FOR THE MEETING TUESDAY, April 28, 2009
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November
Founded March 1964
Program at 7 p.m.
Jan Sarna, President
Dues $20 Per Year
VISIT THE BATTLEFIELDS WHEN YOU CAN...
WHILE YOU CAN
“I am too late”
Joseph E. Johnston
And the fall of Vicksburg
Terry Winschel, historian at Vicksburg National
Military Park, will present the monthly program at the . His talk is
“I am too late.” Joseph E. Johnston and the fall
Terry Winschel is a
native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Pennsylvania State
University; with graduate degrees from Mississippi College. A 33-year veteran of the NPS,
he has served at Gettysburg NMP, Fredericksburg NMP, and Valley Forge
National Historical Park. Terry is the 2004 recipient of the Nevins-Freeman
Award by The Civil War Roundtable of Chicago.
His works include:
The Corporal’s Tale,
Alice Shirley and
the Story of Wexford Lodge,
The Fall of the
Confederate Gibraltar: the Vicksburg Campaign,
The Civil War Diary
of a Common Soldier: William Wiley of the 77th Illinois
Vicksburg is the
Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River.
With William Shea, 2003.
Triumph and Defeat:
The Vicksburg Campaign, 2004.
Winschel has also
written for Blue & Gray magazine (fall 2000) and for the
National Park Civil War Series. (NPCWS) 2007
In his book, Vicksburg is the Key, Winschel
writes, “The struggle for the Mississippi River was the longest and most
complex campaign of the Civil War. It was marked by an extraordinary
diversity of military operation, including naval engagements, cavalry
raids, amphibious landings, pitched battles, and the two longest sieges
in American history.” Coupled with the defeat at Helena and Gettysburg
in the same week, the Confederacy never recovered. Much need supplies
from the Trans-Mississippi Theater were curtailed with the loss of
Vicksburg. The Federal forces now had complete control of the
Mississippi River, cutting the South in half.
Abraham Lincoln recognized Vicksburg’s
significance. In a strategy session with some of his military officers,
the Union President pointed to a map and commented, “See what a lot of
land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key. Let us get
Vicksburg and all that country is ours. The war can never be brought to
a close until that key is in our pocket.” (NPCWS PG 3)
While most battles fought during the Civil War
lasted for the most part only one to three days, the Campaign for
Vicksburg lasted for months and encompassed many battlefields, cities,
bluffs, and rivers.
Beginning with Sherman’s action at Chickasaw Bayou
in December 27,1862 and concluding with the ending of the siege of Port
Hudson on July 25, 1863 daring raids like that of Col. Benjamin Grierson
on April 22, 1863 kept the Confederate forces off guard, not knowing
where Grant was going to strike next. Grierson left La Grange, Tennessee
on the Mississippi state line with 1,700 cavalry troopers zigzagging
down the eastern part of the state and tore up tracks along the Southern
Mississippi Railroad at Newton Station and destroying two trainloads of
ammunition bound for Vicksburg. Confederate Cavalry were dispersed in
north Mississippi watching for Grant’s next move. Pemberton had been
weakened by the transfer of Van Dorn’s horseman to Braxton Bragg.
Pemberton resorted to using infantry to catch the fleet footed Grierson
as he made it to Baton Rouge.
Grant continued his daring by making the largest
amphibious landing on U.S. soil south of Vicksburg and Grand Gulf
between April 30 and May 1, 1863 at Bruinsburg. Immediately 25,000 men
from James McPherson Corp crossed the Mississippi River and were on the
move. Instead of attacking Vicksburg from the south, Grant chose to
strangle the Gibraltar of the South by cutting the rail lines from
Jackson. Traveling northeast subsequent battles were fought at: Port
Gibson on May 1, Battle of Raymond on May 12, and Battle of Jackson on
May 14. Now Grant turned west along the Southern Railroad of Mississippi
(present day I-20) and continued the pressure at Champion Hill on May
16, The Big Black River Bridge on May 17, before laying siege to
Vicksburg on May 18.
Our friend tonight Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was born in 1807 near
Farmville, VA. He attended West Point and graduated in the Class of
1829. He fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars and was made
Quartermaster-General in 1860. Johnston resigned his commission on April
22, 1861. During the battle of the first Bull Run, Johnston was able to
move many of his troops from the Shenandoah Valley to support Beauregard
at Manassas Junction. Following the battle at Bull Run, Johnston became
involved in what would be a controversy with President Jefferson Davis
over seniority. He thought that he should be the senior general due to
the fact that he was the senior general to leave the old service.
