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Civil War in Mississippi Lsn 19 Civil War in Mississippi Ship Island Corinth and Iuka Vicksburg Meridian Brice’s Crossroads Tupelo Ship Island Ship Island In Apr 1861, Lincoln declared a blockade of Southern ports

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Civil War in Mississippi

  • Ship Island

  • Corinth and Iuka

  • Vicksburg

  • Meridian

  • Brice’s Crossroads

  • Tupelo



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Ship Island

  • In Apr 1861, Lincoln declared a blockade of Southern ports

    • The Confederacy had 189 harbor and river openings and 3,549 miles of shoreline so this was easier said than done

    • Clearly some focus was needed

  • In June 1861, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells created a Navy Board and charged it to study the conduct of the blockade and to devise ways to improve its efficiency


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Ship Island

  • The Board was tasked to make “a thorough investigation of the coast and harbors, their access and defenses.”

  • It became obvious that the Navy would need ports of refuge for its own use, especially in the stormy South Atlantic

    • Even in good weather, the blockade was weakened every time a ship had to return to Hampton Roads, Virginia, the nearest Federal base, for food, fuel, and ammunition

  • The solution was for the Army and Navy to cooperate in seizing and maintaining a number of critical harbors to facilitate the Navy’s blockading operation


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Ship Island

  • The first such location was Hatteras Inlet, NC

    • This harbor’s seizure would become the first joint operation of the war

  • It was an easy Federal victory won largely by the navy

  • Buoyed by its success at Hatteras Inlet, the Navy Board planned an operation to seize Ship Island, Mississippi


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Ship Island

  • In Sept 1861, the Federals occupied Ship Island before the Confederates were prepared to fire a shot in its defense


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Ship Island

  • The Federals captured an unfinished fort and turned it into Fort Massachusetts

  • One soldier described the importance of Ship Island as being “quite as desirable a base for movement against Mobile or the Texas coast as New Orleans, its selection served the double purpose of affording ample accommodations as a Union naval station and of keeping the rebel authorities in a constant state of uneasiness as to the point of attack.”


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Ship Island

  • Twenty-seven Federal infantry regiments saw service on Ship Island during the Civil War, as well as six batteries of light artillery and a battalion of cavalry

  • Each of these units stayed for varying lengths of time

  • The unit to stay the longest (almost three years) was the African-American 2nd Louisiana Native Guards

2nd Louisiana Native Guards arriving at Ship Island in Jan 1863


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Ship Island

  • Troop strength on Ship Island peaked in April 1862 when more than 15,000 men assembled for the assault on New Orleans

  • Ship Island also served as a prison and detention facility for civilian detainees from New Orleans, Federal soldiers convicted of serious crimes, and Confederate prisoners

    • 153 Confederate prisoners died on Ship Island and were buried there

    • 232 Federal soldiers also died on Ship Island


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Ship Island

  • Life on Ship Island was austere

  • Soldiers complained of the hot weather, sand, insects, rough living conditions, and monotony

  • Today Ship Island is part of the National Park Service’s Gulf Islands National Seashore



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Corinth and Iuka

  • After Shiloh the Confederates retreated to Corinth and dug in north of the city

  • Grant was temporarily out of favor because of his army being surprised on the first day of Shiloh and he yielded command to Henry Halleck

    • Halleck excelled “in making war on the map” (Hattaway and Jones 77), but he would show himself to be an incompetent leader of field armies


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Corinth and Iuka

  • At Corinth it took Halleck almost a month to advance just 20 miles

    • He stopped and entrenched at the end of each day’s march and ultimately planned to besiege the city

  • Before Halleck finally was ready to begin his bombardment, the Confederates withdrew

  • Halleck occuppied Corinth, but rather than push on into Mississippi after the Confederates, he elected to consolidate his gains

  • Then he broke up his massive army by sending detachments to various other commanders, thus allowing the Confederates to camp unmolested at Tupelo

    • Corinth showed Halleck’s talents lay as a military manager rather than as a practitioner, and he was ultimately called to Washington to serve as general-in-chief


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Corinth and Iuka

  • After Corinth, both sides kept a wary eye on each other and made leadership changes

  • When Halleck went to Washington to become general-in-chief, Grant took over command

  • Braxton Bragg replaced Beauregard as overall Confederate commander with Earl Van Dorn commanding at Vicksburg and Sterling Price in northeast Mississippi

Sterling Price


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Corinth and Iuka

  • Both sides wanted to prevent the other from reinforcing Tennessee

  • In Sept Van Dorn left Vicksburg headed north-northeast and Price occupied Iuka

    • Iuka was on the railroad line that connected Memphis and Corinth with Chattanooga and could be used to send reinforcements to Tennessee

    • Grant could not ignore this threat


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Corinth and Iuka

  • Grant ordered a coordinated two-pronged attack led by William Rosecrans and E. O. C. Ord to catch Price in a pincer

    • Rosecrans and Ord began moving on Sept 18


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Corinth and Iuka

  • Grant told Ord to attack when he heard the sound of Rosecran’s guns, but apparently Ord never heard them

    • “The wind, freshly blowing from us in the direction of Iuka during the whole of the 19th, prevented our hearing the guns and co-operating with General Rosecrans.”

