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Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5

The battle of the next day (July 2) was indecisive. General Sickles, on the Federal left, having advanced to occupy a lower intermediate range of hills, lying between those occupied by the two armies, was pushed back with heavy loss to the true Federal position on the Cemetery ridge, whence he could not be dislodged. Ewell, however, who held the Confederate left, advancing in great force, wrested a portion of that ridge, to the south-east of the town, from Slocum's corps. All the efforts of the Confederates, however, against the Federal right, which abutted on a hill, called Round Top Hill, rising above the general level of the ridge, and regarded by Meade as the key of the position, were unavailing. Both armies bivouacked on the field and prepared for the struggle of the following day. It was apparent that unless Lee could dislodge the Federals from their strong position, he must himself retreat. Why he made no attempt to turn it, does not appear; that such a manœuvre was feasible, and was apprehended by the Federal commanders, we know from what Hancock wrote to Meade on the 1st - that " the position [at Gettysburg] was good, but liable to be turned by way of Emmitsburg." Emmitsburg lies to the south of Gettysburg, between it and Washington; and a turning movement in that direction must have alarmed Meade for his communications. But whatever may have been his motives, Lee decided on attacking the position in front, and made his preparations accordingly. During the forenoon of the 3rd, there was little beyond firing between the outposts; but, about one o'clock, Lee, having massed more than a hundred guns on his right centre, where were the divisions of Hill and Longstreet, opened a tremendous cannonade on the Federal left; after which, between three and four o'clock, he ordered a general advance of Longstreet's corps, with Pickett's Virginians leading, to charge and carry the hill. The charge was made with the utmost gallantry; but, after a desperate struggle, it appeared that the advantage of their position, aided by the rude abattis and piles of stones which they had thrown up, enabled the Federals to hold their own, and to hurl back the assailants, with fearful loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Slocum also, in the course of the day, recovered the portion of the ridge which had been wrested from him by Ewell. Thus the entire Federal position remained intact at the close of the day, and the battles of Gettysburg ended in a decisive victory for the Federal cause. An account by an eye-witness of the great charge and its result is so strikingly told, that we subjoin it here: -

" The great desperate final charge came at four. The rebels seemed to have gathered up all their strength and desperation for one fierce convulsive effort, that should sweep over and wash out our obstinate resistance. They swept up as before; the flower of their army to the front, victory staked upon the issue. In some places they literally lifted up and forced back our lines; but that terrible position of ours! - wherever they entered it, enfilading fires from half a score of crests swept away their columns like merest chaff. Broken and hurled back, they easily fell into our hands; and, on the centre and left, the last half-hour brought more prisoners than all the rest.

" So it was along our whole line; but it was on the 2nd Corps that the flower of the rebel army was concentrated; it was there that the heaviest shock beat upon, and shook, and even sometimes crumbled, our line.

"We had some shallow rifle-pits, with barricades of rails from the fences. The rebel line, stretching away miles to the left in magnificent array, but strongest here - Pickett's splendid division of Longstreet's corps in front, the best of A. P. Hill's veterans in support - came steadily, and as it seemed resistlessly, sweeping up. Our skirmishers retired slowly from the Emmitsburg road, holding their ground tenaciously to the last. The rebels reserved their fire till they reached this same Emmitsburg road, then opened with a terrific crash. From a hundred iron throats, meantime, their artillery had been thundering on our barricades.

"Hancock was wounded; Gibbon succeeded to the command - approved soldier, and ready for the crisis. As the tempest of fire approached its height, lie walked along the line, and renewed his orders to the men to reserve their fire. The rebels - three lines deep - came steadily up. They were in point-blank range.

" At last the order came! From thrice six thousand guns there came a sheet of smoky flame, a crash, a rush of leaden death. The line literally melted away; but there came the second, resistless still. It had been our supreme effort - on the instant we were not equal to another.

" Up to the rifle-pits, across them, over the barricades - the momentum of their charge, the mere machine strength of their combined action, swept them on. Our thin line could fight, but it had not weight enough to oppose to this momentum. It was pushed behind the guns. Right on came the rebels. They were upon the" guns - were bayoneting - the gunners were waving their flags above our pieces.

