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42nd Alabama during the Seige of Vicksburg

Updated on August 6, 2010

42nd Alabama at Vicksburg

Lithograph Portraying the Union assault on May 22 (Frank Leslies The American Soldier in the Civil War) Source:  Leonard Fullenkamp, Stephen Bowman, and Jay Luvaas,  Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign.  (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 199
Lithograph Portraying the Union assault on May 22 (Frank Leslies The American Soldier in the Civil War) Source: Leonard Fullenkamp, Stephen Bowman, and Jay Luvaas, Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 199
Siege of Vicksburg and the Assault of 22 May 1863 against the 42nd Alabama position.  Data Source:  The War of the Rebellion:  A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.  (Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Government Printing Of
Siege of Vicksburg and the Assault of 22 May 1863 against the 42nd Alabama position. Data Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Of
42nd Alabama Position Marker near Clay Street
42nd Alabama Position Marker near Clay Street
42nd Alabama mentioned on tablet within City Cemetery
42nd Alabama mentioned on tablet within City Cemetery

During May 1863, the 42nd Alabama assumed positions within the defenses of Vicksburg as General Grant’s Army was marching toward its objective.  Moore’s brigade consisted of the 42nd, 37th, and 40th Alabama, 2nd Texas, 35th and 40th Mississippi, and Bledsoe’s Missouri Battery.  The brigade’s right flank was positioned on the Southern Railroad and the left flank on the Great Redoubt.  Initially, Moore placed the 42nd Alabama along Baldwin’s Ferry Road.  During the night of 17 May, the 42nd Alabama changed positions with the 2nd Texas.  This movement placed the 42nd Alabama on Moore’s extreme right.  The 42nd Alabama’s right flank rested on the Southern Railroad of Mississippi and the left flank was secured by the 2nd Texas, just to the north on the Baldwin’s Ferry Road.  Colonel Smith of the 2nd Texas described the switch, “Subsequently, the same night, and hour or two after midnight, the men were roused from their bivouac on the ground, and moved out of their brigade position, and changed places with the Forty-Second Alabama a gallant regiment, in order that the Second Texas Infantry might man the fort which commanded the Baldwin's Ferry road at the very point where the road traversed the lines to enter the city.”[1]

Grant’s forces approached Vicksburg from the east and made an immediate assault to take the works.  On the morning of 19 May, Union skirmishers engaged Moore’s pickets and fired artillery into his positions.  Colonel Smith of the 2nd Texas described the actions along the brigade’s front, “Soon clouds of the enemy's skirmishers were deploying to the right and left . . . The skirmishing was heavy.”[2]  The Confederate works on Forney’s front easily repulsed the attempt.  The main 19 May assault occurred north of Moore’s Brigade and proved to be a costly failure for Grant.    

On 22 May, Grant made two more assaults against Pemberton’s defenses.  Artillery preparation fires preceded each assault.  Major Simons of Moore’s staff described the fires along the brigade’s sector, “At daylight this morning, the cannon opened their fire with unusual fierceness.  . .  roaring all round us.  I have just been counting the number per minute & find it to average from ten to forty per minute . . . There has been hundreds of shot & shell fallen all round us.”[3] 

The 42nd Alabama was stationed in the trenches and rifle pits covering the right flank of the 2nd Texas.  The 99th Illinois Regiment, supported by the 33rd Illinois of Brigadier General Benton’s 1st Brigade, General Eugene A. Carr’s division assaulted this portion of the line.  General Moore reported, “Their greatest efforts were made against that portion of the line occupied by . . . the Second Texas. This regiment was nobly supported by the Forty-second Alabama, occupying the trenches on their right.”[4]   The commander of the 2nd Texas reported, “Instantaneously the enemy earth was black with their close columns . . . Dashing forward in good order, they were hurled against our works with the utmost fury and determination.”[5]  

