Marching Orders - To the Rear of Vicksburg - Holmes' Plantation - Our Gun-boats Passing the Vicksburg Batteries - Smith's Landing - Return of Lient. Col. Parker - Lake St. Joe - Grand Gulf - Crossing the Mississippi at Bruinsburg - Battle of Magnolia Hills - Port Gibson - Grind-Stone Ford - Foragers - Rocky 8prings - Willow Springs - Cayuga - Gen. Sherman's Visit - Old Auburn - Raymond - Battle of Champion Hills - Black River Bridge.
April 15th, we received marching orders, and left with the Corps on our way through Louisiana, to the rear of Vicksburg. The troops, as usual on the first day's march in a campaign, loaded themselves down with extra clothing, blankets and surplus baggage. The day proved to be one of those hot, sultry, spring days, with not a ripple of air stirring. At the first halt, knapsacks were unloaded, which process continued all day. By night the army was in light marching order. The line of march had been strewn with abandoned clothing, &c., which the slaves gathered as we passed. We camped near Richmond, La., at sun-down; continued our march the next day and camped in the evening at Holmes' Plantation, Madison Parish. During the night the gun-boats and transports ran past the batteries at Vicksburg. Gen. Sherman, in his "Memoirs," gives a graphic description of the passage of the boats past the batteries. He says:
"Gen. Grant's orders for the general movement past Vicksburg by Richmond and Carthage, were dated April 20, 1863. McClernand was to lead off with his corps, McPherson next, and my corps (the 15th) to bring up the rear. Preliminary thereto, on the night of April 16, seven iron-clads, led by Admiral Porter in person, in the Benton, with three transports and ten barges in tow, ran the Vicksburg batteries by night. Anticipating a scene, I had four yawl-boats hauled across the swamp to the reach of the river below Vicksburg, and manned them with soldiers, ready to pick up any of the disabled wrecks as they floated by. I was out on the stream when the fleet passed Vicksburg, and the scene was truly sublime. As soon as the rebel gunners detected the Benton, which ,was in the lead, they opened on her, and on the others in succession, with shot and shell. Houses on the Vicksburg side and on the opposite shore were set on fire, which lighted up the whole river; and the roar of cannon, bursting of shells, and finally the burning of the Henry Clay, drifting with the current, made up a picture terrible, not often seen. Each gun-boat returned the fire as she passed the town, while the transports hugged the opposite shore.
"When the Benton had got abreast of us, I pulled off to her, boarded, and had a few words with Admiral Porter, and as she was drifting rapidly toward the batteries at Warrenton, I left, and pulled back toward the shore, meeting the gunboat Tuscumbia, towing the Forest Queen into the bank, out of the range of fire. The Forest Queen, Capt. Conway, had been my flag-boat up the Arkansas, and for some time after, and I was very friendly with the officers. This was the only transport whose Captain would not receive volunteers as a crew, but her own officers and crew carried her safely below the Vicksburg batteries, and afterward rendered splendid service in ferrying troops across the river at Grand Gulf and Bruinsburg. In passing Vicksburg she was damaged in the hull, and had a steam-pipe cut away, but this was soon repaired. The Henry Clay was set on fire by bursting shells, and burned up. One of my yawls picked up her pilot, floating on a piece of wreck, and the bulk of her crew escaped in their own yawl-boat to the shore above. The Silver Wave, Capt. McMillan, the same that was with us up Steel's Bayou, passed safely, and she rendered good service afterward.
"Subsequently, on the night of April 26th, six other transports, with numerous barges loaded with hay, corn, freight and provisions, were drifted past Vicksburg. Of these the Tigress was hit, and sunk just as she reached the river bank below, on our side. I was there with my yawls, and saw Col. Lagow, of Gen. Grant's staff, who had passed the batteries on the Tigress, and I think he was satisfied never to attempt such a thing again. Thus Gen. Grant's army had below Vicksburg an abundance of stores, and boats with which to cross the river."
