Friday, December 28, 2012

December 27, 1862

December 27, 1862: 

The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou


Day 1:  Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, in command of an advance corps of the Army of the Tennessee, lands his corps the night before at Johnson’s Plantation, on the Yazoo River, just a few miles from the Chickasaw Bluffs that flank the north side of the city of Vicksburg.  Sherman’s three divisions are each assigned a route of approach to the tree-choked Chickasaw Bayou, which flows from the Yazoo to the Mississippi, and which parallels the best approaches to Chickasaw Bluffs.  Added to Martin Luther Smith’s division of Rebels (brigades Barton, Vaughn, Gregg, and Tracy) is Gen. Stephen D. Lee and his two brigades (Withers and Thomas), who line up in advance of the Walnut Hills defenses (Chickasaw Bluffs).  Sherman has the divisions of A.J. Smith, George Morgan, and Morgan Smith, and Frederick Steele.  Sherman’s troops advance and begin to encounter Lee’s Rebels at Mrs. Lake’s Plantation.  Morgan’s division is supposed to attack the Rebels on their flank, but Morgan simply marches south, while a brigade under Frank Blair marches east, and the Rebels are hit from two directions.  But the attacks are not coordinated, and although the Federals drive the Southerners back, it is only a handful of Rebel regiments who hold back two entire Federal divisions until dark.  Water barriers, abatises, and forward rifle pits make the going difficult for the Federals’ advance, which bogs down.

Sherman's advance on Chickasaw Bayou -- the Union's best chance for a land approach to Vicksburg

At the beginning of his move down the Mississippi several days ago, Sherman had written to his brother, Senator John Sherman of Ohio, outlining the perameters of the campaign:

I embarked to-day on the Forest Queen and will have 20,000 men in boats by noon and be off for the real South. At Helena I will get about 12,000 more. Like most of our boasts of the “Myriads of the northwest sweeping away to the Gulf,” “breaking the back bone,” &c. &c., the great Mississippi expedition will be 32,000 men. Vicksburg is well fortified and is within telegraphic and railroad reach of Meridian, Mobile, Camp Moore and Grenada, where Pemberton has 30,000 to 35,000 men. Therefore don't expect me to achieve miracles.

---Gen. William Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland are moving cautiously toward Murfreesboro in order to attack Gen. Bragg’s Confederates of the Army of Tennessee, but active Southern mounted reconnaissance prevents Rosecrans from being able to surprise Bragg, so far.

---After a spirited battle, Gen. John H. Morgan of the Rebel cavalry attacks and captures Elizabethtown, Kentucky, far behind Union lines.

---At Dumphries, Virginia, three Union regiments and artillery engage in a desperate battle with Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, in which the Yankees drive off the Rebel horsemen.

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