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Grant felt that he could have taken Columbus soon after the seizure of Paducah, and more than once asked permission to do so, but Fremont apparently disapproved. At any rate, in a letter to his sister, dated October 25th, 1861, Grant writes:
“As to my not taking Columbus, there are several reasons for it which I understand perfectly and could make plain to any one else, but do not feel disposed to commit the reasons to paper."
The Confederates soon fortified Columbus so strongly that they were accustomed to speak of it as the ' Gibraltar of the West”-the same name they afterwards gave to Vicksburg: Nevertheless on November 6th Grant attacked Belmont, on the Mississippi opposite Columbus. Grant knew that Belmont could not be held so long as the Confederates were in Columbus, for their guns covered Belmont, but he was successful in the object of his attack, which was to prevent the enemy from sending forces into Missouri to cut off an expedition sent there by Grant. Grant's horse was killed under him, and he writes to his father: “It was my bay horse (cost me $140) that was shot. I also lost the little pony, my fine saddle and bridle, and the common one. What I lost cost about $250.”
Two days after the battle General Halleck replaced Fremont in command of the Department of Missouri. Grant was now given command of the District of Cairo, which was enlarged and in his own opinio was the most important district in the department.
Events now crowded fast upon the scene to make Belmont and all that had gone before it seem of no consequence. Unable to make the Ohio River their front line, the Confederates established defensive positions in southern Kentucky, from Columbus on the Mississippi to Cumberland Gap in the Alleghanies. At the weakest spot in this line, where it crossed the Tennessee and the Cumberland rivers, the Confederates built fortresses, hoping to block Federal gunboats on these rivers as they had done on the Mississippi. On the Tennessee was Fort Henry, and on the Cumberland was Fort Donelson, about twelve miles away. Both forts were in Tennessee, just below the Kentucky border. Grant repeatedly beseeched Halleck in vain for permission to attack these forts. Finally the start up the rivers was made on February 2, 1862. There has been much discussion as to who originated the plan, but as Colonel Preston Johnston says in the life of his father, Albert Sidney Johnston, “Grant made it, and it made Grant.” Sherman, Buell and Grant had all urged it upon Halleck, but McClellan seems to have felt that the attack should be delayed until after eastern Tennessee had been occupied.
Grant had a force of 17,000 men, embarked on transports and escorted by seven gunboats under Commodore A. H. Foote. The success of the movement was due to its promptness, John Fiske says rather tartly, “as is usual in warfare, in which more strikingly than in any
other pursuit in life we see the truth of the adage that time is_money.'
General Tilghman, commanding Fort Henry,, saw that he was doomed, and sent most of his men to reinforce Fort Donelson. He made an admirable bluff of defending Fort Henry, and after a short bombardment by the gunboats, he surrendered Fort Henry, with only ninety-six men, on February 6th.
Fort Donelson presented a vastly more difficult problem. It stood on a plateau near the great bend of the Cumberland River, about one hundred feet above the shore line. The position was naturally a strong one, and had been greatly strengthened by fortifications. There was the further difficulty that Hickman Creek, to the north of the fort, had overflowed its banks and created an impassable water barrier on that side. Grant had hoped to attack on the 8th, but it was not until the 13th that investment of the fort was completed. On the 15th the Confederates made a sortie with the intention of cutting their way out. So successful was this attack, which demoralized McClernand's division to the south of the fort, that General Pillow, flushed with victory, proceeded to attack Lew Wallace's division in the hope of turning the whole Federal position. This was his mistake. Had he kept to his original intention, most of his force could have cut their way out, but the fort would have been lost. Grant, perceiving the slowness of the Confederate advance, ordered Wallace at the center, and Charles F. Smith, on the left, to counter-attack. Both commanders succeded. The Confederates were not merely driven back into their works, but lost about 2,000 men in the day's fighting. During the night, after a council of war, Generals Pillow and Floyd turned over the command of the fort to General Simon B. Buckner, and saved their own skins by escaping up the river in a small boat. At daybreak Buckner sent a message to Grant to request terms of surrender. Grant replied in the message which made him a national hero: “No terms but unconditional surrender. I propose
move immediately upon your works.” Buckner lamented that such treatment was “unchivalrous”, but submitted, giving Grant 15,000 prisoners, with 65 cannon and 17,000 muskets.