We remained here until the 24th when at 8 o'clock P. M. we received orders to march in fifteen minutes, at which time it began to rain. In half an hour we were on the road, which was rough and slippery, and through a soil of black loam that had been badly cut up by the advance troops. The night being very dark, we made slow progress through the mud and rain. We halted at three o'clock next morning in a corn-field, at Smith's Landing, near Carthage. Here we were allowed but one wagon to the Regiment, and all the extra baggage was left behind.
On the 26th, Lieut. Col. Parker, who had been home since he was wounded at the battle of Arkansas Post, returned and took command of the Regiment. Resumed our march that evening at 7 o'clock, in the rain, and halted near midnight, on the road-side. We continued our march the next day, but owing to the rain and bad roads, we made but four miles. On the 28th, we reached the Mississippi river at noon, marched down the levee, and struck Lake St. Joe. On the banks of this delightful lake were beautiful mansions, with lawns, surrounded by hedge-roses in full bloom, which was a great contrast to the country through which we had passed. The high state of cultivation of the plantations, with .the droves of slaves, indicated that the war had reached the homes of the wealthy people of the South.
On the 29th, we reached the Mississippi river again, and camped opposite Grand Gulf. That night seven gun-boats and six transports, under a heavy fire, and in full view of the army, ran past the rebel batteries. The next day, April 30th, at 1 P. M., the 48th Ohio and 77th Illinois, leaving wagons and all baggage behind, embarked on the U. S. gun-boat Louisville, of which Acting Ensign Frank Bates was the executive officer, and landed ten miles below, at Bruinsburg, Mississippi. We remained there until 11 o'clock that night, when we moved forward with the army to Port Gibson. We marched all night, and on account of the heavy firing in front, did not halt for breakfast in the morning, but hastened forward on double-quick until 10 o'clock A. M., when we reached the battle-field of Magnolia Hills, near Port Gibson. This name was derived from the magnolia trees, which were in full bloom.
We crossed an open field and entered a thick cane-brake, through which we penetrated in line of battle, with great difficulty. We were now in range of the enemy's fire, and their musket-balls came crashing through the cane thick and fast. Just as we emerged from the cane-brake into an open field, the enemy repulsed an Iowa regiment. We hurried to their assistance, which caused the enemy to retreat We made a halt on the crest of a hill, in full view of the rebel army, who still held a very strong position on our right, but they, fearing a flank movement, withdrew in haste.
We bivouacked on the battle-field, and during the night our supplies reached us. Rations were issued for supper, making the first meal that day. The long roll beat about midnight, but proved to be a false alarm. The only casualty in our Regiment was one wounded in Co. K. The enemy's fire was too high, cutting off the cane far above our heads. Early next morning, May 2d, we advanced with a strong skirmish-line in front, and entered Port Gibson at 9 A. M., where we found the public and private buildings crowded with rebel wounded. The Regiment stacked arms on the side-walk, under the shade-trees. The enemy had retreated over the south fork of Piere river, destroying the bridge after them. The following morning we crossed the river on a pontoon bridge, marched all day, and crossed the north fork at Grindstone Ford in the evening, and camped near the stream.
The provisions that we started with had lasted up to this time, but we had cut loose from our base, which prevented us from getting another supply. Orders were therefore issued to subsist on the products of the country through which we marched; and from that time forward until the siege of Vicksburg, foraging parties, or perhaps better known as "bummers," were sent out daily, to procure all the provisions and forage that was required for the army. They left camp every morning, in advance of the infantry, and a curious sight they were to behold, as they galloped by at full speed, mounted on such "critters" as they could gather up on their expeditions. They were dressed in such clothes as suited their fancy - the Union blue, the rebel gray and butternut, with a considerable number in citizens' attire.
