up from the vicinity of Haines' Bluff down to the river. Shortly afterward Steele's troops, and others of Sherman's Corps to their left, pushed the rebel defenders farther back into the defense perimetry and by so doing made secure this first lodgement on the Yazoo
Now, Cox, again "May 20-A very fine day. I again rode down within 2 miles of town and watched the movements. The mortars opened on the rebels at 4 p.m. and kept up their fire all night."
Although Grant's Army had beaten the rebels back into the Vicksburg defenses they were then halted by the strength of the rebel position and the stubborness of the rebel fighting. It was becoming increasingly clear to the Union soldiery that head-on attacks would have to be given up for a seige if an opening down the river on the extreme southwestern perimeter could be closed and kept that way. It was indeed a time for a decision.
Whatever the case, Cox was not missing seeing, at least, as much of the action
as he could manage to see. He writes, "May 21-The mortars had ceased but
opened again at 8 a.m. Heavy firing in the rear with small arms. I went and watched
them until noon, when all ceased. They opened fire again at 2 P.M. I went down
and stayed till dark. The rebel's cannons pretty much ceased. Musketry still firing.
Mortars kept it up all night. Communications [now] opened by the way of the Yazoo.
The morning cool and cloudy. Bombardment heavy, musketry very heavy. I went down opposite the rebel batteries and sat under range of both batteries half the day, about half way between them. In the evening the Mortars moved up nearer and kept up the fire all night.
May 22-At day-light both parties opened fire all around the fortifications. I went down opposite the rebel batteries. Six iron-dads ran up and opened fire on the batteries from below. I lay on the bank where I could see the effects of both and see every ball strike. They fought four hours and fell back without damage. 4400 rebel prisoners were sent over and corralled. All silenced at night."
It was by no means as easy as all that. Actually, "May 22" saw some of the hardest fighting of the entire campaign.
Having been stopped on the 19th of May at the outer defense perimeter as mentioned above, Grant, after consulting with his three Corps commanders-McClernand, McPherson, and Sherman-then ordered an all-out assault for 10 A.M. on the 22nd of May. Thereupon and after some two hours of severe fighting the Union troops found themselves beaten from every rebel parapet and pushed into cover behind trees, rail fences, spurs of ground,-any place that afforted shelter.
None the less, and in the very face of this repulse, McClernand sent Grant word that the parapet to his (McClernand's) front had been captured and that, "the flag of the Union waved over the stronghold of Vicksburg".
This was palpably untrue and even though Grant grimly said he did not believe a word of it, this advice forced him to order another attack to save a concentration on McClernand's men, who otherwise might have been cut off in what would have been an over-extended position.
The immediate result of this move was a repitition of the earlier attack yet even more bloody with the loss of "some of the Union's most valuable officers and men without adequate result..." (14).
McClernand, instead of having taken any single point of the rebel's main paraper, had only taken one or two small out-lying lunettes open to the rear where his men were at the mercy of the rebels behind their main parapet, and most of them were actually thus captured," (Sherman, p. 327). This affair coupled with other misunderstandings and disagreement led finally to McClernand's removal from command of the XIII Corps and latter to his relief of active duty.
"Mon. June 1st 1863. A few guns to be heard-all quiet in the evening, except the mortars. I would set at night and watch the bombs go and burst from the mortars.
2-I remained in camp all day, weather very warm and dry. Bombardment very heavy.
3-Nothing new. I fixed up in the after noon to go to the command.
4-Started at 5 O'Clock and reached the Yazoo Landing at 12 near McClernand's battleground of December of 1862".
It was not McClernand's Battle-ground; it was Sherman's. As a matter of fact, Sherman and Admiral Porter had already given up as a bad job the December 1862 river-land effort against Vicksburg and were pulling out when McClernand arrived at Milliken's Bend, on or about", Jan. 1863.
"June 5-I started at 5 and went 12 miles to camp by 10 O'Clock.
6-I set up a forge and fixed to go to work."
As to Cox's "camp", it is likely that this was a cavalry camp near Mechanicsburg, Mississippi, midway between the upper Big Black and the Yazoo where a brigade of Blair's
Division and about 1200 cavalry under Osterhaus had instructions
to watch all crossings of the Big Black, to hold Johnston back and to destroy
all roads toward Jackson and to strip the country side of all possible supplies
and subsistence, (15).