General Forney described the aftermath of the assault against the Texas Lunette, “The road in front of this position was left covered with the dead bodies of the enemy.  This position was most vigorously assailed.”[6]  General John A. McClernand requested reinforcements from Grant late in the evening to exploit his perceived success.  These reinforcements, which included Bommer’s Third Brigade, moved forward to support General Carr’s division.  These additional forces were repulsed prior to reaching Forney’s line.  Moore reported, “They were easily repulsed in the morning, but in the afternoon charge they were more determined, coming up and even into the outer ditch of the Second Texas redoubt . . . Having failed to carry our works by assault, the enemy now appeared to determine not to attempt it again.”[7]  Unable to effect a penetration of Forney’s line, the assault was discontinued.  The assault of 22 May was another failure.  Grant regretted the unnecessary loss of life and McClearnard was relieved of command.  Three days after the assault, A soldier of Moore’s Brigade recorded, “At 2 o’clock P.M. on the 25th, a flag of truce was sent in by the enemy, asking permission to bury their dead and remove their wounded, some of whom had lain on the field, where they had fallen, for several days.  During the time they were engaged in this the soldiers on the opposing sides met, talked kindly with each other, exchanging different articles and when the time was out retired to their respective lines, and again began the work of destruction.”[8]

Corporal Robert H. Bunn, a 17 year old member of B Company, 42nd Alabama described the scene, “It was no doubt the most daring assaults that was made on our line.  Their loss was very heavy.  The day the dead were removed and we allowed to mingle with the survivors of the regiment and it was sad to see brothers and friends searching for their own among heaps of fallen heroes.”[9] 

With the failure of these assaults, Grant decided upon siege operations.  His engineers began construction of deliberate approaches toward Pemberton’s position, slowly strangling the Confederates.  As early as 27 May, the affects of the siege took hold.  A soldier within Moore’s brigade recorded, “rations began to fail.  The corn was exhausted and peas were ground up for meal.  The meat also was exhausted and mules were killed and eaten.”[10]  The conditions became much worse for the Confederate soldiers as the siege progressed.  General Moore described the worsening conditions, “From this time to the close of the siege (forty-seven days) our men were confined to the trenches night and day under a fire of musketry and artillery, which was often kept up during the whole night as well as the day. Only those who were a near witness of the siege of Vicksburg will ever have a true conception of the endurance and suffering of these men, who stood at their post until overpowered, not by the enemy, but by the wants of nature. Those who only think and read of the siege, and those who witnessed and shared its trials, may perhaps form widely different conceptions of its nature. Some idea may be formed of the artillery fire to which we were exposed, when I state that a small party sent out for that purpose collected some two thousand shells near and in rear of the trenches occupied by our brigade.”[11] 

On 18 June, Major Simons recorded in his diary, “Our men are nearly worn out. . . . Never have a set of men exhibited more fortitude & endurance than has those that now defend the City of Vicksburg.”[12]  By 24 June, the soldiers were on one fourth rations.[13]  On 25 June and 1 July, Union forces exploded mines under the 3rd Louisiana redan.  The follow-on assaults were not able to penetrate the defenses in that sector.  Major Simons continued in his diary, “The men have been in the trenches for so long a time on short rations & having taken no exercise all the time that I do not think they could now march five miles.  And I think it would worse than folly for us attempt it.  Some think there will be an effort made to get out but I do not much think so.  Yet I would be more than willing to make the effort for there is nothing pleasant in the thought of being a prisoner . . . All have long faces & all despair of our holding this place beyond a few days.  I feel truly sad.  All looks dark & gloomy ahead.  This will be the hardest blow that they have yet given us.”[14]  

General Joe Johnston was moving west in an attempt to relieve Pemberton’s force at Vicksburg.  This effort constituted the last hope for the beleaguered Confederate garrison at Vicksburg.  Johnston’s force reached the Big Black River.  Pemberton considered an assault out of Vicksburg in order to link up with Johnston and save his army.  He queried his commanders about the condition of their soldiers.  General Moore’s reply was, “In our opinion, the physical condition and general health and strength of our men are not such as to enable them to make the marches and undergo the fatigues necessary to accomplish the successful evacuation of Vicksburg. . . . to their long confinement and cramped inaction in the trenches, the state of almost incessant alert, night and day, in which the men have been since the commencement of the siege, together with other various fatigues, privations, and exposures to which they have been unavoidably subjected.”[15] 

