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Vicksburg. Dec 1862 to Apr 1863 Attempts. Agenda. Terrain Chickasaw Bayou Grant’s Canal Lake Providence Yazoo Pass Steele’s Bayou Results. Vicksburg and the Mississippi. The last Confederate post on the river Key to New Orleans

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Dec 1862 to Apr 1863 Attempts

  • Terrain
  • Chickasaw Bayou
  • Grant’s Canal
  • Lake Providence
  • Yazoo Pass
  • Steele’s Bayou
  • Results
vicksburg and the mississippi
Vicksburg and the Mississippi
  • The last Confederate post on the river
    • Key to New Orleans
      • Control of the Mississippi River would provide a safe route for the transportation of troops and supplies.
    • Impassable batteries
      • Vicksburg was situated on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. A five mile stretch of artillery batteries protected the city from invaders.
vicksburg and the mississippi4
Vicksburg and the Mississippi
  • Surrounding terrain
    • The Delta to the north and the Louisiana lowlands to the east
      • Swampy land covered with thick forests and dense undergrowth containing numerous rivers, lakes and bayous subject to constant floods.
    • Swamps south of Vicksburg
      • Flooded swamplands prevented ground movement.
vicksburg and the mississippi5
Vicksburg and the Mississippi
  • As Union forces moved south towards Vicksburg, the winter and the wet season began.
    • This ended all possibilities of moving forces by land.
    • Grant was forced to find an alternative route to reach Vicksburg.
    • Makes several failed attempts from Dec 1862 to April 1863
grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 1862
Grant’s First Attempt:Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • Grant envisioned an advance of 40,000 troops due south along the Mississippi Central Railroad combined with a movement by water of 32,000 men under Sherman against Chickasaw Bluffs, just a few miles north of Vicksburg
grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 18627
Grant’s First Attempt: Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • Overland advance stopped because of the vulnerability of Grant’s supply lines
    • 3,500 cavalry under Van Dorn struck Grant’s rear between Dec 20-25 and captured Grant’s advanced base at Holly Springs
    • At the same time Forrest’s cavalry broke up 60 miles of railroad north of Jackson, Tennessee
  • We’ll talk more about these raids and their impact when we talk about logistics
grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 18628
Grant’s First Attempt: Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • The Federals landed Dec 26-27 and moved inland meeting small resistance
  • The fighting escalated Dec 27-28 as the Federals probed the Confederate defenses

View from the Federal landing site toward the Chickasaw Bluffs (2005)

grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 18629
Grant’s First Attempt: Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • The 9th was the bloodiest day of fighting as Sherman struck the Confederate center
    • “… we will lose 5,000 men before we take Vicksburg and we may as well lose them here as anywhere else.”
      • William Sherman
    • “My poor brigade!”
      • Colonel John DeCourcy
grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 186210
Grant’s First Attempt: Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • The Confederate defense centered on an Indian Mound occupied by Mississippi artillery supported by infantry from Louisiana and Georgia

Indian Mound and area to the west (2005)

grant s first attempt chickasaw bayou dec 186211
Grant’s First Attempt: Chickasaw Bayou Dec 1862
  • Sherman failed to take Chickasaw Bluffs saying, “I reached Vicksburg at the time appointed, landed, assaulted, and failed.”
    • 1, 176 Federal casualties; 208 of whom were killed
    • 187 Confederate casualties; 57 of whom were killed

Colonel James Williamson won the Medal of Honor at Chickasaw Bayou because he, “Led his regiment against a superior force, strongly entrenched, and held his ground when all support had been withdrawn.”

grant s canal jan mar 1863
Grant’s CanalJan-Mar 1863
  • After the repulse at Chickasaw Bayou, Sherman briefly considered an attack against Snyder’s Bluff, but cancelled it due to fog
  • In Jan, Grant moved his army into camps at Milliken’s Bend and Young’s Point on the Mississippi
  • His objective was to reach the high ground east of the Mississippi floodplain

Milliken’s Bend

grant s canal jan mar 186313
Grant’s CanalJan-Mar 1863
  • Grant tried to create a water route bypassing the Vicksburg defenses by digging a canal across the De Soto Peninsula
    • Hopefully the rain-swollen river would then scour the canal into a new channel
    • A similar tactic had succeeded at Island No. 10
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Grant’s CanalJan-Mar 1863
  • Grant used Sherman’s troops, runaway slaves, and eventually several dipper dredges (floating steam shovels)
  • The planned canal was to be sixty feet wide, six feet deep, and about one mile long, but the high waters made digging difficult and living conditions miserable
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Grant’s CanalJan-Mar 1863
  • At the same time, the Confederates built batteries commanding the length of the canal and eventually drove off the dredges
  • Work on the canal essentially stopped on Mar 24
  • When the river receded in Apr, the canal drained out
    • By April 4, it was dry
grant s canal jan mar 186316
Grant’s CanalJan-Mar 1863

