Marker from Raymond Battlefield pictured
The Vicksburg Campaign in a Nut Shell – Part II by Morgan Gates
Ok, I lied this going to take more than two posts to half way do this justice…..
………….As a sizable portion of Grant’s Army pursues the fleeing Rebels north, Grant himself, with only a dozen cavalrymen his personal aide and his 12 year old son Fred, turn west toward the Mississippi and the now abandoned (he hopes) Confederate base at Grand Gulf (Grand Gulf was once a thriving small river town, but that day has already passed -- a post for another day). Grant was never one to be overly cautious, but more than once good luck or providence has smiled on him and he arrives to discover Rear Admiral Porter and the Union fleet are already there creating the supply base Grant will need to move toward Vicksburg.
Reconnaissance patrols fan out north and east; those going north find rough terrain and fight a large skirmish with the Rebel rear guard, but those going east find rolling farmland and no resistance. Grant will move his HQ to a house on the Big Black owned by a widow with the unusual name of Sailor Bagnell; there he will spend three days out of sight planning his movement toward Vicksburg. Grant’s critics have often said that he was on a 3 day bender during this time, but the paper trail belies these accusations. He is shifting troops shortening supply lines and preparing to swing his huge army well to the east of Vicksburg so he can strike the rail lines that had saved Vicksburg in December of 1862. His biggest corps John McClernand 13th will swing close to the Big Black River crossings to guard against Rebel incursions to his rear. His least experienced Corp commander 35 year old James McPherson and his 17th Corps swing well to east (out of harm’s way perhaps) and Sherman’s 15th Corps will go right up the middle, at least that’s the plan.
On May 12th the 17th corps plagued by lack of water and choking dust, it hasn’t rained in two weeks and all roads were dirt in those days. Encounters General Gregg (CSA) and 3000 rebel troops supported by 3 pieces of light artillery on the road outside the small central Mississippi town of Raymond. A temperature inversion prevents the dust and gun smoke from dispersing and the battlefield is quickly enveloped in a pall that hides the numbers on both sides. Gregg suffering from lack of proper reconnaissance thinks he is facing only a brigade, McPherson’s inexperience leads him to think he is facing the entire Confederate Army. Grant sitting miles away can tell from the sounds of the artillery that his boy General is not in as much trouble as he thinks he is and ignores McPherson’s pleas for help. McPherson’s experienced subordinates push the battle to its obvious conclusion and the Rebel’s retreat in good order but without stopping to partake of the picnic lunch the ladies of Raymond had prepared for them, the Yanks are happy to take up their slack though and this delay allows Gregg to escape to fight another day.
Grant realizing he has a threat to his rear in Jackson, sends 4 divisions to neutralize the threat, General Joe Johnson (CSA) beats a hasty retreat north leaving only a small rear guard to slow any pursuit. On May 14th William T. Sherman gets his first taste of the pyromania he is infamous for. Meanwhile the rest Grant’s army is converging on Edwards Station, a small plantation stop on the railroad less than 20 miles east of Vicksburg. The Army of the Tennessee, is too large to follow any single road of the day and two divisions (roughly 10,000 men) are on the Raymond-Edwards Road pushing north, two divisions are on the Middle Road moving NW, with 13th Corps commander John McClernand. The 15th Corps commander Sherman has two divisions with him in Jackson and the rest of the Army with 17th Corps commander James McPherson is pushing west down the Jackson Road. Grant is a few miles behind McPherson at Clinton. Lt. General Pemberton (CSA) beset by conflicting orders indecision has belatedly moved out along east on the Jackson Road to try to do something about Grant, and all hell is about to break loose……. (Continued)