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Chapter II

"Grant's Mississippi Central Railroad Campaign and the defense of Vicksburg"

On 4 November 1862 Gen. Grant arrived at Grand Junction, Tennessee, with five divisions with intentions of moving south along the Mississippi Central Railroad through Holly Springs and possibly on to Grenada. The following day he ordered Gen. C. S. Hamilton to send his cavalry toward Holly Springs and this resulted in a Confederate retreat south to a new line on the Tallahatchie River with the line being centered at Abbeville, Mississippi.

After Van Dorn's defeat at Corinth President Davis appointed Lieutenant General J. C. Pemberton to command of the Confederate army in Mississippi and he arrived on 14 October 1862 in Jackson, Mississippi, to assume command. Van Dorn remained in immediate command of the army in north Mississippi, with Price and Lovell as his two corps commanders, while Pemberton was in Jackson.

The 33rd Mississippi went into camp on the south side of the Tallahatchie River east of Abbeville. The regiment was camped alongside several other regiments guarding a river crossing known as "the Mouth of the Tippa." The Tippa River emptied into the Tallahatchie at this point. This camp was designated Camp Vernon. The land around Camp Vernon looks similar today to its 1862 appearance. The land is owned by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and is protected from development to a large degree. The river has changed significantly since the Corps of Engineers has dredged and straightened it. There are traces of the old hut sites where the men lived but there are no known fortifications still in existence. General Pemberton had the men active in constructing fortifications in the Abbeville area but these were later destroyed by the Federals. The only fortifications visible today are on the north bank of the river just to the east and west of the present day railroad bridge. These were built by the Federals in late November of 1862.

There was turmoil in the upper ranks of the Confederate army while they were at Abbeville. Brigadier General John Bowen of Missouri had served as a brigade commander during the Battle of Corinth and his brigade had suffered heavy casualties in attacking Battery Powell. General Bowen prepared charges against General Van Dorn for "undertaking an important expedition... without due consideration," and for general failure, neglect of duty, and failure to properly care for wounded men. The Court of Inquiry consisted of General Sterling Price of Missouri, General Lloyd Tilghman of Maryland, and General Dabney Maury of Virginia. The court exonerated General Van Dorn of all charges.

While the men of the 33rd Mississippi were engaged in building Camp Vernon and the daily routine of camp life, caring for the sick and wounded, and guarding the river crossings the Federals were not inactive. The Federals had their own share of high command turmoil. The politician-soldier Major General John McClernand of Illinois had convinced President Lincoln to allow him to independently raise a force in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa that would go down the Mississippi River and capture Vicksburg. At the same time General U. S. Grant was attempting to organize his forces in northern Mississippi and western Tennessee for a campaign down the Mississippi Central Railroad to capture Grenada and force the evacuation of Vicksburg by cutting off its supply lines from the interior of the state. Grant did not have the forces to do this and still garrison all his areas of responsibility but he did feel he could gather about 30,000 men at Grand Junction, Tennessee, and start to move against the Confederates at Abbeville.

Although Grant was not sure what would be happening with McClernand's forces he decided to push forward on his own plan. He informed Halleck of this and was given approval with the admonition to go, "as soon as you are strong enough for that purpose."

Grant and Sherman met in mid-November to make plans for Federal forces to go down the Mississippi Central Railroad and to send forces from Helena, Arkansas, over the Mississippi River to move inland toward Grenada. The forces from Helena were to cut the railroad behind Pemberton and try to impair his line of retreat. Sherman moved out from Memphis on 24 November 1862, General C. S. Hamilton left Grand Junction on the 27th, and General A. P. Hovey left Helena also on the 27th. Grant reached the Holly Springs and Waterford area on the 29th and began to shell the Confederates south of the Tallahatchie River. Hovey's cavalry under Brigadier General C. C. Washburn penetrated close to Grenada but did not actually reach the Yalobusha River. A small force of Texas cavalry fought Washburn hard enough at Oakland, Mississippi, to make him retreat to Mitchell's Cross Roads and then on back to Helena. Hovey and Washburn had not fought much of a battle but they had convinced Pemberton that his left flank and rear were in danger and forced him to retreat from his Tallahatchie River line to a new line south of the Yalobusha River with headquarters at Grenada.

