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The Vicksburg Campaign
The Vicksburg campaign in the spring of 1863, gave the 26th Missouri an important part to enact. General Grant determined to get in the rear of Vicksburg, for it could be taken in on other way. The regiment was embarked on two boats, the right wing under the command of Major Charles F. Brown and the left wing in charge of Capt. B. D. Dean.
The destination was Moon Lake, separated from the river only by a thin strip of land. From this lake a narrow stream, called the Yazoo Pass, leads into the Coldwater River, which flows south into the Tallahatchie, that in turn unites with the Yazoo. Grant’s intention was to get into the latter river, by which means he could be able to move down in the rear of Haines’ Bluff, and thus turn the fortifications there. The canal of the lake was quickly cut, the waters of the Mississippi poured through it, and our steamers floated into Moon Lake. The boats sailed through the Yazoo Pass. The country was flooded with water and the current very rapid – compelling the use of cables to control the boats and prevent them running into the trees. The snags tore the boats, which were forced to continually back water. The task could not be accomplished, and although we had landed, we were forced to go back without silencing a
The 26th Missouri then went to Millikin’s Bend, disembarked and went into camp, and was at that point when the blockade was run.
The 15th Army Corps, of which the 26th Missouri was a part, marched down the right bank of the Mississippi below Vicksburg and crossed in gunboats to below that point, passed through Port Gibson, and took part in the battle near Raymond, on May 12th, 1863.
On the night of the 13th the rain fell in torrents and continued until the next day at noon, rendering the roads muddy and slippery; yet our troops in close order and in cheerful spirits, moved off through the storm, making a weary march of fourteen miles, and at noon came upon the enemy about two miles from the city.
The 26th boys were here drawn up in line of battle, and behaved bravely under fire. Jackson was evacuated, and the boys had an opportunity of visiting the capital, and reading one of the rebel newspapers printed on wall-paper, and filled with rebel braggadocio regarding their ability to whip the Yankees. The editor himself and everybody else threatened to take part in the punishment of the Union troops, but alas their legs ran away with their courage.
The Union force then marched back towards Vicksburg. The various incidents of this march were barren of any facts requiring especial description. The federal troops were confident of victory and eager to meet the enemy,
THE BATTLE OF CHAMPION HILLS.
The 26th went into this engagement under very trying circumstances. General Hovey’s Division was being hard pressed, and falling back, the Third Brigade, Col. Boomer, commanding, was ordered up on the double-quick. The ground over which the 26th Missouri passed, was very much obstructed, and inconsequence some of the companies had to break the line of battle and move by the flank under the shells of the enemy. On reaching the line of battle, notwithstanding our fatigue, the 10th Iowa and 93d Illinois immediately engaged the enemy; the 5th Iowa and 26th Missouri lying down behind them waiting their turn which soon came. Colonel Boomer, our gallant brigade commander, seeing the enemy approaching on our right flank, ordered the 26th Missouri to meet them, which it did on the double quick by "about face," "half wheel" and forward movement, getting possession of a deep ravine which the enemy was trying to secure. In making this movement, our brave regimental commander, Major Charles F. Brown fell mortally wounded, and a few moments later our Senior Captain John W. Welker was instantly killed. These casualties gave the command of the regiment to Captain Dean.
The position gained by the above movement was a strong one, and enabled us to stop the enemy who outnumbered the 26th Missouri, which finally drove the Confederates from before it, after firing forty rounds of ammunition. Being nearly surrounded by the enemy, we changed our position under heavy fire, but the position was so strong
We charged the rebels, drove them back and captured a number of prisoners. On falling back to Acting General Boomer’s position, he earnestly complimented the 26th Missouri for their gallant conduct on the field.
In this battle, two officers and 16 enlisted men were killed; three officers and 66 men wounded.
The regiment bivouacked the night succeeding this fight and next day marched to Black River, crossing on a bridge made of cotton bales.
On May 19th, the 26th Missouri took part in the investment of Vicksburg, and occupied a position on the left of what was afterwards called Fort Hill. During the night, we sent our two companies, A and B, to form a picket line, which caused the enemy to do some shelling.
Considerable skirmishing was experienced on May 20th and 21st. Grant had determined to carry the works at Vicksburg on the 22nd, two advances being made without effect. General McClernand sent a dispatch to General Grant, saying he had silenced a fort in his front and desired one of the best divisions to support him in a charge.
Colonel G. B. Boomer, in command of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps, was ordered to report to General Carr in the afternoon, who ordered him to lead the charge, but before obeying the command, Col. Boomer, evidently knowing it to be a reckless move, at once called the regimental commanders, and told them he wanted them to hear General Carr’s orders. Colonel Boomer thus relieved himself of the responsibility of the order to charge.
DEATH OF COL. GEO. B. BOOMER
Carr then designated the fort, stating that the batteries had been silenced, and ordered the charge to be made. "Forward," was sounded and the line was started with a rush and yell. Then followed a terrible scene. The "silenced fort" opened an artillery fire upon the men, which compelled them to seek the cover of a hill, where they lay down to escape the incessant shower of shot, shell and rifle balls from the rebel fort, and to rest from the exertion of the preliminary charge.
Colonel Boomer, after awhile rose up, and had shouted "Attention!" as if to resume the charge, when a rifle ball struck him in the head, killing him instantly. This occurred on May 22nd, 1863. Col. Boomer’s commission as a Brigadier General is reported to have reached camp shortly after his death. Several pages descriptive of the life and services of General Boomer will be found in another part of this volume.
