Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 1863

May 15, 1863

Mississippi – After burning military supplies and stores in Jackson (and much of the city), destroying factories, and wrecking the incoming railroads, Gen. Grant puts his troops on the road again. The XIII Corps, under Gen. John McClernand, holds a forward position on the road from Jackson to Vicksburg, and Grant sends Sherman and McPherson that way, towards Vicksburg. The Confederate generals Johnston and Pemberton mull over the idea of cutting Grant’s supply line back to Grand Gulf. They do not realize that Grant no longer has a supply line, and is living on the largess of Mississippi farmers.

—Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of the Royal Army, on an official tour, records another stage in his journey:
15th May (Friday).—I nearly slept round the clock after yesterday’s exertions. Mr Douglas and I crossed the father of rivers and landed on the Mississippi bank at 9 A.M.
Natchez is a pretty little town, and ought to contain about 6000 inhabitants. It is built on the top of a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi river, which is about three quarters of a mile broad at this point. . . .

The scenery about Natchez is extremely pretty, and the ground is hilly, with plenty of fine trees. Mr Nutt’s place reminded me very much of an English gentleman’s country seat, except that the house itself is rather like a pagoda, but it is beautifully furnished. . . . I determined to push on to Vicksburg, as all the late news seemed to show that some great operations must take place there before long.

I had fondly imagined that after reaching Natchez my difficulties would have been over; but I very soon discovered that this was a delusive hope. I found that Natchez was full of the most gloomy rumours. Another Yankee raid seemed to have been made into the interior of Mississippi, more railroad is reported to be destroyed, and great doubts were expressed whether I should be able to get into Vicksburg at all. 

However, as I found some other people as determined to proceed as myself, we hired a carriage for $100 to drive to Brookhaven, which is the nearest point on the railroad, and is distant from Natchez 66 miles.

My companions were a fat Government contractor from Texas, the wounded Missourian Mr Douglas, and an ugly woman, wife to a soldier in Vicksburg. . . .

We slept at a farmhouse. All the males were absent at the war, and it is impossible to exaggerate the unfortunate condition of the women left behind in these farmhouses; they have scarcely any clothes, and nothing but the coarsest bacon to eat, and are in miserable uncertainty as to the fate of their relations, whom they can hardly ever communicate with. Their slaves, however, generally remain true to them.
Our hostess, though she was reduced to the greatest distress, was well-mannered, and exceedingly well educated; very far superior to a woman of her station in England.

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