"June 7- I worked hard all day Sunday- Weather was very warm. Cannons roaring.
8--At work-all quiet in camp.
9 At work- The boys fighting, on picket.
10-Rain and I slept nearly all day.
11--At work. We got a large mail etc.
12--Nothing new, weather cool and pleasant.
13 At work at night. Wrote to Mildred Nelson. Cannons roaring heavy all night.
14 All quiet in camp. I got a letter from L. A. Shannon.
15---Our train came over from Young's Point. I wrote a letter.
16--Nothing new--weather warm--signs of rain-Cannon roaring all of the time.
17--We moved and cleaned up camp. I got 5 letters.
18--All quiet--I wrote 4 letters, etc.
19- -At work all day.
20--I worked hard all day shoeing the teams. Weather warm.
21- At work, all quiet in camp.
22 At work.
23- All quiet in camp.
24 We moved camp 6 miles up the Big Black and encamped on the Widow Flour's farm, in a beautiful grove by a fine large spring the best water we have found in the State of Louisiana. [Louisiana? Mississippi, rather.]
June 25- At work.
26 At work, the boys all on picket.
27 Remained in camp the weather dry and warm.
28- We were paid off for two months. I got $54.00 and then went on picket.
29 Our pickets kept up the skirmish all day with the loss of 1 horse.
30 We mustered for pay and inspection by Col. Wright Wed. July 1st 1863. Pickets skirmishing.
July 2--Our pickets skirmishing with the Johnson pickets.
3 A very fine day. I got a letter from cousin John Kimberling and answered the same. The Rebels hoisted a white flag over the City of Vicksburq and sent a flag of truce to Gen. Grant.
4 Gen. Grant marched in and took possession of the great and noble fortifications of Vicksburg with 37000 prisoners, 60,000 stand of small arms, 160 cannon, etc.
5 Quite a stir in camp pickets fighting----great rejoicing with the boys- Col. Wright made a speech to us at night."
Johnston, in the rear of the Union's effort, had heard of the surrender of Vicksburg almost as soon as it occurred; whereupon, he fell back toward Jackson. Grant, however, had planned not to wait before attacking him after the actual surrender. Thus he ordered Sherman, who had been "holding" all along, to turn on Johnston immediately and, "drive him from the state".
Sherman moved promptly crossing the Big Black at three different places with as many columns, all concentrating on Bolton, Miss. twenty miles west of Jackson.
By the 8th of July Sherman was within ten miles of Jackson, and on the 11th he was close up to its defenses and shelling the town.
The seige was kept up until the morning of the 17th when it was found that the rebels had evacuated the place during the night.
Although Steele's division pushed their enemy beyond Brandon, fourteen miles east of Jackson, farther pursuit of a much weakened foe was deemed useless, and Sher man s men were pulled back the same positions they had occupied before, namely, those from Big Black to Haines' Bluff. (16).
But let Cox tell it. This time he was in the very midst of it.
"July 6- We left camp at 6 o'clock, went down to the bridge and crossed and marched two miles and encamped on the rebel Cook's Farm.
7--We marched 10 miles and camped.
8---We left camp at 3 P.M.- marched 1 mile and camped up with the rebel pickets and fought them till dark, driving them 3 miles and camped. [Port Hudson farther down stream, Banks' objective, surrendered as a consequence of Vicksburg.]
9---We left camp at day-light marched through Clinton, the 6th Mo. having the advance. We soon came in contact with the rebels and fought them all day, driving them some distance. We lost several horses killed and two men wounded, one killed. The Rebels lost 8 or 10 horses and 5 men. We camped in a peach orchard one mile from water.
10- -We left camp at day-light, having the advance of the right wing. We soon came in contact with the enemy. We drove them over
11- We remained in camp all day. Troops marching up and preparing for a fight. Some fighting in the afternoon. We saddled up at dark and marched to the out-post on the south branch of the Railroad and sat with our bridles in our hands till day-light.