Johnston was given command of the Department of Northern Virginia. Soon
he was to face McClellan east of Richmond. At Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks,
he was wounded and Robert E. Lee was to assume command of the Army of
Northern Virginia for the duration of the war. Upon his recovery,
Johnston was given charge of the Department of the West, which included
John C. Pemberton and the garrison at Vicksburg. This is where Terry
will pick up the rest of the story. For details read pages 124-125 in
Following the Battle of Raymond along Fourteenmile
Creek on May 12, the Confederates retreated thru the tree-shaded streets
northeast toward Jackson. McPherson, tasting battle for the first time
as a corps commander, lost 446 men, while Confederated Brig General John
Gregg suffered 515, mostly from the Third Tennessee and Seventh Texas.
This engagement played an important role in the Vicksburg campaign.
After receiving McPherson’s exaggerated report of Confederate strength,
Grant was reluctant to leave a sizable enemy force in his rear. Instead
of wheeling north toward the Southern Railroad as he had originally
planned, Grant decided to continue marching northeast, driving Gregg
before him. This movement would bring the Army of the Tennessee within
striking distance of the Southern Railroad near Jackson, the state
capital and a vital railroad intersection.
Late in the afternoon of May 13, as Union columns
converged on Jackson from two directions, a train arrived in the capital
city carrying Confederate general Joseph Johnston. Ordered to Jackson
by President Davis, Johnston was supposed to use his vaunted military
skills to salvage the deteriorating situation in Mississippi. Instead he
demonstrated the defeatism that blemished his Civil War career.
Johnston was apprised of available troop strength and the condition of
local fortifications. He concluded with unseemly haste that all was
lost, wiring his superiors in Richmond, “I am too late.” He directed
Gregg to cover the withdrawal, then boarded a train and departed for
Canton, twenty-five miles to the north. (Vicksburg
is the Key PGs 124-125)
Thoughts on some of the Leaders
Vicksburg is the Key
David G. Farragut – Flag Officer of the West Gulf
Blockading Squadron. Became famous at Mobile Bay in 1864 when he shouted
“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
Stephen D. Lee – Youngest Confederate Lieutenant
General. After the war became President of what is today Mississippi
State University. He helped to establish Vicksburg National Military
Park and served as first chairman – only former Confederate to serve in
such a position. He also served as commander of the United Confederate
James B. McPherson – Later succeeded Sherman in
command of the Army of the Tennessee. In 1864 he was killed in action
outside Atlanta, the only Union army commander to die in battle.
Military installation was built in southwest Atlanta in his memory. It
too will be killed on September 15, 2011 by the Department of Defense in
the base realignment and closure.
William T.Sherman - Later succeeded Grant as
commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Perfected his concept of hard
war, which was rehearsed in Mississippi in 1863 to his epic marches
across Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65.
John C. Pemberton – Resigned his general’s command
after the surrender of Vicksburg and served as a lieutenant colonel of
artillery until the war’s end. Lived out the remainder of his life in
Philadelphia and died in 1881. His passing was largely ignored in the
South. However, in 1917 a statue of Pemberton was unveiled in Vicksburg
NMP; a signal of honor denied Joseph Johnston and a host of other
Kirby Smith – Continued in command of the
Trans-Mississippi Department following the loss of Vicksburg and Port
Hudson. After the war he served as chancellor of the University of
Nashville, then as mathematics instructor at the University of the
South. He died in 1893 and is buried on the campus at Sewanee,
Richard Taylor – Was promoted to lieutenant general
for his efforts in the Red River Campaign in 1864. He was the last
Confederate general east of the Mississippi River to surrender. After
the war, he worked tirelessly, using his personal friendship with
Presidents Andrew Johnson and Grant to promote leniency toward the
Southern states. He also penned Destruction and Reconstruction,
one of the best memoirs of the Civil War. Taylor died in 1879.
Shoppach House Historic Park
The Shoppach House Historic
Park will hold its annual Quilt Exhibit and Open House on Saturday, May
2, from 9:00am to 3:00pm. The Shoppach House is the oldest house in
Benton, having been built in 1852, and was headquartered by Union forces
during the occupation of Benton during the Civil War. In April 1861, the
ladies of Benton presented a flag to members of Company E, First
Arkansas Infantry, as they went to Virginia. This unit arrived in time
to participate in the first Battle of Bull Run.
Members of the Saline County Quilters Guild will
be displaying their quilts in the Pilgrim Rest Church building on the
park site. Additionally, the Shoppach House will be open for tours and
board members of the Shoppach House Historic Park will display heirloom
quilts in the Shoppach House.
The event is free of charge, and the park is
located at the corners of Military and Main Streets in downtown Benton.
By Rebecca B. Drake
The Coker House, located on the Raymond-Edwards road three miles
southeast of Edwards, is known for the role that it played during the
Battle of Champion Hill. The one-story Greek Revival house was built
circa 1852 by H. B. Coker who was a prominent planter in the area. After
the Battle of Champion Hill, Coker and his family abandoned the house
and took refuge in Alabama.
