May 24 1863. Having regained communications with the Mississippi River, I sent a detailed report of our progress to Gen. Halleck,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
Near Vicksburg, MISS., May 24, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: My troops are now disposed with the right (Sherman’s corps) resting on the Mississippi, where the bluff strikes the water, we having the first crest and the upper of the enemy’s water batteries. McClernand is on the left with his corps, his right having about one brigade north of the railroad, the rest south of it. One DIVISION occupies the roads leading south and southeast from the city. The position is as strong by nature as can possibly be conceived of, and is well fortified. The garrison the enemy have to defend it I have no means of knowing, but their force is variously estimated from 10,000 to 20,000.
I attempted to carry the place by storm on the 22nd, but was unsuccessful. Our troops were not repulsed from any point, but simply failed to enter the works of the enemy. At several points they got up to the parapets of the enemy’s forts, and planted their flags on the outer slope of the embankments, where they still have them. The assault was made simultaneously by the three army corps at 10 a. m. The loss on our side was not very heavy at first, but received repeated dispatches from General McClernand, saying that he was hard pressed on his right and left and calling for re-enforcements, I gave him all of McPherson’s corps but four brigades, and caused Sherman to press the enemy on our right, which caused us to double our losses for the day. The whole loss for the day will probably reach 1,500 killed and wounded.
General McClernand’s dispatches misled me as to the real state of facts, and caused much of this loss. He is entirely unfit for the position of corps commander, both on the march and on the battle-field. Looking after his corps gives me more labor and infinitely more uneasiness than all the remainder of my department.
The enemy are now undoubtedly in our grasp. The fall of Vicksburg and the capture of most of the garrison can only be a question of time. I hear a great deal of the enemy bringing a large force from the east to effect a raising of the siege. They may attempt something of the kind, but I do not see how they can do it. The railroad is effectually destroyed at Jackson, so that it will take thirty days to repair it. This will leave a march of 50 miles over which the enemy will have to subsist an army, and bring their ordnance stores with teams. My position is so strong that I could hold out for several days against a vastly superior force. I do not see how the enemy could possibly maintain a long attack under these circumstances. I will keep a close watch on the enemy, however.
There is a force now at Calhoun Station, about 6 miles north of Canton, on the Mississippi Central Railroad. This is the force that escaped from Jackson, augmented by a few thousand men from the coast cities, intended to re-enforce the latter place before the attack, but failed to reach in time.
In the various battles from Port Gibson to Big Black River Bridge, we have taken nearly 6,000 prisoners, besides killed and wounded, and scattered a much larger number.
The enemy succeeded in returning to Vicksburg with only three pieces of artillery. The number captured by us was seventy-four guns, besides what was found at Haynes’ Bluff.
From Jackson to this place I have had no opportunity for communicating with you. Since that, this army fought a heavy battle near Baker’s Creek, on the 16th, beating the enemy badly, killing and capturing not less than 4,000 of the enemy, besides capturing most of his artillery. Loring’s DIVISION was cut off from retreat, and dispersed in every direction.
On the 17th, the battle of Big Black River Bridge was fought, the enemy again losing about 2,000 prisoners, seventeen pieces of artillery, and many killed and wounded. The bridges and ferries were destroyed. The march from Edwards Station to Big Black River Bridge was made, bridges from crossing the army constructed, and much of it over in twenty-four hours.
On the 19th, the march to this place was made and the city invested.
When I crossed the Mississippi River, the means of ferriage was so limited, and time so important, that I started without teams and an average of but two days’ rations in haversacks. Our supplies had to be hauled about 60 miles, from Milliken’s Bend to opposite Grand Gulf, and from there to wherever the army marched. We picked up all the teams in the country and free Africans to drive them. Forage and meat were found in great abundance through the country, so that, although not over five days’ rations were issued in twenty days, yet there was neither suffering nor complaint witnessed in the army.
As soon as reports can be got from corps commanders, I will send in a report, embracing the campaign from Milliken’s Bend to the investment, if not the capture, of Vicksburg.
When I crossed the Mississippi River, it was my intention to detach an army corps, or the necessary force, to co-operate with General Banks to secure the reduction of Port Hudson and the union of the two armies, but I received a letter from General Banks, stating that he was in Louisiana, and would return to Baton Rouge by May 10. By the reduction of Port Hudson he could add only 12,000 to my force. I had certain information that General Joe Johnston was on his way to Jackson, and that re-enforcements were arriving there constantly from Port Hudson and the Southern cities. Under this state of facts, I could not afford to delay. Beating the enemy to near Port Gibson, I followed him to Hankinson’s Ferry, on the Big Black River. This placed my forces 15 miles on their way from Grand Gulf to this place, Big Black River Bridge, or Jackson, whichever I might turn my attention to. Altogether, I am satisfied that my course was right, and has given us with comparative ease what would have cost serious battles by delay.
This army is in the finest possible health and spirits.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT,