Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another Attack on Vicksburg

Although the May 19th Union assault on the Vicksburg defenses had been a complete failure, that didn't stop them from trying it again. Another attack was launched on May 22nd, 150 years ago today. It was preceded by an artillery bombardment from the entire Union line, and the gunboats in the river. At 10:00 am Federal troops advanced everywhere at once. Sherman wrote:
A small party, that might be called a forlorn hope, provided with a plank to cross the ditch, advanced at a run, up to the very ditch the lines of infantry sprang from cover, and advanced rapidly in line of battle. ... The rebel line, concealed by the parapet, showed no sign of unusual activity, but as our troops came into fair view, the enemy rose behind their parapet and poured a furious fire upon our lines; and, for about two hours, we had a severe and bloody battle, but at every point we were repulsed.
As the bloody fighting continued, McClernand reported to Grant that he had secured a foothold on the Confederate line. To help him, Grant ordered the attacks to be renewed, loosing many men and gaining no more ground. McClernand's message had been misleading. He had only gained a new outlying works, not a portion of the main line. The attack was finally called off. The Union had lost 500 men killed, 2,550 wounded and 150 missing, and had gained nothing for these heavy casualties. It was evident that Vicksburg would not be captured with frontal attacks on the strong entrenchments. Other tactics would be necessary. Grant was not discouraged by the reverses. He wrote to Halleck:
Vicksburg is now completely invested. I have possession of Haynes' Bluff and the Yazoo; consequently have supplies. To-day an attempt was made to carry the city by assault, but was not entirely successful. We hold possession, however, of two of the enemy's forts, and have skirmishers close under all of them. Our loss was not severe. The nature of the ground about Vicksburg is such that it can only be taken by a siege. It is entirely safe to us in time, I would say one week, if the enemy do not send a large army upon my rear. With the railroad destroyed to beyond Pearl River, I do not see the hope that the enemy can entertain of such relief.

Confederate siege gun


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