Battle of Raymond
The Battle of Raymond was fought on May 12, 1863, near Raymond, Mississippi, during the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. The bitter fight pitted elements of Union Army Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee against Confederate forces of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's Department of the Mississippi and East Louisiana. The Confederates failed to prevent the Federal troops from reaching the Southern Railroad and isolating Vicksburg, Mississippi, from reinforcement and resupply.
During the morning of the 12th, the Confederates enjoyed a two-to-one advantage in numbers, as they faced off across Fourteen Mile Creek against a single Federal brigade. However, as morning turned to noon and the Confederates waited in ambush, the remainder of the Federal division secretly deployed into the fields beside the brigade, giving the Union troops a three to one advantage in numbers and a seven to one advantage in artillery. The ranking Confederate officer, Brig. Gen. John Gregg, attempted to achieve tactical surprise and rout the Federal force as it crossed the creek, but he was in turn tactically surprised and routed from the field by the Union XVII Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson. The Union casualties at Raymond were 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing. The Confederate casualties were nearly double: 100 killed, 305 wounded, and 415 captured.
The small battle had an inordinately large impact on the Vicksburg Campaign. Union interdiction of the railroad interrupted Pemberton's attempt to further consolidate his forces and prevented him from linking up with his commanding officer, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. As a result, Pemberton was limited to three options: abandon Vicksburg, withdraw into the city and accept a siege, or fight a meeting engagement against a superior force. Facing conflicting orders from his superiors and open insurrection from his subordinates, Pemberton would be forced into the latter choice on May 16, 1863, at the Battle of Champion Hill.
Preparations for battle
As part of Pemberton's plan to hold Grant's army in check along a broad front roughly delineated by Fourteen Mile Creek, Pemberton ordered all reinforcements arriving in Jackson, Mississippi, to march to Raymond, 20 miles (30 km) to the southwest. There they would form the left wing of a force superior in size to the Federal army. In Raymond, arriving reinforcements would be supported by Wirt Adams's Cavalry Regiment, which was scouting the roads for indications of a Federal movement towards Jackson. Adams had been ordered by Pemberton to leave his regiment in Raymond and ride to Edwards, Mississippi, 15 miles (24 km) away to organize the assorted cavalry attached to the Confederate main body. However, Adams elected to obey a subsequent order from Confederate Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen instructing him to bring his whole force to Edwards.
The Confederate infantry making its way to Raymond by way of the rail and road included Gregg's and Maxey's overstrength brigades from Port Hudson, Louisiana, and William H.T. Walker's and States Rights Gist's brigades from the east. Complicating the journey, however, was Grierson's Raid, which rendered unusable portions of the railroad east of Jackson and about 50 miles (80 km) of track south of Brookhaven, Mississippi. Gregg's men consequently marched all but 85 miles (137 km) of the 200 mile (300 km) journey from Port Hudson to Jackson, arriving on May 9. A second cavalry raid, launched by Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, cut the railroad just north of Brookhaven, trapping the cars of the Jackson & New Orleans Railroad with General Maxey's brigade too far south to assist in the ensuing battle.
After being granted a day of rest on the Pearl River just north of Jackson, Gregg received orders to march to Raymond at first light on May 11. Subsequently, Gregg's brigade arrived in Raymond late in the afternoon, and "dropped to rest as soon as halted." The rest would prove to be a short one. Rather than finding Wirt Adams's cavalry regiment guarding the roads into town, Gregg found the network of roads posted by a five-man detachment of Confederate cavalry and a company of state cavalry. Gregg was forced to picket the roads out of town with his weary infantry.
Unbeknownst to anyone in the Confederate army, McPherson's men of the XVII Corps were lurking near Utica, Mississippi, maintaining strict drum and bugle silence and a strong cavalry screen. The two divisions had been inching along the parched ridge road between Utica and Raymond for two days, struggling to maintain proximity to a water source, while the remainder of Grant's army probed north towards the railroad. Having uncovered Pemberton's main body, Grant ordered McPherson to move his two divisions 10 miles (16 km) into Raymond by mid-day May 12. Rising before daylight, Federal cavalry screening General John Logan's Third Division triggered the alarm from the state cavalry posted on the Utica road almost immediately.
