Walnut Hills, Camp Near Vicksburg, Mississippi
Today, we will try to storm the Vicksburg defenses. First, a small party, that might be called a forlorn hope, provided with plank to cross the ditch, advanced at a run, up to the very ditch. The lines of infantry sprang from cover, and advanced rapidly in line of battle. I took a position within two hundred yards of the rebel parapet, on the off slope of a spur of ground, where by advancing two or three steps I could see every thing.
The rebel line, concealed by the parapet, showed no sign of unusual activity, but as our troops came in fair view, the enemy rose behind their parapet and poured a furious fire upon our lines. For about two hours, we had a severe and bloody battle, but at every point we were repulsed.
After our men had been fairly beaten back from off the parapet, and had got cover behind the spurs of ground close up to the rebel works, General Grant came to where I was, on foot, having left his horse some distance to the rear. I pointed out to him the rebel works, admitted that my assault had failed, and he said the result with McPherson and McClernand was about the same. While he was with me, a staff-officer came and handed him a piece of paper, which he read and handed to me. It was in General McClernand’s handwriting, to the effect that “his troops had captured the rebel parapet in his front,” that, “the flag of the Union waved over the stronghold of Vicksburg”. He asked General Grant to give renewed orders to McPherson and me to press our attacks on our respective fronts, lest the enemy should concentrate on him.
General Grant said, “I don’t believe a word of it.” But I reasoned with him, that this note was official, and must be credited, and I offered to renew the assault at once with new troops. He said he would instantly ride down the line to McClernand’s front, and if I did not receive orders to the contrary, by 3 o’clock p.m., I might try it again.
Mower’s fresh brigade was brought up under cover, and some changes were made in Giles Smith’s brigade; and, punctually at 3 p.m., hearing heavy firing down along the line to my left, I ordered the second assault. It was a repetition of the first, equally unsuccessful and bloody. It also transpired that the same thing had occurred with General McPherson, who lost in this second assault some most valuable officers and men, without adequate result, and that General McClernand, instead of having taken any single point of the rebel main parapet, had only taken one or two small outlying lunettes open to the rear, where his men were at the mercy of the rebels behind their main parapet, and most of them were actually thus captured. The two assaults on the lines of Vicksburg, have failed, by reason of the great strength of the position and the determined fighting of its garrison.