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tv   Siege of Vicksburg and Confederate Defense  CSPAN  August 15, 2017 6:12am-7:16am EDT

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to give you a a sense of what jn buford's politics were, his two full brothers he had, because n.b. was a half-brother and they had other half-brothers and sister, but the two full brothers were named thomas jefferson buford and james re. monroeoe buford. that ought to give you an idea of what the old man's politics were. thank you. i will be around if anybody has other questions. [ applause ] >> the theme of this year's emerging civil war blog symposium was great defenses of the civil war. coming up, the siege of vicksburg and confederate defense, battle of chickamauga and horseshoe ridge defense, and union lou general's monocacy defense. american history df is in prime time all week with recent civil war conferences. on tuesday a seminar focusing on the civil war leadership with
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talks on generals robert e. lee and ulysses s. grant. american history tv in prime time begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. matt atkinson is a former park ranger with the vicksburg national military park. next he talks about the 1863 siege of vicksburg and the confederate defense of the city. this 50-minute talk was part of a symposium on great defenses of the civil war, host by the emerging civil war blog. >> our next speaker today comes to us from gettysburg national military park. we've just heard from gettysburg and we're going to have the get ea gettysburg talk about vicksburg. matt is a nate irof mississippi. he is everything you hope to find when you walk to the desk at the park and you want to talk to the great southern gentleman with the great accent. he is going to tell you about
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southern charm. ironically, this is a man i -- i heard has been told that he's not southern enough. is that right? >> yeah, it is. >> wait until he opens his mouth. >> i just wish you would stop with the gentleman part. i was enjoying that. that's few and far between. >> one of the things -- what's that? >> gentleman. >> gentleman, the next gentleman who's about to speak to you today comes from mississippi. he's going to talk a little bit about the siege of mississippi and the confederate defense there. if anybody has had the opportunity to be on a battlefield with matt atkinson, it is kind of like having this immersive story-telling experience out on the field that somehow is also like this running stand-up comedy routine, which you don't necessarily expect on a battlefield, and yet he continues to woo and charm hundreds and hundreds of
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visitors with his unique and wonderful battlefield style. if you ever have the opportunity to get to gettysburg and listen to matt speak, it really, truly is a wonderful story-telling experience on the field. without further ado, i present to you my friend matt atkinson. [ applause ] >> i always hate the setup, the introduction, you know, and everything. so i think this is the -- maybe the first time i have ever been on c-span, so i've kind of like, you know -- and, you know, you -- i don't know if you set goals or whatever, but i've always thought that i would have hit the pinnacle if i could have steve scully interview me on c-span. most of you don't know who he is, but you know who he is you just don't know who he is. he's the dude from c-span. i always just wanted to be
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sitting on the couch. so i would like to -- if he is watching, i would like to make a shout-out to steve, hey! come to stevenson ridge, let's get the couch out, let's get the fern and have an interview. let's talk. okay. so supposed to talk about vicksburg. i'm supposed to talk about vicksburg from a confederate standpoint, which makes it even more unusual because at least for me, because we always -- i always talk about it from the union standpoint because it really is, i think, u.s. grant's greatest campaign by far, probably one of the -- it is arguable, but maybe the best campaign in the entire civil war. it is very decisive, to say the least, with the outcome. but today i'm going to try to
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speak from the confederate perspective, which is from a bias standpoint depressing. yes. so i would like you to know that i fortified myself really well last night in anticipation of this program, right here. the one thing about vicksburg if you ever read about it in depth, one of the big problems with vicksburg from a confederate standpoint is you just don't have that many confederate accounts. for one thing, they don't want to write about it. number two, when it is happening, you know, it is a siege and that's what primarily i will be talking about today, is the siege of vicksburg and the confederate soldier. well, when you're besieged you can't mail anything. so what is the impetus to write, you know? so confederate accounts are few