The Coker House was one of five
houses to play a prominent role during the Battle of Champion Hill.
Other prominent houses on the battlefield included: Hiawatha, located on
the Raymond-Edwards road near the crossing at Baker’s Creek; the Isaac
Roberts House, headquarters of General John Pemberton, located a short
distance north of the Coker House; the Cook House, located on the
westward stretch of the Jackson-Vicksburg road; and the Champion House,
located on the Jackson-Vicksburg road within sight of the Southern
Unfortunately, except for the
decaying ruins of the Coker House, none of these houses can be seen on
the battlefield today. The Champion House was burned by the Yankees soon
after the Siege of Vicksburg. The Roberts House was bulldozed years ago,
but the old cistern remains in the weeds. Another old cistern is all
that survives from the original Cook House but the land was recently
purchased by the Civil War Preservation Trust. Hiawatha, the only house
left standing, was moved from the battlefield to the nearby city of
Raymond where it was restored and is now a private residence. A pair of
old Magnolia trees marks the site where the house once stood.
On May 16, 1863, three
Confederate divisions (Loring, Stevenson, and Bowen) commanded by
General John Pemberton met General U. S. Grant’s army in the Midway
Station area situated near the Southern Railroad, the Jackson-Raymond
Road, the Raymond-Edwards Road, and Baker’s Creek. The encounter turned
out to be a day-long battle with the tactical advantage shifting
numerous times. By late afternoon, as the Confederates faced defeat,
Pemberton ordered a retreat to the Big Black River near Bovina. During
the retreat, General Lloyd Tilghman, (Loring’s Division) was killed as
he defended the escape route across Baker’s Creek. His body was carried
from the battlefield to nearby Hiawatha. During and after the battle,
the Coker House was used as a Union hospital while Hiawatha served as a
the house in similar condition in the fall of 2007. House has now been
razed. - (Editor)
Around mid-century, the Coker House was
bought by Cal Main Industries which later donated it to the Jackson
Civil War Round Table. Mississippians and Civil War historians were
hopeful that the house, one of Mississippi’s Civil War treasures, would
be restored. In the year 2000, the house changed hands once again when
the Jackson Civil War Round Table made the decision to donate the house
and property to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. By
this time, however, the house was in desperate need of repair and nature
had begun to take its toll. By the year 2003, the cost of trying to save
the historic structure had soared to almost two million dollars.
Recently, in the December 2007 issue of the
national newspaper Civil War News, a feature article by Deborah Fitts
entitled, “Coker House to Come Down at Champion Hill Battlefield” stated
the news that all Mississippians and Civil War historians hated to hear:
“The Coker House, the last remaining structure to witness the battle of
Champion Hill, was expected to be ‘deconstructed’ in November and placed
in storage.” Sources say that a replica will be built in its place but
this is yet to be determined.
Mississippians and those passionate about
Civil War history will bemoan the loss of the Coker House but will wait
to see what plans are in the making to replace the structure. It is our
dream that the Champion Hill battlefield will be developed in a way that
will attract tourists to Mississippi while at the same time preserving
the pristine qualities of one of the most famous battlefields in the
South. With the combined efforts of the Mississippi Department of
Archives & History, the Civil War Preservation Trust, and the Vicksburg
National Military Park this dream is sure to happen.
Hopefully on Tuesday night, Terry Winschel
can give us an update on the Coker House and the planned restoration
Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation
Thank you Jacksonville!
Steve Shore and Jack
Danielson, with the RBBPS, made a presentation to the Jacksonville A&P
Commission on Monday, April 20, requesting funding for 2 cannons for the
seven acre core Battlefield Site. Each cannon sells for $6,200 which
includes the cannon barrel and carriage. The A&P Commission has agreed
to donate $5,700 to the purchase! Thank you….Thank you….Thank
you….With funds already collected, the RBBPS needs $4,100 to complete
the purchase of the 2 cannons.
When 41 individuals
donate $100 each, the cannons can be ordered!
In addition, the
RBBPS is currently having a membership drive. Annual memberships are
only $25. (For those interested in a Life Time Membership, the cost is
Send your membership payment and/or donation for the cannon to:
Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society
100 Veterans Circle
Jacksonville, AR 72076
Work continues at the
Battlefield. This winter, undergrowth and small trees have been removed.
New fencing has been erected along Hwy 161. Plans are to construct two
replica civil war era cabins and a barn by Christmas. Drive by and see
Reed’s Bridge Battlefield
is located on Hwy 161, just south of the junction of Hwy 161 and Hwy
We look forward to seeing you Tuesday Night at the