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CHAPTER LX.

ILLINOIS IN THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGNS.

1862-1863— Movements on the Mississippi-Battle of Coffeeville,

Holly Springs, Parker's Cro88 Roads, Chickasar Bayou and Arkansas Post.

Topographically considered North America must ever be the home of one people. The destiny of the Mississippi Valley, the repository of the vast resources which past ages have accumulated for the benefit of man, will be the destiny of the continent. The immense river system by which it is drained, having its source in the regions of the remote north, and its outlet in the distant south will, through the agency of commercial intercourse, neutralize the diversity of race, caused by climatic differences and thus prevent the rise of separate nationalities. Further more the wide area thus bound by commercial ties, is not only inseparable but will so dominate in population and power over the continental borderswhich surround it as to extend over them the same institutions and a common government. Should an attempt be made to close the gateways to the Pacific through the Rocky Mountains, there are not elements of power in the region beyond to cope with the force that would be arrayed against it. The St. Lawrence, the principal outlet to the Atlantic, although now subject to foreign jurisdiction, must ultimately become wholly subservient to the great val. ley. Nor is access to the sea through the Mississippi any more likely to be permanently disturbed by a rival power on the south than are its resistless floods to be held by artificial barriers. The great heart of the coutinent with its exhaustless resources must through the vast river systems with which its surface is furrowed, send life sustaining supplies to its most distant extremities.

At least so thought the hardy race of freemen who dwell on the Mississippi and its hundred tributaries, when the rebels attempted to obstruct its navigation, and in their might resolved that its commerce, in common with its waters, should flow undisturbed to the sea. Measures for the accomplishment of this object were first projected by Fremont, and commenced by the formation of the fleet and army under Foote and Grant at Cairo. Subsequently it gave character to the military operations of the West and ended with some of the most brilliant victories of the war.

In erecting defences for the Mississippi the confederate authorities had to make them sufficiently formidable to withstand the attacks of the Union fleet on the one hand, and the operations of the land forces on the other. In the first particular they were far more successful than in the second, as the fate of nearly all their fortified forts was determined by contests between arınies on the field. Columbus, the first position taken by the rebels, although invincible in a naval assault, when uncovered by the capture of Donelson, its guns and garrison were transferred to Island No. 10. Foote with the navy, followed to the same place, but after a bombardment of three weeks, he was unable to prevail against it. Pope's victory on the Kentucky shore, in the meantime, however, rendered it untenable and its munitions were sent to Fort Pillow, situated on Chicasaw bluff, 75 miles above Memphis. This strong. hold withstood a bombardment of six weeks without sustaining serious injury, but at length becoming entangled in the evil fortunes attending the Confederate army at Corinth, it was like the other places unavoidably abandoned.

Commodore Foote, suffering severely in the meantime from a wound received at Donelson, was relieved of his command and Capt. Davis appointed in his place. The latter immediately started in pursuit of the rebels who next filed to Memphis, and on the 5th of June anchored bis squadron above the city and prepared for an engagement the next day. Five boats and two rams constituted his naval force, while the rebels had 7 boats, which in addition to their armament of guns were so constructed as to act as rams. The following morning, as the lofty spires of the city were glittering in the rising sun, the federal feet slowly drifted down the river till that of the enemy was discovered near the western shore. Davis then ordered his boats to steam up the stream to give the men an opportunity to breakfast before going into the fight. The rebels regarding this as a retreat and elated with the hope of an easy victory, immediately started in pursuit, firing round after round as they ad. vanced. The contest now commenced with terrible earnestness, aud in an hour and twenty minutes the entire rebel fleet, except one boat, was either captured or destroyed. Van Dorn, the rebel leader, who sat upon his horse a spectator of the fight, exclaimed: “ It is all over with us," and galloped away. The federal tars, none of whom had been killed, were now ready for breakfast. On the 4th of June, 1862, the fleet proceeded southward to the mouth of White river, which it ascended for the purpose of removing rebel obstructions and opening communications with northwestern Arkansas.

