Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 1863: Stephen Dill Lee at the Siege of Vicksburg

The Siege of Vicksburg was well underway on this day 150 years ago. Confederate Brigadier General Stephen Dill Lee (only very distantly related to Robert E. Lee) held a key section of the Confederate line at the Railroad Redoubt, which defended the approach to Vicksburg along the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. Opposed to S.D. Lee's men were the Union troops of Major General John A. McClernand's XIIIth Corp. With the failure of the frontal assaults on May 19th and May 22nd, McClernand's men began the slow process of digging approach trenches towards the Confederate lines. Lee requested additional clarification on what steps he should take for the defense of his lines.
HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, STEVENSON'S DIV., May 24, 1863.


MAJOR: I have just returned from the right of my line. The enemy are gradually getting nearer, ditching. I have directed the sharpshooting of my men there to be increased, having one sharpshooter every 8 or 9 yards in the rifle- pits, to fire whenever they see anything to shoot at. I hope this is not violating the spirit of General Pemberton's order about firing, for I consider it absolutely necessary to impede the progress of the enemy's work as much as possible, particularly as they are there within 200 yards of my pits. I consider this necessary not only to impede them, but I do not like to see the enemy working within such short distance of our men without an effort to stop them. Please submit this point, and if I have violated instructions, I ask for specific directions. Our not firing certainly emboldens the enemy. The enemy are evidently in force, gradually approaching nearer to me; their pits and roadway are visible nearly along my whole front, most of them being on the other side of the ravine. The firing of the enemy is relatively the same as yesterday, except this morning, when the bombardment was quite heavy. I submit to the general the point whether it would not be better to commence at once to thicken the earth on the redan and redoubt on the interior, to render them more secure against their artillery, as at present they are by no means proof against it. I have had pits sunk in all of them to render the men more secure. Many of the enemy's wounded are still in my front, and seem to be suffering very much. I will endeavor to-night to collect all the ammunition in the boxes in my front, and would suggest that the same course be pursed all along the line; as quite a large amount of ammunition was obtained in this manner last night. The guns are all beautiful Enfields. Quite a number of arms could be collected all along the line to arm men who require them.

Yours, respectfully,

The map below shows the location of S.D. Lee's brigade in the Confederate lines at Vicksburg, near the Railroad Redoubt. Click on the map to see an enlarged version.

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