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and far between. all right. so vicksburg, if you don't know, speaking to the internet audience out here, is going to happen simultaneous to the get east bu gettysburg campaign. both happen in the summer of 1863. before the war, vicksburg is the second largest city in mississippi. it has a -- it's got a population around 5,000 people. it is thriving economically because it is a river port. it is one of the few places along the mississippi river where there's bluffs and not floodplains, so therefore you can establish a city, and then you have a port and then you add a railroad. you put both of those together and you've got the fuel for the fire, so to speak, for economic growth. it becomes a river port. if you look right here, here is
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vicksburg roughly between new orleans and memphis. perfect stopping point and probably the biggest city -- maybe baton rouge might be bigger, i don't know, but one of the bigger cities on the lower mississippi. the irony about -- one of the many ironies about vicksburg is the very thing that makes it thrive in peacetime is going to be the very thing which brings the armies here in war time. vicksburg with those high bluffs are just going to prove impossible for the union navy to take by themselves. they can't elevate the gun. the railroad militarily speaking is going to allow the confederates to supply a large army away from a ready base of supplies, but as far as the defense of vicksburg the railroad allows the confederates to bring in some big canons. when i say big canons, i'm not
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talking about these pea shooters like you see on most battle fields. i'm talking about the big boys, you know, 100 pounds or more as far as the shells being fired. so vicksburg really arguably for about a year during the american civil war is the most important place strategically. that would be my opinion right there. it basically becomes, ladies and gentlemen, the last confederate stronghold on the mississippi river, with a small shout out to port hudson because i like those people down there. and the people -- thank you, thank you, phil. and the people -- i just got back from louisiana, and they made sure that i was aware there was another battle besides vicksburg. basically, you got vicksburg right here. you got memphis up above. you got new orleans down below,
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and both cities fall to union forces. vicksburg becomes that last place. unlike port hudson or natches or any of the other remaining towns, it has a railroad and this is where the confederacy is going to make its stand. one of the things geographic -- geo graphically that most people miss about vicksburg is that the mississippi river -- everybody knows about that, and it is to the west of the town. i keep bumping into in microphone. the thing they don't realize about the town itself is that vicksburg is actually surrounded on all four sides by water, and that's what's going to prove to be extremely difficult for the union army. not only do you have the mississippi river right here, you have the big black river along here and you have the yazu river to the north. you got the big black to the east and south, yazoo to the
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north and mississippi to the west. basic goal of the union army is how to find high and dry ground, how do you get at vicksburg, and it proves to be a tough, very tough nut to crack. now, in 1863 grant basically has two options in the spring. he could go back to memphis and start back down through northern mississippi and try to approach vicksburg from the north or he could march down the louisiana side, which his army is basically up north. here is vicksburg right here. here is the army up north. now, i'm going to do this whole map, and i know everybody has already looked at the map and already can tell the campaign. what i need you to do is focus on the left side of the map because that's where we're starting. let the campaign unfold, and then we will do vicksburg in double-quick time to get to the
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siege. so grant out of the two options is obviously going to choose the latter. he's going to march his army down louisiana side, which could be its own powerpoint within itself. very good maneuver by grant. about 20,000 men trying to move through flooded bayous. grant makes it. he starts out on march 29th, moving his army over there, and two times in april, two separate occasions the union navy is going to run the confederate -- run past the confederate batteries at vicksburg down below. when military staff rides come to vicksburg, they don't generally come to study the confederates, but when they study the u.s. forces one of the is the great relationship between the navy and the army during the vicksburg campaign.
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there is no supreme commander. there's no eisenhower, there's no mcarthur at vicksburg. the navy doesn't answer to the army and the army doesn't answer to the navy, but yet david digson porter, admiral david dickson porter and general grant form a great working relationship, and that is really what makes vicksburg click as far as getting the job done in capturing this city. so the navy, porter agrees to run past the batteries. he's to meet up with grant's army down here. grant marches all the way through these bayous and he originally wanted to cross the mississippi river at grand gulf. the union engages a small battery force there and is unable to knock out the gun. why is that big? because grant doesn't have his landing spot.