The first movement for opening the mouth of the Mississippi was the occupation of Ship Island in December, 1861. The fol. lowing winter Gen. Butler took charge of the land forces, numbering 8,000 men, and prepared to co-operate with the fleet under Commodore Farragut. The latter arrived at the Island on the 20th of February, 1862, and by great labor got his heavy ships over the bars into the river and commenced ascending its turbid currents. At 3 o'clock on the 24th of April he came within range of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the rebel navy, when 500 cannon opened with deafening roar their ponderous missiles, weaving a fiery net work on the face of the sky, and falling with a thunderous crash into the midst of the opposing forts and fleets. Breasting the furious battle storm the federal squadron continued on its way toward the city of New Orleans, whither it arrived on the 25th to the great astonishment of its rebellious inhabitants. Gen. Butler took immediate possession and a portion of the fleet was sent up the river under Commodore Lee. It was not known what obstructions the enemy had interposed in the long stretch of miles through the confederacy, and the expedition moved slowly and cautiously. Taking possession of Baton Rouge, Natchez and other places, on the 15th of May arrived at Vicksburg and the city at once became famous in the annals of the rebellion.

Only three days before the arrival of Lee, Beauregard had commenced the erection of batteries on the high bluff's overlooking the river. Had he come three days sooner the vast expenditure of treasure and blood which the subsequent reduction of the place cost the country, might have been saved. The work of for. tifying was prosecuted with such energy that when Lee demanded the surrender the rebels were ready to defend it and refused to comply. Concluding that his force was insufficient for the reduction of the works he wated till the 28th, when having received addi. tional boats from New Orleans, he commenced the bombardment. Still the force proved inadequate for the enemy meanwhile had proportionally increased the strength of the fortifications. The seige, nevertheless, was continued till Farragut with the entire fleet of gun and mortar boats, about the middle of June, anchored in the river below the city. Four regiments of infantry under Gen. Williams, also came up up and commenced cutting a canal across the narrow peninsula west of the city that the boats in passing might avoid the batteries located on the channel of the river. The fleet of Commodore Davis next came down the river, and it was determined with the combined force to again attempt the reduction. Accordingly the bombardment was renewed at close range and broadside after broadside was fired into the bat. teries without apparent effect. Although the gunboats were unable to silence them, several succeeded in running by them and joining the fleet abové.

July the 15th the monotony of naval warfare was broken by the appearance of the powerful iron plated ram Arkansas, which steamed down the Yazoo, and after disabling two of the federal gunboats, sought safety under the fortifications. It was now feared the ram might destroy the morter fleet below, and the boats which had passed up the river were ordered to return, and finally on the 27th, the entire squadron withdrew from the city. Farragut fell down the river to New Orleans, while Davis in connection with Curtis, made a successful expedition up the Yazoo. The canal also proved a failure, and Williams retired with his force to Baton Rouge and the 70 days of the Vicksburg seige were at an end. During its continuance some 25,000 shot and shell were thrown into the town by the fleet when it became evident that like the other strongholds on the river above, it would require the co-operation of the land forces to effect its reduction. Let us now see how this was to be effected.

We have seen that after the second battle of Corinth, Ken. tucky and Middle Tennessee became the principal theatres of western military movements, and a large portion of Grant's force was sent to augment the army of Buell and that of his successor, Rosecrans, and hence he found it impossible to co-operate with the naval operations for the opening of the Mississippi. When, however, in the latter part of the year 1862, he could command the requisite number of men, a movement against Vicksburg, the great stronghold of the river, again became the principal military enterprise of the west. The line held at this time by the Union army was the Memphis and Charleston railroad, the right wing resting on Memphis and the left on Corinth. In front and occupying the line of the Yazoo and Tallahatchie its principal tributary, were the forces of Van Dorn and Price, which, during the month of November, were concentrated under Gen. Pemberton. To eliminate this force the real defense of Vicksburg from the numberless bayous and swamps peculiar to the country occupied, was now the problem which Grant had to solve.

He accordingly ordered Sherman, commanding the right wing of the army at Memphis, to fall down the river and operate against the rebel line near Vicksburg, a cavalry force from the trans-Mississippi army to cross the river and menace the railroad connections in Pemberton's rear, while he proposed to press him in front. The cavalry force under Gens. Hovey and Washburne, as arranged, crossed the river at Helena and destroying the railroad, Pemberton was forced to fall back to Grenada 100 miles further south. Grant immediately followed and on the 3d of December, established his headquarters at Oxford, making Holly Springs through which he passed, his principal depot of supplies. As the result of these movements 3 engagements occurred with the enemy, in rapid succession.

