Friday, July 3, 1863

Camp at Bear Creek, Near Vicksburg, Mississippi

The surrender of Vicksburg is at hand. Pemberton’s army is starving and must give up. I must be prepared for all contingencies. Joe Johnston might strike my position at any point in desperation. If not attacked, then we will soon be on the march to drive Johnston from the state. My army will return to Jackson and complete the work that we started, breaking up the railroad, destroying anything of value to an enemy and making certain that Jackson cannot be used as a base of operation for the enemy.

The news of the impending surrender came form General Grant in two dispatches. First:

General SHERMAN:

I judge Johnston is not coming to Vicksburg; he must be watched, though. I judge from the fact that I have just received a proposition from Pemberton to appoint three commissioners to arrange terms of capitulation, to save effusion of blood, &c. I reply that the appointment of commissioners is unnecessary, because he could put an end to it by surrender, and be treated with all the respect due prisoners of war.

When we go in, I want you to drive Johnston from the Mississippi Central Railroad; destroy bridges as far as Grenada with your cavalry, and do the enemy all the harm possible. You can make your own arrangements and have all the troops of my command, except one corps-McPherson’s, say. I must have some troops to send to Banks, to use against Port Hudson.


and Second:

General SHERMAN:

There is but little doubt but the enemy will surrender tonight or in the morning; make your calculations to attack Johnston; destroy the road north of Jackson. The country from Baldwin’s to Hankinson’s is picketed and patrolled every day by Ord’s force.


Since I received these dispatches, I have heard heavy firing from the direction of Vicksburg. It is confusing, not the sound of surrender. I sent the following report and request for information:


Camp near Bear Creek, July 3, 1863

Colonel John A. RAWLINS:

DEAR COLONEL: I am in receipt of two dispatches from General Grant, telling me of the opening of negotiations for the surrender of Vicksburg, and ordering me to move against Johnston and to destroy the Central road as far north as Grenada, and generally to do the enemy as much damage as possible. I have heard some considerable heavy firing at Vicksburg this afternoon, which I do not understand, and am this moment (sundown), in receipt of a letter from Clark Wright, which I inclose. I have so little faith in Colonel Wright that I would heed his messages very little, only I feel assured that every motive that could influence Johnston is at work to make him attempt to relieve Vicksburg, that I am willing to believe he is concentrating at Bolton. If so, well, and better still if Vicksburg has surrendered. I send these papers in for the information of General Grant, who tonight will have arrived at some real conclusion and will be prepared to act.

If Vicksburg is ours, it is the most valuable conquest of the war, and the more valuable for the stout resistance it has made. If complete, we should follow up rapidly, but should leave nothing to chance. Of course, we should instantly assume the offensive as against Johnston.

I now have the bridge at Osterhaus’ position. I have five regiments and a battery at Messingers’, 3 1/2 miles above Bridgeport, with orders to hold the opposite bank, and tonight to collect log-houses for piers, and materials for a double bridge, to be built the moment I know that Vicksburg has surrendered. I have my cavalry in possession of a ford above Bear Creek and below Birdsong. Now, Johnston may have under the pressure here collected a force of some 30,000. He has his old force, that of Loring, Breckinridge, and J. P. McCown’s DIVISION, from Bragg, and a considerable force from Charleston and Mobile. If we have Vicksburg, we should start with as large a force as possible, and as soon as Johnston is met and his force developed, the balance of the plan of destroying road could be carried out by a small force.

I propose that Ord move out to the railroad bridge, my corps to Messinger’s, Parke’s in reserve to cross at same point, and W. S. Smith’s DIVISION, with the cavalry, not exceeding 1,000 men, to cross at the ford below Birdsong; that all meet on the Bridgeport road, about 8 miles out, and move on Bolton, then direct on Jackson, and, if necessary, to Meridian, destroying, of course, the railroad and doing all manner of harm; then return to Jackson, whence I could send back to Vicksburg all troops not absolutely needed for the trip up to Grenada and back.

Port Hudson is now well invested, and an increased force there could do less good than the destruction of the only army that can afford them relief, viz, Johnston’s. But as soon as Johnston is met, and either defeated or dispersed, a force could go to Banks. I think the fall of Vicksburg, when known, will paralyze the Confederates WEST of the Mississippi, for Port Hudson was only used in connection with Vicksburg to make the intervening space a mare clausum, to which these forts gave the enemy absolute title. If my views meet the general’s approval, I ask the issue of a special order from your headquarters that Ord’s corps move to railroad bridge, provided with five days’ rations and 150 rounds of cartridges; the Fifteenth to be ordered forward, provided in like manner with the same rations and arder, J. Condit Smith to organize a train of 200 wagons, with bread, salt, sugar, and coffee, to come forward in two trains by the same roads behind the troops; for all my staff to come forward at once, and, generally, all orders that will initiate the movement. As you see, I must still watch Johnston, and these preparations can be made better at your end. This would leave McPherson’s corps at Vicksburg, Herron’s DIVISION disposable, one brigade of which could hold the works at the railroad bridge, and Kimball’s DIVISION at Haynes’ Bluff.