Because the roads had not been properly posted, news of the arrival of thousands of Confederate troops in Raymond had spread. Having discovered from the locals that a large Confederate force was waiting just up the road, Logan attempted to deploy the 20th Ohio Infantry into a broad skirmish line and march nearly a mile through the almost impassable tangles. After an hour of stops and starts to straighten the line, and "a great expense of time, breath and strong language," Logan ordered the skirmish line shortened. Around 10 a.m., Logan's second brigade emerged into a small field that bordered Fourteen Mile Creek.
Word had reached Gregg that the Federal main body was due south of Edwards, so he estimated that this body of troops must be a raiding party. To much fanfare, he marched his men through the streets of Raymond to meet the threat. Arriving on the hills overlooking Fourteen Mile Creek, he ordered his troops to conceal themselves, then ordered Col. Hiram Granbury, commander of the veteran 7th Texas Infantry Regiment, to send Company A and a portion of Company B to picket the bridge over the creek due to their new Enfield Rifles. Gregg's plan appears to have been to lure the raiding party into making a rash charge over the bridge to save it from being burned. Once the Federal force was on the Confederate side of the bridge, Gregg's 3,200 men would erupt from their hiding places and drive the Union force into the creek bed where they would be pinned for the slaughter.
Gregg watched with anticipation as the Federal skirmish line crossed the field and engaged his pickets. Anticipation turned to surprise, however, when at 10 o'clock the skirmishers halted in the tree line and called up DeGolyer's 8th Michigan Battery Light Artillery to clear the bridge with a few rounds of canister shot. The presence of artillery could only mean one thing: the force occupying the field before him was no mere raiding party, but at least a full Federal brigade. Gregg remained undaunted, and merely altered his plan for attack. His main body would shift to the left, leaving the fields that were now threatened by the federal artillery a mere 500 yards (500 m) away for the safety of the hills above Fourteen Mile Creek. Two large regiments of infantry would launch the ambush when the Federal brigade crossed the creek, while two more large regiments would slip silently through the woods into the rear of the Federal line, capturing the artillery battery and trapping the Union troops in the bed of Fourteen Mile Creek, where they would be forced to surrender. In the heat of preparation, Gregg forgot to inform Pemberton of these plans.
Pemberton's plan had been to allow Grant to dictate the focus of the Federal attack. Grant could turn east and attack Raymond, or turn west and attack Edwards. In doing so, Grant's vulnerable rear would be open to attack by whichever force was not engaged. Pemberton had explicitly ordered Gregg not to bring on a general engagement with a larger force, but to withdraw to Jackson in the face of overwhelming odds while Pemberton dealt the Federal army a heavy blow from behind. Technically, Gregg did not feel he was violating that order, because the over-strength Confederate brigade of 3,200 men, with reinforcements on the way, outnumbered the average federal brigade by over 2-to-1 odds. What Gregg could not see, because McPherson was orchestrating his own ambush, was the entire Third Division of McPherson's Corps silently deploying into the field beside the Second Brigade.
Knowing that the woods ahead hid a large Confederate force, McPherson began to suspect an ambush. After having his men stack arms, eat lunch, and rest for the fight ahead, he deployed a brigade to the rear for reserves, and posted his left flank with cavalry and his right flank with the 31st Illinois Infantry Regiment and additional cavalry. The men were just wrapping up lunch when an artillery duel opened up between the Union artillery near Fourteen Mile Creek and Gregg's artillery, which had been called forward by General Gregg to a hilltop 700 yards (600 m) distant. Around noon, McPherson ordered Logan forward.
