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Civil War Series

The Campaign for Vicksburg

   

An aide awakened Gregg at dawn on May 12 with the information that Yankees were coming up the Utica road toward Raymond. Gregg, on the basis of this and information from Pemberton's headquarters, completely misread the situation that faced him. He thought that the entire Federal army was wheeling to its left to attack the railroad somewhere in the Edwards area. So he assumed that the Federals moving toward Raymond must be a rear guard or part of a screening movement on the extreme right flank of Grant's army. Actually, the approaching Yankees were the vanguard of McPherson's entire corps which formed the right wing of the Union army.


(click on image for a PDF version)
BATTLE OF RAYMOND, MAY 12, 1863, NOON TO 1:30 P.M.
General John Gregg is ordered by Pemberton to attack Grant's flank and rear. Pemberton believes Grant is turning from Jackson toward Big Black. He thinks Federal troops moving toward Jackson are carrying out a feint. When Gregg gets reports that a Union column is coming toward Raymond, he assumes it is the feint mentioned by Pemberton. These troops are the advance of James McPherson's corps. By the time Gregg realizes he is heavily out numbered, his small force is engaged with the enemy along Fourteen Mile Creek.



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BATTLE OF RAYMOND, MAY 12, 1863, 1:30 TO 2.30 P. M.
The battle is marked by uncoordinated attacks and counterattacks. Dust and smoke hamper both sides' efforts. Overwhelming Federal pressure finally pushes back Gregg's right, forcing him to order a general retreat back through Raymond and on to Jackson. His brigade will not be able to fight any more for Pemberton because Grant, who up to this point has been leaning toward moving on the Big Black, decides to go on to Jackson to remove the threat of Johnston, thus preventing Gregg from marching his men to Pemberton at the Big Black. Gregg and his men join Joseph Johnston in Mississippi's capital city.

The aggressive Gregg attacked about two miles south of Raymond in the Fourteen Mile Creek area. As the fighting developed, Gregg soon realized his mistake, but his men valiantly fought for several hours before sheer weight of numbers forced him to retreat. Since it was too dangerous to withdraw across the enemy front toward Edwards, Gregg marched his battered brigade to Jackson. He had suffered 515 casualties while inflicting 446 on McPherson's XVII Corps. His decision to fight rather than withdraw immediately had also cost Pemberton much needed troops at Edwards.

More important, the fight at Raymond caused Grant to change his strategy and altered the entire course of his campaign. Gregg's stiff resistance and scouting reports that indicated Joseph Johnston had come to Jackson to assemble an army to aid Pemberton convinced Grant that he could not risk turning his army west. Pemberton just might march east, or Johnston might march west, or both, catching Grant between two Confederate armies. So Grant decided to attack Jackson first before turning to meet Pemberton.


SLEEPLESS DAYS AND NIGHTS

Emma Balfour and her physician husband, William, lived next door to General John Pemberton's headquarters in Vicksburg. The Balfours rejected cave life and remained in their house during the siege. Emma kept a diary, part of which survived and is stored in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The following is an excerpt from the May 30 entry:


"We got thoroughly worn out and disheartened and after looking to see the damage, went into the parlor and lay on the sofas there until morning, feeling that at any moment a mortar shell might crash through the roof..."

"At 12 o'clock the guns all along the lines opened and the parrot shells flew as thick as hail around us! Then there was commotion! We had gone upstairs determined to rest lying down but not sleeping, but when these commenced to come it was not safe upstairs so we came down in the sitting room and lay down upon the bed there, but soon found that would not do as they come from the south-east as well as east and might strike the house. Still from sheer uneasiness we remained there til a shell struck in the garden against a tree, and at the same time we heard the servants all up and making exclamations. We got thoroughly worn out and disheartened and after looking to see the damage, went into the parlor and lay on the sofas there until morning, feeling that at any moment a mortar shell might crash through the roof, though we felt comparatively safe from the others. We have slept scarcely none now for two days and two nights. Oh! it is dreadful. After I went to lie down while the Dr. watched every shell from the machines as they came rushing down like some infernal demon, seemed to me to be coming exactly on me, and I had looked at them so long that I can see them just as plainly with my eyes shut as with them open. They come gradually making their way higher and higher, tracked by their firing fuse till they reach their greatest altitude—then with a rush and whiz they come down furiously, their own weight added to the impetus given by the powder. Then lookout, for if they explode before reaching the ground which they generally do, the pieces fly in all directions—the very least of which will kill one and most of them of sufficient weight to team through a house from top to bottom! The parrot shells come directly so one can feel somewhat protected from them by getting under a wall, but when both come at once and so fast that one has not time to see where one shell is going before another comes—it wears one out."

A VICKSBURG MANSION BEING USED BY THE U.S. SIGNAL CORPS. (LC)

Grant used McPherson's and Sherman's corps to converge on Jackson from two directions. On May 13, McPherson's corps marched for Clinton, located a few miles north of Raymond and west of Jackson. At Clinton, McPherson turned east. Sherman's XV Corps moved northeast from Raymond on the Raymond-Jackson road. McClernand's XIII Corps waited in reserve, having been ordered by Grant to withdraw from probing along Bakers Creek just east of Edwards. McClernand's job was to keep Pemberton's army away from the two Union corps attacking Jackson.

Joseph Johnston arrived in Jackson the same day Grant's forces left Raymond. Jefferson Davis had decided that Yankee successes in Mississippi called for Johnston's presence. Johnston was not enthusiastic about taking command, and when he arrived he concluded, "I am too late." He observed inadequate entrenchments around Jackson and decided at once to evacuate the city. Reinforcements were rapidly moving toward Jackson, and had Johnston decided to stay and fight he would have had at least enough men to hold Grant off until Pemberton could move forward and hit the Federal rear.

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES B. MCPHERSON (NA)

A THEODORE DAVIS ILLUSTRATION OF THE STARS AND STRIPES FLYING OVER JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (LC)

Johnston did not even know Grant's intentions at the time he made the decision to retreat. But the stoic Johnston usually preferred retreating to fighting, so he ordered John Gregg to hold out until supplies and state records had been evacuated and then to bring the four brigades defending the city to Canton, northeast of Jackson. Gregg, after his encounter with McPherson at Raymond, gladly obliged, putting up resistance ranging from token to slight in most sectors of the Confederate defenses when the Yankees began their assault on May 14.

Sporadic artillery duels, charges, feints, and heavy rain characterized the Battle of Jackson, which was really more a Confederate holding action than an all-out fight. Rain during the morning hours slowed the Yankee attack. Downpours turned roads into ribbons of mud, making the moving of artillery difficult. Before noon the front passed through, but the rain had given the Rebels more time to evacuate.

On the southern flank of the Confederate line, Sherman's forces took advantage of the clearing weather by attacking the Rebel left. They found empty trenches and unobstructed passage to the state capitol building. On McPherson's front west of town, the Confederates put up stiffer resistance, but the results were the same. Several Rebel sacrificial lambs, left behind to contain the Federals as long as possible, surrendered to McPherson's corps. Grant had taken Jackson with less than 300 casualties while Confederate losses were estimated at about 900. With Johnston's army out of the picture, Grant could now turn to Pemberton.

Thanks largely to his skill and daring, thus far the campaign since crossing the Mississippi had gone Grant's way. His diversions had kept Rebel forces scattered, thus preventing a concentration that could have left Grant outnumbered. Because he had moved rapidly and had kept Pemberton guessing, Grant had had superior battlefield numbers at Port Gibson, Raymond, and Jackson. His good fortune continued now as he focused on the Confederates waiting near the Big Black.

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