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Second Assault On Vicksburg
May 22, 1863
as described by John C. Pemberton III
Web Author's Notes:
The following is an interesting description of Grant's second assault on Vicksburg written by the grandson of Confederate General John Clifford Pemberton, John C. Pemberton III, in his book Pemberton: Defender of Vicksburg, published in 1942.

Fifth Day of Siege, May 22

That day was bright and clear and the Mississippi sun was blistering. In the morning, many indications pointed to a grand assault upon Pemberton's entrenchments: the fire from the Federal artillery and sharpshooters as heavy and incessant until noon. At this time the gunboats also came to life and opened on the city from the river side.

On Stevenson's front (the right of Pemberton's outer lines) at about 1:00 P.M. a heavy force moved out to assault, making a gallant charge. The Federal troops wee allowed to approach unmolested to within good musket range. Then, however, every available gun was opened upon them, and Stevenson's men rising in their trenches fired volley after volley. The effect was so deadly that the ground was literally covered in some places with the Union dead and wounded. This attack had been made by McClernand's corps. Before their retirement, however, the angle of one of Stevenson's redoubts had been breached by the Federal artillery. McClernand's infantry thereupon determined to storm the open ditches. One hundred volunteers were called for, their reward to be a discharge from further service and a bounty of $300. Within no time a hundred 'fearless' started on their desperate enterprise for the open hole in the Confederate fortifications. About sixty, under the command of a lieutenant colonel, succeeded in their rush and planted two colors on the parapet. Now there was a call for Confederate volunteers; it was of vital importance to drive the bluecoats out. Response quickly came from Colonel E. W. Pettus, of the Twentieth Alabama Regiment, musket in hand. He came with two companies of Waul's Texas Legion, under Captain L. D. Bradley and Lieutenant James Hogue. Stevenson reported their success, adding, A more gallant feat than this has not illustrated our annals during the war.

The assaults against General Forney's front -- in the center of Pemberton's lines -- were carried forward by McPherson's corps. Forney reported several attacks, the first taking place at 11:00 A.M. and the last occurring around 5:00 P.M. To use his exact words: These assaults were made by larger bodies, and apparently with greater determination, than those of May 19.... The enemy was repulsed in each of his attempts, though he succeeded in getting a few men into our exterior ditches at each point of attack, from which they were, however, driven before night. Hand-grenades were used at each point with good effect... On this day the casualties in my division were 42 killed and 95 wounded. The loss of the enemy must have reached 2,000.

The third sector to encounter the Union assaults was occupied by the division of General Martin L. Smith. This was the left of Pemberton's line. Here the attacks were to be launched by Sherman's corps. General Smith says in his report: The 22d passed in the same manner until about 2 p.m., when a column was discovered advancing against the right of Shoup's brigade. It was immediately driven back. Another then approached on the right of the center. This was dispersed without great effort and with considerable loss. Again the enemy appeared in increased force on my right and Forney's left. He was promptly repulsed with heavy loss. This terminated the day's operations, with the exception of the same heavy fire of musketry and artillery kept up until dark along my entire front. After these several decided repulses, the enemy seemed to have abandoned the idea of taking by assault, and went vigorously at work to thoroughly invest and attack by regular approaches....

Had Sherman been permitted opportunity for perusal of this drab account, doubtless he would have snorted. His Memoirs more vividly picture the cruel repulse that day, and frankly divulge his fruitless casualties: I reconnoitered my front thoroughly in person, from right to left, his story runs, and concluded to make my real attack at the right flank of the bastion, where the graveyard road entered the enemy's intrenchments, and at another point in the curtain about a hundred yards to its right (our left); also to make a strong demonstration by Steele's division, about a mile to our right, toward the river. All our field-batteries were put in position, and were covered by good epaulements; the troops were brought forward, in easy support, concealed by the shape of the ground; and to the minute, viz., 10 A.M. of May 22d, the troops sprang to the assault. A small party, that might be called a forlorn hope, provided with plank to cross the ditch, advanced at a run, up to the very ditch; the lines of infantry sprang from cover, and advanced rapidly in line of battle. I took a position within two hundred yards of the rebel parapet, on the off slope of a spur of ground, where by advancing two or three steps I could see every thing. The rebel line... [some text unavailable] was illusory. Any other result, would, in the nature of war, have been a fluke.

The Federal losses came to 3,000. What is more -- those were the last assaults upon Vicksburg, even to its fall. Grant had determined upon a regular siege--to out-camp the enemy, as it were, and to incur no more losses. The experience of the 22d convinced officers and men that this was best, and they went to work on the defenses and approaches with a will.

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