12-At day-light we mounted our horses in sight of the enemy and went down the road 10 miles and came to a very rich planters, who was in the army. We called-fed and took dinner-within a few minutes the chickens were squalling in every direction. I found a Negro wench churning-I hoisted the churn, took the milk, and got a piece of corn-bread and, law, what a dinner I had. We then went on 5 miles farther to a depot and burned the whole of it with several cars and out-buildings and returned to camp by 11 O'Clock P.M.
13--We moved camp to 5 mi. south of Jackson. Hard fighting in the evening.
14-I worked all day. Heavy cannonading and sharp-shooting all day.
15--I remained in camp-rained all day the boys most all on picket.
16---We moved camp to 1 1/2 miles west of town-the Army building breast-works-sharp shooting and cannonading all day. The Cavalry remained on the right flank. Heavy firing by the Rebels at dark.
17-No firing to be heard-nothing but the roar of drum and fife-I knew something new was up-I mounted my horse and to town I went--the rebels had all gone and the town was full of Federal troops, and was on fire.
18-I remained in camp quite a stir among the troops.
19---Nothing new-quite a rain-storm.
20- I went out with the forage train.
21-The Command came from a scout.
22--The Army took up the line of march for Vicksburg and marched 5 mi.
23- We made 10 miles.
24- We marched 13 miles and camped at Big Black.
25-We lay in camp all day.
26- We marched 15 mi. and camped 4 mi. below Vicksburg on the bank of the Miss."
Grant's great force some 70,000 at its peak was to be broken up by Washington after the Vicksburg campaign. Shortly afterward Grant would be called next to bail out the Mid-South following Chickamauga. Sherman would come over later to take Atlanta and make his, "March to the Sea". That would be after Grant had been called to Washington to bring our grisly fratricide to a close.
Co-incidental to this point in Cox's diary, Grant, (17), makes this entry in his own memoirs, "On the 7th of August I further depleted my army be sending the 13th Corps, General Ord now commanding, to Banks.... to take part in movements west of the Mississippi." The Sixth Missouri Volunteer Cavalry was included in this transfer.
"July 27-We signed the pay-roll, encamped, etc.
28-Nothing new in camp.
29-I went to town-spent the day in viewing the town and fortifications.
30 A search was made by Major Montgomery for $1300.00 reported stolen from him.
31-All quiet in camp.
Sat. August 1st 1863-I got a furlough approved for 30 days.
2-I left camp at 5, got aboard boat at 2, started at 8 P.M.
3-We passed Lake Providence at 10 A.M.
4-We passed the mouth of the Ark. river at 2 A.M. We passed 5 gun boats.
5-We landed at Memphis at 12 and left at 5 P.M.
6-Day-break-100 mi. above Memphis.
7-At day-break we passed Columbus-at 8 we landed at Cairo and got on the cars at 11 and run to Agan, Ill. about dark-140 mi. and got to St. Louis at 12-60 mi.
8-We left St. Louis at 5 A.M. and got to Rolla at 5 P.M. and missed getting on the stage.
9 We stayed in town until 5 P.M., when we started on the stage for Springfield.
10-We took breakfast at Waynesville and got to Lebanon at 6 P.M.
11-I reached L. A. Shannons at 8 A.M. in Springfield.
12-I stayed in town and returned to my mother-in laws and to my little boy.
13-I started for Galena and went to McCullahs (Stage stop at McCords farm).
14-I got home at 3 P.M.
15-I spent the day, quiet, at home.
16-Alan and I went up to my old home place-what a desert of a looking place it was-no person was to be seen for miles around.
17-I attended court in Galena.
18-I attended Court.
19-I went to Samuel Shumates.
20-At L. A. Shannons.
21-I went out to Mildred Nelsons- weather warm.
22-I went to Springfield and then out to L. A. Shannons.
23-I remained with my mother-in-law and little John Lyons.
24-I went down to James Bakers-11 miles and back.
25-I attended court in Springfield.
26-I started home and to Thos. Cox on Finley.
27-I went to Galena.
28-I remained at home.
29-I and Allen went hunting.
30-I remained at home all day.
31-At home-weather warm and dry."
Tue. Sept. 1st 1863-I started to Springfield and went to Thos. Cox's.
