Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30, 1862: Sherman abandons attempt to flank Chickasaw Bayou


Stymied in his attempt to seize the Walnut Hills the day before, Sherman planned to slip a force of troops around the Confederate right flank to roll up the Confederate position and open the way for him to renew his head-on assault. The weather intervened, and Sherman's men were spared what would probably have been another bloody repulse.  From Sherman's memoirs:
That night [December 29-30, 1862] I conferred with Admiral Porter, who undertook to cover the landing; and the next day (December 30th) the boats were all selected, but so alarmed were the captains and pilots, that we had to place sentinels with loaded muskets to insure their remaining at their posts. Under cover of night, Steele's division, and one brigade of Stuart's, were drawn out of line, and quietly embarked on steamboats in the Yazoo River. The night of December 30th was appointed for this force, under the command of General Fred Steele, to proceed up the Yazoo just below Haines's Bluff, there to disembark about daylight, and make a dash for the hills. Meantime we had strengthened our positions near Chickasaw Bayou, had all our guns in good position with parapets, and had every thing ready to renew our attack as soon as we heard the sound of battle above.

At midnight I left Admiral Porter on his gunboat; he had his fleet ready and the night was propitious. I rode back to camp and gave orders for all to be ready by daybreak; but when daylight came I received a note from General Steele reporting that, before his boats had got up steam, the fog had settled down on the river so thick and impenetrable, that it was simply impossible to move; so the attempt had to be abandoned. The rain, too, began to fall, and the trees bore water-marks ten feet above our heads, so that I became convinced that the part of wisdom was to withdraw. I ordered the stores which had been landed to be reembarked on the boats, and preparations made for all the troops to regain their proper boats during the night of the 1st of January, 1863.
With his attempts to seize a foothold on the high ground on the same side of the Yazoo River as Vicksburg thwarted, Sherman began the process of pulling out to look for another weak spot in the Confederate defenses.

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