Chaos and irony
The men of the First and Third Brigades faced the same challenge faced by Second Brigade earlier in the day. The vines in this area hung like ropes between the trees, and some of them boasted thorns three inches (76 mm) long. Additionally, though Fourteen Mile Creek was just inches deep, the nearly vertical banks rose over 10 feet (3.0 m) above the creek bed in places. To compound the command problems created by the terrain, McPherson's men were operating under drum and bugle silence and orders had to be delivered by courier, causing the line to lurch forward unevenly. The men of the 23rd Indiana Infantry Regiment experienced what must have seemed like a stroke of luck at the time—because of a turn in the creek, their right flank rested very near the creek. With a little effort, the unit was across the creek and standing in formation. In order to close the gap created by the march, the unit quick-stepped back the other direction looking for the rest of the brigade, and stumbled sideways into the jaws of the Confederate trap. The only thing that saved the 23rd Indiana Infantry from wholesale slaughter was the fact that the Confederates had never been issued bayonets.
Col. Manning Force, the commander of the 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, heard the rebel yell, followed by the sounds of musketry, and panicked. He ordered his regiment to charge, running through the nearly impassable tangle and then leaping into the creek bed. There his men must have been stricken with horror at their mistake—the rest of the division was holding its ground to the rear, and the walls of the creek were too steep to either move forwards or retreat. Luckily the creek made a turn here, and the soldiers utilized it as a bunker as they traded blows with the right battalion of the 7th Texas Infantry, the ends of the Texans' rifles discharging just inches away as the Confederates utilized the other side of the creek bed in the same manner. Force crawled out of the creek bed with difficulty and sought help from the rest of the division, begging Colonel Richards of the 20th Illinois Volunteer Infantry regiment to move forward and connect the Federal line.
The left battalion of the 7th Texas Infantry, and the 3rd Tennessee Infantry, wild with their easy victory over the 23rd Indiana Infantry, had pushed across the creek and past the 20th Ohio in a wave, encountering the Union battle line still standing in the woods. For a few minutes, the Union line and Confederate line stood obscured in the thick woods and smoke and killed each other at short range, "both lines [standing] equally firm; both equally determined as a couple of bulldogs engaged in a death struggle". Just after Force returned to the creek bed, the Federal line was ordered to leave the woods for the safety of the fence line, allowing the Union commanders to sort out what had happened. In executing this movement, Colonel Richards was lost, and with him Manning Force's desperate plea for assistance. The Confederates, perceiving that the Federals were withdrawing, imagined that the Federal line was being forced back. The rebels pushed forward with vigor, only to be ripped apart by a volley from federal troops now hiding behind the fence. Aggravating the situation for the Confederates was the fact that the 31st Illinois, hearing the fighting erupt behind them, had merely to about-face from their position on the Union right flank, and step forward in line a few yards before they were in firing position to enfilade the line of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry.
On the Confederate left flank, two Confederate regiments (50th Tennessee and consolidated 10th/30th Tennessee) were sneaking forward in complete silence, ready to stream into the field in the federal rear and seal the trap. Skirmishers of the leading 50th Tennessee chased off the cavalry pickets with a few ill-aimed shots. In the field behind the federal army, General Logan must have been near panic. The cavalry protecting his right flank was scrambling from the woods, his rightmost infantry regiment was nowhere to be seen, and what was left of the next regiment in line had emerged from the woods in disorganized groups of three and four, and was attempting in vain to regroup. Normally calm in battle, Logan was noted to be riding behind the lines screeching like an eagle for his troops to plug the perceived gaps. He pulled the 8th Illinois and the 81st Illinois out of line, sending the former to the left where the 23rd Indiana was reforming, and the latter to the right where the 23rd Indiana should have been, and then sent the remaining two regiments of his reserve to probe for the force that had scattered his cavalry picket.
The commander of the 50th Tennessee emerged from the woods ahead of his skirmishers, and his heart sank. To his right, a line of blue stretched as far as he could see. To the left, he could hear Logan's two reserve regiments moving past his flank. General Gregg had made a grave miscalculation. The federal infantry brigade he had been ordered to rout from the field had somehow turned into an entire federal division. The Confederate force withdrew across the creek with haste, and for a moment was too stunned to do anything but stand in formation waiting for orders.
