Assault on the Nineteenth - Attack OD the Twentieth - Charge on the Twenty-Second - Our Flag on the Rebel Fort - Retreat After Night - Killed and Wounded - Extract from Cincinnati Commercial - Flag of Truce - Burying the Dead - Picketing and Mining - Blowing Up of Fort Hill - Surrender of Vicksburg, July 4th.
On the morning of May 19th, we advanced again, and after a two hours' march, over a very rugged and hilly country, we came in sight of Vicksburg, which is built on a series of high bluffs, and contained 10,000 inhabitants. The defenses of the city consisted of a chain of forts, at intervals of 800 yards, for a distance of seven miles, both right and left, resting on the Mississippi river, and forming a semi-circle around the city. The rifle pits filled the intervals between the forts. In front of these was a ditch fifteen feet wide and ten feet deep. The works were more formidable than we expected to find them, showing that they were fully prepared to receive us.
As soon, as the enemy discovered us advancing over the hills, they opened on us with their artillery. Our batteries were hurried forward into position, and under their fire we advanced a short distance and halted in a ravine. At 10 A. M., Gen. A. J. Smith ordered all the officers of the Regiment to report at his headquarters. On arriving there, he told them to inform their men that at 2 o'clock P. M. we would storm the rebel works. The news was received by the Regiment in a quiet and serious manner, and the suspense until 2 o'clock was somewhat like that of the culprit awaiting the hour of his execution. Promptly at the hour the signal-gun was fired, and the order came, "Forward, 48th!" We started up the hill, and on reaching the summit we were greeted with shot and shell from the rebel forts; but without faltering, on we went, down into the next ravine, through brush and over fallen trees. Arriving at the foot of a hill, we continued up the narrow valley under the guns of the fort, and drove the rebel outposts into their fortifications, when a halt was ordered, to allow the troops to join us on the left. By the time they made the connection the sun was setting in the west. Our opportunity for taking Vicksburg that day had passed, and we bivouacked for the night.
May 20th, we remained there until 3 P. M., when we moved to the left of our Division. On arriving there, we were ordered across an open field to gain a strong position behind a bluff, still nearer to the rebel works. We went over the field on double-quick, one company at a time, in full range of their artillery and infantry fire. The movement was very successfully executed, and our loss was one color-guard mortally wounded. Adjutant McGill made a narrow escape, with a ball through his cap. From this position we returned the enemy's fire with considerable effect. At 9 P. M. we were relieved by the 11th Wisconsin, and returned to the rear.
The next day, May 21st, was employed in long-range artillery practice and maneuvering for advantageous positions.
May 22d, orders were issued for a general assault along the lines at 11 o'clock A. M. The echo of the signal-gun had scarcely died away, when our brigade was ordered forward to take the fort in our front, situated on a hill, in an angle of their intrenchments, where their guns commanded every approach. Down the ravine we started on double-quick, checking our speed for a moment in a deep gully, to reform our line before facing the fort, whose incessant fire shook the ground at every discharge. Then on we went, up the hill, through the brush and undergrowth, but did not check our speed until the right of the Regiment, in conjunction with the left of the 77th Illinois, reached the fort. Leaping into the ditch, and climbing the parapet, the colors of the 48th Ohio and 77th Illinois were planted on the fort. The rebel gunners surrendered and were hurried to the rear. During this charge Major Moats was mortally wounded in the knee.
We were now exposed to an enfilading fire from the right and left, which was thinning our ranks at a fearful rate. We were left there to contend against great odds, without any assistance whatever. At 4 P. M. the rebels massed their troops on our front, and attacked us with great fury, and re-took the fort, capturing the colors and fifty men of the 77th Ills. Ike Carmin, one of our color guards, with a bayonet-wound in the leg, clung to our flag and saved it from sharing the same fate. This was the signal for a second attack on both sides. Another charge was ordered all along the line. It was a glorious sight to see our troops advancing in plain view over the hills, to our assistance. But as soon as they got within range of the rebel fire, they were mown down and almost annihilated. So destructive was the concentrated fire of the enemy, that not a single man of those sent to reinforce us reached our line. In the meantime, a few spades and shovels had been brought up, with which the Regiment hastily threw up rude entrenchments, from which they kept up an unceasing fire until dark, when the firing ceased and all became quiet. We remained on the battlefield until the town clock in Vicksburg struck the hour of 10 P. M., when we were ordered to retreat, which we accomplished without being discovered by the enemy. Before the engagement commenced, stretcher-bearers were detailed to carry the wounded of the Regiment off the battle-field. They succeeded in removing all the wounded to the rear.
