Camp near Bear Creek, Near Vicksburg, Mississippi
General Grant has ordered me away from my troops in front of Vicksburg to command the forces opposing a relief attempt by Joe Johnston. Vicksburg is vital to the Confederates and it is a point of honor that they will not relinquish without an attempt at rescue. Johnston is a worthy foe and I must prepare my forces against all contingencies. I have my troops busy constructing defensive works, roads to connect our scattered forces and blocking roads that might be used by the enemy. If the enemy appears in force and must first clear obstructions, I will have more time to bring reinforcements to the point of attack. I have made it clear that troops are to be on guard at all times and commanders are to be held accountable. There is much work to be done to fortify my position.
SPECIAL ORDERS, HEADQUARTERS, Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Numbers 135
Camp near Bear Creek, June 26, 1863
I. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry will take post on Bear Creek where the Birdsong road crosses it, and will picket at Hill’s, and watch the ferries at Birdsong and Jones’, with a cavalry patrol up the valley of Bear Creek, to communicate with General Parke at Oak Ridge post office.
II. General Parke will keep a cavalry regiment at the point where the lower Benton road crosses Bear Creek, with a picket at the forks of the road, and a patrol connecting with the pickets of the Fourth Iowa at Hill’s. All cavalry pickets must keep their horses saddled and their weapons well in hand, and a surprise will be certain ruin to the officer in charge. These pickets will be carefully instructed, and the commanders of the cavalry regiments will be responsible.
III. General Tuttle will hold the ridge from Trible’s down to Young’s with a regiment of infantry and section of artillery in the woods back of Young’s, so as to have a full view of the fields down the valley of Bear Creek.
IV. General McArthur will hold the ridge from Straus’ back to McCall’s, with a brigade on picket near Fox’s. This brigade will send daily and nightly patrols down to the ford at Messinger’s. All roads leading from Black River back to the points named will be obstructed by felling trees at the narrowest points, and DIVISION commanders will keep their pioneer companies and working parties employed all the time; an hour’s time now is worth a day after an enemy makes his appearance. General McArthur will relieve his brigade at Bear Creek Crossing as soon as General Tuttle places a regiment at Young’s.
V. General Parke will hold Oak Ridge, from Neily’s to the post-office, with W. S. Smith’s DIVISION, and will order the Milldale forces to be prepared on the shortest notice to move to McCall’s, to which end he will cause a working party, with an intelligent staff officer, to repair the road from Milldale to Albertson’s and Harris’; thence across the valley of Clear Creek to the school-house, Wixon’s, and McCall’s. This will give three good roads from Haynes’ Bluff to our key-point at McCall’s and Neily’s.
VI. All commanders will aim to keep on hand from three to five days’ rations, and at least 100 rounds of cartridges; wagons, as a general rule, should be kept back of Clear Creek, camps encumbered as little as possible, and troops well at hand. The vast importance of events, now drawing to some conclusion, bids us guard against supposed combinations of the enemy rather than the mere appearances. If Johnston attempts to relieve Vicksburg, which he is impelled to do by honor and the clamor of the Southern public, he will feign at many points, but attack with vehemence at some one. Let him appear at any point, he must be fought desperately.
Re-enforcements must not be clamored for, but each commander will fight back, along the ridge he is guarding, stubbornly, reporting facts and not opinions, that the general in command will be found habitually on the ridge near McCall’s, and, in case of temporary absence, will leave word and orders with a staff officer at his bivouac. Let all guards and sentinels be carefully instructed, all wandering about stopped, and all citizens found away from their homes be arrested and sent to the rear, Haynes’ Bluff, or Vicksburg.
VII. General Osterhaus, acting in concert with this force, will hold the bridge, and keep his DIVISION well in hand near Bovina, prepared to act decisively on intelligence or the sounds of battle in the direction of Tiffin’s or Fox’s plantations.
By order of W. T. Sherman, Major-General Commanding.
L. M. DAYTON, Captain and Aide-de-Camp