GAINESVILLE, ALA., July 26, 1863.
SIR: I herein have the honor to submit my report of the engineer operations during the siege of Vicksburg.
Our army fell back to the city on Sunday, May 17, and were put in the trenches in the following order, viz: Major-General Stevenson occupied the line included between the railroad and the Warrenton road, on the south, General Forney the line between the railroad and the Graveyard road, and General Smith the line from the Graveyard road to the river front, on the north.
On the 18th, I made a careful examination of the entire line, and made the following dispositions of the engineer officers under my command, to facilitate the operations of strengthening and repairing the works: Captain [Powhatan] Robinson, Engineers, was assigned to the line commanded by Major-General Stevenson, and had under him, as assistants, the following officers, viz: Capt. J. J. Conway, Twentieth Mississippi, detailed assistant engineer; Actg. Lieut. A. W. Gloater, assistant engineer; Actg. Lieut. R. R. Southard, assistant engineer; Capt. James M. Couper, commissary Fourteenth [Twentieth] Mississippi, acting assistant engineer; Mr. B. H. Saunders, office assistant.
Capt. D. Wintter, commanding company of sappers and miners, was assigned to the line commanded by Major-Generals Forney and Smith, and had under him as assistants the following officers, viz: First Lieut. E. McMahon, company sappers and miners; Second Lieut. F. Gillooly, company sappers and miners; Capt. James [T.] Hogane, acting assistant engineer; Actg. Lieut. S. McD. Vernon, assistant engineer, and Acting Lieut. P. J. Blessing.
Lieut. William O. Flynn, of Captain Wintter's company, was ordered to report for engineer duty to Col. E. Higgins, commanding the heavy artillery.
This arrangement gave to each brigade one immediate assistant, whose duty it was to report directly to the brigade commander, and to each division an engineer to take general control.
Lieut. George Donnellan, engineer, Provisional Army Confederate States, I kept in my office to take charge of the procuring and distribution of materials. Mr. H. Ginder was employed as draughtsman and Mr. G. C. Brower as clerk.
The working force under my control was as follows:
Twenty-six sappers and miners, of Captain Wintter's company; 8 detailed mechanics and foremen; 4 overseers for negroes; 72 negroes hired, 20 being sick; 3 four-mule teams, 25 yoke of draught oxen.
An accurate return of the intrenching tools was never obtained, from the fact that they were always employed and so much scattered. The number, however, was not far from 500 of all kinds.
The work on the lines was generally done by fatigue parties detailed from each command to work within the limits of its own line.
The line of defense around the city of Vicksburg consisted, as shown on the inclosed map,* of a system of detached works (redans, lunettes, and redoubts) on the prominent and commanding points, with the usual profile of raised field-works, connected, in most cases, by rifle-pits. These works, having been made during the fall and winter of last year, were considerably weakened by washing, and needed strengthening and repairing. Fatigue parties were immediately set to work making these repairs and completing the connection of rifle-pits from work to work.
On the night of May 17, and the morning of the 18th, all the field guns, Parrott guns, and siege pieces at our disposal were put in position on the line, and platforms and embrasures prepared for them.
Between the 18th and 22d, the enemy succeeded in establishing their line of circumvallation at about the distance of 800 yards, extending from our extreme left to in front of the square redoubt (Fort Garrott) on the right of Brigadier-General Lee's line. The fire of their artillery and sharpshooters soon became quite annoying, and showed the necessity of erecting numerous traverses to prevent enfilading fires, and the importance of having covered approaches from the rear. All of these improvements were made as rapidly as possible by the engineers, with fatigue parties working at night.
On the 22d, the enemy's artillery fire was very heavy along their whole line, and a determined assault was made on the Graveyard, Jackson, and Baldwin's Ferry roads, and along the whole of General Lee's front on the right of the railroad. A breach was made in the redoubt near the railroad (Fort Pettus), and many other of the raised works were considerably battered. All damages were repaired, however, at night, and the morning of the 23d found our works in as good condition as at the beginning of the enemy's operations.
The enemy, being apparently satisfied with their attempts at carrying our works by assault, now commenced their regular approaches, and soon had possession of a line of hills on the main roads, not exceeding 350 yards distance from our salient points. These hills they crowned with heavy batteries and connected as rapidly as possible with their second parallel.
On the 24th, some of the enemy's sappers crept up a ravine to within 40 yards of the work on the Jackson road, and started a sap, apparently with the intention of mining. When they had reached within 20 paces of our work, they were dislodged by hand-grenades, and relinquished this attempt for some time.