When we retreated we attempted to carry off our dead, but on account of the darkness and the rugged nature of the locality, we had to abandon the undertaking, and leave them where they fell.
The following is an extract from the Cincinnati Commercial, of June 1st, 1863:
"On the left, Gen. McClernand commenced the assault earlier than any other commander. The first advance was made by McClernand's center, Gen. A. J. Smith's Divison of two brigades, commanded by Col. Landrum and Gen. Burbridge. As early as 11 o'clock Col. Landrum's men took a fort, and were in actual possession of it. Gen. Osterhouse, on their left, made a breach in the south side of the works, with his artillery. There were two companies of rebel soldiers in it at the time. One of them ran away, and the other actually burrowed their way through the earth to our men in front, and surrendered as prisoners. Landrum, on obtaining possession of the fort, put a pioneer force at work to throw up earth-works in the rear, so as to bring the guns of the fort to bear upon the rebels. In constructing the fortifications, the rebels left the rear of all the forts open, to give them an opportunity to assail our men, in the event of our success in driving them out. The flags of the 48th Ohio, 77th Illinois and 19th Ky. floated from the inner slope of the parapet from half-past 11 A. M. till 4 P. M. At the latter hour the rebels were seen preparing for a charge, to re-take the fort. An entire brigade was about to be pitted against a few companies. Our men did not receive the support which had been promised them, and were compelled to fall back, leaving the enemy again in possession of the fort. The 48th Ohio acquitted itself very creditably in the affair. The conduct of its officers and men is highly spoken of. I enclose a list of the casualties of the Regiment. * * *
"List of killed and wounded, 48th Ohio: Lieut. Col. Parker, wounded in the face with rifle-ball; Maj. V. H. Moats, wounded in leg; Co. A, Serg't. John Yost, killed; Alonzo Smith, killed; Mahlon Davis, killed; David Woosley, wounded dangerously; Isaac McPherson, wounded dangerously; Isaac Carmin, wounded severely; Co. B, John Cooper, wounded dangerously; Isaac Scott, wounded dangerously; Co. C, Serg't. Charles Weber, killed; Serg't. J. D. Leonard, wounded slightly; Corp. Sam'l Hair, wounded slightly; George Pfister, wounded severely; L. A. Williams, wounded mortally; Co. D, Joseph Balon, killed; Serg't. John Wilson, wounded slightly; Co. E, Carl Hough, wounded severely; Henry Stitchter, wounded severely; Co. F, Lewis Farris, wounded dangerously; John Kead, wounded severely; Thos. O'Borke, wounded severely; Co. G, Serg't. James Sweet, killed; Peter A. Deler, wounded in the head; Co. H, Jacob Davidson, wounded severely; Co. I, Elliott J Bich, killed; John W. Hubbard, killed; Chris. O. Sroffe, killed; Co. K, Elias Conover, wounded slightly; Henry Knob, wounded slightly; W. A. Chaffin, killed. * * * Total, ten killed and twenty-five wounded.
The work entitled, "The Battles for the Union," in giving an account of that charge, says:
"The colors of the 48th Ohio and 77th Illinois were placed on the bastion, and within the next quarter of an hour the brigade of Benton and Burbridge, fired by this example, had carried the ditch of another strong earthwork, while Capt. White, of the Chicago Mercantile Battery, carried forward one of his guns by hand to the ditch, double shotted it and fired into the embrasures."
Gen. Sherman, in his "Memoirs," says:
"The two several assaults made May 22d, on the lines of Vicksburg, had failed, by reason of the great strength of the position, and the determined fighting of its garrison. I have since seen the position of Sevastopol, and without hesitation, I declare that at Vicksburg to have been the more difficult of the two."
May 23d, we occupied our old camp, and but few shots were exchanged between the two armies until the 25th, when the rebels agreed to cease hostilities for two hours in order to permit us to bury our dead and remove our wounded, some of whom were left on the battle-field where they fell. During the truce we proceeded to the position occupied by our Regiment during the assault. The rebel Colonel, in command of the fort on which we planted our flag on the 22d, informed Col. Parker that they had buried all the dead in that vicinity. The battle-field presented a ghastly sight. The dead lay thick, in every conceivable position, on the hill-side beneath the rebel intrenchments. Some of the wounded were still alive, but in a terrible condition, having lain between the contending armies for three days without food, water or medical attention. After the burial parties had performed their sad task, we withdrew from the field, and the firing was resumed on both sides.
