April 29, 1863: Battle of Grand Gulf

On April 29, 1863 Grant commenced his movement to cross the Mississippi and begin his operations to place Vicksburg under siege.  Grant decided to cross the river south of Grand Gulf, approximately twelve miles south of Vicksburg.  Admiral David Porter led seven gunboats against the Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf.  with the intention of silencing the Confederate guns and then securing the area with troops of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Corps troops who were loaded aboard transports and barges. The attack by the seven ironclads began at 8 a.m. and continued until about 1:30 p.m.  Uable to silence the batteries, he Union ironclads  and transports retreated. After dark,  the ironclads attacked the Confederate batteries again while the trasnsports and barges ran the batteries to get south of Grand Gulf. After the transports had passed Grand Gulf, they embarked the troops at Disharoon’s plantation and disembarked them on the Mississippi shore at Bruinsburg, below Grand Gulf.  Charles A. Dana, personal represenative of Secretary of War Stanton, reported on the fight at Grand Gulf and the crossing of the Mississippi:

C. A. DANA.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

HARD TIMES LANDING, La., April 29, 1863-5 p. m.,

VIA MEMPHIS, May 5-11 a. m. (Received May 8-2. 45 p. M.)

My last dispatch was dated on April 27. On the morning of that day General Grant went from Smith’s plantation down to New Carthage and wrote to McClernand a very severe letter, which he did not send on discovering that at last the transport steamers and barges had during the previous night been concentrated for use. He spent the day there in completing the preparations for embarking, and on the morning of the 28th the DIVISIONS of Osterhaus and Carr were embarked, in all a little more than 10,000 troops. This force not being deemed sufficient for the attack on Grand Gulf, the troops were brought down to this place, and Carr’s men and part of Osterhaus’ debarked in order that part of the transports might return for the DIVISION of Hovey-6,000 strong. They did not get here until daylight this morning, when the troops being ready to land as soon as the batteries were silenced, the gunboats opened the attack at 8 a. m. precisely. Seven gunboats, all iron-clads, were engaged. The Price was kept out of the fight, being employed to tow the Anglo-Saxon (steamboat), whose wheel, damaged by running the Vicksburg batteries, it had been impossible to repair.

It was found that the enemy had five batteries, the first and most formidable of them being placed on the high promontory next to the embouchure of the Big Black. In this battery there were four guns, of which, after a constant fire of five hours from the gunboats, only one has been dismounted. The work is placed in a shoulder of the hill about 30 feet above the river. It is entirely open, protected only by a parapet, behind which the heads of the gunners can be seen as they load their pieces. These, as Captain [James A.] Greer, of the gunboat Benton, informs me, are 100-pounder rifles. The lower batteries, mounting smaller guns and having no more than two pieces each, were silenced early in the action, but this one obstinately resisted to the last, the gunboats finally withdrawing at about 1. 30 p. m. For the last four hours the whole seven to drop shells within the parapet, now at the very foot of the hill, within about 200 yards, seeking to dismount its guns by direct fire. It was hit again and again, but its pieces had not been disabled when Admiral Porter gave the signal to withdraw. There was some reason to believe that it was short of ammunition, but this could not be certainly known. The gunboats were hit more or less severely. I was on board the Benton, and saw that her armor had repeatedly been pierced both in her sides and her pilot house, but she had not a gun disabled, and, except the holes through her mail (some of them in her hull), was as ready to fight as at the beginning of the action. Of the other vessels, the Tuscumbia had her hog-chains cut, but the others are reported as substantially uninjured. The Mound City received but three hits. On the Benton, 7 men were killed and a few wounded. The other casualties are not yet reported. The Lafayette remains under the fort, and firing is still kept up occasionally.

The batteries having thus proved too much for the gunboats, General Grant determined to execute an alternative plan, which he had in mind from the first, and accordingly had the troops all to disembark from transports and march across the neck of land in front of Grand Gulf, distance 1 1/2 miles, to a point below, out of range of its guns. The transports are to be run past the batteries as soon as it is dark, under cover of renewed attack from the gunboats. The troops will then be embarked, and either landed at Grand Gulf, just below the batteries, or else carried down to Rodney and marched into the rear of Grand Gulf by way of Port Gibson. I judge the latter move will be adopted. General Grant, however, is in favor of a direct assault on Grand Gulf. The whole of the Thirteenth Army Corps is now here, A. J. Smith’s DIVISION having arrived by land, marching around Saint Joseph’s Lake. Of the SEVENTEENTH Corps, Logan’s DIVISION has also arrived by the same road, while Quinby’s close at hand, and McArthur’s will be at the place of embarkation before morning.

There can be no difficulty in throwing 35,000 troops across the river into Rodney before morning of May 1. The enemy have about 10,000 troops in Grand Gulf. The weather continues fine. General Thomas in here assisting General Grant as much as possible.

I have to report that the paymasters have finished their work and gone, and henceforth any shrewd person can see that I am not attending to their transactions.

C. A. DANA.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

DISHROON’S PLANTATION, April 29, 1863-11. 30 p. m.,

VIA MEMPHIS, May 5-9. 30 a. m. (Received May 8-6 p. M.)

The gunboats and transports came safely through from Hard Times Landing this evening. The batteries at Grand Gulf were nearly as active as in the morning, and Admiral Porter thinks that in one of the lower batteries a large gun had been mounted during the afternoon. No harm was received in the passage either by boats or men. General McClernand’s corps are all ready to embark, but it seems to me doubtful whether they will get on board before daylight, through General Grant has given the most urgent orders. They will land above Rodney, just below the mouth of Bayou Pierre. The casualties on the fleet to-day have been 22 killed and 55 wounded.

C. A. DANA.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

DISHROON’S PLANTATION, April 30, 1863-2 p. m.,

VIA MEMPHIS, May 4-7 p. m. (Received May 8-4. 10 p. M.)

The DIVISIONS of Carr, Hovey, and Osterhaus were landed safely without opposition at Bruinsburg, MISS., at the mouth of Bayou Pierre, at 11 a. m. to-day. The DIVISIONS of A. J. Smith and Logan are now embarking and will be landed before night. All seems now to be going on well, though had any other general than McClernand held advance, the landing would certainly have been effected at daylight.

C. A. DANA.

Published in: on April 29, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 29, 1863: Battle of Grand Gulf  
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