During his 4 years at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Ulysses Simpson "Sam" Grant's (above) best friend was Missouri born Frederick Tracy Dent. And after graduation in 1843 Grant was posted to the Quartermaster's Corps, at Jefferson Barracks, in Saint Louis, where he fell in love with Fred's slightly cross-eyed sister, Julia Boggs Dent.
Overcoming her affliction, Julia (above) was quiet and determined. She played the piano pretty well, and like "Sam" she was a skilled rider. Although they were well matched and deeply in love, the Mexican-American War prevented the couple from marrying until 1848. Sam's father did not attend the wedding because Julia's family owned slaves.
Sam did not like military life very much, but Julia's presence made his postings to Detroit and then Sackett's Harbor, New York (above), on Lake Erie, more than bearable. But in 1854 Sam was assigned to Fort Humboldt in modern day Eureka, California.
To get there he would have to cross the fever infested isthmus of Panama, and since Julia was pregnant, Sam made the dangerous, lengthy passage alone. Eighteen months later, and six months after arriving at Humboldt, the homesick Captain Grant was drunk so often, he was forced to resign.
Back in Missouri, he twice tried farming (above), once with slaves loaned by his father-in-law and once with a slave Julia had inherited. He was a failure both times. Unable to house or feed his wife and 4 children, Sam had only one object of value he could sell. The slave was worth some $1,500, a small fortune in 1858. But rather than sell the man, Sam gave him his freedom. His wife's in-laws clucked their tongues at his impracticality. His wife's cousins gave him a job as a bill collector. Sam was a failure at that, too.
Then in 1860, Sam's father gave him a job running a "Grant and Perkins Leather Goods" shop (above) in Galena, Illinois. He might have been a failure at that, too. But a year later the Civil War broke out, and Grant would later say, "I never went into our leather store again."
Success now surrendered to Grant. By January of 1863, not as quickly as Pemberton but within 2 years, Grant rose from a Colonel of Volunteers to Lieutenant General, commanding the 103,000 men of the Army of The Tennessee . And if that makes it sound as if he should easily have smashed Pemberton's Army of 50,000, it is a gross over simplification.
In the western theater, all supplies - men and horses, wagons and shoes, hardtack and beef on the hoof, ammunition and nails - was fed into the funnels of Evansville, Indiana, Cairo, Illinois and Louisville, Kentucky.
From there, via the Louisville and Nashville railroads, the supplies were transported to the great warehouse of the western armies, Nashville, Tennessee (above). The city was surrounded by mushrooming repositories, depositories and warehouses that "covered whole blocks, with corrals and stables by the acres". And there were thousands of additional tons of overflow bounty, "..stored outdoors on raised, covered platforms."
From Nashville, the Federals were maintaining two separate armies invading the Confederacy. The objective given to General William Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland was Atlanta, and its supply line ran 152 miles southeast from Nashville to Chattanooga. The supply line for Grant's Army was divided in-two. The Nashville and Mississippi railroad ran 160 miles to Madea, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River, and from there by steamboat to Memphis.
With the lesson of Holly Springs fresh in his memory Grant felt required - and Washington insisted - he use half his strength to guard his supply line. There were 15 to 20,000 men, mostly "heavy" artillery units, in and around his supply base at Memphis.
He had another 15 to 20,000 men, infantry and cavalry, on his left flank, protecting LaGrange, Tennessee. Another 5 to 6,000 men were in fortifications along the Mississippi to discourage attacks on his supply ships plying the river.
While Grant could briefly call upon some of those 40 to 45,000 men to support his attacks, it reduced his "effectivies" - soldiers available for combat - to about 52,000 men, divided equally between McClernand's XVIII Corps, Sherman's XV Corps and McPherson's XVII Corps.
Pemberton's rebels, defending their own territory, had far shorter supply lines. .So on the battlefield the odds were almost even - about 50,000 rebels against 50,000 federals. To gain a temporary advantage in numbers, Grant had tried using the rivers, the Mississippi, the Yazoo, the Talihatichie, and the bayous of the delta to steal a march and outflank Pemberton's men. But using interior lines the rebels were always been able to block the Federal moves. In his frustration, Grant decided to reduce his ambitions.
The latest option presented by Grant's engineers was to dig a mile and a half long canal straight from a dock called Duckport Landing along Milliken's Bend. This canal would connect just southwest of Richmond, Louisiana, to the headwaters of a turgid bayou called Walnut. This creek was so contorted it confused even the locals who called some sections "Brushy Bayou". Walnut/Brushy Bayou meandered for 20 miles across the flood plain, covering only some ten miles in straight line, before joining the larger aptly named Roundabout Bayou, which generally turned southeastward until it connected with a smaller seep called Bayou Vidal.
Thirty-seven miles from the beginning at Brushy Bayou, this last narrow stream trickled into an oxbow aneurysm called Lake St. Joseph At its southern end, this body of water came within a few yards of touching the Mississippi at the 500 acre Hard Times Plantation owned by a Baltimore transplant, Dr, Jeremiah Yelloet Hollingsworth. The dock used for loading Dr. Hollingsworth's cotton harvests was called Hard Times Landing. I was just south of the sunken village of New Carthage. And this tiny half sunken piece of Louisiana was now the target for Lieutenant General Ulysses Simpson Grant's entire army.
Significantly, Hard Times Landing was 5 miles south of the town of Grand Gulf, on the Mississippi side of the river. Once his gun boats and barrages loaded with troops had used the Duckport canal to pass the fearsome Vicksburg batteries, Grant could cross the river to Grand Gulf, and bring Pemberton's army to battle. At that point Grant and his men were certain they would defeat the rebels.
But the closer to New Carthage the tip of Grant's spear - the 600 Hoosiers of Colonel Bennet's (above) 49th Indiana - got, the stiffer the rebel resistance became.
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