After his successes at Jackson, Champion Hill and Big Black River, Grant assumed that Confederate morale might be low enough that Vicksburg could be taken by assault and avoid a time consuming siege. In that he was mistaken. The Confederates lacked the strength to defeat him in open battle. but they had both the strength, and the morale, to hold Vicksburg. The first assault by Grant occurred on May 19, 1863 and was aimed at the Stockade Redan. (more…)
An anti-climatic engagement the day after the decisive battle of Champion Hill, the battle is chiefly memorable because it deprived General Pemberton of 1751 men taken prisoners, and demonstrated that Pemberton’s Army of Mississippi had no further taste to meet the Army of the Tennessee in open field combat. Pemberton’s force could hold Vicksburg for a time, and his men did that valiantly, but a mass sortie to break the siege simply was no longer within their power or will. Here is Grant’s description of the engagement taken from his Personal Memoirs: (more…)
The decisive battle of the Vicksburg Campaign, and one of the decisive battles of the War, the battle of Champion Hill led to the siege of Vicksburg, and once it became a siege, with the Union able to bring endless reinforcements to reinforce Grant during the siege via the Mississippi, the fall of Vicksburg became merely a matter of time. Pemberton with 22,000 men had planned to attempt to attack Union supply columns coming from Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, to Raymond, Mississippi. Receiving repeated orders that he move on Clinton, Mississippi instead, he counter-marched and took up a defensive position against the advancing Federals at Champion Hill.
Here is Pemberton’s description of how the battle began, taken from his official report: (more…)
After crossing the Mississippi, Grant set about the process of isolating Vicksburg from the remainder of the Confederacy by seizing the capital of Mississippi, Jackson, defeating the Confederate forces there, and destroying the rail links with Vicksburg. This would make it much more difficult for a Confederate force to attack his army once he put Vicksburg under siege. It was a strategy that Johnston, who was in overall command of the theater of operations for the Confederacy lacked the resources to combat. With 6,000 troops in Jackson, he decided to withdraw which he did on May 14th, after brief resistance. giving Grant a free hand to wreck the rail lines. (more…)
One of the more effective combined operations of the Civil War, the battle of Arkansas Post was fought January 9-11, 1863. The Confederates constructed Fort Hindman at the mouth of the Arkansas River to prevent the Union from steaming up the river from the Mississippi and taking Little Rock. The garrison consisted of about 5500 men under Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill.
Union Major General John McClernand, a War Democrat political general from Illinois. He convinced Major General William Tecumseh Sherman to join him in landing 33,000 troops at Fort Hindman, bombard the fort with Union gunboats and take Fort Hindman. McClernand informed Lincoln of his plans but did not tell Grant or Henry W. Halleck, the General in Chief.
McClernand began the movement on Hindman on January 4. Troops landed at Hindman on January 9. After two days of naval and land bombardment, most of the artillery at Fort Hindman was silenced and Churchill surrendered. The Confederates put up a fierce resistance in those two days, with Union casualties exceeding a thousand with 134 killed. The entire Confederate garrison was captured, a true disaster for the Confederacy. Grant was furious, ordering Sherman and McClernand back to the Mississippi and taking personal command of the stalled Vicksburg campaign. Here is General Sherman’s comments on the Arkansas Post campaign from his memoirs: (more…)
A rather small battle, the battle of Iuka is notable for bringing General William Rosecrans to national attention, putting him on the path to eventual command of the Army of the Cumberland, and marking the beginning of the feud between Rosecrans and Ulysses S. Grant.
After the fall of Corinth, Mississippi in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh, the Civil War in northern Mississippi had entered a quiet phase. This was shattered with Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky, with Confederate forces detailed to keep Grant busy at Corinth so that his Army of the Tennessee could not reinforce Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio in its operations against Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Confederate General Sterling Price, with his miniscule Army of the West, seized Iuka, a Union supply depot, about 20 miles east of Corinth, on September 14, 1862. Price was to wait at Iuka to be joined by General Earl Van Dorn and his 7000 man Army of West Tennessee.
Grant, who was in overall command at Corinth, reacted by ordering General O. C. Ord to take three Army of the Tennessee divisions and attack from the North, while General Rosecrans took his 4500 man Army of the Mississippi and attack from the south. The orders were Grant’s, but Rosecrans devised the plan. Grant would accompany Ord’s force.
