22. Apr, 2017

BLOG 04-GRIERSON'S RAID

GRIERSON’S RAID-APRIL 1863

If you haven’t seen the John Ford Movie-‘THE HORSE SOLIDERS’ starring John Wayne and William Holding, the movie was a 1959 Western war film set in Mississippi during the American Civil War. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair's 1956 novel by the same name.

The film was loosely based on Harold Sinclair's 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson's Raid and Battle of Newton's Station in Mississippi during the Civil War.

In April 1863, Colonel Benjamin Grierson led 1,700 Illinois and Iowa soldiers from LaGrange, Tennessee to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, through several hundred miles of enemy territory, destroying Confederate railroad and supply lines between Newton's Station and Vicksburg, Mississippi. The mission was part of the Union Army's successful Vicksburg campaign to gain control over boat traffic on the Mississippi River, culminating in the Battle of Vicksburg. Grierson's destruction of Confederate-controlled rail links and supplies played an important role in disrupting Confederate General John C. Pemberton's strategies and troop deployments. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman reportedly described Grierson's daring mission as "the most brilliant of the war".

GENERAL BENJAMIN HENRY GRIERSON

Benjamin Henry Grierson (July 8, 1826 – August 31, 1911) was a music teacher, then a career officer in the United States Army. He was a cavalry general in the volunteer Union Army during the Civil War and later led troops in the American Old West. He is most noted for an 1863 expedition through Confederate-held territory that severed enemy communication lines between Vicksburg, Mississippi and Confederate commanders in the Eastern Theatre. After the war he organized and led the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment from 1866 to 1890.

JOHN CLIFFORD PEMBERTON

John Clifford Pemberton (August 10, 1814 – July 13, 1881), was a career United States Army officer who fought in the Seminole Wars and with distinction during the Mexican–American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, noted for his defeat and surrender in the critical Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863.

VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN

Campaign of Vicksburg, major siege of the American Civil War, consisting of military campaigns in 1862 and 1863 that ended with the capture of the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by Union troops on July 4, 1863.

Vicksburg, perched on a steep bluff along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, was one of the main Southern strongholds along the river. It was therefore of strategic importance to both the North and South. In February 1862 the Union captured Fort Donelson in northern Tennessee, which broke the Confederate first line of defence for the Mississippi Valley. Vicksburg then remained the one serious obstacle to federal command of the Mississippi River. Union control of the Mississippi meant the Confederacy would be split in two.

In May 1862 Union forces made an unsuccessful attempt to take the city by means of a naval expedition. The Confederates strengthened their defences, setting up extensive batteries to obstruct passage on the river. On June 27 a Union fleet under Admiral David G. Farragut appeared below the city; the next day two frigates and six gunboats attempted to run the Confederate river fortifications. The attack failed, as did several subsequent manoeuvres to bypass Vicksburg by river.

In December 1862 the Union General Ulysses S. Grant proposed moving from a base in Holly Springs, Mississippi against the town of Grenada. The goal was to cut the Confederate line of communications and draw General John C. Pemberton, the Confederate commander of Vicksburg, from his stronghold. Meanwhile, an army under Union General William T. Sherman was to be convoyed downriver by a fleet commanded by the Union naval officer David D. Porter; Sherman would then seize the city in the absence of a majority of its defenders. These plans, however, were upset by a Confederate raid on Holly Springs, which halted Grant’s advance. Sherman, after a successful landing, found the countryside virtually impassable because of swampy land. Nevertheless he engaged in bloody but futile attacks in late December. Soon after the Union armies retreated north of Vicksburg.

In April 1863 Grant made a bold decision. Ignoring the advice of Sherman and others that the Union forces retreat to Memphis, Tennessee, Grant decided to attack Vicksburg from the east. First he sent Union boats under Porter down the Mississippi River to try to run the Confederate blockades at Vicksburg; a number of the boats made it through successfully. Next he marched his troops down the west side of the Mississippi River in Louisiana; they marched and floated some 48 kilometres (30 miles) south, then used the boats to cross the river from Hard Times, Louisiana to Bruinsburg, Mississippi on April 30, 1863. At the same time, troops under Sherman moved north of Vicksburg and exchanged fire with the Confederates to create a diversion during the river crossing.

Once on the east side of the river, Union forces took the towns of Port Gibson and Grand Gulf. They then marched northeast, cutting their own supply lines and heading deep into enemy territory. By this time, Sherman had come south to reunite with Grant, and there were more than 40,000 Union soldiers below Vicksburg. Sensing Grant’s intentions too late, the Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston tried to gather forces together to march toward Vicksburg from his base in Jackson, but Grant’s army arrived at Jackson first and defeated Johnston. Grant then repulsed Pemberton at Champion’s Hill on May 16 and attacked Vicksburg on May 19. Two assaults on the fortress failed and siege operations were begun; these lasted for almost six weeks. On July 4, 1863, the Confederate defenders surrendered the city along with more than 30,000 soldiers. The soldiers were originally taken as prisoners of war, but they were later paroled, taking an oath not to bear arms again until there was a formal exchange of prisoners.

The Union capture of Vicksburg was one of the most important Northern victories of the war. It gave the North control of the Mississippi River, allowing them passage straight through the Confederacy. With this passage, they were able to move supplies and men along the river. In addition, the capture freed Grant’s armies and allowed the North to use them for other battles, such as fighting the war in Virginia.

