Monday, May 20, 2013

May 19, 1863

May 19, 1863

---Battle of Vicksburg, Day 1 – In an attack that was supposed to put all three of Grant’s corps in motion in a simultaneous move, McPherson’s and McClernand’s corps are not in position. Sherman’s corps attacks alone on a salient strong point in the Confederate line called Stockade Redan.  The extremely rough ground makes it nearly impossible for the advancing Yankees to keep their units in any kind of formation.  Sinkholes, deep gorges, tangles of woods and hidden swamplands all retard the Federal advance---and when they approach the fortifications, they find that trenches have been dug in front, and only scaling ladders will allow them to go over the walls.  Logan and Quinby’s divisions also send attacks against the 3rd Louisiana Redan, to no avail.  Darkness halts the attack, and the Yankees withdraw to their original positions.

Losses:     U.S.   942                           C.S.   70

---Brig. Gen. T.K. Smith, of Frank Blair’s division in Shermans’ corps, writes an account of his brigade’s operations in the frustrating assault against the Confederate fortifications at Vicksburg:

At the appointed hour the signal was given, and at the command “forward” the troops advanced gallantly and without hesitation, it was almost vain to assay a line, owing to the nature of the ground, yet three times, under a most galling and destructive fire, did these regiments halt and dress upon their colors; the nerve and self-possession of both officers and men perfect; not a man flinched from his post. Having advanced some 400 yards, I discovered that the men were thoroughly exhausted, and halted the left wing under the crest of a hill from 65 to 75 yards from the ditch and parapet, and where they were comparatively sheltered from the small-arms of the enemy. Returning to reconnoiter the position of my right wing under the crest of a hill, from my view by the embankment of the road, I perceived their colors advanced to the very base of the parapet, and also that my brigade was alone, unsupported on the left or right, save by portion of the Thirteenth Regulars, . . .\

To the left, as far as I could see(and from an elevated point I had great range), not a soldier to be seen, and only an occasional puff of smoke from the rifle of a sharpshooter, concealed far away among the hills, revealed the fact that we had friends near us outside of our DIVISION. Therefore I determined . . . wait for further orders, especially as from the position my left wing occupied (that which General Ewing is now fortifying) great execution could be done by my men upon the sharpshooters of the enemy, who from the trees close behind the works, were picking off our officers with devilish skill.

Returning to the front, I sent an aide-de-camp to General Blair with report. I received in answer orders from General Sherman “to get my men as close to the parapet as possible, and be ready to jump in when they began to yield,” coupled with the assurance that McPherson was well engaged, and that General Grant was on the ground, and that the artillery, of the enemy, which began to enfilade us, would be silenced. I ordered my men to cease firing and fix bayonets, with intent to charge, when, upon closer view, I discovered the works too steep and high to scale without proper appliances. . . .  therefore I determined to maintain the position and await developments. The sequel to the attempt at assault is my guarantee for the course I pursued.

. . . A most deadly fire was kept up, and none of the enemy ventured his head above the wall who failed to pay the penalty. At the same time [my] right wing, with stern determination, maintained their ground. Their loss had been fearful. . . . Captain after captain had been shot dead; field-officers were falling; still, there was no flinching. I communicated through my aides.

As night fell, I received a verbal order, through an unusual source, to fall back to my original position. . . .

At General Blair’s headquarters I received the following written orders:
Brigade commanders will collect the forces of their respective regiments, and occupy the last ground from which they moved to the assault to-day, where their men will be well covered, advancing a line of skirmishers as near as possible to the enemy’s works, for the purpose of occupying his attention. They will be prepared to assault at day break in the morning.

By order of Major General F. P. Blair,&c.,

---Union artilleryman Jenkin Lloyd Jones, of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, writes in his journal about the action at Vicksburg, detailing his battery’s position in reserve, and of their coming up and being deployed:

Darkness closed hostilities and we limbered up and passed to the front about a mile, and planted our battery on a hill, very steep and high, doubling teams to go up. Relieved the 11th Ohio who had been engaged all day against a fort, using up all their ammunition. Cannoneers silently set to work levelling off a position; the horses unhitched and tied under a gin house. We lay down on the bare, rough ground, clothes all on, but it prevented not our sleeping.

---Private Robert M. Magill, of the 39th Georgia Infantry Regiment in Vicksburg, is very aware of his army’s situation, and records the day’s results in his journal:

Tuesday, 19th.—We are surrounded; considerable cannonading on Chickasaw Bayou. Federal Regiment reported captured on the left. Our division on right wing occupying from the railroad to the river. Yankees charged, but were driven back with loss. Sharp shooting our artillery.

---Confederate artilleryman George Michael Neese, with Chew’s Virginia Battery in the Shenandoah Valley, wistfully notes the coming of Spring in his journal with a most poetic flair:

May 19 — This was a beautiful day. Nature has her grand glories on exhibition now, with azure skies and balmy air. Spring, the smiling young dame, is decorating the landscape with new beauties every day, and the fair face of nature reveals a thousand unimagined beauties to those whose admiration has ripened into love for the beautiful children of the sunshine that unfold and display their charming beauties with a thousand lovely tints as they drink deep at the fount of gold that unlocked their treasure of fragrance and unclasped their enchanting loveliness.
—As a result of a military tribunal, Clement Vallandigham of Ohio is convicted of treason, and sentenced to Federal imprisonment, which Lincoln does not want. He sends an order to Gen. Burnside in Ohio to take Vallandigham and dump him into Confederate territory
SIR:—The President directs that without delay you send C. L. Vallandigham under secure guard to the Headquarters of General Rosecrans, to be put by him beyond our military lines; and in case of his return within our lines, he be arrested and kept in close custody for the term specified in his sentence.

By order of the President: E. R. S. CANBY, Assistant Adjutant-General.

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