  • Price was able to steal a day’s march on a road Rosecran’s had not blocked and escape to the east

  • Rosecran’s marched into Iuka


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Corinth and Iuka

  • By the end of Sept, Price had joined forces with Van Dorn near Ripley, southwest of Corinth

    • Van Dorn named the combined forces the Army of West Tennessee, revealing his strategic intention

    • He planned to attack Corinth, control the railroad junction there, and continue west to rid west Tennessee of Federal troops

At Corinth, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad met with the Mobile and Ohio line. Corinth was known as the “crossroads of the Confederacy.”


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Corinth and Iuka

  • Rosecrans had prepared strong defenses at Corinth

    • He also had smaller detachments scattered throughout the region

  • Van Dorn was gambling that he could strike Rosecrans and take Corinth quickly before Rosecrans could call in all his outposts

    • If that plan failed Rosecrans could assemble a force of some 23,000; at least a thousand more than Van Dorn had

William Rosecrans


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Corinth and Iuka

  • On Sept 29 Van Dorn marched out of Ripley and the fighting began on Oct 3

  • Van Dorn got the best of Rosecrans on the first day but did not gain the quick victory he needed

  • Rosecrans still held Corinth and was receiving reinforcements by the hour

  • Van Dorn attacked again on Oct 4 but after initial gains fresh Federal reserves beat him back


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Corinth and Iuka

  • Van Dorn retreated to Ripley giving the Federals an important strategic victory

  • With both Iuka and Corinth secure, north Mississippi was now firmly in Federal hands and Grant could turn his attention toward Vicksburg

  • Van Dorn was relieved of command after the Corinth debacle but performed much better later as John Pemberton’s cavalry commander during the Vicksburg Campaign

Earl Van Dorn



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Meridian

  • Meridian was a key strategic point

    • Roughly between the Mississippi capital of Jackson and the canon foundry and manufacturing center of Selma, Alabama.

    • Intersection of three railroads

    • Served as a storage and distribution center for not just the industrial products of Selma but also for grain and cattle from the fertile Black Prairie region just to the north


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Meridian

  • Sherman is about 150 miles away at Vicksburg waiting for the weather to improve enough to support the spring campaign

  • Doesn’t want to sit idle

    • Believes he can do what he wants to do in Meridian and get back in time to be ready for future operations

  • On February 3, 1864 he begins his campaign “to break up the enemy’s railroads at and about Meridian, and to do the enemy as much damage as possible in the month of February, and to be prepared by the 1st of March to assist General [Nathaniel] Banks in a similar dash at the Red River country…”


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Meridian

  • Meridian is a small-scale trial run for Sherman’s later March to the Sea

    • Shows Sherman’s ability to operate independently deep in enemy territory, far from higher headquarters, and pioneered the art of destroying Confederate war-making capability

  • Is a case study in the characteristics of the offensive

    • Audacity

    • Surprise

    • Tempo

    • Concentration


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Meridian: Audacity

  • “a simple plan of action, boldly executed”

    • Sherman would be marching some 150 miles from his base, living off the land, and exposing himself to a potential Confederate concentration from three directions

    • The undertaking caused “much anxiety” in Washington, but Grant knew that any risk was mitigated by the fact that Sherman, as a raider, could choose his line of retreat

    • Grant was confident Sherman would “find an outlet. If in no other way, he will fall back on Pascagoula, and ship from there under protection of [Admiral David] Farragut’s fleet.”

  • Audacious commanders take prudent risks in order to achieve decisive results and dispel uncertainty through action

    • At Meridian and elsewhere, Sherman epitomized audacity.


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Meridian: Tempo

  • “a faster tempo allows attackers to disrupt enemy defensive plans by achieving results quicker than the enemy can respond.”

  • Sherman knew that his success depended on speed.

    • He would travel light, ordering “Not a tent will be carried, from the commander-in-chief down.”

    • “The expedition is one of celerity, and all things must tend to that.”


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Meridian: Tempo

  • Sherman began his march in two columns of a corps each in order to facilitate both speed and foraging

  • Confederate resistance was light, and Sherman refused to be distracted by minor skirmishes

  • He pressed forward, precluding the Confederates from disrupting his crossing of the Pearl River which was the only place the terrain was promising for the defense

  • By February 9, Sherman was in Morton, covering over half the distance from Vicksburg to Meridian in less than a week

  • By midafternoon on the 14th, Sherman’s lead elements were in Meridian

  • By then Confederate resistance had evaporated.