Retreat To Grenada

Private Van Kees had been in the hospital at Oxford, just south of Abbeville, for several days during November. He arrived at Camp Vernon on the 29th to find the regiment, "was cooking three days Ratchings when I got thar drectly I got thar the canons commency faring and tha Keep it up that evening and next day nearly all day."

On 2 December 1862 the Confederates fell back to Oxford and the Federals crossed the Tallahatchie unopposed. On the 3rd the Rebels bivouacked near Springdale south of the Yocona River. On the 4th and 5th the Rebels halted at Coffeeville. The Federal advance cavalry had pressed General Price's rear guard for days, and continued this pursuit on December 5th, despite the nearly impassable road conditions. With Price's last equipment wagons struggling to reach the safety of Confederate lines, and the Federal cavalry now vulnerable due to the terrain and conditions, General Lovell posted his infantry and six cannons in the woods northeast of the little village of Coffeeville. The Federal cavalry was ambushed at 2:30 and driven steadily back for nearly two miles, where the battle ended at dark. Although the Union cavalry was now equipped with Colt's repeating rifles and Sharp's carbines, the charging Rebels with their simple muskets surged ahead with strong frontal assaults and flanking moves to route the surprised Federals. It was a decisive win for the south that forced the Yankees back to Water Valley and eased the pressure off Pemberton who was reinforcing in Grenada. The 33rd had arrived in Coffeeville prior to the battle, moving to join Pemberton, but was held in reserve when the ambush began.

The 33rd Mississippi arrived in Grenada on 7 December 1862 and went into camp again at the fairgrounds. On the 8th the regiment marched east two miles and camped for three weeks. This camp was probably located near the fort that guarded a high point on the Graysport Road, the main road east from Grenada. This fort and the land around it is preserved on property of the Corps of Engineers at Grenada Lake.

On Christmas Eve there was no holiday for the soldiers. President Jefferson Davis had arrived for a review of the troops and conferences with his generals. The dignitaries gathered on the porches of the mansions along Margin Street and the troops marched in a big circle from the fairgrounds to the downtown square to Margin Street and then back to the fairgrounds. President Davis left town shortly after the parade and Private Van Kees recorded on 25 December 1862, "Christmas Day very dull time at Grenada."

Four days later the regiment moved three miles to the east and established another camp to protect a river crossing on the Yalobusha. This camp was designated Camp Loring and was along both sides of Knight's Creek and just south of the Graysport Road. The regiment occupied this site until 20 January 1863 when it was sent to Coffeeville for eleven days. On 1 February 1863 the 33rd took the cars down the railroad to Jackson, Mississippi, and went into camp "3 miles out of town." During the stay at Grenada the regiment had been part of some organizational changes. The brigade commander, Gen. J. B. Villepigue, had died of disease in November of 1862 while in Port Hudson, Louisiana. The regiment was then assigned to Scott's Brigade, Rust's Division, 1st Corps, Army of North Mississippi from December, 1862 through January, 1863. In January, 1863, General Winfield Scott Featherston, was transferred from the Army of Northern Virginia to Mississippi. Gen. Featherston was a prominent attorney in Holly Springs, Mississippi, at the start of the war and entered Confederate service by raising a company of volunteers in that city. He was then elected Colonel of the 17th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, served with distinction with that regiment, and was promoted Brigadier General on 4 March 1862 for skill and gallantry in the Battle of Leesburg. He was known to the men as "Old Sweat" and would be brigade commander for the 33rd Mississippi until the end of the war.

