Saving History Saturday: 99 Acres in the Western Theater

American Battlefield Trust is working to save 99 acres at Shiloh, Raymond, and Vicksburg battlefields and raising $553,330 to ensure the preservation of this land.

Here are the historic details from their website announcement and donation page:

Let’s start in Tennessee with The Battle of Shiloh.

During the initial phase of the Battle of Shiloh, on Sunday, April 6, 1862, elements of a roughly 2,400-man Confederate brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Adley Gladden filed north across the 22-acre tract we are trying to save to attack the left flank of Brig. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss’ 5,400-man division.

After passing over this part of the battlefield, Gladden’s infantry suffered heavy casualties in their attack on Prentiss’ left, as the Federal forces successfully held the line and repulsed the Confederates.

Gladden was joined by a brigade of Mississippi and Tennessee troops, another roughly 2,400 men, under Brig. Gen. James Chalmers, which moved up on Gladden’s right around 8:30 a.m., advancing across the tract as the brigade joined the attack. Combined, these two brigades, resumed their attacks on the hard-pressed Federals.

The four-mile-wide Confederate advance drove the Union defenders back until they encountered resistance at places like the Hornet’s Nest, Bloody Pond, and the Peach Orchard. The Union lines suffered terribly, but every bullet and casualty bought them precious minutes, while costing the Confederates dearly.

Eventually, the Union brigades were forced to fall back to a defensive line at Pittsburg Landing. Many of the generals around Grant counseled retreat, but he was having none of it, declaring, “Retreat? No! I propose to attack at daylight, and whip them.”

During the rainy night that followed, crucial Federal reinforcements arrived. When dawn broke on April 7, it was the Union army’s turn to push the Southern soldiers back on their heels, and late that day, a portion of the defeated Confederate army retreated across this property to recover key roads for the return march southward to their base at Corinth, Mississippi. After the battle, elements of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio also encamped on the property for roughly two weeks.

Jump forward in time thirteen months to May 12, 1863, and the Battle of Raymond, one of the most important actions of the entire Vicksburg Campaign in Mississippi.

Ordered by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, Brig. Gen. John Gregg led his force from Port Hudson, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, and out to Raymond to intercept approaching Union XVII Army Corps, led by Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson.

By 10:00 a.m. on May 12, the Federals were about three miles from Raymond. Gregg decided to dispute the crossing of Fourteen Mile Creek and arrayed his men and artillery accordingly. As the Union skirmishers approached, the Confederates opened fire, initially causing heavy casualties.

Two brigades of Union Maj. Gen. John A. Logan’s division quickly deployed into line of battle on the tract we are working to save, and moved into the woods bordering the creek, but were soon tangled in dense underbrush. Gregg unleashed his regiments which splashed across the creek in echelon and slammed into the Federals who began to give way. “With the shriek of an eagle,” Logan restored order and continued the struggle throughout the morning despite mounting pressure.

Early in the afternoon Federal reinforcements arrived that turned the tide of battle and launched a counterattack across the land we are working to preserve. By late afternoon, Gregg’s line faced double envelopment and was pressed by overwhelming numbers in front. The Confederate commander had little choice but to order his troops from the field.

Due to the ferocity of the battle of Raymond, General U.S. Grant changed the operational direction of his army and marched on the capital city of Jackson, which fell to Union forces two days later. With his army now clear of danger from attack from the east, Grant turned west toward Vicksburg and a rendezvous with destiny.

And just as those armies did in 1863, we finally come to Vicksburg, and the opportunity to save 33 acres – the largest single parcel of land that can be saved at the battlefield – associated with the Union XIII Corps attack on the “Railroad Redoubt” on May 22, 1863, just 10 days after the Battle of Raymond.

One of the Confederate defenders, Lt. J.M. Pearson of the 30th Alabama described the Union attack, saying, “…they seemed to be springing from the bowels of the earth, a long line of indigo, a magnificent line in each direction…It was a grand and appalling sight.”

Men of the 21st and 22nd Iowa and 77th Illinois breached the fort’s wall, gaining a lodgment in the city’s defenses. Confederate Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee desperately attempted to get his men to counterattack, to no avail. He turned to Col. Thomas N. Waul, commander of the famed Waul’s Texas Legion who launched a counterattack.

In a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, the Iowans and Illinoisans were driven back at the point of bayonets when no reinforcements were at hand. The mounting casualty lists on this day of battle convinced U.S. Grant that it was time to begin a siege.

To learn more or make a donation to save these 99 acres of hallowed ground, please visit: https://www.battlefields.org/give/save-battlefields/save-99-crucial-acres-three-western-theater-battlefields

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