On the 25th, the enemy appeared in force on the Warrenton road, and commenced establishing batteries in Gett's field, at a distance of some 600 yards from our advanced redoubt. They also pushed their first parallel on toward our right, and crossed the Hall's Ferry road about 1,000 yards from the advanced redoubt on this road. Their line of circumvallation was by this completed, and remained unbroken thenceforward. To prevent any approach of the enemy up the river flat, I attempted to construct an abatis from the hills to the river, and sent out a working party under Lieutenant Donnellan and Mr. Ginder for that purpose. The guard for the working party was driven in after a skirmish and the capture of 100 of the enemy. The work was not accomplished. On this day rifle-pits were started along the river front to connect the line of land defenses on the right with the heavy batteries.
Along the rear line the engineers were engaged in general repairs, strengthening the parapets, extending the rifle-pits, placing obstructions in front of the exposed points, consisting of abatis, palisades, ditches, and entanglements of pickets and telegraph wire. Sand-bag loopholes were also made along the whole line to protect our sharpshooters. These sand-bags were made from tent-flies and old tents turned over to me by the quartermaster's department, and from the same source I obtained a supply of material during the whole siege. A 32 pounder was moved from the river front and mounted on the left of General Smith's line, a new battery for three guns started in rear of General [S. D.] Lee's, and a new battery for two guns built on the left of General [J. C.] Moore's.
On the night of the 26th, the usual work of repairs and improvements went on; the rifle-pits on the river front were pushed ahead; the battery in rear of General Lee was finished, and a 30-pounder Parrott put in position. On this night the enemy for the first time fired on our working parties, and wounded a lieutenant commanding a fatigue party.
On the 27th, the enemy attacked our river front with their gunboats, without, however, doing any serious damage. They were driven off, and the Cincinnati sunk by the upper battery. This battery was protected by traverses from an enfilade fire from the enemy's sharpshooters on the hills across Mint Spring Bayou.
On the 28th, the artillery fire of the enemy was unusually severe, and several of our works were considerably damaged, especially the works on General Lee's front, and on the Graveyard and Jackson roads. All damages were repaired at night, and a new battery made in rear of General Moore's line, on the right of the Baldwin's Ferry road.
On the 29th, the usual repairs and improvements continued along the whole line: a new battery made in rear of the line left of Hall's Ferry road; the new battery in rear of General Lee improved, and "Whistling Dick" (an 18-pounder rifled piece) put in position, and a new battery started in rear of General Moore's center, but the working party was driven off by the enemy's sharpshooters, and the work stopped.
On the 30th, but little work was done on the line under Captain Robinson's charge, excepting along General Lee's front, and during the whole siege our works, from Fort Garrott to the right, were but little injured, the enemy being kept at a considerable distance by a line of pickets kept in protected places along the ridge in front of our main line, excepting on the Hall's Ferry road. Captain Wintter and his assistants were kept constantly busy putting obstructions on the Yazoo Valley and other roads, repairing the embrasures of batteries, and thickening the parapets, which had begun to show the effects of the enemy's continual battering. The new battery in rear of General Moore's center was commenced by running a covered approach to the position selected. On this day I also started a number of excavations on the Baldwin's Ferry road, in a deep cut, for the purpose of scattering our ammunition, which was much exposed to the enemy's fire at the depot magazine. These excavations were put under the charge of Mr. Ginder, with a working force of 25 negroes from the jail-gang, and were finished in about a week.
On the 31st, works of repair continued along the whole line; the new works continued, and a breach in the redan on the left of Jackson road filled up and parapet repaired with sand-bags.
From June 1 to the 4th there was no variation in the engineer operations. By the 4th, the enemy had succeeded in establishing a third line of parallels not exceeding 150 yards from our salient works, and then commenced several double saps against the following works, viz, the stockade redan, on Graveyard road, the Third Louisiana redan, on left of Jackson road, and the lunette on right of Baldwin's Ferry road. I had some thundering barrels and loaded shells prepared to be placed in these and all other exposed works, to be used in case of an assault. The stockade redan and the stockade on its left beginning to suffer a good deal from the enemy's artillery, a new line of rifle.pits was started in front of the stockade, and the ditch of the redan was prepared for riflemen, to give a double line at this point.
The enemy continued their saps against this and that of the Third Louisiana without much interruption until the night of the 8th, when their sap-roller was burned by firing pieces of port-fire and cotton-balls steeped in turpentine into it from muskets. Their sappers were thus exposed, and forced to retire and recommence their operations with another roller some distance back. In spite of all our attempts to stop them, the enemy steadily approached with these saps until the night of the 13th, when they had reached within 60 feet of the stockade redan and within 40 yards of the Third Louisiana, and showed very evidently their intention to attack these salients by mining. I accordingly ordered counter-mines to be started from the ditch of the former to oppose their progress. The latter work having no ditch, other arrangements had to be made. This work had also become considerably battered by this time, and the old parapets were nearly gone. A new one was accordingly made a few feet in rear of the first, and the main body of the work was still preserved entire, and our men protected from the enemy's fire.