In February, 1863, the brigade was designated Rust's-Featherston's Brigade, Lorings's Division, Army of North Mississippi, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. In March of 1863 the brigade was re-designated as Featherston's Brigade, Loring's Division, 2nd Military Division, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. The 33rd Mississippi remained in this brigade and division from March, 1863, until the reorganization of the army in North Carolina near the end of the war. On 24 February 1863 the regiment left Jackson and transferred to Edwards Depot, Mississippi, a village on the railroad between Jackson and Vicksburg. They camped there until 10 March 1863 when they marched west to about four miles from Vicksburg and again went into camp. On 19 March 1863 the regiment marched to the Yazoo River where they embarked on a boat to travel up the Yazoo River and then the Sunflower River to land at Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on the same day. The various moves of the regiment had been dictated by the offensive moves of Union Generals Grant and Sherman. The Federal plan had been for General Grant to hold the Confederate forces at Grenada while General Sherman came down the Mississippi River and attacked Vicksburg. If General Sherman were unable to take Vicksburg he was to cut the railroad from Vicksburg to Jackson and then defend the Yazoo River until General Grant could push General Pemberton down the Mississippi Central Railroad from Grenada to Jackson. The success of the plan depended on Sherman's surprising the Confederates at Vicksburg and Grant's ability to tie up the Confederates at Grenada. According to one early historian, "It entirely miscarried."

General Earl Van Dorn's December, 1862, cavalry raid on Grant's supply base at Holly Springs had forced General Grant to retreat to Memphis and General Sherman's daily progress down the Mississippi River had been reported to General Pemberton by Rebel scouts and spies. General Sherman landed on the east bank of the river on 26 December 1862 and fought the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs three days later. He was repulsed. After Sherman's defeat Major General J. A. McClernand arrived and took command. He then took the Federal forces up the White River in Arkansas to capture the Post of Arkansas on 11 January 1863. General Grant feared that General McClernand was losing sight of the main object of capturing Vicksburg and would waste time and men on a "wild goose chase" in Arkansas. He reorganized the Federal forces and sent both Sherman and McClernand to Young's Point, Louisiana, opposite Vicksburg. Grant intended to cut a canal through the point, change the course of the Mississippi River, and then get his forces south of Vicksburg by the canal thus bypassing the batteries at Vicksburg. Grant had started the project before actually seeing the land at Young's Point. After seeing the land he quickly realized the impracticality of the project. Grant then moved on to the Yazoo Pass project.

Directly east of Helena, Arkansas, it is only ten miles to the Coldwater River in Mississippi. A winding bayou called the Yazoo Pass connected the Mississippi River and the Coldwater River. Several years prior to the Civil War this waterway connection was the route from Memphis to Yazoo City, Mississippi. In an attempt to dry out the land in this area for farming a levee had been built to hold back the Mississippi River. The project was successful but in the process the use of the Yazoo Pass as a transportation artery was lost. Grant intended to open the Yazoo Pass up again and sail down the Coldwater, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo Rivers to Vicksburg. On 3 February 1863 the levee was cut by an explosion and the pass was filled with water. It took several weeks for the Yankees to clear the obstructions but on 5 March 1863 orders were sent to General James B. McPherson to take thirty thousand men down the water route to Yazoo City.

The Confederates had not been idle during this time. General Pemberton had sent General William W. Loring from Grenada to Greenwood to block the Yankee gunboats. General Loring arrived on 21 February 1863 and built Fort Pemberton on a stretch of land about five miles from the mouth of the Yalobusha River. The site of the fort was between the Yazoo and Tallahatchie Rivers where the two rivers are separated by only five hundred yards. This allowed Confederate use of the Yazoo and Yalobusha Rivers while blocking the Tallahatchie. By 10 March 1863 the earthworks and cotton bale parapets were finished and defended by two thousand men and eight guns. The Yankees under General Leonard Ross attacked on 11 March 1863 and were repulsed. There was another Yankee attempt two days later which was also unsuccessful. This ended the Yazoo Pass attacks. While the Yazoo Pass project was underway General Grant had received intelligence of Confederate troop movements from Grenada and Vicksburg which could have led to General Ross being surrounded and blockaded at Fort Pemberton. The 33rd Mississippi was a part of the Confederate movement which worried General Grant. In an attempt to protect General Ross and also find another water transportation route to the Yazoo River General Grant and Admiral David D. Porter jointly proposed another project called the Steele's Bayou Expedition. This route would be up the Yazoo to Steele's Bayou, then to Black Bayou, then to Deer Creek, over to Rolling Fork, then to the Sunflower River, and finally from there back to the Yazoo River midway between Yazoo City and Haine's Bluff. This would bypass the Confederate defenses at Haine's and Snyder's Bluffs and the raft obstruction on the Yazoo River. The total distance would be almost two hundred miles.