Battle of Coffeeville.-After the occupation of Oxford Colonels Dickey and Lee, with the 4th and 7th Illinois, and three other regiments of cavalry, on the 6th day of December, 1862, advanced from Watervalley for the purpose of capturing Coffeeville, situated 11 miles north of Grenada. A short distance from the town they encountered the enemy, and after vainly endeavoring to dislodge him from his position, Col. Lee pushed forward a 10-pounder and opened upon them. A full rebel battery immediately replied and soon after a large force of infantry rose up from the ground where they had been concealed and poured volley after volley into the ranks of the federal skirmishers, compelling them to retire with severe loss. The Union officers, seeing their inability to cope with such a large force prepared to fall back, leaving part of the 4th Illinois to cover their retreat. This small protecting force, however, was immediately driven by five regiments of rebel in. fantry who soon overtook the principal force and a retreating fight commenced. For a distance of three miles the contest was stub. bornly maintained, the retiring force halting at different points, sufficiently long to pour a volley into the ranks of their pursuers and then resume their march. Night at length terminated the work of death and the federals retired without further molestation to their camping ground. The loss of the 4th Illinois in killed, wounded and missing was 17; that of the 7th, 34, and that of the entire force 99. Among the killed was the veteran McCulloch, Lieut. Col. commanding the 4th, who fell at the head of his regiment.

Battle of Holly Springe.-Among a number of other important cavalry expeditions thrown out in different directions, that of Col. Dickey was sent to destroy a portion of the Mobile and Ohio railroad. He left camp with the 7th and a portion of the 4th Illinois cavalry and subsequently joined by some troopers from Iowa, on the 16th and 17th they destroyed the railroad from Okalona to Saltillo, a distance of 34 miles. The force was now ready to return but hearing that there was a large body of rebel cavalry at Pontotoc, Dickey determined to move in that direction and take observations. In the reconnoisance some 22 regiments were discovered which subsequently proved to be the cavalry of Van Dorn who was on his way to capture Holly Springs. The next day the force hastened to return, and without further detention arrived at Oxford and reported the movement of the rebel cavalry to Gen. Grant. The latter immediately divined VanDorn's object and telegraphed Col. Murphy, the commandant of Holly Springs that he would be attacked the next day, and that reinforcements would be sent to him.

As intimated, on the 20th of December the rebel cavalry dashed into town and the infantry guarding the government stores, only 100 in number, were soon overwhelmed and forced to submit. The remaining infantry dispersed in different parts of the town on picket duty, unable to act in concert, were captured in small detachments. The cavalry, 6 companies of the 20 Illinois, were compelled to cut their way through thousands to avoid a similar fate. The rebels had come prepared with canteens filled with turpentine and immediately used it in firing the railroad trains, one of which was laden with cotton. Soon all the railroad buildings, some 30 dwellings, 1,800 bales of cotton, and the great arsenal which the rebels themselves had built, and in which Grant had deposited immense quantities of army supplies, were wrapped in flames. By degrees the conflagration spread to the square where large quantities of powder had been stored, and sud. denly an explosion occurred which shook the earth and tore all the adjoining buildings to fragments. Whiskey was found among the spoils and the rebel soldiery previously intoxicated by victory and now maddened by the effects of spirits, shouted and yelled in unison with the raging elements. It was known to Van Dorn that a number of cotton buyers were in town and squads of cavalry were detailed to go round and conduct them to his headquarters. Each was closely questioned as to his business, then searched, and his money handed over to a receiver. In this manner more than $100,000 were taken from private individuals.*

As Murphy's force of 1,800 men was sufficiently large to defend the place till the arrival of aid, he was severely and justly censured for his culpability. In pleasant contrast with his cowardice was the conduct of the Illinois cavalry, which was thus complimented by the correspondent of the Missouri Democrat: “ Six companies of the 2d Illinois cavalry were completely surrounded in the town by at least as many thousands, and were called on to surrender, to which demand they made reply by dashing on the enemy's forces and nobly cutting their way out. Not a more gal. lant deed has been done during the war. Six hundred against 8,000, and still they hewed their way through them and escaped.”

* Some of the speculators managed to save their funds by placing them in the custody of the ladies with whom they were boarding One gentleman who had arrived in town only the day before, entrusted some $40,000 to his landlady who, although a strong secessionist, faithfully returned it. It is said a number of ladies wore belts during the rebel occupation of the town, containing northern funds amounting in some instances to $50,000, and in no instance was the trust roposed in them betrayed.

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