Battle of Jackson (May 14)
The engagement at Raymond led Grant to change the direction of his army's march and move on Jackson, the state capital. It was the Union general's intention to destroy the important rail and communications center in the city, and scatter any Confederate reinforcements which might be moving toward Vicksburg. McPherson's Corps moved north through Raymond to Clinton on May 13, while Major General William T. Sherman pushed northeast through Raymond to Mississippi Springs. To cover the march on Jackson, Major General John A. McClernand's Corps was placed in a defensive postion on a line from Raymond to Clinton.
Late on the afternoon of May 13, as the Federals were poised to strike at Jackson, a train arrived in the capital city carrying Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, ordered to the city by President Jefferson Davis to salvage the rapidly deteriorating situation in Mississippi. Establishing his headquarters at the Bowman House, General Johnston was apprised of troop strength and the condition of the fortifications around Jackson. He immediately wired authorities in Richmond, "I am too late," and instead of fighting for Jackson, ordered the city evacuated. John Gregg was ordered to fight a delaying action to cover the evacuation.
A heavy rain fell during the night, turning the roads into mud. Advancing slowly through the torrential downpour, the corps of Sherman and McPherson converged on Jackson by mid-morning of May 14. Around 9 a.m., the lead elements of McPherson's corps were fired upon by Confederate artillery posted on the O. P. Wright farm. Quickly deploying his men into line of battle, the Union corps commander prepared to attack. Suddenly, the rain fell in sheets and threatened to ruin the ammunition of his men by soaking the powder in their cartridge-boxes. The attack was postponed until the rain stopped around 11:00 a.m. The Federals then advanced with bayonets fixed and banners unfurled. Clashing with the Confederates in a bitter hand-to-hand struggle, McPherson's men forced the Southerners back into the fortifications of Jackson.
Meanwhile, Sherman's corps reached Lynch Creek southwest of Jackson at 11 a.m. and was immediately fired upon by Confederate artillery posted in the open fields north of the stream. Union cannon were hurried into position, and in short order drove the Confederates back into the city's defenses. The stream was unfordable, forcing Sherman's men to cross on a narrow wooden bridge. Reforming their lines, the Federals advanced at 2:00 p.m. until they were stopped by canister fire. Not wishing to expose his men to the deadly fire, Sherman sent one regiment to the right (east) in search of a weak spot in the defense line. These men reached the works and found them mainly deserted, with only a handful of state troops and civilian volunteers left to man the guns in Sherman's front.
At 2:00 p.m., Gregg was notified that the army's supply train had left Jackson and decided to withdraw his command. The Confederates moved quickly to evacuate the city and were well out the Canton Road to the north when Union troops entered Jackson around 3 p.m.. The "Stars and Stripes" were unfurled atop the capitol by McPherson's men, symbolic of Union victory.
Confederate casualties in the Battle of Jackson were not accurately reported, but were estimated at 845 killed, wounded, and missing. In addition, 17 artillery pieces were taken by the Federals. Union casualties totaled 300 men, of whom 42 were killed, 251 wounded, and 7 missing.
Not wishing to waste combat troops on occupation, Grant ordered Jackson neutralized militarily. The torch was applied to machine shops and factories, telegraph lines were cut, and railroad tracks destroyed. With Jackson's resources rendered ineffective, and Johnston's force scattered to the winds, Grant turned with confidence toward his objective to the west — Vicksburg.
Last updated: April 14, 2015