The Steele's Bayou Campaign

If the Steele's Bayou Expedition turned out to be successful then a Federal force could be landed above Haine's Bluff and get into the rear of Vicksburg. This would bypass the extensive Confederate fortifications at Snyder's Bluff and Haine's Bluff and at the Vicksburg waterfront. This would also put the defenders of Fort Pemberton between the Federal forces to their north and a Federal naval force which could be just south of Fort Pemberton.

On 14 March 1863 the Federal naval force of five ironclads, four tugs, and four XIII inch mortar scows started off on the expedition. Despite Confederate efforts to block the naval forces by felling trees in the waterways the Yankees managed to reach near enough to Rolling Fork to land a force of three hundred men and two guns. On 18 March 1863 General Dabney Maury, commanding Confederate forces at Snyder's Bluff, received a report of the Union expedition. He notified his commander in Vicksburg, General Carter Stevenson, of the situation and received orders to send Featherston's Brigade to defend against the Yankee push.

Featherston's Brigade was camped at Chickasaw Bridge on the old battlefield of Chickasaw Bluffs. (This area today is occupied by numerous homes and commercial buildings.) When the brigade reached Snyder's Bluff on 19 March 1863 the 22nd and 23rd Mississippi Infantry Regiments and a section of Company C, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, embarked on boats to take them up the Yazoo River and subsequently the Little Sunflower River to Rolling Fork. The 33rd Mississippi went into camp on the levee of the Yazoo River until more transportation was available. General Featherston joined the Confederate forces under General Samuel Ferguson, which were already at Rolling Fork. The plan was to attack the Federals and capture the gunboats.

The Confederates launched an artillery attack on 20 March 1863 which drove the Federal force and their light artillery off of an Indian mound and back to the gunboats but for reasons that are unclear General Featherston did not follow this success with an infantry attack. During the night of 20 March 1863 Admiral Porter decided to retreat but was only able to get two miles back down the creek. Admiral Porter sent a message to General Sherman requesting infantry help and the general received it. On 21 March 1863 Col. Giles Smith's brigade of 800 men started out to oppose Featherston. Throughout the day of 21 March 1863 the Rebels sniped at the Union gunboats making it difficult for the sailors to clear obstructions in the creek and move their boats. General Ferguson complained that his men had to take on most of the combat while General Featherston's men lagged behind. By three o'clock in the afternoon of 21 March 1863 the men of Col. Giles Smith's brigade had reached the gunboats and dispersed the Rebel marksmen.

The 33rd Mississippi had reached General Featherston late in the evening of 20 March 1863 and skirmished with the Yankees on the 21st but there was "no regular engagement." On 22 March 1863 the gunboats had reached Egremont Plantation (also known as Moore's Plantation) and were attempting to cut through the Deer Creek obstructions. General Ferguson crossed to the western side of the creek while Col. David Hurst led the 33rd Mississippi along with the 22nd and 23rd Mississippi through a skirt of woods that led to the east of the open fields adjacent to Deer Creek. Col. Hurst was able to get the three regiments near to the creek while Lt. Col. John Higley led his 40th Alabama Infantry and the artillery down the road that ran alongside the eastern bank of the creek. The artillery opened on the gunboats but the big guns of the Federals soon silenced the Rebel artillery. Col. Giles Smith heard the booming of the guns and hurried his men forward. About the same time a second relief column sent from the south by General Sherman arrived with the 54th Ohio Infantry in the lead. Col. Hurst was then faced with Yankees to his north and south and gunboats in the creek to his west. Col. Hurst wisely ordered a retreat to the east and extricated his command "from an embarrassing situation."

Col. Hurst and his men then joined the 40th Alabama Infantry to await the coming of the Yankee infantry. After a reconnaissance, the Yankees, commanded by Col. George B. Hoge of the 113th Illinois Infantry, decided the Confederates were too strong and declined to attack. General Featherston evaluated his intelligence of the Yankee forces, decided that the Federals were too strong, and also declined to attack. There was no contact with the Federals on the 23rd and 24th but the 33rd Mississippi did skirmish with the Federals at Watson's Farm about three miles above the Black Bayou junction with Deer Creek on 25 March 1863. There was another skirmish the following day but that ended the combat and the Steele's Bayou Expedition.