On the night of the 13th, a 10-inch mortar was placed in position in rear of General Moore's center, and a 20-pounder Parrott in rear of General Green's left.
On the night of the 14th, a new series of rifle-pits was begun, running along a couple of spurs in the rear, so as to envelop the stockade and its redan, as a precaution against the contingency of the enemy's carrying this point by assault, or rendering it untenable by his mining operations.
On the 15th, I discovered that the saps against the lunette on the right of the Baldwin's Ferry road were making rapid progress, and also the one against the railroad redoubt. Countermines were Immediately ordered and commenced from the ditches of these works.
From this time till the end of the siege the main efforts of the enemy were directed against these salient works, viz: The stockade redan, the Third Louisiana redan, the lunette on the Baldwin's Ferry road, the railroad redoubt, and Fort Garrott, on General Lee's right, and later against the work on the Hall's Ferry road, against all of which they ran regular double saps, and our principal operations consisted in endeavors to impede their progress, and in preparations to meet them when practicable by countermining. Retrenchments were also made in rear of all the threatened points, to provide against the possibility of the enemy's being successful in their attempts. The rest of the line other than the works mentioned above was but little damaged, and was easily kept in repair by fatigue parties working at night. The Third Louisiana redan, being on a very narrow ridge, had no exterior ditch, and I found it impossible to get in its front to start a counter-mine without exposing our sappers to a terrible fire from the enemy's sharpshooters and batteries, not more than 150 yards distant. A shaft was accordingly started from the inside of the work, but before it was completed the enemy had succeeded in getting under the parapet and had prepared their mine under the salient.
This mine was exploded on the 25th instant, but did no material damage, as a parapet had been made to meet such an event some 15 feet back of the salient. Five or six men engaged in sinking a shaft were buried by this explosion. An attempt was made to assault the work immediately after the explosion, but our men, having good cover behind the new parapet, repulsed the assailants with considerable slaughter.
On the night of the same day two of our mines in front of the stockade redan were exploded, and completely destroyed the enemy's sap-roller, filled up their sap, and two parallels they had started to envelop the redan. Our mines were about 35 feet from the counterscarp of the redan, and the enemy's sap-roller was several paces within this distance, so that they received the full effect of our explosion. The charge in one mine was 45 pounds, in the other 80, with the chambers 8 feet under ground. On this same night a 9-inch Dahlgren gun was put in position in rear of General Moore's center, to counterbatter the enemy's heavy works on the Jackson road, and the 10-inch mortar was removed to the Warrenton road.
On the 28th, we sprang another mine in front of the lunette on the Baldwin's Ferry road, but unfortunately the explosion was premature, and the enemy's sap was hardly near enough to be much injured. Their sap-roller was, however, burned at night by fire-balls, their sappers driven away, and their progress materially interfered with. A new mine was immediately started and was soon ready for explosion.
On the 30th, the enemy succeeded again in getting under the Third Louisiana redan, and had covered the entrance to their gallery with a timber shelter, to protect their sappers from our hand.grenades. To destroy this, I had a barrel containing 125 pounds of powder rolled over the parapet and exploded with a time-fuse of fifteen seconds. The effect of the explosion was very severe, and fragments of sap-rollers, gabions, and pieces of timber were thrown into the air, and, I think, some of the enemy's sappers must have been burned and smothered. They continued their operations, however, and established another line on July 1, and exploded it about 1.30 p.m. The charge must have been enormous, as the crater made was at least 20 feet deep, 30 feet across in one direction and 50 in another. The earth upheaved was thrown many yards around, but little of it falling back into the crater. I learned from the enemy's engineer that they had 1,500 pounds powder in this mine. The original faces of the redan were almost completely destroyed, and the explosive effect extended to a parapet I had made across the gorge of the work, making in it almost a practicable breach for an assault. No assault was attempted, however, and I went to work immediately to repair damages as well as possible.
Lieut. P. J. Blessing, who had been in charge of this work, was wounded during the day, and I directed Lieutenant [W. O.] Flynn to report to Captain [D.] Wintter to take his place.
In addition to Lieutenant Blessing, wounded on this day, Private Owen and 7 negroes engaged in sinking a shaft were killed by the enemy's explosion.
