July 14 1863. I have received a full report of the investment of Jackson from Gen. Sherman. He writes,
Army before Jackson, July 14, 1863.
DEAR GENERAL: Yours of yesterday’s date is received, and I avail myself of the opportunity to describe more fully than have hitherto done the operations up to this date, and the present attitude of affairs, that you may give me orders or advice. The first hint of the capitulation of Vicksburg reached me from you, by telegraph, on the 3rd day of July, when I was in person at Trible’s place, near Break Creek, with troops disposed from Haynes’ Bluff to the Big Black, at the railroad crossing. I immediately concentrated on the three best points for passing Big Black River, viz, at the railroad crossing, at Messinger’s Ford, and at Birdsong Ferry. At the two latter points I had constructed bridges, and by the 6th of July the Thirteenth Army Corps (General Ord) had reached the railroad crossing, the Fifteenth Army Corps (General Steele) Messinger’s and the NINTH Army Corps (General Parke) Birdsong. All the heads of columns crossed Black River the evening of the 6th, and on the 7th marched to Bolton Depot, each keeping different roads. The weather was so intensely hot that it would have been fatal to push the troops.
During the evening and right of the 7th, all the columns marched opposite Clinton, where we rested and formed the columns for battle, all the evidence being that General Johnston, in strong force, was in our front, determined to resist our entering Jackson.
Early the morning of the 9th, all moved forward in close supporting distance, Ord on the right, Steele in the center, and Parke on the left. The enemy had cavalry videttes and small guards to our front, but they retired rapidly before us, and by 9. 30 a. m. of the 9th we drew the artillery fire of the batteries at Jackson.
I soon satisfied myself that General Johnston had taken refuge in Jackson; that he had resolved to fight behind intrenchments, and that his intrenched position was the same substantially that we found last May, only that it had been much strengthened and extended, so that its flanks reached Pearl River.
The works were too good to be assaulted, and orders were given to deploy and form lines of circumvallation about 1,500 yards from the enemy’s parapet, with skirmishers close up, and their supports within 500 yards; also that each corps should construct covered batteries for their guns and trenches for their men.
All the troops took up their positions with comparative ease and little loss, save the DIVISION commanded by General Lauman, of Ord’s corps, which, by the obscure character of the ground, its trees and bushes, advanced too near the enemy’s parapet, without proper skirmishers deployed, and received the cross fire of his artillery and infantry, causing considerable loss of life. The exact extent of this loss has not been reported, but will not fall much short of 400. General Ord has relieved General Lauman of the command of the DIVISION, and I deem it so important to support corps commanders in their authority that I must sustain General Ord for the time being.
Having invested the place, I ordered Colonel Bussey, chief of cavalry with his cavalry force, numbering about 1,000 effectives, to proceed to Canton and destroy the cars, locomotives, railroads, and machine-shops there, and proceed on to the Big Black River Bridge and destroy that.
He has returned, having found Canton occupied by a force too large for him to attack, and he did not go to the bridge at all, as he deemed it unsafe to pass so considerable a force by the flank, but he destroyed 2 locomotives and 14 box cars at Calhoun Station.
At the same time the cavalry force attached to General Ord’s corps were dispatched south. This party has also returned, having burned five bridges on the road out for 15 miles. We have also in our possession here about 20 platform cars, which will be completely burned, and two brigades are kept on daily duty burning the railroad ties and iron north and south, with orders to completely destroy it for 10 miles each way, so that a very fair beginning has been made toward the destruction of this railway; but I am determined that it shall be so effectually destroyed that it cannot be repaired during the war.
A force of 500 cavalry, with four guns and five wagons, will start tomorrow south for Brookhaven, with orders to destroy the road at many places, especially at Gallatin and Brookhaven, and Colonel Bussey’s cavalry, with Woods’ brigade of infantry, and Landgraeber’s battery of light artillery, will also be dispatched again to Canton to destroy that place, with all its machinery and railroads, and then to proceed to the bridge, 12 miles beyond, and burn it. Thus I hope to make a break of 100 miles in this Great Central Railroad; to be so effectually destroyed that the enemy will not even attempt its reconstruction. General McArthur’s DIVISION is on the road, two brigades at Clinton and one at Champion’s Hill, so disposed as to insure the safety of our trains against the enemy’s cavalry, of which I can learn but little. There is a DIVISION of cavalry commanded by General Jackson; two brigades, commanded by Whitfield and Cosby, containing, I think, about 3,000 men. Cosby is, I suppose, at Canton and the bridge, and Whitfield is east of Pearl River, guardiback to Meridian, with some scattered squads hanging about the country. Our foraging parties now go out about 15 miles, but are invariably guarded by a regiment of infantry. We are absolutely stripping the country of corn, cattle, hogs, sheep, poultry, everything, and the new-growing corn is being thrown open as pasture fields or hauled for the use of our animals. The wholesale destruction to which this country is now being subjected is terrible to contemplate, but it is the scourge of war, to which ambitions men have appealed, rather than the judgment of the learned and pure tribunals which our forefathers had provided for supposed wrongs and injuries. Therefore, so much of my instructions as contemplated destroying and weakening the resources of our enemy are being executed with rigor, and we have also done much toward the destruction of Johnston’s army. If he waits a day or two, I will so threaten his rear that he will be compelled to come out and fight or run, and in either event I feel confident of success. I know that much plunder has been sent by him to the east of Pearl River, but his army is still in Jackson, and several very heavy guns are mounted at the salients and reply to our fire. Their parapets are also well manned, and our sharpshooters are closing nearer and nearer, and becoming familiar with their respective fronts. We are now ready for a sally, and if he attempts to escape we ought to defect the movement very early, and will, of course, take advantage of it. Captain Audenried, of your staff, is here, and will examine our lines tomorrow and carry this report to you, with a map of our position, compiled from partial surveys and all other available sources. I will also send by him all the lists of casualties thus far sustained that I can obtain of corps and DIVISION commanders. The field labors of all are so arduous and constant that I know General Grant will overlook the want of more accurate detailed reports till the issue of this campaign is reached.
I am, with great respect,
W. T. SHERMAN,