General Ferguson was disappointed in the performance of the usually aggressive General Featherston but General Featherston felt he was outgunned and out-manned. General Ferguson also stated, "The visionary absurdity of the over-sanguine expectations of capturing gunboats entertained by some military men becomes apparent when it is considered that from 12 to 15 feet depth of water, with a width of from 6 to 10 feet, is always interposed between the assailants and the object assailed, and the boats well-nigh incapable of entrance when boarded, and each arranged with reference to the protection of the other." Featherston reported the brigade losses as two killed and six to eight wounded. He did not give the regiments of the casualties.

On 28 March 1863 the regiment took the boats up to Greenwood and landed on 1 April 1863. They established camp there on 2 April 1863 and began work on breastworks the next night.

In early April there was some reorganization and Featherston s Brigade then consisted of the 3rd, 22nd, 31st, 33rd Infantry Regiments, the 1st Mississippi Battalion Sharpshooters, and Battery C of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. The brigade was assigned to Loring's Division. On 8 April 1863 a general review of the troops was held at Fort Loring, about four miles southwest of Greenwood on the west bank of the Yazoo River. The 3rd Mississippi was camped on Lake Roebuck at Heard's Plantation in this same area and the 33rd Mississippi was camped nearby on the banks of the Yazoo River. Pvt. William Jefferson Worthy of the Embry community wrote from there to his wife Sarah:
A Camp Near Greenwood Miss Apr the 10 1863.

 Dear and most afectionate wife as it has bin sometime since I rote to you I will drop you a few lines to day and say to you that I am tolrable well at this time hoping when these few lines come to hand may find you all well I havent any news of any great importance to write the yankeys is all left hear tho there was plenty hear when wee came hear wee are cam -ped just 5 miles below Greenwood right on the bank of the Yazoo river I dont think that wee will stay hear many days there is a talk of us a going to watervaly and I hope that wee will gow if wee doo wee will goo right by Grenada I rote you a leter the other day and sent it by a man by the name of Wheeler to drop at Cadaretta but I dont now whether hee droped it there or not I hav bin a lifle puny but I believe that I am a bout strait now wee have had the hardest times for the last month that wee ever have had since wee have bin out wee have drawed about won 3 rats that is about won meel a day I cant hardly stand it at all I tell you I study mighty about coming home and if I doo I will come to stay tha havt never paid us yet and I havt got a sent of mony nor a chew of tobacoo and you may now that i am in a bad fix I still can beg a chew wons(once) and a while that helps a long Some nearly all of our boys is a talking about gowing home and I think there is several that will gow Sarah I never did want to come home as bad in my life I dremped a bout seeing you and my sweet little babe as plane as if you had bin present that night and thout that Saly could walk god bles her sweet litle sole I study about you all the time Sarah when I ly down of a night on the cold grown(ground) I think mighty strong about my good bed at home oh it is awful to think how wee are treated but wee can only hope for the beter I want to hear from you mighty bad I havent got but won leter from you since Juge Pittman came back I got a leter from Richard Jackson hee rote to mee that hee had 200 hundred dollars for you and if I said soo hee would cary the balance and pay it all and hee wants mee to come and get it but it is out of my power to get to tend to any bisness I sent the leter to you that I got from him but I dont now whether you got it or not and I thought that I would write about it in this leter you can right to him to come and pay you what hee has and that will doo without boren(borrowing)any moore and if hee comes you can get Mr Moore to come over and tend to it write to him that I cant get off to come to see him and hee will have to come to see you I dont now any thing about Jo hee(WJ Worthy's brother who died in service I think also in the 33rd Miss Co G) was sent to the horspitle at Sniders Bluff and I dhavt herd from him since. I rec -ken hee is at home so I must come to a close Direct your leter to Greenwood Miss kiss my sweet litle babe for mee write soon I remain your ever loving husband until death
  W J Worthy to
  S J Worthy
typed off the original letter from
William Jefferson Worthy
to Sarah Isabelle Lovorn Worthy

General Grant Sows Confusion

Quiet camp duty would not last for very long. Federal General U. S. Grant had kept up his increasing efforts to bring about the fall of Vicksburg and in mid-April 1863 he was on the Louisiana shore opposite Vicksburg and had naval forces in the Yazoo River to the north of Vicksburg. Grant ran the batteries of Vicksburg on the 16th and 22nd of April and got his forces south of that city.