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what does u.s. grant do? never thinks about retreating. he simply just has the navy go further south. he marches his army a little bit further south to brewensburg and he crosses right there on april 29th. now grant has a foothold within mississippi. april 30th his army continues to cross, and basically by the night of april 30th he's got 20,000 men. 20,000 men across mississippi. the confederates for that matter -- and this is what grant does really well. grant leavds a feint. william t. sherman if you have ever heard of him, is going to be north. i once went to a civil war party one time. i went in the bathroom, and i'm
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not kidding y'all, they had a role of sherman toilet paper. so there's a feint up above here with sherman. let's get into the confederate defense of vicksburg. i'm about to talk about john c.pemberton in a second. pemberton, the confederate commander, is sitting here in vicksburg and bites on this feint. while grant is marching south with the main part of the union army, he thinks they're going to come from the north of the city. he guesses incorrectly. meanwhile, down here at port gibson you have the confederate commander there, john c. bowen, screaming at pemberton, hey, the whole union army is coming over here, boss, i need some help, but he doesn't get reinforcements in time.
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pemberton is, as i said, an interesting study. he talk about hard luck. you know, he's a yankee. i mean we all have things in our life we're not proud of. well, that one got a moan. i like that. all right. suddenly c-span goes dark, you know, they're going to pull the plug on him. yeah. we're not gonna have -- here come the call-ins. i don't know what he thought he was funny. [ laughter ] >> we get steve scully. so, matt, tell us about your childhood. [ laughter ] >> john c. pemberton is born in philly, august 10th, 1814. 1837 he graduates from west point, from the military academy there.
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he stands 27th out of 50. average student. not too smart, not too dumb. pemberton became a career military officer, receiving two brevettes for gallantry in the mexican war. in 1848 he married a virginian. in 1861 pemberton is a very torn man between which side he should go to. should he go north, should he go south. his wife writes him, one of the few letters that still exists between pemberton and his wife, and she says, to him, my darling, why have you not joined us yet. jeff davis has a position waiting on you. pemberton chooses the south, probably because of his wife. he comes down on june 17th, 1861. he gets a star, brigadier general's commission in the confederate army. now watch, this is july of --
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excuse me, june of '61. the fall of '61 found him in south carolina overseeing coastal defenses. by january of 1862 the war department appointed him to the rank of major general. followed in march by formal assignment as the commander of the department of south carolina and georgia. okay. what's in south carolina? there's a little place where the civil war began. you ever heard about south carolina? okay. there is a reason south carolinan was not named president of the confederacy. they're known as a bunch of hot heads. as one person said, i forget who said it, south carolina is too small for a republican, too large for an insane asylum. needless to say, needless to
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say -- oh, here come the letters now on south carolina. [ laughter ] >> congress will probably by the time i leave out of here, congress will be debating cutting off funding for c-span. we don't like your programming. they put pemberton in charge of charleston. you see where i'm going with this? a yankee in charge of charleston, and then pemberton makes some pr blunders. he says, you know, charleston can't be defended, we may have to evacuate the city if the yankees come. you don't say that. they get on the phone to jeff davis and they're like, who is this guy and why is he here? so, you know, davis i think is embarrassed by that. davis -- jefferson davis has a lot of flaws, and this might be a flaw in some cases but it can be a strength. if you are a friend of jeff
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davis, you were a friend of jeff davis. he was very loyal to people who were loyal to him. and he felt that the impugning of john pemberton was basically attacking him incorrectly. so he removes pemberton from south carolina, but he reassigns him. what better way to show your confidence in a commander than to reassign him to defend literally your own home in mississippi? so pemberton is transferred from south carolina to mississippi. he gets there in october of 1862. he is a major general. there's a problem. there's a guy by the name of earl van dorn already in mississippi and he has a senior rank to pemberton. how do you fix that? you promote pemberton again. so pemberton becomes a lieutenant general, arguably in charge of the most important