They were a jolly, mischievous set, eager and ready for any adventure. No sooner were they beyond the lines than they began their work. They slaughtered the pigs in the pens; the cattle and horses were driven from the fields; smokehouses and cellars were ransacked for flour, meal and bacon; the chickens and turkeys were captured in the yard; the mules were hitched to the family carriage, and the provisions stowed away in it, when it was driven to the next plantation, where the same ceremony was repeated. Toward evening the foragers returned to camp, driving the cattle before them, followed by a long line of vehicles of every description, loaded with all kinds of provisions, which was equally distributed among the different regiments.
We remained at Grindstone Ford until May 5th, when the Regiment was detailed to guard Gen. McClernand's headquarters. In the evening we resumed our march, and halted at midnight at Rocky Springs. We remained here until the 8th, when, by request of Col. W. J. Landrum, our brigade commander, we were relieved and joined our brigade at Willow Springs. We left that evening, and camped at Cayuga the next evening. The following day, May 11th, Gen. Sherman's Corps arrived. While his troops were passing, he paid us a friendly visit, and discussed the campaign quite familiarly with the Regiment. He also said, he would be pleased to have us back again in his Corps. When he took his departure, three rousing cheers were given for Gen. Sherman, the favorite of the 48th.
We left May 12th, and camped the day following at Old Auburn, where we remained until the 15th, when we left for Raymond, arriving there in the evening, and camped near the battle-field of the 12th. On the morning of the 16th, the 48th Ohio and 19th Ky. were ordered to guard the Division train. The enemy was now contending for every foot of advantageous ground, which made our advance very slow. At 11 A. M. they made a bold stand with 25,000 men, at Champion Hills, a very strong position. Our troops were now hurried forward. The artillery passed us on a gallop. Regiment after regiment went by on the double-quick covered with dust, which told plainly of many miles traveled that morning. We were still guarding the train, but when the battle commenced we were relieved by request of Lieut. Col. Parker and sent to our Division, on the extreme left, and placed in the reserve. By 2 o'clock P. M. Gen. Hovey had made several unsuccessful attempts to drive the enemy from his position, but was repulsed with a heavy loss. In the meantime, our Corps on the left, and Gen. Logan on the right, were swinging around to their rear. Gen. Logan, reaching their exposed point first, made a sudden attack, in which the rebels lost heavily in killed and wounded, and one entire brigade was taken prisoners. Their whole line wavered, then fled in disorder to the fortifications at Big Black. Our army lost in killed and wounded 2,500 men, the rebel loss being about the same. The enemy was pursued until dark, and on the following morning the army advanced and found the rebels behind their works, at Black River Bridge.
The enemy had already been defeated on four battle-fields of their own selection; but now they were behind their fortifications, and firmly believed they could not be driven farther. After some brisk skirmishing the troops were placed in position. Our Division occupied the extreme left. When the command was given for the assault, the movement was executed so suddenly that our forces were in the enemy's works before they could realize their situation, capturing 18 pieces of artillery and 1,800 prisoners. The rest fled, badly demoralized, to Vicksburg. During the day we found the country full of rebels, who had been separated from their commands in the rout. Our Regiment captured quite a number, and turned them over to the 108th Ills. that evening at Black River Bridge.
We camped that night inside the fortifications. One company was sent on picket on the extreme left of our line. The two armies having been so near each other since the 15th the foragers did not have an opportunity to collect supplies sufficient for the whole army; therefore the Regiment was compelled to eat parched corn for breakfast the next morning.
As soon as the pontoon over Black river was completed, our brigade crossed
and took the advance of the army, camping that evening within seven miles
of Vicksburg. On all sides the evidences of the complete rout and panic
of the enemy were to be seen - abandoned camps, baggage, artillery wagons,
ammunition, and arms of every description, lined the road. This was one
of the most exciting periods of our service; fighting by day and marching
at night, and resting only when the road became obstructed with troops or
wagon-trains. From early morning until late at night the rattle of musketry
and roar of artillery was heard, while the enemy was being forced back from
every point. But the romance of this was soon to pass away, and the rather
monotonous work of digging rifle-pits and building fortifications was to