On 4 July, Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg and approximately 32,000 Confederate soldiers.  General Forney stated, “my troops were marched by regiments over the intrenchments, their arms stacked and left in possession of the enemy, while they returned to bivouac in rear of the trenches.”[16]  The soldiers of the 42nd Alabama filed from their trenches and stacked arms in accordance to the terms of surrender.  Private Joseph. T. Harris of K Company, 42nd Alabama stated, “We fought like lions, but surrendered like lambs.”[17]  Immediately following the surrender, Private Bunn described the actions of the 42nd Alabama, “After the surrender, our regiment occupied a building on the Bawldwin ferry road under the hill near where they are building a new bridge.  It was used during the siege as an arsenal.  Some of the troops that met us at Corinth and not camp inside of the Confederate line for I will remember they came and I told our boys out and can said there away to feast for a day and night at a time.”[18] 

On 10 July, the Union soldiers issued 566 parole certificates to the remaining 42nd Alabama soldiers and they began the long journey toward the parole camp at Demopolis, Alabama.  Many parolees were granted a thirty day furlough with the requirement to report to the Parole Camp at Demopolis, Alabama at the expiration of furlough.  Most parolees had reported to Demopolis by 25 July.  Moore’s brigade was exchanged on 12 September 1863.[19]  In October 1863, Moore’s brigade was ordered to join the Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

However, it did suffer tremendously from continued attrition over a period of six months, culminating in forty-seven days of siege warfare under extremely harsh conditions.  Severely reduced rations, constant shelling, and unsanitary conditions took their toll upon the morale of the regiment.  At least 35 soldiers were hospitalized at the time of parole.  Moore was proud of his soldiers and their conduct under such harsh conditions, “I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the officers and men. None ever endured such hardships with more cheerfulness. . . . By this time their minds and bodies seemed exhausted, and many remained at their post in the trenches who were fit subjects for the hospitals. Only those who have tried it can tell the effects produced on men by keeping them forty-seven days and nights in a narrow ditch, exposed to the scorching heat during the day and the often chilly air and dews of night.”[20]

[1]OR, 24.2, (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 385.

[2]Ibid., 387.   

[3]Douglas L. Braudaway, “A Texan records the Civil War Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi:  The Journal of Maj. Maurice Kavanaugh Simons, 1863”, Southwestern Historical Quarterly.  (The TexasState Historical Association: July, 2001), 108.

[4]OR, 24.2 (Washington, D.C.  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 382.

[5]Ibid., 387.

[6]Ibid., 361.   

[7]Ibid, 382.

[8]Samuel H. Sprott, Cush: A Civil War Memoir (Livingston, AL Livingston Press, 1999) 64.

[9]Robert H. Bunn letter to Captain Rigby dated 4 July 1904, Special Collections, VicksburgNationalMilitaryPark.

[10]Samuel H. Sprott, Cush: A Civil War Memoir (Livingston, AL Livingston Press, 1999) 64.

[11]OR, 24.2 (Washington, D.C.  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 381-382.

[12]Douglas L. Braudaway, “A Texan records the Civil War Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi:  The Journal of Maj. Maurice Kavanaugh Simons, 1863”, Southwestern Historical Quarterly.  (The TexasState Historical Association: July, 2001), 115.

[13]Ibid., 117.

[14]Ibid., 122.

[15]OR, 24.2 (Washington, D.C.  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 383

[16]Ibid., 368.

[17]J. T. Harris, Marion County Newspaper dated February 14, 1907

[18]Robert H. Bunn letter to Captain Rigby dated 4 July 1904, Special Collections, VicksburgNationalMilitaryPark.

[19]“Exchange Notice No. 6”, The Democratic Watchtower, Vol. 24 No. 35 September 23, 1863.

[20]OR, 24.2 (Washington, D.C.  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 382. 

Vicksburg Battlefield Park

A
3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183-3495:
3201 Clay St, Vicksburg, MS 39183, USA

get directions

42nd Alabama Location Near City Cemetery and Vicksburg Battlefield Park Visitors Center.

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