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department in the entire confederacy, and john c. pemberton, a lieutenant general, has never fought a battle as a commander. that's how that works. no event in the resume of pemberton's military career warranted the rapid rice in promotion. his strength lay as administrator, and he was a competent man as a department commander, but he never commanded an army in the field of battle. to compound his woes, pemberton had a domineering personality and tended to irritate his subordinates. the rank and file distrusted him from the beginning because of his northern birth. these ingredients and everything put together would spell disaster for the confederacy. pemberton doesn't have cores at vicksburg, he has divisions, and he has five division commanders. john c. bowen, who arguably i would like to say is one of the
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most underrated, overlooked combat commanders from the american civil wore. he has missouri, arkansas boys, and i think they're the best troops in the entire campaign. watch how much they're utilized. you got william loring. it is interesting chap, lost an arm in the mexican war. really, really, really irritable fellow. him and stonewall jackson just did not get along in 1861. so what's the confederacy always do? they kick him out west. he will prove to be a thorn in pemberton's side. in fact, some would argue he might have even thrown a battle just to get pemberton fired. you got the senior division commander, you got carter l. stevenson over here. then you got john h. forney from alabama. then this gentleman right here who actually is going to tie in to ironically, i believe, it is
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chris mackowski is speaking about north anna. this is martin l. smith. if you have never paid attention to martin l. smith, i'm not going to talk about him a lot today, but i want you to remember the name because i want you to notice sometime how much he pops up at various places. in 1864 after vicksburg he's going to be robert e. lee's chief engineer. some people say he was in charge -- not known 100%, but he may have been the one that drew out the mule shoe at spotsylvania in the darksness. small world. vicksburg. grant gets over, has a toe hold. bow bowen is down here. grant could have had many men at vicksburg and it wouldn't have matter because it is nothing but pa pure jungle. i'm talking about a forest, dense, not what we're used to up
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here. grant can't deploy his men and it takes a while. now, he has four-to-one odds, but bowen manages to hold him up all day long. by the time he gets this toe hold here, he pushes the confederates back and basically he has gained his ground. he encourages grand gulf, and that sets up his supply base where the navy can resupply from there. so he has a tenuous supply line coming down through louisiana and over to here. most people think he cuts loose. that's not exactly true. what does grant do? if you're pemberton, the confederate forces -- once again, it is from the confederate viewpoint -- it looks like grant would take the shortest route to your objective, right? he would go straight north. as you can see from the map he does not do that. he moves to the east, and when he moves inland, this big black river -- the name of it, big black river right here, stands as an obstacle between him and
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vicksburg. well, grant turns that obstacle into a strength by utilizing the big black to cover his left flank as he advances in to the interior of the state. grant's objective is vicksburg, but what grant is aiming for and what pemberton, the confederate commander, does guess correctly is that grant's objective is the achilles tendon of vicksburg, which is this railroad right here. if you cut the railroad, vicksburg is dying on the vine so to speak. literally, you talk about confederates right here, edward station -- i know those of you in the back are having a hard time seeing this, but edwards station is where pemberton comes out from vicksburg, collects his army. he and grant are about to have a huge battle right there when suddenly the battle of raymond is fought over here. long story short, the confederates were -- another confederate force from fort hudson was supposed to be
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attacking the rear of the union army. they turned out to be attacking an entire union corps with one brigade basically. that turned out, ladies and gentlemen, to -- the confederates hold them out but it turns out once again to be a union victory. but what does grant do? hey, there's confederates in my rear. i don't want to deal with pemberton right now, so grant backs out, heads to jackson, defeats that confederate force there, pushes it away from pemberton and then severs the railroad and starts moving towards vicksburg. on may 16th, the battle of champion hill is fought. the battle of champion hill roughly has, oh, probably 60,000 men combining both forces, fighting it out right there. doesn't even have one monument there today. it decides the fate of
