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First Vicksburg Campaign
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First Vicksburg Campaign
As the Confederate Invasion of Kentucky ended, Major General Ulysses S. Grant prepared to take The Civil War deep into the Confederacy. His two-fold objective was to open the Mississippi up to northern shipping interests and sever the Confederacy in two, completing a major part of General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan. To Abraham Lincoln, taking the Mississippi was one of three major objectives of the war.
On October 16, 1862 Grant issued General Order 1, taking command of the newly formed Department of Tennessee, designated the XIII Corps. Underneath Grant were four district commanders, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, newly appointed Brigadier General Charles Hamilton, and Brigadier General Thomas Davies.
Almost immediately, General Grant asked his former boss, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck for relief from Don Carlos Buell. Buell had called repeatedly for support and very nearly cost Grant his Louisville, Kentucky supply line. On October 24, Grant got his wish when William Rosecrans replaced Buell as head of the newly formed Army of the Cumberland.
Unfortunately for Grant, General John McClernand, a Springfield, Illinois neighbor of Lincoln's was also in the picture. Grant was familiar with McClernand, who fought under Grant at Belmont, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. When Grant took Belmont, McClernand decided to give a speech rather than defend the Confederate camp Grant's forces had taken. Confederates attacked and drove the Union forces away. At Fort Donelson, McClernand attacked the fort as he arrived, arousing Grant's ire, then he poorly placed his men which allowed a Confederate breakout attempt to nearly succeed.
With the Confederates driving Union troops back to Pittsburg Landing, McClernand did little more than support Sherman. Still, in mid-October, Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton organized an independent command around McClernand, who reported to General-in-Chief Halleck. His job was to mount an amphibious assault against Fortress Vicksburg while Grant approached the city from the east.
Western Confederate forces had a serious lack of command structure. Earl Van Dorn, Sterling Price, Mansfield Lovell, and a cavalry unit under Col. William H. Jackson comprised most of the men, and Van Dorn was technically in overall command. Against this smaller force, General Grant intended concentrate his forces near the Mississippi, then attack Confederate positions along the river between Memphis and New Orleans. General John Pemberton had run into problems with South Carolina governor Francis Pickens. He was reassigned to the West to replace Van Dorn on the day Grant took over the Department of Tennessee.
Early in November, 1862, Ulysses S. Grant established headquarters in La Grange, Tennessee, just north of the Mississippi state line. General Halleck continued to forward troops to Memphis for deployment, but rumors of McClernand's independent command had reached the front lines. Grant asked Halleck specifically if he was in command of the troops in Memphis and the troops under General Sherman. Halleck replied that Grant was in command of all forces in his department and he had the authority to do battle wherever he pleased.
On November 2, Grant issued orders to James McPherson to move south along the railroad from Grand Junction to Holly Springs. It was important to maintain this railroad connection because General William Tecumseh Sherman would be moving south along roads and would need to be quickly resupplied when he reached the Mississippi Central depot at Holly Springs. On November 13, 1862 Union cavalry entered the Mississippi town after a brief skirmish. Although the Union cavalry withdrew, while they were there, townspeople told the raiders that Pemberton's army had established a line south of the Tallahatchie River.
General Grant, though, was battling a logistical nightmare to get supplies to his fronts. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad, which essentially parallels the Mississippi-Tennessee border to the north, had been easy fodder for Confederate raiders. The obvious supply route for Grant, from the port of Memphis, did not exist. Instead, he drew supplies from Columbus, Kentucky, over 135 miles of track that had to be garrisoned against Rebel cavalry attacks. Because of his supply problems and Washington's unwillingness to help him with addition locomotives, Grant set November 30 as the date for his troops to rendezvous south of Holly Springs.
Leaving Stephen Hurlbut in command in Memphis, Grant, Sherman and McPherson headed to Holly Springs. Since communication with field telegraphs would be difficult, Grant tapped Col. Benjamin Grierson's cavalry to maintain contact between the columns. When word reached General Pemberton of the advance of a federal column totaling 12,000 to 15,000 men along the Mississippi Central Railroad, Pemberton ordered his men stationed at Columbus and Jackson to concentrate at Vicksburg.
On November 28, Holly Springs again fell into Union hands after a brief fight. Moving south on November 29, Union cavalry engaged Confederate horsemen in brief skirmishes. General Grant prepared for a battle the following day, but he awoke to the news that Pemberton's Rebels were pulling out from the Tallahatchie line. Before they withdrew, however, the Confederate cavalry destroyed both the railroad bridge and a roadway bridge.
Brigadier General Alvin Hovey landed a second force in the vicinity of Delta, a small town on the Mississippi, and began marching inland on November 28. With reliable reports of a sizable enemy force to his rear, Pemberton had little choice but to withdraw. Pemberton's reports had Hovey's strength at 10,000 to 15,000 men, but leaving Delta he actually had about 7,000 troops along with 1,900 cavalry under the command of Brigadier General Cadwallader C. Washburn.
Washburn moved aggressively to Polkville, giving Pemberton hope of cutting him off from the main force when it rained on December 1. Repeated attempts failed until the entire unit was recalled by Frederick Steele on December 4. Although the cavalry failed at destroying any bridges over the Yalobusha River (its stated goal), Washburn considered the campaign a success.
When the Yankees took Abbeville, Mississippi on December 2, 1862, General Grant decided to relocate his headquarters to the north-central city on the Central Mississippi RR. Heavy rains forced Grant to turn to his cavalry (Colonels Edward Hatch and Albert Lee, technically under the command of Colonel Lyle Dickey) to chase the Confederates, although without bridges even cavalry could not move effectively. As quickly as one was destroyed or washed out Union pioneers (the Civil War term for engineers) would begin work on a new one. Normally, a division would move in support of the cavalry, in case of an unexpected attack.
On the afternoon of December 5, Lee and Hatch engaged Confederate cavalry north of the town of Coffeeville. In the nearby town, Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman heard the skirmish less than a mile away. As he rode north he ran into Mansfield Lovell, pushing a brigade of Rebels forward towards the Union cavalry. Tilghman asked permission to push the now dismounted cavalry back. Lovell agreed and within minutes Tilghman was pressing the Yankee cavalry backwards.
After pushing the Yankees back a mile Tilghman realized that his right flank was hanging (Lovell's troops were not advancing as rapidly as Tilghman.) After getting support to his line, Tilghman decided to call off his advance because of darkness.
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First Vicksburg Campaign was last changed on - January 2, 2008
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