Thanks to:
By Kennedy Hickman, Guide

Major General William T. Sherman, USA
Photograph Courtesy of theNational Archives & Records Administration

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Conflict & Dates:

The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou was fought December 26-29, 1863, during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
Armies & Commanders

Major General William T. Sherman
Rear Admiral David D. Porter
30,720 menConfederate

Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton
13,792 men

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Background:

Having captured western Tennessee in early 1862 through victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, andShiloh, Major General Ulysses S. Grant found himself serving as second-in-command to Major General Henry W. Halleck during the Siege of Corinth in May. With Halleck's departure for Washington to serve as Union general-in-chief in July, Grant resumed control of Union forces in Mississippi. That fall, following victories by Union forces at Iuka and Second Corinth, he began making plans to move against the fortress city of Vicksburg, MS. Located on high groundoverlooking the Mississippi River, Vicksburg, along with Port Hudson, LA, was one of two remaining Confederate positions that blocked Union control of the river.

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Grant's Plan:

For the initial push against Vicksburg, Grant intended to split his forces and advance on two fronts. Retaining around 40,000 men, he would personally lead a thrust down the Mississippi Central Railroad from the Union supply base at Holly Springs, MS. It was Grant's hope that Vicksburg's defenders, led by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, would give battle in the area around Grenada, MS. There they could be destroyed preventing the need for Union troops to lay siege to Vicksburg. While Grant's men moved overland, he directed Major General William T. Sherman to take 32,000 men down the Mississippi to strike at Vicksburg from the water. Embarking his forces at Memphis, Sherman departed on December 20 with Rear Admiral David D. Porter's gunboats providing support and protection.

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Sherman Arrives:

Arriving at Milliken's Bend above Vicksburg on December 24, the Union fleet turned up the Yazoo River. This waterway had been scouted earlier in the month and cleared of mines by Porter's vessels though the gunboat USS Cairo was lost in the operation. Landing at Johnston's Plantation, near where Steele's Bayou joined the Yazoo, Sherman made preparations for advancing on Vicksburg. Responding to the Union threat, Confederate forces occupied strong positions on the Chickasaw Bluffs to the east of Sherman's position. In addition to constructing a variety of barriers, this line was further protected by Chickasaw Bayou, a chest-deep stream approximately fifty yards wide that flowed in front of the bluffs.

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Initial Moves:

On December 26, Sherman directed Brigadier Generals Francis P. Blair, Jr. and David Stuart as well as Colonel John F. DeCourcy to take their brigades and press forward to determine any weaknesses in the Confederate defenses. Advancing, they skirmished with elements of Brigadier General Stephen D. Lee's division near Mrs. Lake's Plantation. Pushing the Confederates back, they gained ground that allowed Sherman's forces to move towards Chickasaw Bluffs the next day. Recognizing the strength of the enemy's position, Sherman directed Brigadier General Frederick Steele to take his division forward on December 28 with the goal of turning the Confederate's right flank. Moving across Chickasaw Bayou, this effort was limited to a narrow front due to the swampy terrain. Coming under intense artillery fire, Steele saw no choice but to fall back (Map).

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - A Bloody Repulse:

Assessing his options, Sherman decided to mount a full frontal assault on the Confederate lines the next day. On the morning of December 29, Union artillery began pounding Chickasaw Bluffs for four hours. Despite the length of the bombardment, little damage was inflicted. At noon, DeCourcy, Blair, and Brigadier General John M. Thayer's brigades moved forward against Lee's men on the Confederate right. Though most of Thayer's men became lost, remainder of the attacking force succeeded in moving through the swampy terrain and carried a line ofabatis and rifle pits. Quickly coming under heavy fire from Lee's entrenched forces, the Union troops were unable to continue the advance and fell back across the bayou. This retreat was hastened by a sharp counterattack by Lee's men.

On the Union right, Sherman ordered the divisions Major Generals A.J. Smith and Morgan L. Smith to cross Chickasaw Bayou and assault an Indian Mound in the center of the Confederate line. Successfully crossing the bayou, the Union forces quickly built a road leading forward to support their operations before moving to the attack. Fighting soon swirled around the Indian Mound as the brigades of Brigadier General Seth Barton and John Gregg turned back five assaults on the position. Supporting these attacks was an effort by Colonel William J. Landram's brigade to turn the Confederate left. This failed and his men were repulsed by Brigaider General John C. Vaughn's men.

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou - Aftermath:

Despite the failure of the day's attacks, Sherman remained in positive spirits and commenced planning a new set of assaults for December 30. By morning, his optimism had faded and he decided call off offensive operations instead favoring a move upstream to Drumgould's Bluff. This movement commenced on December 31, but heavy fog on January 1 forced its cancellation. Made aware that Grant's operations had been stymied due to repeated attacks on his supply lines by Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Major General Earl Van Dorn, Sherman elected to withdraw back up the Mississippi. In the fighting at Chickasaw Bayou, Sherman sustained 208 killed, 1,005 wounded, and 563 captured/missing while Confederate losses numbered 63 killed, 134 wounded, and 10 missing. While moving back upstream, Sherman's command was temporarily assigned to Major General John McClernand's expedition and took part in the Battle of Arkansas Post in early January.