2-I went to my mother-in-law's.
3-I went to town.
4-I went to town and took dinner with Dr. Slaughter.
5-I started for Vicksburg. Left Springfield on the stage at 8 A.M., and got to Bolivar at 5 P.M.
6-We took dinner in Warsaw and supper in Sedalia.
7-I took the cars at 8 and got to St. Louis at dark and put up at Soldiers Home.
8-I spent the day in town and got aboard the Freedenees at 4 P.M.
9-She started at 6 A.M.
10-Landed at Cairo at 2 A.M. Started at 6 P.M.
11-Passed Island No. 10 at 9 A.M. and lay up all night.
12-Started at 6 A.M. Passed Fort Picquene [?] at I P.M., Fort Randolph at 4, and landed at Memphis at 12 in the night.
13-Left Memphis at 9 A.M. and landed at 6 at Helena.
14-Left Helena at 8 A.M.
15-Passed White and Arkansas rivers before day-light.
16-Got to Vicksburg at 9 and left at 4 P.M.
17-Landed at Natchez at 7 A.M. and left at nine. Passed Red River at dark-got off at Morganza."
Thus, Cox's experiences in the Vicksburg Campaign together with his well deserved 30-day furlough back home.
There was still heavy fighting to be done in Louisiana, and while that action added but little glory to the Federal arms, it did involve the only serious threat to the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi during the entire war.
In a word it was like this:
Banks had some 30,000 men plus Porter's naval flotilla. Fred Steele had some 15,000 Union troops up in Arkansas. Confederate Kirby Smith was in between them and the Union was to try to end things out there, at least, with a giant pincers movement against this last remaining "large" body of organized rebel troops west of the Mississippi.
That this effort did not succeed as planned is well known.
How the the Union "GI" saw it is what we shall see in our next chapter.
1. Kemp, Hardy A.: War Time Experiences, 1 December 1861 - January
1865, of W. B. Cox, Part I. White River Valley Historical Quarterly (Fall) 1969.
2. Grant, U.S.: Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, with Notes and and Introduction by E. B. Long, pp. 239-240. World Publishing Co., New York, 1952.
3 . Sherman, W. T.: "Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, by Himself." Foreward by B. H. Liddel Hart, Vol. I, p. 328.
4. Grant, 238.
5. Sherman, I, 308-313.
6. Grant, 242-245; 248.
7. Grant, 247.
8. Grant, 242-247.
9. Grant, 248-251.
10. Osterhaus, P. J., "Official Records", Series I, Part 1, 24:636; Wright, Clark (Col., 6 Mo. Vol. Cay.); ibid., 701.
11. Sherman, I: 319.
12. Smith, Lt. GenI. E. Kirby, CSA. "Official Records", v. 22 page 27.
13. Sherman, I: 324-325.
14. Sherman, I: 325-32 7.
15. Grant, 284-285.
17. Grant, 304.
Dozens of authentic works have been offered on the Vicksburg Campaign many of which-too many to list here-have been studied in following W. B. Cox's diary this far.
Why then the selection of Grant's and Sherman's, "Memoirs" to the exclusion of all the others?
As for Grant, E. B. Long, the author of the introduction to the work cited above says, "Many literary men and historians proclaim it a classic to rank with Caesar. Some feel its frankness, its unpretentious straight forwardness show a literary style Grant himself never realized, and therefore it ranks among the greatest of war memoirs... Grant had been in many ways a meticulous soldier... That he was an accurate, careful writer can not be denied."
As for Sherman, his "Memoirs", as he pointed out in his introduction, were addressed to "His Comrades in Arms," both volunteers and regulars, as his recollections of events in which they all took part. Thus that collection was not designed as a definitive history of the war, but the war as Sherman saw it.
Sherman expected severe criticism for what to wrote and he got it.
Yet, when Grant's, "Memoirs", appeared some ten years later there was but little surprise among knowledgeable critics when they found that Grant supported Sherman on most points under dispute.
Slips on names, dates, and places both major and minor can be over-looked from the vantage-point of over a hundred years when one considers that both Grant and Sherman not only made history, they also wrote it,-accurately.
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