Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 4, 1863

July 4, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 43

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 38

---Vicksburg Surrenders! – On this date, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton surrenders his Army of Mississippi and the city of Vicksburg to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  The Confederate surrender 29,491 men, 172 pieces of artillery, 50,000 muskets and 600,000 rounds of ammunition.  Even though Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon had given orders to Joseph Johnston to attack Grant to relieve Vicksburg, Johnston (for reasons that are yet unclear) had chosen to disregard them.  Seddon's letter says:

Vicksburg must not be lost without a desperate struggle. The interest and honor of the Confederacy forbid it. I rely on you still to avert the loss. If better resources do not offer, you must hazard attack. It may be made in concert with the garrison, if practicable, but otherwise, without-by day or night, as you think best.

As a result of Johnston’s inaction, Pemberton decides that in order to avert further bloodshed and suffering he should surrender the city.  His troops are so malnourished, they are in no condition to fight even if Johnston did attack the Union lines to assist with a breakout.

  ---A Unionist woman in Vicksburg records her impressions of the victorious Federal troops marching into conquered Vicksburg:

July 4th. – It is evening. All is still. Silence and night are once more united. I can sit at the table in the parlor and write. Two candles are lighted. I would like a dozen. We have had wheat supper and wheat bread once more. … [The author relates the history of the past 24 hours, including the stars and stripes being raised at the courthouse and federal transport boats coming around the bend full of provisions.] Towards five Mr. J– passed again. “Keep on the lookout,” he said; “the army of occupation is coming along,” and in a few minutes the head of the column appeared. What a contrast to the suffering creatures we had seen so long were these stalwart, well-fed men, so splendidly set up and accoutered. Sleek horses, polished arms, bright plumes, – this was the pride and panoply of war. Civilization, discipline, and order seemed to enter with the measured tramp of those marching columns; and the heart turned with throbs of added pity to the worn men in gray, who were being blindly dashed against this embodiment of modern power. And now this “silence that is golden” indeed is over all, and my limbs are unhurt, and I suppose if I were Catholic, in my fervent gratitude, I would hie me with a rich offering to the shrine of “our Lady of Mercy.”

The Gettysburg Campaign

---Gen. Robert E. Lee, uncertain of Meade’s attentions, gives orders for the withdrawal of his army.  Johnson’s division pulls back from the base of Culp’s Hill, and Early’s division fall back from the town of Gettysburg to Seminary Ridge.  As a heavy rain begins to fall, Gen. Imboden’s cavalry brigade heads for Chambersburg, along with the ambulance and supply trains for the Army of Northern Virginia.  Also this evening, Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill and his III Corps begin to pull out of line and march towards Chambersburg.

---Gen. Meade orders his cavalry to probe towards Fairfield, Cashtown, and Emmitsburg in the hope of cutting off any Confederate escape routes.  Troops from the XI Corps enter Gettysburg unopposed. 

---Sergeant James T. Odem of the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment writes home to his wife from Westminster, Maryland, where his regiment was on guard duty.  He passes on what information he is getting from Gettysburg, and comments on the depredations of the Rebels in northern country---as well as on Yankee depredations amongst the local farmers:

Westminster, Maryland July 4th 1863

My wife: I again pen a few lines for Your Entertainment and perusal. Well here I am Sitting In the wagon to keep out of the rain which is falling in torrents, the first heavy rain that we have had for Some days, and of Course very acceptable, although it is very bad for the troops who are Now Wounded, or fighting upon the Battlefield. there has been Some very hard fighting at Gettysburg Pa. within the last few days and the Loss is heavy on both Sides. Our forces have Captured Several thousand Rebels that I have Seen and I have been talking with Some of the Rebs which talk as Poison as the bite of a Rattler Snake. they Say they will fight us as long as they have a man Left. this town is part Secesh, but Many of the Ladies are Caring for our wounded that are brought here. We are not far from the State Line, yet I am Some 25 Miles from where the fighting is going on. Our trains are mostly all parked here, out of the way of the Enemy, for fear of Capture as the Rebel Cavalry are all over the Country and was in this place Last Monday, when they Sacked all the Stores and destroying what they did not care to carry off, besides Stealing about 4,000 horses from the farmers, and Robbing Private  houses and insulting the females, but they are Paying very dearly for their Crimes just Now. Our forces are whipping them at all points here we have traveled Some 300 miles but Now we have Come to a halt for awhile, and I believe that before we Leave again for Virginia, that the Rebel army which is here in Maryland and Pennsylvania will pretty much all be Killed Or Captured, as the water in the Potomac is So high that they cannot Escape. . . . The wheat Looks good, but I tell you that the army is doing Much Mischief to the farmers destroying trees and Crops but Buy what Hay and grain as victuals they take away. . . . I would Like to have been home to spend the 4th with you, yet I am doing well to what Many poor Souls are. Please give My love and  Compliments to Christian and family. Likewise to you and the Children. Good by from your Husband

James T. Odem

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