Having separated columns attack simultaneously is always a tricky business and so it turned out in this case. On September 19, Rosecrans arrived at Iuka, and the battle began when his leading unit was attacked by a Confederate division at 4:30 PM. Hard fighting ensued until nightfall, with Iuka still in Confederate control. Ord, who was four miles from Iuka, had been ordered by Grant not to attack until he could hear the sound of Rosecrans’ attack. Ord never heard the sound of fighting due to a strong north wind creating an acoustic shadow.
During the night Price withdrew from Iuka, not wishing to be trapped between Ord and Rosecrans. Rosecrans found himself a national hero for taking Iuka, in spite of the escape of Price’s army. Grant’s intial comments after the battle were quite laudatory to Rosecrans:
I cannot speak too highly of the energy and skill displayed by General Rosecrans in the attack, and of the endurance of the troops under him. General Ord’s command showed untiring zeal, but the direction taken by the enemy prevented them from taking the active part they desired.
However, Grant soon came in for newspaper criticism blaming him for Ord not attacking on the 19th. False rumors began to circulate that Grant had been drunk. Grant from that time forward had a decidedly cool opinion of General Rosecrans. Here is Rosecrans’ report on the battle: (more…)
It is rare for any soldier to attain the rank of general, but Albert Sidney Johnston managed that feat in three armies: rising from private to brigadier general in the army of the Republic of Texas, brevet brigadier general in the United States Army, and full general in the Confederate States Army. On April 3, 1862 he led his newly created Army of Mississippi out of the town of Corinth, Mississippi and began the march which would end in the surprise Confederate attack in the early morning of April 6, 1862, the beginning of the two day mammoth battle known to history as Shiloh.
The battle would result in the death of Johnston, his dying caused probably by his act of mercy in dispatching his personal surgeon to attend a wounded Union officer and none of his remaining staff having the presence of mind to fashion a tourniquet to stanch Johnston’s bleeding after he was wounded, and the fighting would inflict over 23,000 total Union and Confederate casualties, exceeding in two days all of the battlefield casualties in all of America’s wars prior to the Civil War. Shiloh told the nation, North and South, that this was going to be a very grim war, and that their adversary would fight it with all the strength and will that they could muster. After Shiloh the myth of a quick victorious war died on both sides. (more…)
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, Grant rarely used his first name. His family called him Ulysses, or more commonly “Ulyss”. At West Point he attempted to switch his first and middle name around so that he would not spend the next four years being referred to as Hug by his fellow cadets. However, the appointment to West Point had been made in the name of Ulysses Simpson Grant, Simpson being the maiden name of his mother, which somehow, through an alchemy only known to the Army bureaucracy, had been transformed into his middle name. Grant, recognizing the futility of attempting to correct the record, simply took his new “official” name as his own.
Demonstrating that his fears about being called Hug had been well-founded, his fellow cadets promptly named him Uncle Sam, after his first two new intials. This was quickly shortened to Sam, the name Grant was always known by in the pre-Civil War army.
On February 16, 1862, Grant’s insistance on unconditional surrender, quickly caused a new name to be given him throughout the North: unconditional surrender Grant. It should be noted that although he and the confederate commander, General Simon Bolivar Buckner, had a terse correspondence leading up to the surrender, Grant and Buckner were good friends, with Grant offering to lend him money and set him free. Buckner declined the offers, going into captivity with his 12,000 men until they were exchanged. Here is the correspondence which caused Grant’s name to ring throughout the North: (more…)
Ulysses S. Grant was a great man and a great general, but he did make mistakes. At Cold Harbor, Virginia he made two very big mistakes. He made foolish assaults on Lee’s heavily entrenched lines on June 3, 1864 which cost the lives of 1844 Union soldiers compared to the lives of 83 Confederate troops who fell in this battle. This was the lesser of his mistakes. (more…)
Ulysses S. Grant had an unerring capacity for failure whenever he stepped out of the two areas in life in which he excelled: his happy marriage and his ability to make war. On November 17, 1862 he demonstrated this ability to fail when he issued the notorious general order 11.
1. The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
3. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.
Grant had been incensed for some time that traders were ignoring the regulations governing trade in a war zone. Many of these traders were Jews. It is possible that the order may have been aimed at Grant’s father Jesse, who had caused Grant considerable embarrassment by attempting to trade off of his son’s rank in order to profiteer from the war. Jesse Grant was in partnership with a Jewish merchant. (more…)