The command of the brigade then devolved upon Col. Putnam of the 93rd Illinois, who sent for the regimental commanders to confer with them. He wanted to know whether he should continue to charge, and asked for an opinion in regard to the subject. Captain dean commanding the 26th Missouri Volunteer Infantry, said he would not move without positive orders, as it was impossible to do anything under the terrible artillery fire from the fort. Colonel Putnam said he was aware of that, but General Carr’s orders were to charge the fort. Captain Dean replied that the situation had changed since General Carr had given his orders. The other commanders agreed with Captain Dean,
We remained in front of Vicksburg, digging roads through the hills in order to allow the movement of troops and artillery, and engaging in skirmishes every day until June 22nd, when the 26th Missouri and other troops, moved to Bear Creek to prevent Johnston coming up, and on July 4th the surrender of Vicksburg was the grand culmination of the labors of the Union army.
"The result of the campaign," said Grant, "has been the defeat of the enemy in five battles outside of Vicksburg; the occupation of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, and the capture of Vicksburg and its garrison and munitions of war – a loss to the enemy of 35,000 prisoners, among whom were fifteen general officers; at least ten thousand killed and wounded. Arms and munitions of war for an army of sixty thousand men have fallen into our hands, besides a large amount of other public property, consisting of railroads, locomotives, cars, steamboats, cotton, etc., and much was destroyed to prevent our capturing it." General Grant estimated his own loss, in killed, wounded and missing, from the time he crossed the Mississippi, at 8,575.
Soon after the fall of Vicksburg we were ordered to Jackson, Miss., to meet General Johnston, but just before reaching the place we learned that a heavy rebel cavalry force was making for our rear to fall upon our transportation and ammunition. On the night of July 14th our brigade received orders to march back to Clinton where we had a
A handsome silk flag was presented to the 26th Missouri after the fall of Vicksburg, by the ladies of Union, Mo., who sent it by Capt. J. T. Crowe. The old regimental flag was shot to ribbons at Iuka, and at Vicksburg the last remaining star was obliterated by the enemy’s fire.
Captain Dean received his commission as Colonel of the 26th Missouri Volunteer Infantry, after the fall of Vicksburg, to rank from May 28th, 1863. Across the face of the commission written in red ink are the words: "Captain Dean is promoted to the Colonelcy of the 26th Infantry Missouri Volunteers, for gallant conduct at Champion Hills, Miss., and in the attack on the defenses of Vicksburg, Miss. (Signed) – John B. Gray, Adjt. General State of Missouri."
The 26th Missouri left Vicksburg on Sept. 7th, 1863, embarking on a transport for Helena, Arkansas, to support General Steel at Little Rock. Arrived at Helena, September 14th, and learned that General Price had retreated from Little Rock. The services of the regiment were not needed at that point, and it moved up to Devall’s Bluff on September 16th.
While the 26th Missouri was at Memphis on October 3rd, 1863, orders were received for the regiment to march to the Memphis and Charleston depot and embark for Glendale, establish camp and repel any attack of the enemy and remain until further orders. The cars were stopped before reaching the town, and the 26th Missouri disembarked, and
On October 8th, 1863, the regiment was ordered to Burnsville to guard the railroad and bridges, and on Oct. 10th we pushed forward to Bensonville to watch the enemy and keep the railroad from being destroyed. November 5th, the 26th Missouri moved to Chattanooga and found Elk creek contained about four feet of water and was two hundred yards wide. We could not cross, and therefore directed our march towards Gilbertsborough, then by way of Prospect towards Fayetteville.
Heavy rains had fallen and the roads were very muddy, also exceedingly hilly and rocky. The regiment reached the mouth of Battle creek, Tenn. On the night of Nov. 14th, and arrived at Bridgeport on the 17th. We crossed the Tennessee river on pontoons at Bridgeport, on November 18th, leaving all of our sick and most of our camp equipage, taking only one tent, marched on the Whitesides road, and recrossed the Tennessee river at Brown’s ferry, with Chattanooga and the relief of General Thomas as our objective.
We arrived at Chattanooga on Dec. 19th, and maneuvered considerably at night, in order to conceal ourselves from the enemy. We remained a day or two in camp behind the hill, out of sight of the Confederates, and made preparations to cross the Tennessee river at the mouth of the Chicamauga creek, on the evening of Dec. 24th. Our brigade received orders to commence crossing at midnight, by rowing across in pontoon boats. The 26th Missouri was the first to cross. A squad of soldiers from a regiment of our corps got into a boat in Chicamaga creek, floated qui-
Soon after daylight the pontoon corps commenced laying the pontoon bridge, and by noon the cavalry and artillery had passed over. Then a forward movement was made, and we got possession of another ridge. After viewing the situation a short time, Colonel Dean thought it would be prudent to construct temporary shelter from the enemy’s sharpshooters who were then watching us pretty closely. Seeing a rail fence located a sort distance in our front, the 26th Missouri were ordered to stack arms and get those rails. As they started for the fence they commenced a war-whoop, and the Confederates took it for a charge and retreated over the hill. Our boys thought it quite a novelty to run the enemy without any arms.
That night, fearing a flank movement, we marched back to near our first position, and digging little holes in the ground built fires therein so that the enemy could not see the flames while we cooked our suppers.
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