Interesting From Vicksburg to the 27th.
A Succession of Battles and Victories — The Advance on Vicksburg — Modus Operandi of Destroying a Railroad — List of Casualties — The Situation — Rebel Fortifications — Difficulties in Storming — Disposition of our Forces — Rebels getting short of Provisions and Ammunition — The 114th under fire — Summing up, etc.
BATTLE-FIELD, REAR OF VICKSBURG,
Wednesday Morning May 27.
DEAR JOURNAL: My last letter to you was written from Duck Port, May 1st, on the eve of our departure on what has proved, in its development, the most brilliant, daring and successful stroke of the war, and which only lacks a successful termination, in the capture of Vicksburg and the forces there, to place Gen. Grant and his able subordinates first in the list of able and successful Generals.
Of the capture of Grand Gulf and Port Gibson you have already been advised. Of all the important incidents connected with the march from the Gulf to this place, it is impossible now to write. Suffice it to say, that we have been almost literally enveloped in the smoke, and deafened with the roar of battle, for the last two weeks — the enemy falling back and disputing our passage as often as they could rally, but their efforts scarcely checked our advance, until we reached Champion Hills, in the vicinity of the railroad Champion Hills, in the vicinity of the railroad bridge on Big Black river. Here they had concentrated their forces, and a desperate battle ensued, resulting in the total rout of the enemy, with a loss of sixty-four pieces of artillery and 3,000 prisoners. Only a small portion of our forces were engaged at any one place.
On the 14th we reached Jackson, driving the enemy before us for four or five miles, finally capturing the place, eighteen pieces of artillery and an immense amount of ammunition, commissary stores and clothing. Our Division encamped one night inside the fortifications, and next morning took the railroad for Vicksburg.
Our operations on the railroad were of a novel character. The regiment would be formed in line on one side of the road, and at the command every man would take hold on the end of a tie or rail, and, straightening up, would literally lift the track from its bed, completely capsizing it. Then, piling the ties together and setting them on fire, we laid the rails across the top, rendering them unfit for future use.
Our loss at Jackson (I speak of the 114th) was one killed and four wounded; Joseph Denton, of Company K, struck on the head by a solid shot and killed instantly. Continuing our march, we reached a position between Haines' Bluff and Vicksburg, on the evening of the 18th, and encamped in a deep ravine for the night. On the 19th we marched out in front of the enemy's work and took position on the crest of a hill, about 400 yards from the fortifications, where we remained five days.
The loss of the regiment, up to this time is as follows:
May 19th — Cyrus Ater, company D, shot through the bowels, dead; Sylvanus Tuttle, company C, shot through he heart, died on the 21st; James Smith, company F, mortally wounded, shot through lower part of the bowels; Thomas S. Moore, company D, both legs, severely; Robert Hirst, on the arm, slightly; Tuck Taylor, company A, leg; Colin Cordell, company A, in the knee; Henry Balston, company K, finger.
May 20th — John Webb, company A, right arm, amputated at the shoulder; Clinton Wilson, company C, severe flesh wound in the thigh; Henry Steffen, company C, finger.
May 22d — B. L. Auxier, slightly; D. F. Fletcher, head, slightly; W. J. George, company B, finger, slightly.
All the wounded that could bear moving have been sent up the river. Blair's Division has suffered severely.
The country in the rear of Vicksburg is the roughest imaginable, narrow ridges separated by very deep ravines, termination in sharp points, with sides so steep that it is very difficult to climb them, and the whole surface covered by a heavy growth of poplar timber. The enemy has fortified a circular ridge or range of hills, with their left resting on the river above the city, and their right extending to the river below the city, forming in its extreme length a line of seven or eight miles. Their works consist of a very high fort on the left, one in the center and one on the right, with breastwork fronted by a ditch twelve feet wide, and from six to ten feet deep, running from one fort to the other. The forts are simply natural hills, surrounded by a deep and wide ditch and excavated from the top for rifle pits, embrasures for cannon, and subterranean passages.
Our forces are disposed as follows: General Sherman's corps on the right opposed to the enemy's left, his right resting on Old river, occupying a parallel ridge about 600 yards from the enemy's works; Gen. McPherson's corps in the center; Gen. McClernand's corps on the left, resting on the river below the city. Two or three attempts have been made to carry their works by storm, but such is the nature of the ground and character of the defenses that it is impossible for a body of men to reach the works without too great a loss of life. Several thousand sharpshooters are lying near the works in rifle pits and behind logs, and woe to the luckless reb that exposes his dirty person to their aim. Our lines are contracting every day. Our artillery has silenced their batteries and is now throwing shell and solid shot in every direction through their enclosure. For two or three days they have not returned our artillery fire, and the general belief is that they are about out of ammunition.
Deserters are coming over every day, and agree in their story in regard to short rations, scarcity of ammunition, and great suffering from our fire; and in all human probability Vicksburg will be in our possession before the close of another week, and that without any great loss of life. We have plenty of provisions, open communication with the river, a healthy situation, and the army in good spirits.
It is rumored that Johnston is trying to cross Black river and attack our rear, but we have forces enough to thwart such an undertaking, and our officers are too wide awake to lose the present opportunity.
The 114th has been under fire, and has demonstrated to friends and enemies that it is composed, in the main, of men who are willing to meet the enemy and add a new lustre to the imperishable fame of Illinois soldiers. Our field and line officers have manifested the coolness and bravery of veterans, and are ready to do whatever duty or the success of our arms require.
To sum up — since we crossed the river we have taken Port Gibson, Grand Gulf, Jackson, Haines' Bluff and Warrenton, over 100 pieces of artillery, 6,000 prisoners, besides the killed and wounded, and Vicksburg, once in our possession, we may look for an early termination of the war, and the unspeakable happiness of returning to civil life and peaceful pursuits.
W. A. MALLORY.