Measured purely by its physical dimensions, this was the greatest military achievement that the American continent had yet witnessed. Its strategic importance was not limited by its mere size. It smashed the center of the Confederate first line of defense, and laid open the two great rivers far intó Alabama. Meanwhile Thomas was driving back the enemy to Nashville and beyond. A week after Buckner's surrender, a part of Buell's army was in Nashville. The retreat at these points compelled Polk to fall back on the Mississippi from Columbus to Corinth. Thus practically at a single blow the first defense line of the Confederacy collapsed.
Fort Donelson, soon followed by the battle of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing, definitely
established two facts—first, that the Confed- fallen, not because Grant had attacked them, erates were on the defensive in this theater of but because his victories on the Tennessee and operations, and second, that one or two brilliant the Cumberland made the Mississippi untenoperations would not end the war. Grant able. Thus Columbus had fallen because of felt certain of the second fact after Shiloh. the surrender at Fort Donelson. Corinth, Then at Corinth it was proved that the ground Island No. 10, Memphis, all fell because of the lost by the Confederates could not be regained. victory at Shiloh. Vicksburg might have been Corinth was a keystone in their defensive system. taken by the same strategy, had it not been for After the Confederates failed to retake it in Nathan B. Forrest, who by one of the neatest October, Grant felt that he was strong enough raids of the war, cut the railroad across Tennesto hold all the ground he had won.
see by which Grant received his supplies. At the same time Van Dorn dashed around Grant's
rear with 3500 cavalry-every horse Pemberton VICKSBURG BECOMES THE KEY
had-and captured Grant's base of supplies at TO THE MISSISSIPPI
Holly Springs. Cut off from the rest of the
world, without stores and without a railroad To get the proper perspective of the Vicksburg
to supply new ones, there was nothing for campaign, it is necessary to retrace our steps Grant to do but retreat the wearysome eighty a few months. Almost immediately after the
miles from Oxford to Grand Junction, on the battle of Shiloh in April, it became clear to
Memphis-Corinth line. He was even unable Beauregard that he would be unable to hold
to apprise Sherman of the retreat, so that Corinth. Before the end of the month he had
Sherman's Mississippi River expedition, unsupordered the construction of fortifications at
ported by land forces, met a grievous defeat Vicksburg, which had hitherto been unfortified.
at Chickasaw Bluffs. Thus the year 1862 At this time, Halleck, with all the available
came to a close. Federal forces, over 100,000 men, was advancing upon Corinth, and Farragut was passing During February and March, 1863, Grant the forts below New Orleans. When was attempting the capture of Vicksburg by Farragut's advance division of gunboats two other plans. One of these was to find reached Vicksburg, May 18th, the a passage, by digging a canal, whereby his supply fortifications were well under way, strong
ships might pass below Vicksburg without enough to discourage the Commodore. In coming in range of the fortress. The other spite of urgent orders from Washington, plan was to find a passage through the labyrinth Farragut alone was unable to take Vicksburg, of bayous to the north of Vicksburg, and thus which now remained the only Confederate come down upon the rear of the city. Both of stronghold on the Mississippi. Halleck stated these plans met gigantic difficulties, and were that the weakened condition of his forces rend- doomed to fail. ered it impossible for him to detach any troops
These early months of 1863 covered the to co-operate with Farragut at Vicksburg, and
McClernand intrigue, when that general was the golden opportunity slipped out of the
endeavoring to forward his own interests. Federal hands. In a few short weeks, strongly reinforced, the Confederates regained their
Through his pre-war friendship with President
Lincoln, added to his genuine ability, Mchold on about 300 miles of the river. Between
Clernand had risen to high command. After Port Hudson and Vicksburg their hold was
Sherman's defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs, he had unshaken, and between these two fortresses
replaced that officer, and he was itching to do was the mouth of the Red River, the great highway into the Trans-Mississippi granary
great things, if only Grant would let him. of the Confederacy
The Chicago Historical Society has a letter
written by Grant on March 23rd to Major After Halleck's departure for Washington in
General Hurlbut, which contains this reference July to assume the position of commander in to McClernand: chief, Grant was greatly handicapped by his Gen. McClernand has made application chief's orders to hold various widely separated for the 18th Ill. regiment. If you can send points, and it was not until October, when
it as well as not you may do so. As they reinforcements in response to new levies were
are mounted, however, and no more mountpromised, that he felt strong enough to take
ed men are required here, it may not be the offensive. With his forces properly con- advisable to send it. Feeling every decentrated he wrote to Halleck on October 26th
sire to gratify Gen. McClernand in every for permission to abandon Corinth, destroy the
possible way consistent with the good railroad around it, and move his forces against
of the service, I leave this to you with Vicksburg by way of the Mississippi Central
the understanding that McClernand can Railroad. Confusing and contradictory orders
send you a very poor new regiment in from Washington delayed Grant for a month,
place of the 18th. so that it was November 24th before the movement began.
