Engineers in Union blue and Confederate gray played a prominent role in the Vicksburg campaigns of 1862-1863. Although their contributions have largely gone unnoticed in published works on the campaign, the stories of these men and the fatigue parties that toiled under their supervision are worthy of note and will be detailed in this series of articles.
Part 26: The Union Approaches
The main effort of approach operations on Gen. Sherman’s front was focused along Graveyard Road and aimed at Stockade Redan. If the large triangular-shaped bastion could be destroyed, the Federals could advance into the city. If Sherman’s men could at least secure the redan and bring up their artillery, Union guns would make the Confederate line from Fort Hill to Jackson Road untenable. Either way it would result in the fall of Vicksburg.
Capt. William Le Baron Jenney, chief engineer of the XV Corps, had overall direction of the approach operations on Sherman’s front (see Part 17: The Logistician and the Architect). Four approaches were driven forward against the Stockade Redan complex, the left face of which nestled Graveyard Road.
In addition to the redan, to the west was the 27th Louisiana Lunette, and to the south was Green’s Redan, named for Confederate Brig. Gen. Martin E. Green, whose brigade occupied this stretch of line beginning June 2. Two of the Union approaches (Buckland’s and Lightburn’s) were pushed forward toward the 27th Louisiana Lunette, one (Smith’s) advanced toward Green’s Redan, and one (Ewing’s) was directed against Stockade Redan.
The night of May 30, Capt. William C. Young broke ground on Buckland’s Approach, named in honor of brigade commander Ralph P. Buckland. Buckland was a pre-war lawyer whose partner in the practice was Rutherford B. Hayes. During the war both Buckland and Hayes became major generals, with Hayes going on to become Nineteenth President of the United States.
The approach descended the ridge 150 yards west of Graveyard Road and was pushed by Young across an upper branch of Mint Spring Bayou. It then ascended Fort Hill Ridge in front of the 27th Louisiana Lunette, and by June 22, they had opened up a parallel within 60 yards of their objective when worked stopped. Buckland’s men were pulled out of line and sent to the Big Black River to guard the rear of Grant’s investing army from Confederate relief forces then gathering in Jackson under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
On June 28, soldiers from Brig. Gen. Joseph Lightburn’s brigade advanced to occupy the parallel vacated by Buckland’s troops and reinforced the position by raising a five-foot parapet, crowned with sandbags, and loop-holed for sharpshooters whose fire inflicted frightful casualties on the Confederates. The same day, Lightburn’s men began their own approach toward Stockade Redan. By July 2 the head of the approach was within 25 feet of the redan and the sappers began sinking a gallery for a mine. Their effort, however, was for naught as the next day white flags appeared over the parapets of Vicksburg.
South of Graveyard Road, fatigue parties of Col. Giles Smith’s brigade commenced work on an approach the last week in May. Beginning in the deep ravine fronting Green’s Redan (where the Missouri Monument stands today), two trenches that started from a common source were pushed up the ridge via separate spurs. Once on the high ground the spurs converged on the redan. Working under the direction of Capt. William Kossak, the sappers drove the approach the Confederate works.
On June 25, when the mine beneath Third Louisiana Redan was sprung, firing erupted all along the line during which General Green was wounded, luckily it was not life-threatening wound.
On June 27, General Green returned to the front after two days recovering from minor injuries sustained when Third Louisiana Redan was exploded and fighting broke out along the lines. As he walked toward an opening in the parapet to examine the progress made by Kossak’s sappers, one of his men stopped him warning that the Federal sharpshooters were very active, and quite accurate.
Green shrugged off the admonition saying, “A bullet has not been molded that will kill me.”
A moment later, as he peered through an embrasure, there was the sharp crack of a musket and Green fell dead. He was one of four Confederate generals killed in action during the campaign.
Here, as elsewhere, before the Federals could sink a mine, Vicksburg surrendered.