Captain Wintter, with Lieutenant Flynn and Sergeants [D. C.] Ryan and [Arthur] McGinnis and Private [Pascal] St. Vigne, of Captain Wintter's company, worked during the afternoon and night succeeding the explosion with an energy, zeal, and coolness, under a most terrific fire, worthy of all praise, and by daylight the next morning the breach was filled and the redan still tenable.
To give some idea of the difficulties attending this work, I will state that the enemy had two 9-inch Dahlgrens, several heavy Parrotts and field pieces, and a Cohorn mortar playing upon this redan, in addition to as heavy a fire of musketry as I ever witnessed, to be so long continued. In the course of one hour that I remained in the work at least a dozen of its garrison were killed or wounded by the mortar alone. On the same night one of the enemy's sap-rollers on the right of the Jackson road was burned and their sappers driven off by hand-grenades.
On the night of the 2d, Captain Robinson exploded one of his mines in front of the railroad redoubt, but with little effect, the explosion being premature. On this night we had prepared the following mines, viz: One in front of work on Hall's Ferry road; two in front of Fort Garrott; two on Baldwin's Ferry road; one on right of Jackson road; two in front of small redan on General Green's left, and three on General Shoup's line, all of which would have been ready for the enemy by the time he came within the limits of their effects. These mines contained from 100 to 125 pounds powder, and were at an average depth of between 6 and 9 feet under the surface of the earth. The flag of truce, however, on the 3d, stopped all operations on both sides, and the efficiency of our preparations were not tested.
The following is a list of casualties among the engineers and my working force: Wounded severely, First Lieut. E. McMahon, company sappers and miners; Acting Lieutenant Blessing, assistant engineer; William R. Goeble, clerk to Captain Wintter. Killed, Sergeant [W. N.] Cole, company sappers and miners; Private J. Hardy and Private Owen. Eight negroes wounded, 9 killed.
In concluding this report, I beg leave to call the attention of the lieu-tenant-general commanding to the fact that no one was called upon to perform more arduous and continuous duty than the engineer officers and their assistants, and none more steadily and cheerfully endured all that their duty imposed upon them, or more faithfully discharged every obligation demanded by the difficulties of our situation.
Capt. D. Wintter deserves especial mention. For fifteen months he has been at work on the fortifications in and around Vicksburg, always active, intelligent, and full of energy, as the result of his labor fully testifies. I most respectfully urge that he be recommended to the War Department as a deserving candidate for promotion. The lieutenants of his company--E. McMahon, F. Gillooly, and William O. Flynn, who have been his assistants--deserve great credit for the services they have performed.
Captain Robinson and his assistants--Capt. J. J. Conway, Capt. James M. Couper, Acting Lieuts. A. W. Gloster and [R. R.] Southard--during the whole siege were always at their posts, and for forty-eight days and nights were seldom off duty more than six hours out of the twenty-four.
Capt. James [T.] Hogane and Acting Lieut. S. McD. Vernon were equally as tireless and full of zeal.
Acting Lieutenant Blessing was wounded while examining the enemy's approaches, and was continually hazarding his life in attempting to discover the enemy's intentions, and was ever active in his endeavors to thwart them.
I would also especially mention Private St. Vigne, of Captain Wintter's company, who was more than once distinguished for gallantry, and, in addition to performing his duties as sapper and miner, served as an artillerist and sharpshooter until his ceaseless exertions had made him sick.
My office assistants--Lieut. George Donnellan, Mr. Ginder, and Mr. Brower, my clerk--all deserve mention for their strict performance of every duty imposed upon them.
Mr. Brower asked and received my permission to take every spare opportunity to go into the trenches, and did fine execution as a sharpshooter.
I have the honor to be, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
SAMUEL H. LOCKETT,
Maj. R. W. MEMMINGER,
P. S.--The following officers deserve particular notice, and I hope will be rewarded, for their meritorious conduct and the valuable services they have performed:
Capt. D. Wintter, commanding company sappers and miners; First Lieut. E. McMahon, company sappers and miners; Second Lieut. William O. Flynn, company sappers and miners; Capt. James M. Conper, formerly commissary Fourteenth [Twentieth] Mississippi; Acting Second Lieutenant Blessing, employed as assistant engineer; Private St. Vigne, of Captain Wintter's company, and Private George C. Brower, Wirt Adams' cavalry (clerk).
I also beg leave to call the attention of the lieutenant-general commanding particularly to the services of Col. D. H. Huyett, assistant engineer, who, on the night of May 17, succeeded in passing through the enemy's lines, and carried safely to the Engineer Bureau all my most important maps and papers.
*The daily reports of Major Lockett, Captains Robinson and Wintter, Lieutenant Donnellan, and Messrs. Ginder and Vernon, being covered by this report, are omitted.
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