General Pemberton began to respond to these moves by shifting troops around to sites he felt were threatened. On 22 April 1863 Featherston's Brigade was ordered to march to Duck Hill, Mississippi. They made the march most of the time in a rainstorm and in deep mud. They arrived in Duck Hill, a small village ten miles south of Grenada, on 24 April 1863. During this time the diversionary raid mounted by Col. Benjamin Grierson was riding through central Mississippi and doing everything that General Grant could have hoped for it to do. Featherston's Brigade was sent up the railroad to Grenada to guard that site from possible cavalry attack.

Lt. R. J. McCormack of the Third Mississippi Infantry wrote his family from their camp at Grenada:
"the vicinity of Grenada is very pleasant and suits me very well and it is the most flourishing place I have seen since the fall of New Orleans. They have more goods of every kind than I have seen, and the prices are very steep--I would like to remain here about two months and take half of the time out on a sick furlough, which is the only plea on which the leave of absence will be granted to an officer. You have heard of the Yankees 1500 strong passing through from above Hazelhurst. I think it is an outrage that they should be allowed to pass un-molested through our state."

On 30 April 1863 General Grant made his amphibious assault at Bruinsburg and made a successful landing. General Pemberton dispatched General Featherston to get his troops ready to move. The men struck camp, marched to the depot at Grenada, and took to the cars for the trip south to Vicksburg. On May 1863 the Battle of Port Gibson had been fought between Grant and Confederate General John Bowen. Bowen had put up a gallant defense but had been overwhelmed by the Union forces. Now Grant was on the loose in Mississippi and Pemberton was having to guess at the Federal general's next target.

One logical target was Vicksburg itself and the 33rd Mississippi was sent to defend that area. Private Van Kees recorded in his diary that in the first two weeks of May the 33rd worked on fortifications at Big Black Bridge, went out on roads from Vicksburg to the south, did picket duty around Edwards Depot, and then on 15 May 1863, went out on the Raymond Road towards Jackson in a few miles of the enemy. General Grant had defeated General John Gregg on the 12th at the Battle of Raymond and then had defeated General Joe Johnston at Jackson on the 14th. After turning westward to the ultimate goal of the campaign, Vicksburg, he was about to fight General Pemberton in the battle that would seal Vicksburg's fate. It was known as the Battle of Baker's Creek or as the Battle of Champion Hill.

Champion Hill

Edwards sits just west of Baker's Creek. The Southern Railroad runs almost directly east-west at this point. Grant's army was advancing westward from Jackson (east of Edwards) along the Jackson Road (just south of and parallel to the railroad) and the Raymond Road (running roughly from the southeast of Edwards). The Champion Hill area (still owned by the Champion family today) sits alongside the Jackson Road and north of the Raymond Road.

Featherston's Brigade was the last in line as General Loring crossed Baker's Creek on the Jackson Road and swung south along an old plantation road to meet the Raymond Road. The troops moved southeast on the Raymond Road to go into camp at nightfall near Mrs. Ellison's house. One regiment of Featherston's Brigade, the 22nd Mississippi, was on advance guard along with the 35th Alabama Infantry. These units would open the battle the next day by clashing with the Federal advance guard led by the 23rd Wisconsin Infantry. On 16 May 1863 the Battle of Champion Hill began.

