Say What Saturday: Burials After Chickasaw Bayou

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alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
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December 26-29, 1862. While Grant marched south along the Central Mississippi Railroad, Sherman moved down the Mississippi River from Memphis and attacked Vicksburg at Chickasaw Bayou.

Samuel Mitchel was a Confederate private helping to hold the works at the base of the mighty Chickasaw Bluffs when Sherman attacked:

“The woods beyond the field in our front was perfectly blue [with Yankees] and they moved in fine style, huzzaing as they came.”

“They rallied and tried again and again, but only to be driven from the field. Our men never flinched but delivered their fire with a precision that was perfectly appalling to the Federals. They failed in every attempt, but be it said to their credit THEY FOUGHT LIKE MEN.”

The battle and the campaign proved an utter failure for the Union. Sherman lost 1,776 at Chickasaw while the Confederates lost a little over 200.

It was only the beginning, however. Grant shifted his base to the Mississippi River and eventually captured Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.
 

alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
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I was on those bluffs a couple of years ago. What an awful place for an attack. It's hard to imagine what discipline it would take to follow those orders.
Yes indeed. It was bad ground with few options but a head-on assault.

Sherman’s order was pretty blunt: “Tell Morgan to give the signal for the assault; we will lose 5,000 men before we take Vicksburg, and may as well lose them here as anywhere else.”
 
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jackt62

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Sherman was unaware of Grant's repulse after the destruction of his supply base at Holly Springs by Earl Van Dorn's cavalry. The Chickasaw Bayou assault was supposed to be made in conjunction with Grant's planned offensive down the Mississippi Central Railroad to get at Vicksburg from the east. So the failure to capture the Walnut Hill heights above Chickasaw Bayou was a double blow to the attempt to capture Vicksburg in late 1862.
 

lupaglupa

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Sherman was unaware of Grant's repulse after the destruction of his supply base at Holly Springs by Earl Van Dorn's cavalry. The Chickasaw Bayou assault was supposed to be made in conjunction with Grant's planned offensive down the Mississippi Central Railroad to get at Vicksburg from the east. So the failure to capture the Walnut Hill heights above Chickasaw Bayou was a double blow to the attempt to capture Vicksburg in late 1862.
I suppose if you knew for sure that Grant was pressing the CSA troops from behind the assault might have made sense. As it was, just a slaughter.
 

jackt62

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I suppose if you knew for sure that Grant was pressing the CSA troops from behind the assault might have made sense. As it was, just a slaughter.
True enough. Assaulting an entrenched Confederate position on a narrow, swampy front and against artillery emplaced directly in the line of the federal advance was never a real recipe for success.
 
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huskerblitz

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Sherman had knowledge of what happened at Holly Springs and sent telegraphs to Grant to confirm what he had heard, not knowing the lines had been severed. Not knowing, he chose to go with the orders in hand to move against the hills. S. D. Lee also states that had Sherman pressed his attack immediately, he probably could have made the bluffs with little resistance because Sherman was mistaken about the number of fortifications already in place.
 

Coonewah Creek

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The battle and the campaign proved an utter failure for the Union. Sherman lost 1,776 at Chickasaw while the Confederates lost a little over 200.
Even given the lopsided casualties, I guess if you're one of the unlucky 200+ Confederates, you're still just as dead. My great-grandfather's older brother, a member of the 31st Louisiana Infantry, was KIA'd there either the 28th or 29th of Dec, 1862 (the CMSR records are conflicting). IIRC they were deployed in the Indian Mound area of the Confederate defensive line at the time.
 

lelliott19

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Who were the troops opposite the 3rd TN @alan polk ? Mitchell says they were "commanded in person" by Frank P Blair.

Here's a longer snippet from the S C Mitchell memoirs that ends with the SWS quote. I don't think I've ever read a description that paints such a vivid picture of what it must've been like:

There is nothing that smoothes over the roughness of war so much as to have a wounded enemy fall in your hands. We did the best we could for the poor fellows, forgetting for the time that they were our enemies and the invaders and despoilers of our homes....As before said, the rain poured in torrents but above the howling of the storm the prayers and groans of the dying could be heard. There in the water and mud they lay, the dead with their sightless glazed eyes turned up to heaven. Some of them were young and only a few hours before life was before them studded with brightest hopes, and while they lay here in the cold embrace of the great enemy of man, perhaps the prayers of mothers, sisters and wives in the far cold north, and even across the great waters were ascending to heaven in their behalf. We buried them, performing the last rite that one soldier can give another. We fought them while living but we honored the charge that brought them to death....​
 
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huskerblitz

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The 3rd Tennessee occupied the area directly in front of the corduroy bridge, the only easy way to cross the bayou. That would mean they would have seen men from both Blair's and DeCourcey's brigades as they funneled towards that bridge. It's hard to say how many of Blair's men actually made it to the bridge as most were pinned down before the bridge and later taken prisoner.

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alan polk

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The 3rd Tennessee occupied the area directly in front of the corduroy bridge, the only easy way to cross the bayou. That would mean they would have seen men from both Blair's and DeCourcey's brigades as they funneled towards that bridge. It's hard to say how many of Blair's men actually made it to the bridge as most were pinned down before the bridge and later taken prisoner.

View attachment 341091
I was just replying to @lelliott19 saying @huskerblitz was the resident expert on the battle when you posted. So thanks!

Of possible interest, a local newspaper in Vicksburg reported the following on December 30, 1862:

“Four of the five stands of colors captured by our army yesterday were displayed to the gate of the curious in front of Gen. Smith’s headquarters last evening.”

“One belonged to the 29th Missouri, and had the following motto: ‘29th Missouri - From our St. Louis friends.’ This flag was very bloody, and must have been in the hottest of the fight.”