At this point, McPherson sent a note back to Grant stating that he had been engaged with a Confederate force of about 1,000 men for two hours and was about to get the upper hand. This was an incredibly accurate statement. So far, the Confederates had only managed to commit the 7th Texas and 3rd Tennessee Infantry Regiments, just under 1,000 men in total. Strangely enough, the Confederates engaged now found themselves caught in the same trap that they had planned for the Federals: they had been lured in a disorganized mass across a nearly impassable creek, and now faced the danger of being driven into the creek and slaughtered. The enfilading fire on the 3rd Tennessee began to take its toll, and the its left flank crumbled. Col. Hiram Granbury of the 7th Texas decided to order a withdrawal, then had second thoughts and sent a courier to his right battalion with a message to rescind the order. A timely bullet killed the courier before he could deliver the message, meaning that for a few valuable minutes five companies of the 7th Texas regiment were holding back an entire Federal army division. This allowed hundreds of Confederates to withdraw safely across the creek. A final push by the fresh 8th Illinois Infantry regiment finally broke the 7th Texas. A proud veteran regiment that had once boasted that it had never been broken in battle was now reduced to fleeing for its life in scattered groups, with hundreds of Federals in pursuit.
Confederate fight for survival
Colonel Randal McGavock, 10th Tennessee Infantry, commanding the consolidated 10th/30th Tennessee, sent a courier to find General Gregg. The courier returned, not with orders from General Gregg, but with news that the Confederate center had been routed. In a panic, McGavock ordered his regiment to the center without pausing to inform the 50th Tennessee now protecting the Confederate left flank. Marching double time by the right flank back to the position he had occupied earlier that morning, McGavock emerged from the woods in time to see scattered groups of Confederates being pursued by a wave of blue. Before all his troops had even emerged from the woods, McGavock ordered an oblique charge by his own 10th Tennessee "Sons of Erin," some seven companies, across the open field into the midst of the blue mass. What McGavock failed to realize was that the field was now enfiladed by the 31st Illinois, lying hidden in the edge of the woods along the creek. In a dramatic flourish, McGavock threw back his cape, exposing the red liner and inspiring his fellow Irishmen as he led the counterattack. Unfortunately for the 10th TN, this also made McGavock a fine target and he was shot almost immediately. The 31st Illinois "opened fire as if by file" as the Irish Southerners charged across their front, successfully forcing the Federal pursuers of the Confederate center to return to the shelter of the creek. The success came at a cost: the 10th Tennessee suffered a majority of its 88 reported casualties in this action.
Receiving enfilading fire, the 10th Tennessee withdrew, loading and firing the entire time, to join the three companies of the 30th atop the hill. Lt. Colonel James Turner, commander of the 30th Tennessee who succeeded to command of the consolidated unit, positioned the whole prone to sweep the field below. Helping stem the Federal tide was the arrival of Gregg's reserve—the 41st Tennessee Infantry—and the fact that "McGavock Hill" had become a rallying point for remnants of other units, most notably the right battalion of the 7th Texas Infantry.
At this point, the battle devolved into a contest of sniping, as the Federal commanders attempted to reform the men into organized units in the difficult tangle while suppressing the fire from the hill top. Gregg, meanwhile, found himself scrambling to provide enough time to allow the routed units to reform for the retreat. The 1st Tennessee Infantry Battalion spent the afternoon feinting in various directions, and suffered heavy casualties for its efforts. The 50th Tennessee, having grown tired of standing in the Gallatin Road, traversed the battlefield from left to right, while the 41st Tennessee marched to the sound of firing on the left flank to protect it, unaware that the 50th Tennessee was already there. Moving to the left, it passed the 50th Tennessee headed in the opposite direction, and took up the 50th's former position on the flank.
Eventually, McPherson began to extend his right flank beyond the Confederate hilltop. The position having been turned and his routed units reasonably reformed, Gregg ordered a withdrawal through Raymond towards Jackson. Here, the Federal artillery finally made its mark in the battle, pounding the Confederate ranks as Gregg continued the delaying action to allow his battered units to withdraw. As his disorganized force came scrambling over fences and through yards in Raymond, they were met by the 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry and 800 cavalry under the command of Wirt Adams, the leading elements of reinforcements headed to Raymond from all over the Confederacy. Help had arrived too late to do anything but provide cavalry rear guard protection to General Gregg's spent force.