The Battle of Champion Hill

Loring's Division was quickly pulled back to a defensive position on the Raymond Road just west of Jackson's Creek. The 33rd Mississippi was posted along with the rest of Featherston's troops on the ridge south of the Raymond Road. Incredibly, with his army spread out over several miles and with his advance troops already in contact with the enemy Gen. Pemberton was trying to withdraw his army to the north in order to join the forces of Gen. Joe Johnston! This was being done in response to an order Gen. Johnston had sent previously and had then had sent again to Pemberton. Pemberton had decided against obeying the order while he was still at Edwards and had an open road to the north available to him, but after contacting the Yankees he decided to obey the order. It was not to be. After establishing the Jackson's Creek defensive line Gen. Loring found that an even better position was further to the west on the Coker House Ridge. As the 35th Alabama and the 22nd Mississippi pulled back the Federals did not press them and Gen. Loring ordered his troops back to the Coker House Ridge. The 22nd Mississippi then rejoined Featherston's Brigade in their position south of the Coker House. (The Coker House still exists today, although in bad repair, and overlooks the area where the 33rd Mississippi was. Today it is occupied by numerous chicken houses operated by a company engaged in the business of selling eggs.)

After the Federals crossed Jackson's Creek they occupied the ridge line recently evacuated by Loring and repaired the bridge that had been obstructed by the 35th Alabama and the 22nd Mississippi. Gen. Stephen Burbridge's Federal Brigade occupied the ridge supported by 17 guns from the 17th Ohio Battery and the Chicago Mercantile Battery. And for the 33rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment that was just about it for the all-important Battle of Champion Hill. Pvt. Van Kees summed it up in one of his usual succinct diary entries: "Skirmishing commenced soon in the morning and kept it up until about 12 o clock and thin got into regular engagement and kept it up untill almost nite and we had to retrete back, and we travel south all nite." The majority of the fighting had happened to the north of Featherston s Brigade. As units on the left of Featherston were sent to the heaviest fighting, the men of the 33rd moved closer to getting into the fight. As Gen. Loring got Featherston and the remnants of Gen. S.D. Lee's command into position Gen. Pemberton sent an order for Loring to cover the retreat of the army. (The official reports list only one man missing from the 33rd Mississippi, and no wounded or killed in action. A review of individual service records of the regiment reveal that several show men listed as wounded on 16 May 63, captured on 16 May 63, or killed on 16 May 63. The 1st Sgt. Of Company A, along with a few others ended up in Vicksburg with Pemberton's Army and signed his parole there when that army surrendered in July.)

As Pemberton retreated to Vicksburg Gen. Loring was to cover the retreat. He did so but in the confusion of battle the Yankees were able to get some units between him and Pemberton. He then faced the decision of having to attack those Yankees and fight his way through to Pemberton or to take another route than his planned one to get to Vicksburg. He chose to try a different road and set off with a local man as a guide. The soldiers marched through the night along the east bank of Baker's Creek in the mud on what was little more than a trail. Because of the conditions they had to abandon large amounts of equipment including twelve cannons and several wagons of ammunition. When they finally reached their alternate road they saw that fires to the northwest indicated that the Yankees were again astride their line of retreat and there was no hope of rejoining Pemberton.

Loring called a council of war and the decision was made to head south to the railroad at Crystal Springs and then march back up from there to rejoin Gen. Joe Johnston at Jackson. Loring lost over 3000 men to straggling during the retreat. Several of the companies of the 33rd were from the southwestern part of Mississippi and they probably just took the opportunity to go home for a while. Pvt. Van Kees did so. One officer in the 3rd Mississippi wrote a relative that, "Most all of 3 companies went home, but officers have been sent out to arrest and bring them in." The regiment remained at Jackson until 31 May 1863 and then moved on to Canton, Mississippi. They went into camp here west of town on Bear Creek.

The Army of Relief

The 33rd was here to become part of the "Army of Relief" that Gen. Joe Johnston was assembling to come to the rescue of the troops besieged in Vicksburg. Many words have been written about Gen. Johnston's failure to ever really do anything to relieve Gen. Pemberton and his troops. Gen. Grant was besieging Vicksburg with 45,000 men. Gen. Pemberton had 29,500 men inside Vicksburg, and Gen. Johnston had been reinforced to 31,000 men and 78 cannons. While Johnston organized and got ready, Grant increased his forces to 77,000. With this large number he was able to detach Gen. Sherman from the siege line and send him east to defend against Johnston's anticipated attack. The 33rd Mississippi Infantry as part of the "Army of Relief" participated in the marches and preparation to do battle to free Vicksburg but there was no fighting. The Regiment left Canton on 9 June 63 and marched in the general direction of Vicksburg camping at Clinton, Mississippi, Moore's Ferry (on the big Black River), and then arriving to camp on Panther Creek near Vernon from 11 June 63 until 30 June.

