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THE CAMPAIGNS OF 1863 — VICKSBURG-GETTYSBURG.
PLAN OF THE CAMPAIGN — THE OPENING THE MISSISSIPPI
ARKANSAS Post --GRANT'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST VICKSBURG GRIERSON'S RAID — PORT HUDSON -CHANCELLORVILLE-LEE INVADES MARYLAND- MEADE — GETTYSBURG — THE GETTYSBURG CEMETERY — EVERETT'S ORATION-LINCOLN'S ADDRESS.
GAIN the drama shifts to the fields of contending armies,
and we now approach the turning point in the great Civil War. Up to 1863, although there had been vast expenditures of treasure and of blood, and great successes had been obtained and progress made, yet there had been such severe repulses and grievous disasters experienced by the Union armies, that the hopes of the insurgents of final success were still confident. All the great victories in the West and South West had not opened the Mississippi. In the East, the disastrous campaigns of McClellan and Pope had been followed by the fearfully costly repulse at Fredericksburg.
It is worthy of profound reflection, that not until the President had proclaimed emancipation, and written liberty upon our banners, were those banners crowned with decisive
The proclamation issued January 1863, was the day from which success became a certainty. It was well known to those intimate with Mr. Lincoln, that he regarded the opening of the Mississippi as the blow which would make certain the ultimate triumph of the Union arms. Like the great soldier, General Sherman, he regarded the possession of the Mississippi river as the possession of America. So long as the insurgents held this great water communication, they were not and could not be subjugated. Those familiar with the President knew, that to gain possession of this river had, from the beginning, received his most careful consideration.
The campaigns in the West—the movements against forts Henry and Donelson had been planned by him, and he was determined that another season should not pass without the rebel States being cut in two by the Union army, and the Mississippi cleared of every hostile flag. We have seen how comprehensive the view he had taken of the physical necessity of the Union, as expressed in his annual message in December 1862, when he declared that the territory of the United States was adapted to be the home of “one National family, and no more.” He often dwelt upon these views, and declared that as between the great Lakes and the Gulf there were no natural boundaries; but on the contrary, the configuration of the country rendered disunion impracticable. The navigable streams, from the imperial Hudson to the continental Mississippi ran from North to South. Such, too, were the ranges of the mountains. These considerations made National unity “manifest destiny.” These causes made unity so convenient, nay, so necessary, that it would be impossible to separate the North from the South. Civilization and its wants and necessities had riveted what nature had united. Railroads, and canals, and post roads, the electric telegraph with its connecting wires, had doubly bound our wide territory together.
That impartial history which shall be written when all the partialities and prejudices of the day have passed away, will record without disparagement to other sections, that the Union was saved by the North West. The great river of the republic with its State embracing arms, tributaries extending to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, on the one side, and Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas on the other, were strong enough to hold the Union together. 'The North West never for one moment faltered in the struggle. In the dark hours of the contest, had the President or the North West faltered, all would have been lost.
The rain which falls upon that great basin south of the
Lakes, and between the western slope of the Alleghanies and the Rocky mountains, in extent an Empire, finds its way by tributaries, numerous and vast, into the great Father of Waters, and through its channels to the Gulf, and by the Gulf to the Sea. Through these vast natural channels which God created, and thereby made unity a necessity, the North west would follow with travel and trade, not under treaty, but by indefeasible right, freely, under the same flag. Woe to those who should seek to erect barriers or throw obstacles
in the way.
With these views the President and his military advisers planned the campaign of 1863. To open the Mississippi by taking Vicksburg was the great objective point of the campaign. Mr. Lincoln, during every period of the war, was fully possessed of every important movement. He knew fully the condition of every army, and had a most intelligent appreciation of the difficulties to be encountered, and the chances of success. His room was ever full of maps and plans; and he marked upon them every movement, and no subordinate was at all times so completely the master of the situation as the Commander in Chief. Mr. Lincoln selected
. General Grant to lead what he meant should be, and what was, the decisive campaign in the West. There were those who at that time charged General Grant with habits of intoxication, and sought to shake the confidence of the President in him. “If Grant is a drunkard,” said he, in reply, “I wish some of my other generals would learn where he buys his liquor.”