Indeed, in the movement against Johnston we should risk nothing, provided Vicksburg is surely surrendered. The news is so good I can hardly believe it, and I am confused by the sound of cannon at Vicksburg this p. m.

I keep a swift officer at the telegraph office, 3 miles back, to bring me the earliest intelligence. If all is right and Vicksburg is surrendered, after ordering troops to move as suggested, it may be well to order my quartermaster, J. Condit Smith, to ride out quickly to see me after ordering 200 wagons to load as before recited. Also send me plenty of the best maps Wilson has. I have left mine behind and must depend on Wilson.


I have also inquired of General Parke about the nature of the firing.

JULY 3, 1863- P.M.
General PARKE:

DEAR GENERAL: If Vicksburg is going to surrender tonight, what does that firing mean?
I have ordered troops to secure the three crossing places: Jones’ Ford, below Birdsong, Messinger’s, where I propose to build a good bridge by means of the log houses and materials of Messinger’s plantation, and at the railroad crossing, where a good bridge now exists. If Vicksburg surrenders, I want two corps to cross the bridge, mine at Messinger’s, your artillery and wagons also, and your cavalry and infantry at Jones’, thus giving three roads, all of which converge at a point not far beyond Big Black River, near Jeff. Davis’ plantation. Make all preparations, for we will have to move light and rapid to interpose between Johnston’s scattered forces.

Each regiment should carry five days’ rations and ammunition and a train carry bread, salt, sugar, and coffee for ten more, depending on the country for forage and beef. But I don’t understand the heavy firing. Inquire by telegraph and let me know.


General Grant has informed Parke that the truce only covers the bearers of dispatches. Firing continues elsewhere along the line at Vicksburg. I am sending orders to my commanders:

Camp near Bear Creek, July 3, 1863

Major-General PARKE, Comdg. NINTH Army Corps:

DEAR GENERAL: I have received your note and Grant’s dispatch, which in a measure explains the strange firing after the news of the proposition to surrender.

I ask for the move, Ord’s corps (Thirteenth), mine (Fifteenth), and yours (NINTH); to your corps, I would attach General W. S. Smith’s DIVISION. The cavalry I would hold for general service. I wish you to be prepared with five days’ rations for yourself and Smith, including every man fit for duty, and embracing those left at Milldale. I would then order a general supply train of 200 wagons, with hard and small rations, to follow in two trains of 100 each. As soon as Johnston is encountered and disposed of, I would send back to Vicksburg, to be used at Port Hudson or elsewhere, a part of my force, and push on to Grenada with a smaller force. I have sent a messenger to Grant with a synopsis of my proposed plan, and will get an answer early in the morning. The quicker we move the better. Although Johnston has doubtless done his best, and must have concentrated by this time my opinion is, that if we can whip him, it will, in addition to Vicksburg, be a final blow in Mississippi.

This rain is favorable to us, provided Vicksburg has surrendered. The news is so good I can hardly realize it, though I have wished for it now fully six months. Jefferson Davis made it a test question, and I know its influence on the great WEST will be more than the capture of Richmond.

Colonel Clark Wright, who commands the cavalry down by Osterhaus, reports tonight the capture of a prisoner, who reports the arrival today of Breckinridge at Bolton, with the understanding that Johnston was to be there tonight and to attack us in the morning at Bridgeport. I have no faith in Wright’s report, but we must be prepared for anything.

Yours, truly,

I also wrote to General Osterhaus and note that the report of Wright conflicts with the report of General McArthur.

Camp near Bear Creek, July 3, 1863

General OSTERHAUS, Commanding DIVISION at the Bridge:
DEAR GENERAL: I inclose you the note of General McArthur with his sketch. Please read it, and at your convenience return to me for file. You will observe that General McArthur gives the information of himself in opposition to that of Colonel Wright. I am getting things prepared from Oak Ridge to Tiffin so that it will be a close fit for anything to pass, and as soon as it is completed to my satisfaction I will have a small redoubt put in about 1 1/2 miles from Tiffin, toward Bovina, which will make a strong line. The flanks at the bridge and Oak Ridge must be able to be left alone in case the main forces are shifted to one flank or other.

If Tuttle is with you, tell him I want him to watch that road and tell me exactly what he sees with his own eyes or hears with his own ears. I don’t care about his sending me rumors from some other place; I get plenty of them. If he lies and watches the road about Auburn or Cayuga for two days and tells what he sees, I can judge if any army proposes to bridge the Black at Hankinson’s, to operate from the south. A few days’ work would make the peninsula south of Warrenton also unassailable. When secure from surprise, assault, or sudden danger, then we can begin to break in upon their arrangements at Brownsville, Bolton, &c. I am always glad to hear of your scouts feeling well out.


Orders have been issued for my own corp to be ready to march.

HEADQUARTERS, Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Numbers 50.

Walnut Hills, MISSISSIPPI, July 3, 1863.

The troops of this corps will be prepared to march on short notice, with ten days’ rations of flour and hard bread, coffee, salt, and sugar.
All transportation will be put in order and held in readiness for movement.

By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:
R. M. SAWYER, Assistant Adjutant-General

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s