Gen Johnston had finally decided to move toward Vicksburg on 1 July 63 and sent out probes to find a weak spot in the Federal line north of the Southern Railroad. There were none. Johnston must have been aware of the condition of Pemberton's army inside Vicksburg, but he was not aware of how close the surrender of that army actually was. Gen. Grant had planned to assault Vicksburg again on 6 July 1863 if there was no surrender before that date. Johnston had determined to look for a soft spot in the Federal lines south of the Southern Railroad but events soon overtook him and he would have to change roles from attacker to defender.

On 3 July 1863 Gen. Pemberton offered to negotiate terms of surrender and Gen. Grant notified Gen. Sherman to be prepared to destroy Johnston's army as soon as the surrender of the Vicksburg defenders was accomplished. On 4 July 1863 Gen. Pemberton agreed to the terms of Gen. Grant and surrendered the Vicksburg garrison. The garrison would be paroled and sent to a parole camp to stay there until exchanged for Federal prisoners. First Sgt. Tillman McCarty, Co A, 33rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, had become separated from the regiment during the Battle of Champion Hill and had retreated into Vicksburg with Gen. Pemberton's army. He was one of several members of the regiment to surrender there. He signed his parole in front of a Federal captain in the 101st Illinois Infantry and a Confederate Officer from the 66th Alabama Infantry. Gen. Johnston heard of the surrender on 5 July 63. On 6 July he had his army in retreat towards Jackson. The men of Featherston's Brigade left the area of the Big Black River and marched past Queen's Hill Church and turned into the Bridgeport Road. It was very hot and dry. It took two days to make the 25 mile march to Jackson.

Second Jackson

The Confederates set up to receive the expected Yankee attack. The defense line at Jackson was a rough semi-circle from the Pearl River north of Jackson out westward and then back south again to the Pearl River. Featherston's Brigade went into a relatively unfinished part of the line one mile north of Jackson. (This general area is now easily found if one goes to Jackson on Interstate 55. Just take the exit marked Fortification Street.) Gen. Sherman decided on 10 July 63 that a siege was in order rather than a frontal attack on the entrenched Confederates. There was a small-scale attack on 11 July 63 by the 2nd Michigan Infantry on Loring's position but due to confusion and the failure of other units to support, the attack was called off and the Michiganders retreated. Gen. Johnston had already decided on the 11th that he would be evacuating Jackson. He sent a telegram to Jefferson Davis advising him of the likelihood of his retreat. Gen Sherman directed his men to prepare for a siege and opened it on 12 July 63 with a one hour barrage of 3000 artillery projectiles. The men of the 33rd Mississippi settled in to enduring the siege until the 16th when Union Gen. J. G. Parks sent a forced reconnaissance against Loring's command. Gen. Edward Ferrero sent his men against the area manned by Featherston's Brigade. There was sharp firing from around a Confederate artillery battery called "The Cotton Bale Battery." Gen. Ferrero was satisfied that the position was still held in strength and recalled his troops.

On the night of the 16th Gen. Johnston ordered the retreat to begin. Featherston's Brigade slipped out of the trenches quietly and marched to the low ground east of the capital building. (This area is now the site of the state fairgrounds.) The men marched on through the night crossing Carson's Ferry on the Pearl River and on toward Brandon. After showing much dash and aggressiveness Gen. Sherman was content to let Gen. Johnston escape. Sherman had confided to another officer, "If he moves across Pearl River, and makes good speed, I will let him go." Featherston's Brigade kept marching east until they reached Forest in central Scott County on 20 July 1863. They went into camp along Futche's Creek, a sluggish small creek northeast of town on the north side of what is now called Old U.S. 80. The siege of Jackson and the subsequent retreat must have been very demoralizing to the men of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry. A review of the individual service records shows numerous entries showing "deserted" for 16 July 63.

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History of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry is copyrighted by S. W. Bondurant