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The night before, he issued full rations to his men, many of whom had spent the previous two days strengthening their positions or building roads. Perhaps he knew what lay ahead; certainly the troops did, as night stretched into morning. They prepared to assault perhaps the best-defended Southern city outside Richmond. The rifle pits and trenches surrounding Vicksburg on three sides linked nine steep-walled forts, protected by ditches.

Since these forts commanded high ground, they were of great advantage to the deadly marksmen wearing gray. Rebel artillerymen, in turn, had doubleloaded their cannons with grape and canister. A final obstacle faced the attackers: felled timber further choking the already rugged terrain. Then, shortly before 10 a. Confederate Brig. Stephen D. Sherman planned to avoid the abatis-strewn gullies and hollows that had slowed his advance on the nineteenth.

As the storming party emerged from a cut in the road, Mississippians and Missourians in the fort opened up. The Medal of Honor later was awarded to 78 of the The 30th Ohio, close behind, got the same greeting as the volunteers. The grisly scene of death and misery that greeted the 37th Ohio a few moments later caused many in that regiment to refuse to go any further; the ensuing traffic jam meant the last two regiments had to move overland. They never made it to the fort, ending up about yards east of the redan, which they fired upon with little effect.

The assault by the Union right was effectively turned back. The rest of his XV Corps, eight brigades in all, waited. One brigade, under Brig. John D. Stevenson, traveled overland to mount an assault on the Great Redoubt. The men of the 7th planted their emerald green flag on its exterior slope. However, their scaling ladders were too short and they could go no farther. They were pulled back almost immediately.

In a mere half-hour, Stevenson lost officers and men. Except for one more abortive attack elsewhere on the line, this was the extent of XVII Corps action on the morning of the twenty-second. He was vain and self-promoting and, though not the worst of the political generals, was at best merely competent. He also had an odd sense of timing. At one point during the fighting in Mississippi that month, he had jumped up on a stump and given his troops a political harangue, while bullets were flying.

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It covered about a half-acre of ground, with walls 15 feet high and a ditch 10 feet wide. As with all the forts, a line of rifle pits connected it with nearby fortifications, allowing the defenders to enfilade all approaches.

6 Civil War Battles After Appomattox

The 14th Division of Brig. Eugene Carr would spearhead the attack. Precisely at 10 a. Lysander Webb of the 77th Illinois. Michael Lawler. Lawler had impetuously ordered a charge at Big Black River Bridge five days earlier that, in less than five minutes, had broken the back of Rebel resistance.

Now he faced an entrenched foe, the 30th and 46th Alabama regiments supported by the Texas Legion, fighting with new spirit and determination. Starting in a ravine yards from the redoubt, Lawler ordered the men to charge with bayonets fixed. Colonel William Stone led his 22nd Iowa Volunteers, mostly farmers and merchants from around Iowa City, toward the fort, with the 21st Iowa close behind in support. Regiments from Illinois and Wisconsin rushed forward near them, heading for rifle pits south of the redoubt. The Iowans reached the ditch fronting the earthwork and began crawling up its exterior slope.

Union artillery fire had opened a hole in the top of the redoubt, setting the stage for one of the most tragically heroic actions of the campaign. Sergeant Joseph Griffith of the 22nd Iowa led a group of fellow Iowans up the side of the fort and into that opening, where they fought hand-to-hand and forced most of the grayclads to abandon the works. The Confederate defenses had at last been breached, but the Union hold was tenuous.

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The few who had entered and remained unhurt were still subjected to rifle fire from the Confederates to the rear of the line. The decision was made to rejoin the troops in the ditch, but few were left to obey the order. According to the official regimental history, between 15 and 20 men followed Griffith into the redoubt; only one returned with him alive. Without reinforcements, the desperate gamble gained little of substance. However, the flag of the 22nd still flew from the parapet, and its men waited below to try again. They did not wait long, as the 77th Illinois arrived soon after to occupy the ditch to the right of the Iowans.

Again men clawed their way up the steep exterior slope of Railroad Redoubt.

Battle Of Vicksburg

In early afternoon, a sortie from the 30th Alabama tried to retake control of the ditch, but was beaten back. Griffith then re-entered to accept the surrender of 13 Alabamians. Bitter fighting continued to swirl around the redoubt, with no one gaining a clear upper hand. As 10 a. The 99th and two of the three other regiments in the brigade veered to the left toward rifle pits manned also by the 2nd Texas. Corporal Thomas J. Higgins was captured, but not before carrying the flag of the 99th to the very edge of the Rebel rifle pits, braving the fire that cut down many beside him.

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He was later awarded the Medal of Honor, based in part on the testimony of admiring Confederate foes. The fourth regiment, the 18th Indiana, placed its flag on the edge of the lunette, but could do little more than watch it and wait for help.

That help came from Brig. Within minutes his men rushed forward, shouting wildly, and gained the ditch before the lunette. They reached one of two embrasures and poured rifle fire through it. The pounder pointing out of the other embrasure was useless; Rebel artillerists were being shot down almost as soon as they could man it. Cotton bales between the two embrasures burned, set ablaze by muzzle blasts, which further increased the confusion and ferocity of the fight. As the fort appeared ready to fall into Union hands, four Texans answered the call of Ashbel Smith to clear the embrasure.

They jumped forward and, from five paces, fired their rifle-muskets into the opening. The leaders of the thrust fell dead, and the attack was blunted.

Sherman’s Military Lessons Of The American Civil War, From His Memoirs - William Tecumseh Sherman

The encouraged butternuts were soon rolling lit artillery shells into the ditch below to clear it. The struggle for the 2nd Texas Lunette was not yet over, though.