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Meridian: Tempo

  • Sherman was frustrated William Sooy Smith’s cavalry advance did not keep pace

  • Sherman had ordered Smith to bring his large force from Memphis southeast in order to arrive at Meridian by February 10

    • Sherman instructed Smith not to be encumbered by “minor objects” but instead to concentrate on destroying bridges, railroads, and “corn not wanted.”

    • Part of Sherman’s own haste had been motivated by his desire to rendezvous with Smith as planned, but now Smith was nowhere to be found.

    • “It will be a novel thing in war,” Sherman lamented, “if infantry has to wait the motions of cavalry,” but such would be the case.

    • Smith had run into Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest and been whipped soundly


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Meridian: Surprise

  • “attacking the enemy at a time or place he does not expect or in a manner for which he is unprepared”

  • Sherman would gain much surprise from the speed of his advance, but he would also employ a series of feints designed to keep Leonidas Polk, the Confederate commander at Meridian, guessing

  • In an effort to maintain flexibility against all possible threats, Polk would never be able to concentrate against Sherman’s true attack.


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Meridian: Surprise

  • Sherman played on Polk’s fear for the safety of Mobile

    • He asked Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf at New Orleans, to have “boats maneuvering” in the Gulf near Mobile and to “keep up the delusion and prevent the enemy drawing from Mobile a force to strengthen Meridian.”

    • Sherman told Banks he would “be obliged” if Banks would “keep up an irritating foraging or other expedition” in the direction of Mobile to help Sherman “keep up the delusion of an attack on Mobile and the Alabama River.”

  • As Sherman advanced, he fueled this deception himself

    • “I never had the remotest idea of going to Mobile, but had purposely given out that idea to the people of the country, so as to deceive the enemy and divert their attention.”


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Meridian: Surprise

  • By threatening Polk with feints, Sherman forced the Confederate to retain forces at Mobile that he could have used against Sherman

  • To further add to Polk’s confusion, Sherman sent gunboats and infantry up the Yazoo River “to reconnoiter and divert attention.”

    • The intention was “to make a diversion” and “confuse the enemy.”

  • Then when Sherman departed Clinton on February 5, he divided his command with James McPherson advancing on Jackson from southwest to northeast while Stephen Hurlbut marched due east.

  • Polk had more than he could handle


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Meridian: Surprise

  • Sherman called such a tactic “putting the enemy on the horns of a dilemma.”

  • He had helped Grant do this to Pemberton in the Vicksburg Campaign, and Sherman would do it later by keeping the Confederates guessing if his objective was Macon or Augusta and then Augusta or Savannah on his March to the Sea

    • The result of this uncertainty is “enemy paralysis and hesitancy”


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Meridian: Concentration

  • “the massing of overwhelming effects of combat power to achieve a single purpose”

  • In spite of Sherman’s overriding concern for speed, he would not compromise in the size of his force

    • Sherman had four divisions—two from McPherson’s corps at Vicksburg and two from Hurlbut’s at Memphis—for a total of 20,000 infantry plus some 5,000 attached cavalry and artillery

    • Polk could muster a force just half that size and these were widely scattered with a division each at Canton and Brandon and cavalry spread between Yazoo City and Jackson


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Meridian: Concentration

  • Sherman devoted his forces to the decisive aim to “do the enemy as much damage as possible.”

  • On February 9, his army entered Morton and spent several hours tearing up the railroad track using the usual method of burning crossties to heat the rails and then bending the metal into useless configurations dubbed “Sherman’s neckties.”


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Meridian: Concentration

  • At Lake Station on February 11, Sherman destroyed “the railroad buildings, machine-shops, turning-table, several cars, and one locomotive.”

  • But it was after reaching Meridian itself that Sherman unleashed his full fury

    • For five days he dispersed detachments in four directions with Hurlbut superintending destruction north and east of Meridian and McPherson focusing on the south and west.


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Meridian: Concentration

  • McPherson destroyed 55 miles of railroad, 53 bridges, 6, 075 feet of trestle work, 19 locomotives, 28 steam cars, and three steam sawmills

  • Hurlbut claimed 60 miles of railroad, one locomotive, and eight bridges

  • Sherman reported “10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction, with axes, crowbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work as well done. Meridian, with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.”

  • His work done, Sherman returned to Vicksburg on February 28


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Meridian: The Bigger Picture

  • Shelby Foote would call Meridian “something of a warm-up, a practice operation in this regard” for what Sherman would execute on a much grander scale in Georgia.