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vicksburg. pemberton's forces are defeated at champion hill. they fall back toward -- they fall back toward vicksburg. the next day they fight a rear guard action at the battle of big black river on may 17th, and then pemberton makes the fatal decision to withdraw his army into the interior of the city. may 19th, grant comes up. grant doesn't want to sit in front of vicksburg all through the mississippi summer. may 19th he starts his attack. all of the union troops can't get up, only a portion that are ready to attack are up here on sherman's front in this area, and they attack along there and are severely repulsed, specifically at the stock aid rodan. may 19th cost general grant 942
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men. you talk about defenses, ladies and gentlemen, to show you the strengths of fortifications. it is not known, but if grant loses 1,000, the confederates are estimated to have lost 250. that's what man behind fortifications with a rifle and muskets can do. what causes nearly four-to-one casualties? these little things right here that ring the city. the confederates have bit a defensive work around the city, and at weak points -- basically this is one long entire ridge. i'm oversimply fining it but that's basically it. it is one long, continuous ridge surrounding the city. wherever there's another ridge coming out or a road or anything like that, the confederacy erect massive fortifications there, forts to control the terrain.
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as you see, you would place ditches right here, fortifications, you would put palisades, fray, other stuff, i will talk about siege materials in a little while. anyway, you slow up the attackers. the thing if you have never been to vicksburg, which is hard for me to explain, let me put it to you like one confederate engineer said after the war. he said, when the lord made all of the mountains -- bet that's never been done on c-span -- and he made all of the valleys, he dumped all of the scrap in vicksburg. [ laughter ] >> thank you. remember, that's a quote. really, ladies and gentlemen, it is basically two ridges and a ravine or multiple ravines between the two lines. it is very good ground to
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defend. it is very hard ground to attack, to say the very least. some of the fortifications the confederates will attack will be things like this, this is a redan, they're all forts but this is a redan. what do you do? if you have a weak point in a line, let's say my line is running like this, you put a redan jutting out front and anybody attacking my line to the left or the right i can shoot down. the problem with the redan or any of these fortifications is once you go to a siege work they're subject to a cross fire from the union. so it is very deadly too for the confederates. another variation of the confederate ral fortifications, lunette. redoubt, not quite a fort. it has an open back end on it. the confederates had an earth
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work there called the great redoubt. thank you. grant can't get into the city on may 19th. unperturbed, you know u.s. grant, he doesn't give up. may 22nd he's going to come up here, it is 6:00 in the morning and he's going to open up a massive artillery bombardment, the navy will join in. huge shells, if you can imagine it rocketing into the lines and into the city itself. at 10:00, they set their watches, it was the first assault that was ever clocked, if you will. they all got together and sink
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r sync ronnized their watches. at 10:00 they go forward. a couple of stories -- now you can see how wide this assault is. remember, may 19th was just up here. now look, may 22nd, look where grant is going. he is assaulting all of those confederate strongholds. a couple of stories here. at the second texas lunette, which is roughly about right here, burbridge and benton are standing there, this is john a. mcclure's inspection of the line. there were texans obviously inside the lunette and one wrote, one confederate said that my canon belt can ter, my men made the air filled with shouts.
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as they fell, the texans defined a lone figure marching toward them. all right. another view over here. here is the lunette, here is the railroad redoubt. you see how they're building these fortifications to guard against the weak points in the line. this is the story i'm talking b actually, it is going to be right in here in between the two. as you can imagine within the midst of this assault, the texans look up, they're shooting all of these yankees out in front of them, and this lone soldier, union soldier keeps walking toward him. it was private thomas higgins of the 99th illinois. at least 100 men took deliberate aim at him wrote a text an. some of the confederates ran along their own line shouting, don't shoot+++8cp
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