May 30, 1863 VicksburgSiege of Vicksburg,
Sunday May 30th, 1863.
This is the 13th day of the siege and the Rebels still hold the city. We can't get in yet, so as to secure them all prisoners, and they can't get out, for we have them entirely surrounded, our army being entrenched on all the surrounding hills, from 200 to 1000 yards from their line of forts and rifle pits, and our gunboats on the river. We have driven them from Haynes' Bluff and all their outer works, opened communication via Yazoo River with Young's Point, so that we have plentiful supplies, and can stay on these heights just as long as Gen. Grant thinks best. The Rebels may have three days, three weeks, or it may be three months rations, but they can't last always. Perhaps they think they will be reinforced or they can cut their way out, but they will fail in both. We can prevent either. A charge was made on the 22nd inst. in which our brigade participated, Col. Charles R. Woods commanding, but our force could not carry the works, the ground was so unfavorable and they were repulsed with considerable loss. You have probably heard all the particulars ere this. The 76th was not in the charge, as they were holding a very important position on a high hill on the right, near the bend of the river, which commands two roads where the rebels would be most likely to try to cut their way out. Our regiment has occupied this position since the second day of the siege, and has been practicing sharpshooting at the Rebels all the time, until they hardly dare to raise their heads above their rifle pits. Their artillery seems to be silenced, as they have fired only a few shots for several days along the line as far as we can see to the left. We have two 30-pounder Parrots and 6 6-pounders on the hill we occupy, from which we can give their works an enfilading fire. At first they had cotton bales put up around their guns to protect their gunners, but our shells soon knocked them to pieces and set them on fire, so they found King Cotton would not answer. Since we have been here, we have had one killed (Lieut. Charles Luther), one supposed to have been mortally wounded having been shot through the head, passing close behind both eyes, but still living, rational and doing well, James Taverner, Co.G, and 7 wounded as follows, viz: Corp. Otto Uhlendorf, Co.I, hand slight; Moses S. Harrison, Co.D, thigh severe; George Spellman, Co.D, head slight; Frank Streper, Co.A, severe; Leonard Cook, Co.C, upper lip slight; Michael Smith, Co.E, hand slight; Wm. Sedars, Co.H, hip severe. The several wounded have been sent to a hospital boat.
Lieut. Luther was shot by a rifle ball, hitting to the right of his mouth and passing out at the back of his neck. He was watching the effect of the shots of our Parrot guns on the rebel works at the time. He never spoke again, and died in about 20 minutes. His bereaved family have the sympathy of the host of warm friends he made in the 76th regiment. He was a faithful officer, and gave his life for a glorious cause.
I have told you where we are and what we are doing, now I will give you a brief account of how we got here. On the morning of the 12th we advanced two miles when we came to a bridge across a deep ravine, that the rebels had set on fire. Their sharpshooters opened on our men, who went forward to make a bridge and cut the banks for a road, and a considerable skirmish followed lasting half an hour in which 14 men of our division were killed and wounded, when the Rebs retired, and we crossed the ravine and found several of their dead and wounded. Advancing through the woods half a mile to a plantation, we came in sight of the rebels, who seemed disposed to make a stand, but as soon as they saw our forces forming in line of battle, they skeedaddled. Advancing a mile further, we came to a bridge that had been torn down, but a road was made in the banks of the ravine, and we crossed and bivouaced on the other side. The men had drawn but little over half rations, and they went for everything they could find on the plantations. There was not much crowing of chickens there the next morning,and as the number of boys that were fleshy about the eyes made it probable that there were not many bee hives in the neighborhood filled with honey.
This morning (Monday May 18th) we took a road leading to the Haynes' Bluff road, and when about noon we had got within five miles of Vicksburg, and no cannonading had been heard, the opinion began to prevail that the Rebels were going to give up the city, and some talked quite confidently of taking supper there, but when we had advanced a mile or two further the first booming of a cannon was heard to the front, and our division was turned from the Vicksburg road on a cross road leading to the river, and our batteries soon opened on the enemy's first works, and an artillery fight was kept up until night, and at intervals through the night. In the morning it was discovered that the Rebs had evacuated their works and fell back to another position. Moving up to their evacuated works we found ourselves once more in sight of the Mississippi. We were glad to see it, for it brought hopes of full rations, having had but three days rations to do us for seven days. I heard a good many of the boys offering 25 cents for a hard cracker without succeeding in getting it. But that afternoon they got a few, with a promise of more as soon as they could be got from the boats on the Yazoo. In the afternoon the fight became general all along the lines, and about 4 o'clock P.M. the 76th ran the blockade of the rebel batteries, passing along at the foot of the river bluffs and to the top of the hills we now occupy, with the loss of only one man severely wounded, (James Taverner). The enemy fell back about a mile during the day, before our division. Col. Charles R. Woods is becoming very popular with the officers and men of the brigade he is commanding and enjoys the confidence of Gens. Steele and Sherman. His cool bravery is admired, and his care for the preservation of the lives of his men make them regard him with affection. His promotion would be hailed with delight.
This morning, May 31st, Col. Woods' Orderly, George McKinney, died of pneumonia after only about a weeks illness. He enlisted in the Gun Squad and was afterwards transferred to Co.D. The health of the regiment is pretty good. Rations are plenty now, and the Sutler is here with all his good things, so we are faring pretty well.
Note: Letter to The Newark True American Found at Vicksburg National Military Park.
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