" But they had penetrated to the fatal point. A storm of grape and canister tore its way from man to man, and marked its track with corpses, straight down their line! They had exposed themselves to the enfilading fire of the guns on the western slope of Cemetery Hill: ' that exposure sealed their fate.

" The line reeled back - disjointed already - in an instant in fragments. Our men were just behind the guns. They leaped forward upon the disordered mass; but there was little need for fighting now. A regiment threw down its arms, and, with colours at its hoad, rushed over and surrendered. All along the field smaller detachments did the same. Webb's brigade brought in 800, taken in as little time as it requires to write the simple sentence that tells it. Gibbon's old division took fifteen stand of colours. Over the fields the escaped fragments of the charging line fell back; the battle there was over."

The loss on both sides in this series of battles was very heavy. Meade reports his loss in killed and wounded as exceeding 16,000; in missing as exceeding 6,000 - these were mostly prisoners taken on the first day's battle. Lee made no return of his losses; they are estimated by Mr. Greeley at 18,000 in killed and wounded, and 10,000 in prisoners.

Lee held his ground during the 4th, and Meade, one-fourth of whose army was dead or disabled, judged it wiser not to assume the offensive. On the 5th, the Confederates began to retreat. Heavy rains impeded their march; the Federals put their columns in pursuit, with no great vigour indeed, but so as to overtake and capture hundreds of exhausted and famished Confederates, whom the unwonted sense of failure had depressed and demoralised. The Potomac, rising in flood, carried away the bridge which Lee had caused to be thrown over it at Williamsport; and while he was still on the northern side of the river, taking measures to restore the bridge, Meade with his victorious army was upon him. Another desperate battle seemed to be imminent. But Meade called a council of war on the 12th, the opinion of which was adverse to attacking; and, on the night of the 13th, Lee, having replaced the bridge, brought his army over with little loss, and was again in comparative safety in Virginia.

Bad news awaited him here - no less than the fall of Vicksburg, the stronghold on the Mississippi which had so long resisted the Federal arms; the capture of Jackson, the state capital of Mississippi; and the hopeless collapse of the Confederate power in all that region. By the exercise of what undaunted perseverance General Grant, contending against all kinds of natural obstacles as well as against an active and powerful enemy, had by slow degrees accomplished this immense result, we must now briefly explain.

Vicksburg, perched on a high rolling bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi, about midway between the confluence of the Ohio and the sea, in the midst of a rich cotton-growing country, and in direct communication by rail with Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, was the natural centre and chief citadel of the Confederacy. Its natural strength had been enormously increased by extensive and well-planned fortifications; its powerful batteries commanded the river; and while it was in the possession of the Confederates, the Federal power, though supreme both on the upper and the lower course of the river, could not be said to have the complete control of the Mississippi. Grant, therefore, whose department of Western Tennessee had, after his successes at Forts Henry and Donelson and elsewhere in that state in 1862, been enlarged so as to include the state of Mississippi, directed his thoughts from an early period to the reduction of this important stronghold. In the last month of 1862, he was preparing to advance on Jackson, as the first step towards his object, when the surprise and destruction of his depot of arms and stores at Holly Springs, in Northern Mississippi, by the Confederate General Van Dorn (December 20), disabled him for a time from any forward movement. An attempt was made about the same time by General Sherman and Admiral Porter, who were stationed with a considerable body of troops and a fleet of war-steamers at Milliken's Bend, a point some twenty miles above Vicksburg, to storm the defences of the place from the north. Dropping down the river to mouth of the Yazoo (a considerable stream which meanders at the foot of the bluffs on which the fortress stood, and then joins the Mississippi), they steamed up that liver some miles, and then landed the troops. Sherman led his men gallantly to the assault of the bluffs, but there was a sluggish marshy stream, Chickasaw Bayou, which had first to be crossed under fire, and the difficulty proved to be insurmountable.

Sherman lost 2,000 men in this fruitless expedition, and returned (January 2, 1863) to his former quarters at Milliken's Bend.