  • John Marszalek concludes, “When Sherman later contemplated a march to the sea, the important lessons of Meridian were instrumental in his thinking. He could march an army through Confederate territory with impunity and feed it at the expense of the inhabitants. He could wage successfully war without having to slaughter thousands of soldiers in the process.”


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Meridian: The Bigger Picture

  • Lawrence Smith cites Meridian as the validation of the strategy of exhaustion that Grant would employ thereafter until the end of the war.

  • Archer Jones agrees that “Sherman’s Meridian raid confirmed the effectiveness of Grant’s new raiding logistic strategy.”


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Meridian: The Bigger Picture

  • Sherman has been identified as one of only a few generals who “grew” during the Civil War and the Meridian Campaign is an important milestone in his development.

  • Though much less well-known than the later March to the Sea, the Meridian Campaign served as a proving ground for the evolution of strategy and the Civil War’s relentless ascent toward total war that would ultimately result in Union victory.



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Brice’s Crossroads

  • In the summer of 1864, Sherman is about to begin his Atlanta Campaign and knows his long supply line will be vulnerable to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry raids

    • Sherman said Forrest must be “hunted down and killed even if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the Federal treasury”

    • Grant called him “That devil Forrest”


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Brice’s Crossroads

  • On June 1, 1864, Forrest left Tupelo with 3,000 cavalrymen and two artillery batteries, headed for middle Tennessee

  • Stephen Lee had ordered Forrest to attack “the railroad from Nashville” and to break up “lines of communication connecting that point with Sherman’s army in Northern Georgia”

  • Forrest was on his way to accomplish this mission when Lee notified him on June 3 that a large Federal column was moving from Memphis toward Tupelo

  • Forrest returned at once


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Brice’s Crossroads

  • This Federal force was commanded by Samuel Sturgis and had been ordered to keep Forrest occupied and destroy him if possible

  • Sturgis had 8,000 men and 250 wagons

  • He had been ordered to head to Corinth, clear the town of any Confederate soldiers, and then head south to destroy track and depots of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad


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Brice’s Crossroads

  • On the evening of June 9, Forrest ascertained Sturgis’ line of march and decided he could intercept Sturgis at Brice’s Crossroads, west of Baldwyn

  • Forrest would be outnumbered two to one, but he still developed an aggressive plan to defeat Sturgis in detail

    • First he would defeat Sturgis’ cavalry

    • The Federal infantry would rush to their aid but would be tired from the forced march

    • Then Forrest would defeat them as well


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Brice’s Crossroads

  • Forrest led one brigade to the far left of his line to the Ripley-Guntown road south of Brice’s

  • While this force attacked Sturgis’ flank, Forrest had his other men press the Federal right and center

  • The Federals eventually gave way and their retreat began clogged at the narrow Tishomingo Creek bridge


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Brice’s Crossroads

  • Forrest pursued the retreating Federals and caught up with them at Ripley

  • There Forrest completely routed the Federals who fled in disarray to Colliersville, TN



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Tupelo

  • Brice’s Crossroads made Sherman even more determined that Forrest must be stopped and he ordered Andrew J. Smith to go after him

  • Smith assembled an army of some 14,000 at La Grange, TN and on July 5 began moving toward Mississippi

  • Smith moved cautiously, determined not to repeat Sturgis’ mistake of being drawn into battle on Forrest’s terms

  • Forrest resented that his commander Stephen Lee had been promoted to lieutenant general before him and didn’t fully have his heart in the campaign

    • Lee would actually be the senior commander at Tupelo


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Tupelo

  • Smith maneuvered well and kept the Confederates guessing

  • Ultimately he decided to head for Tupelo because he thought it would be hard for the Confederates to concentrate their forces there


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Tupelo

  • As Smith moved toward Tupelo Forrest pressed the Federal rear, but Smith had a good head start

  • Smith made it safely to Tupelo and established a defense on a high ridge just west of Tupelo

  • On July 14 Forrest attacked, hoping to get around Smith’s left

  • The Confederates were repulsed and fell back to build breastworks to receive the inevitable Federal counterattack


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Tupelo

  • Instead Smith remained cautiously behind their lines

  • On July 15 Smith began to retreat northwest

  • Forrest followed but a painful foot wound put him out of action

  • With only minimal Confederate harassment, Smith withdrew back to La Grange where he arrived on June 21


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Tupelo

  • In addition to inflicting 1,300 casualties on Forrest compared to just suffering 648 himself, Smith had facilitated Sherman by keeping Forrest occupied

  • Smith had turned Forrest’s own tactics against him by outguessing the enemy, screening his intentions, enticing the enemy into fortified positions, and flank firing


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Next

  • Federal Home Front and Lincoln


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