GRANT, Ulysses S. (1822-1885), President. Autograph letter signed ("U.S. Grant Maj. Gen.") to Major General Nathaniel Banks (1816-1894), "Head Quarters, Dept. of the Tn.", Vicksburg, Mississippi, 10 July 1863. 3 2/3 pages, 4to (9¾ x 8 13/16 in.), second leaf inlaid, otherwise fine.
FRESH FROM HIS CAPTURE OF VICKSBURG, GRANT REPORTS NEWS FROM GETTYSBURG, WHERE MEADE "WHIPPED LEE BADLY"
Only six days after the seige of Vicksburg concluded with the city's surrender, Grant writes to Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf, reporting on the military situation and relaying news of the victory at Gettysburg. After struggling for a year to take the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, Grant finally succeeded in driving the Confederate Army of John Pemberton (1814-1881) into the defenses around the city where they were cut off from reinforcements and supplies. After almost two months during which the southern soldiers endured a constant Union bombardment, Pemberton surrendered on July 4, giving the North one of its most important victories of the war.
Writing to Banks, whose army lay in seige around Port Hudson, the final Confederate position along the Mississippi, Grant notes that he is sending help: "I send Maj. Gen. [Francis] Herron to Port Hudson with the available infantry force of his Div. I feel confident that Port Hudson will be in your possession before these troops reach you." Noting that Confederate General Richard Taylor (1826-1879) had men in the vicinity, Grant proposes that "you might want to make a prompt movement to capture him." Grant requests that Banks return the troops as soon as he can spare them and requests that he also dispatch one of his best cavalry commanders: "I am very much in want of Cavalry and of [Benjamin] Grierson to command them." Grant's aid to Banks was indeed unnecessary as Port Hudson surrendered on the 9th.
Grant remained alert to a second Confederate Army in Mississippi under the command of Joseph Johnston (1807-1891): "All my surplus troops were held in readiness to move on Johnston the moment Vicksburg fell. They started the same day." Noting that General William T. Sherman's army was nine miles from Jackson and that skirmishing had occurred, he confidently states: "Gen. Sherman will give Johnston no rest on this side of Pearl River." One week later, Sherman forced Johnston to abandon Mississippi entirely. Grant admits uncertainty about his next step: "With the exception of clearing out Kirby Smith's forces on the West side of the Miss. river I have but little idea of what is next to be done with our Western forces. Hope to have instructions from Washington soon however." Grant informs Banks of news from General Benjamin Prentiss (1819-1901), commander of the East Arkansas District: "On the 4th of July Gen. Prentiss was attacked at Helena by [Theophilus] Holmes, [Sterling] Price, [Mosby] Parsons, & [John] Marmaduke with a force vastly superior to his own, numerically." Grant remarks that Prentiss only suffered 250 casualties while "they had picked up about 300 of the enemys dead and had captured 1100 prisoners" and that "at every hour and at every road...they find wounded men left by the enemy." The Confederate attack at Helena, meant to relieve pressure upon Vicksburg, obviously came too late.
Grant happily reports news from Gettysburg: "I received a telegraphic disptach from the Gen. Dept. of telegraphs, Washington, of the 5th of July stating that Meade had whipped Lee badly and that the latter was retreating and Meade in full pursuit." The defeat of Lee at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg marked the turning point of the Civil War. On July 28, Josiah Gorgas, the Confederate Chief of Ordnance, described the blow to the southern cause in his diary: "Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle of success--today absolute ruin seems to be our portion" (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 665).