As the year opened, the President had settled upon two great objective points in his plans of the campaign. First as stated to get complete possession of the Mississippi river and open its navigation, and thus utilize the capture of New Orleans, cutting off the rebel communication with the trans-Mississippi department, and severing the so-called Confederacy, into two parts. Second, to destroy the army of Virginia, and sieze upon the rebel Capital. Let us first follow the standard of Grant in his most difficult enterprise against Vicksburg. General John A. McClernand of Illinois had, in a written communication, early suggested the Miss
issippi campaign, including the capture of Vicksburg, and urged it upon the Government. He had had repeated personal interviews with the President on the subject, and Mr. Lincoln fully appreciated his views, and seconded his purposes.
In January 1863, the army of the Mississippi, under the commands of Generals McClernand and Sherman, acting in conjunction with the fleet under command of Rear Admiral Porter, captured Arkansas Post. This was a brilliant opening of the campaign, and the fruits of the victory were 7,000 prisoners, 8,000 stand of arms, and a large amount of cannon, ordinance and stores. On the 18th of January General Grant went up White River, and held a consultation with Admiral Porter and Generals McClernand and Sherman.
On the 2d of February General Grant arrived in the vicinity of Vicksburg, and assumed command in person. The attack under General Sherman in 1862 had demonstrated the strength of the defensive works of Vicksburg on the North. To get his army below the city, and in its rear, was the immediate object of General Grant. Various means were resorted to. An attempt was renewed to cut a new channel across the bend in front of Vicksburg. This proved a failure. The vicinity of this stronghold, above the city, in its rear, and upon the Louisiana shore,was a net work of bayous, lakes, ponds, and old channels of streams. General Grant spent several weeks in trying to cut and clear out a channel, by which he could, with the fleet and transports, pass around Vicksburg. Some effort was made to cut an opening through the Yazoo pass on the east side of the Mississippi. In these efforts even the persistent Grant was baffled.
A most daring attempt was made in February by Colonel Charles E. Ellet, in the wooden steamer Queen of the West, fitted up as a ram and protected by cotton bales, to destroy the rebel steamer City of Vicksburg, and to run the batteries of the city. He succeeded in striking, but not fatally, the rebel steamer, and demonstrated the practicability of running the batteries by transports. The Queen of the West went down the river, capturing boats and supplies ; entering Red river, she continued her successes, until, on her return, she ran aground and was abandoned by her gallant and enterprising commander. Meanwhile, the persistent and indefatigable Grant was exploring every pass, bayou, lake and water course, with a view of finding a passage below Vicksburg, so as to approach it from the ridge in the
After being often baffled, but never disheartened, General Grant commenced preparations for running his transports and the gunboat fleet below the frowning batteries of Vicksburg. A large fleet of iron-clad gunboats and transports were prepared, protected as far as possible by cotton bales, hay, railroad iron, timber and chains. The night of the 16th of April was selected for the attempt. Everything was in readiness before dark. The plan was that the iron clads should pass down in single file-with intervals between them, and when opposite the batteries should engage them, and then that, under cover of smoke,the transports should endeavor to pass.
The country had been growing impatient of the long delays at Vicksburg.* The cutting of the canals and the
* For a description of the scene which followed, and the brilliant and rapid progress of Grant, to the complete investment and final capture of Vicksburg, I am nuch indebted to Mr. Washburne, at present the oldest member of the House of Representatives, who was ever the staunch and true friend and defender of General Grant, from the time he left his home at Galena, Illinois, to aid in the organization of the Illinois Volunteers, until he fought his way up to the position of Lieutenat General of the armies of the United States, and until he received the final capitulation of Lee. See Washburne's speech in Congress, February 1, 1864, volume 50, Congressional Globe, page 427, from which I make the following extracts :
“It was my good fortune to be with General Grant, and with that noble army, every man of whom is a hero, at the commencement of the expedition which culminated in the taking of Vicksburg. We all know how ill at ease the public mind was last winter, pending General Grant's operations on the lower Mississippi. The expedition by Grenada, the opening of the canal, the opening of the bayous had not succeeded. The country saw all the attempts to flank that stronghold likely to prove abortive, and there was great anxiety. But with unshaken confidence in himself, General Grant pursued the even tenor of his way, and with entire reliance upon the success in the plan finally adopted, and which could not be undertaken until the river and bayous should sufficiently recede to enable him to move. Then, sir, was seen that bold and daring conception which I say is without parallel in all military history. It was to send his army and his transportation by land on the Louisiana side from Milliken's Bend to a point below Vicksburg, and then run the frowning batteries of that rebel Gibraltar, with its hundreds of guns, with his transports, and thus enable him to cross the river below Vicksburg, and get on to