Grant concludes the letter with a characteristic
paragraph which is well worth quoting: It is interesting to note that the first plan of the campaign against Vicksburg, like Grant's I may not want Lauman's Division at previous successful operations along the all, but if I do send for it it will be in an Mississippi, was in essence a flanking operation. emergency, and will want it to move with One by one the great forts on the river had the greatest possible promptness, leaving
baggage in charge of details from each regiment to follow.
Meantime weary weeks were dragging by, and Grant seemed as far as ever from taking Vicksburg: . The North was getting impatient. There had been the terrible defeat of Burnside at Fredericksburg, and Rosecrans' heavy losses at Stone River accomplished nothing, and Grant, so the critics said, was wasting precious moments digging ditches. Fortunate it was that Lincoln could say: ''I rather like this man; I think we'll try him a little longer.”
Grant now adopted the most audacious plan he had yet tried. He determined to move his forces, still on the west bank of the Mississippi, to a point below Vicksburg, while the gunboats ran the batteries of the fort. His generals said it was sheer madness. But Grant's habit was to listen to what they said, and then do whatever he thought best. On this occasion he carried out his plan, but it was not until April 29th that the advance corps, after a month's splashing through the Louisiana swamps, reached the Mississippi again at the little hamlet of Hard Times, opposite the fortress of Grand Gulf. The next step was to cross the river.
At Grand Gulf the attempt failed, but at Bruinsburg, six miles below, it succeded. Twelve miles from the river, at Port Gibson, the advancing Federals, McClernand's corps and part of McPherson's corps, were attacked. They swept the Confederates from the field and entered Port Gibson the next morning, May 1, in triumph.
scrawled a penciled note to Sherman, (it now belongs to the Chicago Historical Society):
Near Baker's Creek, Miss.
May 16, 1863.
We met the enemy about four miles east of Edwards Station and have had a desperate fight. The enemy were driven off and are now in full retreat. I am of the opinion that the battle of Vicksburg, has been fought. We must be prepared, however, for whatever turns up.
McClernand and McPherson are in full pursuit and will continue until night closes
I want you to advance as far as possible tonight and start early in the morning again. When opposite Bolton turn north and get on to the Vicksburg road north of the railroad and follow that.
We took today about 1500 prisoners and three batteries. Loss in killed and wounded heavy on both sides. Get to Black river as soon as possible.
Maj. Gen. Although Grant did not know it, this order to Sherman actually cut off the line of retreat which General Joseph Johnston was urging on Pemberton. At midnight Grant penciled another letter to Sherman (this, too, is in the Society's collection): Gen.
Our advance is beyond Edwards Station. All start as soon as it is light enough to see in the morning. The enemy have lost most severely, probably from 7 to 10 thousand killed, wounded and missing, besides large numbers were undoubtedly cut off from getting back across Black river the way they came. Your moving north of the railroad may enable you to get across at Bridgeport whilst the enemy are engaged at the bridge.
Blair has been well up today to the right of A. J. Smith. I have given him instructions for his movements in the morning and notified him that he would probably find you at Black river, where he would receive further instructions from you. The number of prisoners taken today will probably reach 3,000. Killed and wounded about 2,000 on each side. The enemy loss may be greater.
Your trains are up with provisions, and I supposed you would come in contact with them about where you turned from the southern Vicksburg road. Can you send some one to take a few loads of prisoners?
U. S. GRANT.
VICKSBURG Must Fall
This was the criticial moment in Grant's career. The enemy was surprised and somewhat demoralized. Grant's army,
on the other hand, had reached the high ground east of the river, and had taken one of the strongest outposts of Vicksburg. Should Grant adhere to his original plan and establish himself at Port Gibson, giving aid meanwhile to General Banks in the reduction of Port Hudson? Banks himself forced the decision by sending word that he could not reach Port Hudson until May 10. A delay of ten days would give the enemy in Vicksburg time to reorganize, too great an advantage to overcome later. Grant determined to move at once. To do so he cut himself off from his base, determined to feed his troops on whatever they could forage. As soon as Halleck heard of the plan, he telegraphed Grant to return and help Banks, but Grant was already out of reach of the telegraph. The risk he was taking had no precedent in modern warfare. Had he failed, the destruction of his army would have been almost inevitable.
