Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 04/July/General S. D. Lee's Report of the Siege of Vicksburg
General S. D. Lee's Report of the Siege of Vicksburg.
[The following important and valuable report has never been published, so far as we have been able to ascertain, and we give it from the original MS. of its accomplished author.]
Hd. Qrs. 2d Brig., Stevenson's Division,
Demopolis, Alabama, July 25th, 1863.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken in our operations during the siege of Vicksburg, by the troops under my command, consisting of the Twentieth Alabama regiment, Col. J. W. Jarrot; Twenty-third Alabama regiment, Col. F. K. Beck; Thirtieth Alabama regiment, Col. C. M. Shelly; Thirty-first Alabama regiment, Lt.-Col. T. M. Arrington; Forty-sixth Alabama regiment, Capt. Geo. E. Brewer; Waul's Texas legion, Col. T. N. Waul; Waddell's battery, Capt. J. F. Waddell; Drew's battery, Lieut. W. J. Duncan; the Hudson battery, Lieut. Trentham; Capt. Haynes' company, First artillery, and a section of the Vaiden artillery, Lieut. Collins.
On the morning of the 17th of May, our works on Big Black bridge having been carried by the enemy, our army was ordered to retire to our entrenchments around Vicksburg. My brigade was ordered to cover the retreat across the river after the works were carried, and was accordingly posted along the banks for that purpose, where it remained until relieved by Baldwin's brigade, Smith's division, which brought up the rear. By an error in the transmission of an order, the Twenty-third Alabama regiment, Col. F. K. Beck, remained at the bridge after Baldwin's brigade had been withdrawn, and gallantly engaged the enemy during the entire day, leaving its position about midnight and joining the brigade at Vicksburg. The city of Vicksburg was invested on the 18th of May—the enemy having regularly surrounded it, and commenced their parallel approaches. The position occupied by my brigade was immediately to the right of the railroad, with its left resting on that road. All the knolls in front of my line were at once seized by the enemy, and batteries erected thereon for their artillery, their sharpshooters in the meantime keeping up a and annoying fire. On the 19th, 20th, and 21st of May, the enemy's forces were massed under cover of their artillery and sharpshooters' fire, in the ravines a few hundred yards in front of our lines. At about 10 A. M. on the 22d, a gallant assault was made upon our works from the right of my position to the extreme left of our line on the river. The assault upon my front was a determined one, but was handsomely repulsed, with considerable loss to the enemy. They succeeded, however, in carrying an angle of the work immediately to the right of the railroad, and in planting two colors upon the parapet, which remained there for several hours. The angle was finally assaulted and carried by a gallant band of Waul's Texas legion, under command of the intrepid Lt.-Col. E W. Pettus, Twentieth Alabama regiment. This brave officer, assisted by Major Steele and Capt. Bradly of the legion and the heroic Texans, captured the colors of the enemy and about fifty prisoners, including a lieutenant-colonel. A more daring feat has not been performed during the war, and too much praise cannot be awarded to everyone engaged in it. All the troops under my command behaved well during the assault, and inflicted severe loss upon the enemy. Waul's Texas legion particularly distinguished itself under its brave colonel, by its coolness and gallantry, as did also a portion of Col. Dockerie's Arkansas regiment. The Twentieth, Twenty-third, and Thirty-first Alabama regiments attracted my attention by their good conduct during the day. The above-mentioned commands are those which particularly came under my personal observation during the assault. From the 22d of May, the enemy seemed to have abandoned the idea of carrying our works by assault, and from that time commenced pushing their works gradually, but industriously, towards ours, up to the 4th of July, when the city was surrendered—at which time their trenches, at several points on my line, were within thirty feet of our works. As each of their ditches was completed it was filled with sharpshooters, who kept up a continuous fire upon our lines. The enemy had, also, from fifteen to thirty pieces of artillery in front of my line, which kept up a heavy fire both night and day. The fire from their small arms commenced generally about one-half hour before day-light, and continued until about dark in the evening. There was no relief whatever to our men, who were confined for forty-seven days in their narrow trenches, without any opportunity for moving about, as there was during the day a perfect rain of minnie balls, which prevented any one from showing the least portion of his person, while at night, in consequence of the proximity of the enemy, it was impossible for the men to leave their position for any length of time. After about the 10th day of the siege the men lived on about one-half rations, and on even less than that towards its close. During the whole time the troops under my command exhibited cheerfulness and good spirit, feeling confident that they would finally be relieved. Physically they were much weakened by their arduous duties and poor rations, and at the time of the surrender I did not consider more than one-half of my men able to undergo the fatigues of the field.
The officers who particularly attracted my attention were Col. Garrott, Twentieth Alabama, the pure patriot and gallant soldier who was killed on the 17th of June, while in the fearless discharge of his duties. Respected and loved by all who knew him, a more attentive and vigilant officer was not in our service. Col. T. N. Waul, commanding Texas legion, by his dashing gallantry and coolness inspired every one around him with confidence, and handled his legion with skill. Cols. Beck and Shelly were particularly brave and vigilant. Col. Pettus, Twentieth Alabama, won the admiration of every one by his daring on the 22d of May, and by his uniform good conduct during the remainder of the siege. Lt.-Cols. Smith, Thirtieth Alabama, Arrington, Thirty-first Alabama; Timmons and ———, of Waul's Texas legion; Maj. Mattisin, Thirty-first Alabama; Capts. Francis, Thirtieth Alabama, and Brewer, Forty-sixth Alabama; Captains Waddell and Haynes, and Lieuts. Duncan and Collins, commanding batteries and sections of artillery, were gallant and vigilant. Major Jno. J. Reeve, Assistant Adjutant-General of the division, was with me on the lines on several occasions, and particularly attracted my attention by his daring and coolness during the assault on the 22d. Capt. Conway, the engineer in charge of the work on my line, was active and energetic in the discharge of his duties, and was unceasing in his efforts during night and day to check the approach of the enemy.
Of my personal staff I would mention the uniform, cool, and gallant conduct of Capt. Wm. Elliott, Assistant Adjutant-General, who was always at the post of danger inspiring confidence by his example. Capt. W. H. Johnson and Lt. H. N. Martin, acting aides-de-camp, and Capt. Curell and Lt. Underhill, volunteer aides-de-camp, behaved with gallantry during the siege. I would also mention Mr. West, who was serving on my staff; my orderly, L. B. Murphey, Forty-sixth Alabama regiment, and my couriers, Hill and J. M. Simpson, who were always gallant and at their posts.
The report of casualties in the different regiments and companies cannot yet be furnished, as the reports have not been received from their respective commanders.
S. D. Lee,
H. B. Lee, First Lieutenant and A. D. C.