“And there bore the inscription: ‘58th Ohio - E Pluribus Unum,’ with a spread eagle embroidered in the middle. This was a splendid flag, and is very badly torn - a shell having passed through the center.”

“Another is a plain United States flag, with the inscription: ‘13th Illinois,’ and badly mangled.”

“The other belonged to the 31st Missouri, and seems to have been a battle flag without any motto. This one is entirely uninjured The Yankee who carried it must have dropped it while he was changing his base.”

According to @huskerblitz, all these flags represent units of Blair’s division.
 
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KHyatt

Private
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My gggrandfather was in the 127th IL (in Blair's Division if I remember correctly - too lazy to look it up right now) at Chickasaw Bayou. As far as I know it was the regiment’s first 'hot' action after being mustered in at Camp Douglas in September, 1862. I've long thought about how those soldiers spent Christmas contemplating the pending engagement and the desolation they must have felt after their defeat. In the damp swamps that winter, ggrandpa contracted an illness, described only as a lung ailment of some kind, from which he suffered until his death in 1900.
 
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alan polk

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Sherman had knowledge of what happened at Holly Springs and sent telegraphs to Grant to confirm what he had heard, not knowing the lines had been severed.
Just curious. How did Sherman hear of this?

Also, Sherman’s message for confirmation would have had to travel by boat from Chickasaw Bayou back up to Memphis before a finding a Telegraph line. There were no Telegraph lines between Chickasaw Bayou and Memphis - at least of which I know.

Anyway, before the lines were cut and Grant retreated from Holly Springs, as you noted in your post, did Grant originally have telegraph lines from Memphis to Holly Springs, or were messages between Memphis and Holly Springs conducted by courier as he pushed along the Central Mississippi Railroad? It would seem easy for Grant to lay Telegraph lines as he advanced toward Grenada, but I’m not sure. Do you know?
 

huskerblitz

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Just curious. How did Sherman hear of this?

Also, Sherman’s message for confirmation would have had to travel by boat from Chickasaw Bayou back up to Memphis before a finding a Telegraph line. There were no Telegraph lines between Chickasaw Bayou and Memphis - at least of which I know.

Anyway, before the lines were cut and Grant retreated from Holly Springs, as you noted in your post, did Grant originally have telegraph lines from Memphis to Holly Springs, or were messages between Memphis and Holly Springs conducted by courier as he pushed along the Central Mississippi Railroad? It would seem easy for Grant to lay Telegraph lines as he advanced toward Grenada, but I’m not sure. Do you know?
Soldiers informed him of hearing of the raids at Holly Springs when Sherman was en route to Helena, Arkansas. He would have written out a telegram and had it forwarded from that point would be my best estimate. Sherman wrote, "I hardly know what faith to put in such a report but suppose may be the case you will attend to it."
 

huskerblitz

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My gggrandfather was in the 127th IL (in Blair's Division if I remember correctly - too lazy to look it up right now) at Chickasaw Bayou. As far as I know it was the regiment’s first 'hot' action after being mustered in at Camp Douglas in September, 1862. I've long thought about how those soldiers spent Christmas contemplating the pending engagement and the desolation they must have felt after their defeat. In the damp swamps that winter, ggrandpa contracted an illness, described only as a lung ailment of some kind, from which he suffered until his death in 1900.
The 127th was with David Stuart near the Indian Mound on the right side of the battlefield.
 
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huskerblitz

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Just curious. How did Sherman hear of this?

Also, Sherman’s message for confirmation would have had to travel by boat from Chickasaw Bayou back up to Memphis before a finding a Telegraph line. There were no Telegraph lines between Chickasaw Bayou and Memphis - at least of which I know.

Anyway, before the lines were cut and Grant retreated from Holly Springs, as you noted in your post, did Grant originally have telegraph lines from Memphis to Holly Springs, or were messages between Memphis and Holly Springs conducted by courier as he pushed along the Central Mississippi Railroad? It would seem easy for Grant to lay Telegraph lines as he advanced toward Grenada, but I’m not sure. Do you know?
To be more precise, it would be Friars Point on Dec. 21 that Sherman first got word of the reports. So the lines would have been at Helena? Honestly, I'm not that knowledgeable to where telegraph lines were located at this point or exactly which ones the Union would have cut and which one Van Dorn's raid had cut. In either case, that was one of the reasons given that Sherman continued on and went with the orders he had in-hand.

And remember, Sherman was also working against the clock because he knew McClernand was coming to take over.
 

KHyatt

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The 3rd Tennessee occupied the area directly in front of the corduroy bridge, the only easy way to cross the bayou. That would mean they would have seen men from both Blair's and DeCourcey's brigades as they funneled towards that bridge. It's hard to say how many of Blair's men actually made it to the bridge as most were pinned down before the bridge and later taken prisoner.

View attachment 341091
Can you share a link to the rest of this map? I'm looking for my ancestor's regiment, the 127th Il.
 
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huskerblitz

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Can you share a link to the rest of this map? I'm looking for my ancestor's regiment, the 127th Il.
The regiment isn't listed by name but you can see where Stuart was positioned below on Dec. 29. The regiment, as you can tell, was in the rear and not really engaged fully in the battle.

December 29 - Indian Mound.jpg
 

Seduzal

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Yes indeed. It was bad ground with few options but a head-on assault.

Sherman’s order was pretty blunt: “Tell Morgan to give the signal for the assault; we will lose 5,000 men before we take Vicksburg, and may as well lose them here as anywhere else.”
.

Funny isn’t it that Sherman knew that his losses were going to be high before the battles even starts! Just wondering ‘what if‘ You were a soldier going into that kind of battle and some how you knew that you would KIA..
Feelings?
 
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