As it was, Halleck received the news on the 11th. On the 12th Confederates were defeated at Raymond, on the 14th at Jackson, and on the 16th at Champion's Hill. Champion's Hill made it practically certain that Vicksburg must fall. Shortly after the battle Grant
Siege AND SURRENDER
At 8 a.m. on the 17th McClernand's corps reached the bridge over the Big Black River which Grant mentioned in this letter. Here a force of 5,000 men had been stationed by Pemberton. In less than an hour a third of them were captured and the rest in flight towards Vicksburg. But the bridge was burned, and Grant's forces were delayed a day. Had McClernand succeeded in getting across the bridge, Vicksburg would probably have fallen the same day.
Head Quarters, Dept. of the Tenn.
Near Vicksburg, May 21st, 1863. Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, Comdg. 15th Army Corps. Gen.
The advance pickets near the Jackson road in front of McPherson's Corps report massing of troops since dark in their front, and that the rebels are coming outside of their works. This would indicate a night attack. Notify your command and be prepared, if any unusual commotion should be heard towards the center, to take advantage of it and go into the rebel works and fall upon the enemy's flank and rear. A night attack would certainly indicate, I think, a disposition to cut out.
On the 18th Sherman moved to the northwest, so that he was about halfway between Vicksburg and Haines Bluffs, but not close enough to the Mississippi to prevent a precipitate retreat from the latter point. All the northern approaches to Vicksburg, which Grant had coveted so long, were now in his hands. When Sherman met him that morning he said to Grant: ""Until this moment I never thought your movement a success. But this is a campaign. This is a success, if we never take the town.” And it is recorded that Grant took out a fresh cigar and said not a word.
So demoralized did the Confederates seem at Champion's Hill that Grant first believed he could take Vicksburg by storm. Visitors to the Society's exhibition in commemoration of the Grant centenary may see the original order for the attack on the 19th, written in pencil by General Rawlins:
But the failure of Grant's attack on the next day made it clear that only a siege could take Vicksburg. However demoralized the Confederates may have been outside the defenses, once inside their morale improved, and they resisted valiantly. The siege was long and arduous, with endless mining, countermining and bombardments. Pemberton husbanded his ammunition and food, but it was only a question of time before he must surrender if no relief came from the outside, or if he could not cut his way out. Finally on July 3rd, after counseling with his division commanders, he decided that it was impossible to attempt the evacuation of the city, and that surrender
inevitable. Accordingly he sent one of his officers (General Bowen) with a flag of truce, to propose that three commissioners be appointed by each side to arrange
Grant replied that he did not favor the appointment of commissioners, and that his only terms were unconditional surrender. He did send word, however, that Pemberton might see him that afternoon at 3 o'clock. The afternoon conference resulted in no agreement, except that Grant was to formulate his terms in detail, and forward them to Pemberton at 10 o'clock that night. Here is the text of the letter, written entirely in Grant's hand.
Head Quarters, Dept. of the Tenn.
Corps commanders will push forward carefully and gain as close position as possible to the enemy works until 2 o'clock p. m. At that hour they will fire three volleys of artillery from all the pieces in position. This will be the signal for a general charge of all the corps along the whole line.
When the works are carried, guards will be placed by all Division commanders to prevent their men from straggling from their companies.
By order of MAJ. Gen. U.S. GRANT.
Asst. Adjt. Genl.
Head Quarters, Dept. of the Tenn.
Near Vicksburg, July 3rd, 1863. Lt. Gen. J. C. Pemberton, Comdg. Confed. Forces, Vicksburg, Miss. Gen.
