I had been considering options for my final day in Vicksburg. Options included visiting several sites associated with Grant’s campaign, or a more limited visit to Champion Hill or Raymond Battlefield. After some consideration, and suggestions from the visitors centre, I opted to just visit Raymond Battlefield. It was a decision I was extremely pleased I made.
In general terms the situation was that Grant’s army was advancing along several roads southeast of Vicksburg after crossing the Mississippi. One of these columns, McPherson’s XVII Corps, was engaged on the 12th of May 1863 by a much smaller Confederate force under General John Gregg. Gregg had under command some 4000 men. Gregg, thinking he outnumbered the enemy attacked and tried to turn the Union right. Eventually, unable to hold the ever increasing Union force the Confederates were forced back. Soon the city of Jackson would be captured, the Battle of Champion Hill would be fought and in due course, Vicksburg would be under siege.
The land encompassing the battlefield has been purchased and developed by a group of volunteers and their efforts are simply amazing. By chance one of these volunteers was exercising his dogs at the park when I arrived. A conversation ensued about the battlefield, the volunteers and the battlefield park.
The preservation is focussed on four areas. First, the Confederate artillery positions to the rear. Secondly the Confederate right flank including Fourteen Mile Creek and where the historical road crossed the creek. Opposite this area is the main Union gun line, and to the left the area where the Confederate attacked the Union right. These areas are seperated by areas of private land so some walking or driving is required.
The Confederate artillery position is next to the Old Port Gibson Road. This was the road I approached the battlefield on an follows the route used by Grant and Sherman, though neither was involved in the battle.
Above and below, Confederate artillery, two smoothbores and a Whitworth Rifle. The Whitworth actual burst during the battle while being fired.
The main preserved area is on the Confederate right and includes the ground that 1st Tennessee Infantry Battalion advanced over. This comprises the field, the woods and Fourteen Mile Creek in the distance. The Confederate artillery is positioned on a knoll behind. This section includes a number of interpretive boards and a circular walk. A cannon near the old bridge marks the initial location of Union artillery before forced back.
Below, a section of Fourteen Mile Creek. I understand the creek is much as it was in 1863. A considerable obstacle with steep banks which would have made it a considerable obstacle.
To the left, and on the Union side of the creek another cannon marks the Union lines and a reconstructed split rail fence marks a location where the Union forces attempted to delay the Rebels. This section I believe is not fully developed.
Above, a cannon marks the position of four James Rifles of the 8th Michigan Light Artillery, commanded by Captain De Golyer on the right of the historic bridge. This battery was the first Union battery deployed. The James Rifles are rifled bronze pieces designed to take a James projectile. Two 12 Pound Howitzers were on the left of the historic bridge and today is represented by another piece. The position of the original bridge and old road are marked but are now gone. Heavy Confederate fire forced the battery of six guns to fall back to what would become the main Union artillery position.
Opposite the artillery and split rail fence a marker records the advance of the 7th Texan Infantry who splashed across the Fourteen Mile Creek around noon attacking the 68th and 20th Ohio. Around 4pm pressed to front and flank they were forced back.
The final section is the Union artillery line which is positioned on the Union left and opposite the Rebel right on the Union artillery ridge.
Here 22 artillery pieces were progressively deployed and today 20 cannon are placed. The spectacle is significant and certainly I pondered the amount of fire that these pieces would have put down. The cannon are reproductions, but comprise different models, the carriages were I understand, were supplied by the Vicksburg Military Park.
Above, a view looking towards the Confederate right which is along the woods to the front. Behind these woods on a knoll is the hopelessly out numbered Confederate artillery, perhaps 1000 yards distant.
This is a small but extremely well presented battlefield. I was taken back by the dedication of the volunteers that have done so much to preserve this significant battle of the campaign. If you have an opportunity I encourage you to include a visit to the Raymond Military Park on a trip to Vicksburg.