Various other attempts were made, and met with the like ill success. Vicksburg stands on the convex side of a great bend of the river, and it was thought that a canal might be cut across the chord of this bend, down which the " Father of Waters " might be induced to flow, so as to leave the channel dry in front of the fortress, and render its batteries innocuous. A hose of negroes was collected, and set to this work. It had made some progress; but the Mississippi scorned to be thus dictated to, and, rising in a sudden flood, drowned out the excavators, washed away their embankments, and utterly baffled the enterprise. An attempt also was made to bring some armed steamers into the Yazoo from above, through a channel called Yazoo Pass; but this likewise was defeated with loss.

In that immense system of waters, the Federal gunboats, numerous as they were, could not guard or visit all points; and the Confederates, having collected a number of steamers at Vicksburg, Yazoo city, and other points, busily employed themselves in arming and iron- plating them. Against these Admiral Porter dispatched down the river a formidable iron-clad, armed with 11-inch and 9-inch guns, the Indianola, which ran past the Vicksburg batteries without receiving any injury. But encountering soon after several small Confederate steamers, the Indianola, in the fight that ensued, was so butted, battered, raked, and dodged by her - singly insignificant - antagonists, that she was compelled to surrender. The prize was important, and its capture augured well for at least a temporary naval ascendency of the Confederates in those waters. But the fruits of their success were blasted by a laughable stratagem of Admiral Porter's, which the Federal historian designates a " Yankee trick." "A worthless coal flat-boat, fitted up, covered, and decorated by Porter, with furnaces of mud and smoke-stacks of pork-barrels, to counterfeit a terrible ram, was let loose by him, unmanned, above Vicksburg, and floated down by the batteries, eliciting and surviving a tremendous cannonade. The rebels in Vicksburg hastened to give warning of this fearful monster.... The Indianola was now undergoing repairs near the point where she was captured; and word was sent from Vicksburg that she must be burnt at once to save her from the monster's clutches. A few hours later, when it had been discovered that they had been thrown into hysterics by an old coal-boat, fresh word was sent that they had been sold; but, ere this arrived, the Indianola had been blown to splinters - not even her priceless guns having been saved."

Months had now passed by since the earlier attempts upon Vicksburg; and General Grant, finding that his attacks from the west - or from the north, by obtaining the command of the Yazoo river - were baffled by apparently insurmountable obstacles, now decided on an entirely new line of operations. He resolved to turn Vicksburg on the south, march first upon Jackson, overpowering any resistance which he might meet with from Confederate armies in the field (for which he had ample and more than ample force), and then advance upon Vicksburg from the east. At the end of March, 1863, he set his troops in motion from Milliken's Bend, down the western bank, to a point opposite a little village called Bruinsburg, some thirty miles below Vicksburg. But his army now must be transported to the eastern bank; and for this purpose he requested Admiral Porter to run past the batteries of Vicksburg, with his iron-clads and a number of transports. Porter at once complied, sustaining during the operation a loss which, though severe, was not serious enough to cripple him, and joined Grant below Vicksburg. Now the army was embarked on the war-steamers and transports, and ferried across. Just at this juncture the Confederate troops in Mississippi appear to have been ill led; instead of concentrating in front of Jackson, they were hurled in detail against Grant's advancing columns, and suffered consequently a succession of small reverses, which had a fatally depressing effect on their morale. At Port Gibson, Raymond, and before Jackson, actions were fought, and with uniform good fortune to the Federals. General Jo. Johnston was now appointed to the chief command of the Confederate forces. But the Confederacy, girdled round both by sea and land with a circle of fire, allowed no rest, compelled to make head on a hundred points at once against implacable assailants, cut off from all foreign supplies, was now drawing towards the end of its resources, especially its resources in men. On the other hand, the unchecked emigration from Europe provided the Federal Government with the raw material of soldiers to an almost unlimited extent. Mr. Whiteside said, in the House of Commons, about the beginning of 1864, that during the past thirteen months upwards of 100,000 men had quitted the shores of Ireland, to swell the ranks of the Federal army of America. Granting that this statement was much exaggerated, still it is certain that the waste and depletion of their armies was so effectually replaced from this source, that the Federal Government - who, to gratify their Republican ambition of " saving the country," lavished human life as unsparingly as any despot who ever reigned - were seldom at a loss for men to execute any military operation that the generals might project.

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Pictures for Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

Archbishop Whately
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Puebla
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Ditch of fort Wagner
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Charleston harbour
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Captain Speke
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