Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sherman Attacks Vicksburg

When Grant arrived at Vicksburg, he did not delay in making preparations for an attack. He hoped to crush through the strong defenses while the Confederates were discouraged from their defeats of the past few days. He positioned Sherman on the right, McPherson in the middle and McClernand on the left. Grant decided to assault the Stockade Redan on May 19th, 150 years ago today.

Map of the May 19 attacks
At 2:00 pm the Union troops formed up in three lines with flags flying, and advanced against the Confederate fortifications. At first it appeared that the Confederate fortifications were deserted. But then as they pushed on the defenders stood up opened a terrific fire upon them. As Sherman said, "The heads of the columns have been swept away as chaff thrown from the hand on a windy day." One Union captain said that "the very sticks and chips, scattered over the ground jumping under the hot shower of Rebel bullets."

The assault on Vicksburg
The bluecoats pressed through the incredibly heavy fire. Two flagbearers made it to the wall, and planted the ensigns on the top, but their regiments were unable to follow. They were driven back, but came on again and again. In the three attacks, they were never able to make it over the walls. Some Federals were not even able to retreat. They lay hidden at the bottom of the parapet until night, when they were able to return to their lines. Sherman lost almost 1000 men, while the Confederates suffered less than 200. Pemberton was encouraged by the showing his men had made in driving back the Federals. They had redeemed themselves from their disgraces in the rest of the campaign, and the Confederate prospects for the siege seemed much improved.  


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