In conformity with agreement of this afternoon, I will submit the following proposition for the surrender of the City of Vicksburg, public stores, etc. accepting the terms proposed, I will march in one Division as a guard and take possession at 8 a. m. tomorrow. As soon as rolls can be made out and paroles signed by officers and men you will be allowed to march out of our lines, the officers taking
The attack was a costly failure, as was a second, even more desperate one, on the 22nd. On the 21st Grant had written to Sherman (this letter is also in the Gunther collection):
with them their side arms and clothing, warded him liberally. The money which and the Field Staff and Cavalry officers poured in upon him it was his delight to spend one horse each. The rank and file will be
in the acquisition of historical objects. Through allowed all their clothing, but no other
fifty years of such effort he built up a collection property.
whose variety is no less amazing than its bulk If these conditions are accepted, any is impressive. On the latter point it is suffiamount of rations you may deem necessary cient to say that over seventy truck loads were can be taken from the stores you now have, required to transport it boxed from the wareand also the necessary cooking utensils house to Mr. Gunther's building. As for preparing them. Thirty wagons, also, two horse or mule teams to count as one,
variety, it may be noted that the writer, after will be allowed to transport such articles
spending four days surveying the collection, as can not be carried along.
came away feeling that he had not yet gained
as yet a bird's-eye view of it. There are The same conditions will be allowed to
seemingly thousands of prints and other all sick and wounded officers and soldiers
thousands of autographs and other manuas fast as they become able to travel. The
scripts. While chiefly devoted to Americana paroles for these latter must be signed however whilst officers are present authorized
there are many items of European origin, and to sign the roll of prisoners.
some even from other continents. One might
write almost endlessly concerning individual I am Gen., Very respectfully,
items in the collection, but we content ourselves Your obt. svt. U. S. Grant,
with mentioning a few of the more interesting Maj. Gen.
specimens. Even such mention will suggest to some extent the wide-spread net which Mr.
Gunther set for historical treasures. The This is one of the greatest relics of the Civil
Father of his Country is represented by a War. It marks the climax of Grant's military
duplicate copy of the famous will, authenticated career, for never in subsequent campaigns did
by the signature of Washington on each page; he rise higher as a tactician than in these months before Vicksburg. Fort Donelson,
of equal interest to many is the seal with which
he closed his letters. The first patent ever Shiloh, then Vicksburg—they mark a steady
issued; the letter of Grant to Pemberton prodevelopement to a point which placed Grant
posing terms for the surrender of Vicksburg; among the great commanders of history. When the Confederate forces marched out of Vicksburg Treaty of Greenville; the document transferring
the manuscript copy of the negotiations for the on the morning of July 4, 1863, the death-kneli
Louisiana from Spain to France, and the similar of the Confederacy had sounded. Coming almost at the very moment of Gettysburg, it
one transferring it from France to the United transformed the character of the war. There
States; the pass given by Benedict Arnold to
Major Andre when he was seeking to betray was still desperate fighting to come, but it
West Point to the British; together with its sad was the fighting of men who saw ultimate defeat, but men who were determined to fight
sequel, the report of the board of officers to until the end, until nothing should be left for
Washington recommending that Major Andre which to fight.
be put to death-all these and hundreds of other papers rouse the envy of the collector. Of museum objects we note the table on which Grant drafted the terms of surrender atAppomat
tox; the bed on which Lincoln died, and the THE CHARLES F. GUNTHER
carriage in which he was wont to take the air; COLLECTION
the compass used by Washington, his camp
dishes and some of his Mount Vernon pewter; By M. M. Quaife
the compass used in laying out the streets of
downtown Chicago. Mr. Gunther was not In all its years of useful service, it is prob- particularly noted as a collector of books, yet ably safe to say, the Chicago Historical Society he succeeded in acquiring some surprisingly has had no other collection in its building even interesting volumes.
In his collection may be remotely approximating in importance the one seen Waldseemuller's Cosmographiae Introbuilt up by the late Charles F. Gunther, which ductio, wherein the name America was first it is endeavoring to acquire by appealing to the proposed for the New World. Probably the generosity and civic patriotism of the citizens oldest existing speciment of an American book of Chicago.
may be seen here, followed by many others
dating from the sixteenth century. Some of To paraphrase the poet, “man moves in a our readers may learn with surprise that these mysterious way his wonders to perform.” Mr. books were being printed in the city of Mexico Gunther was a plain, unassuming man, of half a century before John Smith came to ordinary education, as unpromising a worker Jamestown, and full seventy-five years before in the historical field, apparently, as one could the Pilgrims cast anchor in Plymouth harbor. have found in a long day's search. He possessed, The acquisition of this collection by the Chicago however, a genius for making and market- Historical Society can hardly fail to promote ing candy, and for this service the world re- the historical interest of the entire west.