GRIERSON’S RAID

Grierson's Raid was a Union cavalry raid during the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. It ran from April 17 to May 2, 1863, as a diversion from Major General Ulysses S. Grant's main attack plan on Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Early in 1863, Major General Charles Hamilton, the commander of the Corinth section of Grant's division, suggested what would eventually become Grierson's Raid. Subsequently, due to Hamilton's insistence on procuring a command that would garner him more glory, Hamilton offered his resignation. Grant quickly accepted.

Up until this time in the war, Confederate cavalry commanders such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, John Hunt Morgan, and J.E.B. Stuart had ridden circles around the Union, and it was time to out-do the Confederates in cavalry expeditions. The task fell to Col. Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher who, oddly, hated horses after being kicked in the head by one as a child. Grierson's cavalry brigade consisted of the 6th and 7th Illinois and 2nd Iowa Cavalry regiments.

Grierson and his 1,700 horse troopers, some in Confederate uniforms serving as scouts for the main force, rode over six hundred miles through hostile territory (from southern Tennessee, through the state of Mississippi and into Union-held Baton Rouge, Louisiana), over routes no Union soldier had travelled before. They tore up railroads and burned crossties, freed slaves, burned Confederate storehouses, destroyed locomotives and commissary stores, ripped up bridges and trestles, burned buildings, and inflicted ten times the casualties they received, all while detachments of his troops made feints confusing the Confederates as to his actual whereabouts, intent and direction. Total casualties for Grierson's Brigade during the raid were three killed, seven wounded, and nine missing. Five sick and wounded men were left behind along the route, too ill to continue.

Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, commander of the Vicksburg garrison, had few cavalry and could do nothing to stop Grierson.

The premier Confederate cavalry commander, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was off chasing another Union raider, Colonel Abel Streight, in Alabama and thus had no opportunity to stop Grierson.

While Streight's Raid failed, it did distract Forrest and this probably allowed the success of Grierson's Raid. Although many Confederate cavalry units pursued Grierson vigorously across the state (most notably those led by Wirt Adams and Robert V. Richardson), they were unsuccessful in stopping the raid. Grierson and his exhausted troopers ultimately rode in to Union-occupied Baton Rouge, Louisiana; With an entire division of Pemberton's soldiers tied up

Defending the vital Vicksburg-Jackson railroad from the evasive Grierson, combined with Major General William T. Sherman's feint northeast of Vicksburg (the Battle of Snyder's Bluff), the beleaguered Confederates were unable to muster the forces necessary to oppose Grant's eventual landing below Vicksburg on the east side of the Mississippi at Bruinsburg.

Grierson’s raid began at the Union cavalry depot in La Grange, Tennessee, on April 17. The primary target was the crossroads depot at Newtown Station, where rail lines transacted in all four directions.

THE BATTLE OF NEWTON STATION

The Battle of Newton's Station was an engagement on April 24, 1863, in Newton's Station, Mississippi, during Grierson's Raid of the American Civil War.

Union cavalry raiders under the command of Col. Benjamin Grierson, in an effort to disrupt Confederate communications, probed deep in enemy territory and entered the town of Newton's Station. They succeeded in securing the town without any serious fighting, and captured two Confederate trains. The raiders also destroyed several miles of railroad track and telegraph wires in the vicinity, severing communications between Confederate-held Vicksburg and the Eastern Theatre commanders.

 

The two trains (one a freight and the second a mixed freight and passenger) were actually captured by Lt-Colonel William Blackburn, who had ridden ahead in darkness to scout the town. His men set fire to the trains, and exploding ammunition led the nearby Grierson to assume the worst, that a major battle had started. He arrived with the main force to find Blackburn's men helping themselves to confiscated whiskey.

Over the next few hours Union forces destroyed trackage and equipment, east to the Chunkey River and west as far as possible. A large building in the town with uniforms and arms was burned, and the railroad depot was burned (not before local hospital staff were allowed to remove medicine and food). Assembling his forces Grierson departed the area around 2pm, leaving ruin and wreckage.

Since both trains carried explosives and loaded shells aboard them, Blackburn had them moved away from the hospital after the civilians’ goods were removed from the two boxcars. They were then set on fire, and the shells and ammunition began to explode. Grierson, who was nearing town, heard the ammunition exploding and charged into Newton with his men, believing Blackburn was under attack. Grierson was relieved to learn the true state of events. Now serious destruction got underway.

Destruction of Newton Station

The Federal cavalry commander ordered Starr to take two battalions of the 6th Illinois east of town to torch bridges and trestles, cut down telegraph poles, and destroy the lines. Captain Joseph Herring was ordered west of town with a battalion of the 7th Illinois to do the same thing. More destruction took place in town, where a warehouse containing 500 arms and a large number of uniforms was set on fire. Railroad rails were pulled up and thrown on fires of burning crossties and then twisted. The two locomotives exploded.

Benjamin Grierson leads his men into Baton Rouge on May 2, having covered more than 600 miles in 16 days and destroyed more than 50 miles of railroad and seized 1,000 horses and mules

In the John Wayne’s movie, the Horse Soldiers, following the raid on Newton’s Station and their attempt to escape south to Baton Rouge, they encounter a band of school children from a southern military academy ran by Deacon Clump-Hank Worden. This battle actually took place but not during Grierson’s raid. This battle was known as the ‘BATTLE OF NEWMARKET’

The Battle of New Market was a battle fought on May 15, 1864, in Virginia during Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. A makeshift Confederate army of 4100 men, which included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, forced Union Major General Franz Sigel and his army out of the Shenandoah Valley.

 

 

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