Grant’s Canal as it appears today in Delta, LA

lake providence
Lake Providence
  • On Feb 3, while work on Grant’s Canal was still in progress, Federal troops cut a short canal from the Mississippi to Lake Providence, an oxbox lake that was once part of the Mississippi and now lay more than 40 miles upstream from Vicksburg



lake providence18
Lake Providence
  • Lake Providence emptied into a maze of bayous and rivers that eventually joined the Red River and ultimately the Mississippi
  • At first Grant considered Lake Providence the “most practicable route for turning Vicksburg”
  • In early March, however, he personally examined the route and reported that “there was scarcely a chance of this ever becoming a practicable route for moving troops through an enemy’s country”
lake providence19
Lake Providence
  • Nonetheless, work on the canal continued and on March 17 the levee was cut.
  • By Mar 23, the water levels of the Mississippi and Lake Providence were nearly equal, permitting vessels to be taken in.
  • By the end of March, however, Grant had determined to move his army south overland from Milliken's Bend and the Lake Providence Expedition was abandoned.
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Lake Providence
  • Federal efforts at Lake Providence had the unforeseen result of protecting the right flank of Grant’s column as it marched south from Milliken’s Bend because the flooded interior waterways of Louisiana provided an extensive water barrier against Confederate raids.
  • The flooded waterways also helped to shield Federal enclaves at Lake Providence, Milliken's Bend, and Young's Point.
yazoo pass
Yazoo Pass
  • On Feb 3, Federal engineers blasted a hole in the levee that separated the Mississippi River from the headwaters of the Yazoo River, about ten miles below Helena, Arkansas and 325 miles north of Vicksburg
    • This would allow troop transports to enter the Tallahatchie River
yazoo pass22
Yazoo Pass
  • This new route would allow Grant to use his naval forces in the fighting and to use water routes as lines of communications (thus eliminating his vulnerability to cavalry raids)
  • On Feb 24, two ironclads, six tinclads, two rams, nine mortar boats, and thirteen transports carrying BG Leonard Ross’s division sailed through the gap in the levee
yazoo pass23
Yazoo Pass
  • As Ross moved downstream, Confederate Major General William Loring established Fort Pemberton to block the Yazoo Pass 90 miles north of Vicksburg

Remnants of Fort Pemberton’s earthworks overlooking the Tallahatchie River

yazoo pass24
Yazoo Pass
  • Federal gunboats engaged the fort on Mar 11, 13, and 16 but failed to silence the Confederate guns
  • Federal forces lingered in the area until early Apr, but made no further attempts against Fort Pemberton
steele s bayou
Steele’s Bayou
  • A 200 mile route up Steele’s Bayou had been scouted earlier as a supporting route for the Yazoo Pass operation
  • Porter tried to force 11 vessels through the heavily obstructed waterways with Sherman following on foot
steele s bayou26
Steele’s Bayou
  • The Confederates blocked the boats at Rolling Fork and Sherman arrived just in the nick of time to save Porter from destruction
  • With the failure of this last expedition, Grant considered another assault at Chickasaw Bayou,
    • But, after a reconnaissance by boat on April 1, he concluded that such an assault would meet the same fate Sherman had had there the preceding December.
  • “This, then, closes out the last hope of turning the enemy by the right.”
    • Grant to Porter
summary of failed attempts
Summary of Failed Attempts
  • While Grant was prepared to capitalize on success, he claimed he never really had any hopes for these preliminary attempts
    • His main purposes were to
      • Keep the offensive spirit alive
      • Satisfy the public demand for action
      • Keep the enemy guessing
      • Buy time until the weather permitted a wide envelopment of Vicksburg from the south
public criticism
Public Criticism
  • To the northern public such purposes were not as readily apparent
    • “The people of the East, knowing about as much of the geography of the region of Grant’s meanderings as they did of Japan, were utterly bewildered by the fragmentary and mixed-up newspaper telegrams about Lake Providence, Moon Lake, Steele’s Bayou, Williams’ Cut-Off, the Yazoo, the Yallabusha, the Tallahatchie…. They only knew that months dragged wearily by… that the soldiers were reported dying from disease… The country was heartsick for victory.”
      • Albert Richardson, New York Tribune
charles dana
Charles Dana
  • Rumors abounded about Grant’s continued drinking and there was a steady line of criticism often initiated by political general McClernand
  • Lincoln sent Charles Dana, a noted journalist, to Grant’s headquarters as a “special commissioner” to assess the situation
    • Lincoln called him “the eyes and ears of the government at the front”

McClernand had long been using his political connections to lobby for an independent command

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Charles Dana
  • While Dana was on his inspection, Grant went on one of his drinking binges
  • Dana could have ended Grant’s career with a report to Lincoln, but he remained silent, thinking that for whatever his weaknesses, Grant was needed for Union victory

"He keeps his own counsel, padlocks his mouth, while his countenance in battle or repose...indicates nothing--that is gives no expression of his feelings and no evidence of his intentions.”

-- Dana’s assessment of Grant

new plan
New Plan
  • On March 29, Grant decides to march his army down the west side of the Mississippi to a point below Vicksburg where river transports could ferry the men across
  • To make this work, the transports would have to run past the gauntlet of the Vicksburg batteries