Our army lost on the 22d, 3,000 killed and wounded, and nothing accomplished. Gen. Grant became convinced by this time that Vicksburg was too strong to be taken by assault, and therefore wisely concluded to lay a regular siege. The troops were encamped in the numerous ravines. Our Regiment was in a ravine near the R. R. bridge, and within reach of the enemy's guns, but the hills protected us from their direct fire. Nevertheless, stray shots were too numerous to be comfortable. Several men were wounded in their tents, but none fatally in our Regiment.
Our duty was to dig and man one of the rifle-pits, which was within one hundred yards of one of their main forts. To approach these rifle-pits, tunnels were made through the hills, thus connecting the ravines. The details for pickets and for digging rifle-pits, were always sent to their posts and relieved very quietly during the night. In some places we succeeded in digging the rifle-pits to within a few feet of their fort, being protected from their musketry by large bundles of cane, that were kept in front while approaching, the enemy in the meantime trying to get possession of the cane by means of hooks attached to long poles, or destroying them by throwing turpentine-balls and setting them on fire, while our men in return would annoy them by throwing hand grenades and short-fuse shells into their fort, which usually elicited quite a spirited conversation between the combatants.
June 3d, Lieut. Col. J R Parker, having received a leave of absence, went home, leaving Capt. Lindsey in command of the Regiment. - Shortly after, Col. Sullivan arrived and took command. June 22d, Lieut. J. H. Allison, A. D. C. on the staff of Col. Landrum, being sick, Lieut. Montgomery was detailed to take his place during the siege. On the 25th, Capt. F. M. Posegate, of Co. D, resigned.
Gen. McPherson, who had been undermining Fort Hill, had completed it by the 25th, and was then ready to blow up the fort. The troops were therefore placed in the advance rifle-pits, ready to rush into the breach and capture Vicksburg, should he be successful in blowing it up; but the explosion did not result in destroying the works to such an extent as to enable the troops to enter. After the explosion, we were ordered back to our camp.
Our duties were getting more arduous every day, besides being continually under fire, until July 3d, when Gen. Pemberton sent Gen. Bowen and Col. Montgomery, under a flag of truce, with a proposition for the surrender of Vicksburg. They were taken, with their eyes bandaged, to our brigade headquarters, and had a consultation with Gen. Grant, but he would not consent to anything but an unconditional surrender. Nevertheless, he agreed to hold a conference with Gen. Pemberton, to discuss the matter. Accordingly, they met under a tree, between the two armies, who had now ceased firing and were watching with great interest the movements of the Generals. The last proposition made by Gen. Grant was, that they should be paroled, the officers permitted to retain their sidearms and private property, and to stack their arms outside the fortifications. Gen. Pemberton withdrew to consult with his officers, and Gen. Grant issued an order to the troops "that the armistice should continue in force until 8 A. M., July 4th; then, if the enemy did not accept his terms, hostilities would be resumed." But on the morning of July 4th, before the time expired, they raised the white flag, and Vicksburg, after a campaign of over six months, and a siege of forty-eight days, with its immense fortifications, arms, munitions, and 37,000 prisoners, was ours. The entire rebel loss during the Vicksburg campaign in killed, wounded and prisoners, according to "Badeau," was 56,000.
The following vivid description of Vicksburg during the siege, is from the work, "The Battles for the Union:"
"Every day further progress was made in digging and mining, and at length a point was reached where the batteries could send their screaming shells directly to the heart of the city. A reign of terror took possession of the town, and its inhabitants dug themselves caves in the earth, seeking protection against the missiles of destruction which daily and nightly dropped in their midst. Such cannonading and shelling has perhaps scarcely been equaled. It was not safe from behind or before, and every part of the city was alike within range of the Federal guns. * * *
"Porter's gun-boats, with thirteen-inch mortars and one-hundred-pound Parrott guns, safely anchored under the high bank below Vicksburg, sentineled the river above and below. A three-gun battery, on the peninsula opposite, played havoc with the Confederate garrison, burning up their shot-and-shell foundry. While the enemy's forts were being mined, counter-mines were dug by them, and the sound of their picks could be heard through the thin wall of earth which separated the hostile armies.
"For six weeks our batteries never ceased dropping their
shot and shell on the doomed city. Food became scarce, and the
inhabitants grew wan and thin in their narrow dens. At last, despairing
of Johnston's aid in raising the siege, and believing that Grant
was ready for another assault on his works, they hung out the
white flag in front of Gen. A. J. Smith's Division."