The Union casualties at Raymond consisted of 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing. The Confederate casualties were nearly double: 100 killed, 305 wounded, and 415 captured. Indicative of the number of locals and state troops who answered Jefferson Davis' desperate request to the Mississippi governor for help turning back Grant  is the fact that the Union Army buried and captured more Confederates at Raymond than the number of casualties reported by General Gregg, total (500). Many of the Confederate dead were interred in the Confederate Cemetery at Raymond, Mississippi, by the townspeople.
Grant's plan had been to lure Pemberton into splitting his force, allowing the Confederate army to be defeated in detail. News that Pemberton's left wing had retreated to the rail center at Jackson, Mississippi, where it was receiving reinforcements from across the Confederacy, led Grant to change his plan of attack. Whereas initially he had planned to detach McPherson's two divisions to destroy Jackson, Grant now planned a full scale assault on the Mississippi capital. This led to the Battle of Jackson on May 14, 1863, which was essentially a rear-guard action for the suddenly timorous Joseph E. Johnston. The threat of Confederate reinforcement having been eliminated, Grant turned and defeated Pemberton at the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, and the Battle of Big Black River Bridge on May 17. Pemberton, his army all but shattered, retreated into Fortress Vicksburg, where his men rallied to thwart two Federal assaults, but finally accepted the inevitable and surrendered on July 4, 1863.
Although the Raymond battlefield remained nearly unchanged for over a century, commercial and residential development along Mississippi Highway 18 vaulted Raymond onto the Civil War Preservation Trust's list of the Top Ten Endangered Civil War Battlefields for 2005.
In 1998, in response to the planned conversion of pasture land into a strip mall fronting the highway, a group of concerned citizens formed the Friends of Raymond to promote the preservation of the land comprising the Raymond battlefield. The organization initially purchased the 40 acres (160,000 m2) which was to host the commercial development, and additional non-contiguous areas have been added since. A battlefield park has been constructed on the north side of Highway 18, featuring a walking trail, several cannon, and planned interpretive markers. In 2009, the Raymond Battlefield Park doubled in size with the acquisition of the field that saw the bulk of the fighting; this land, however, remains undeveloped and lacks the interpretive signage of the core park.
- Davis, Theodore R., "How a Battle is Sketched," St. Nicholas Magazine.
- Dwight, Henry O., "The Affair on the Raymond Road," The New York Semi-Weekly Tribune.
- Drake, Rebecca, In Their Own Words, Friends of Raymond, 2001.
- Gower, Herschel and Allen, Jack, editors, Pen and Sword, The Life and Journals of Colonel Randal McGavock, Tennessee Historical Commission, 1959-1960.
- Grabau, Warren E., Confusion Compounded: The Pivotal Battle of Raymond, McNaughton and Gunn for the Blue and Gray Education Society, 2001.
- Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885–86, ISBN 0-914427-67-9.
- Kennedy, Frances H., ed., The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998, ISBN 0-395-74012-6.
- Simon, John Y. (ed.), The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Volume 8: April 1 – July 6, 1863, Southern Illinois University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-8093-0884-3.
- U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
- Kennedy, p. 166.
- Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. p. 197. ISBN 978-1-4000-5363-6.
- Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Chapter 34
- Grabau, page 66
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 638
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 851
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 853
- Drake, page 25
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 736
- PUSG, page 183 & 194-195
- PUSG, page 200
- T. B. Riggin, Memorial Day Address
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 737
- Report Of Hiram Granbury
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 861
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 862
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 707 & 735
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 747
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 711
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI pages 711 and 712
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 747
- Drake, page 45
- Drake, page 46
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 740
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 744
- PUSG, page 206
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 748
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 741
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 746
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 745
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 738
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 859
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part III) Chapter XXXVI page 739
- Confederate Cemetery at Raymond
- OR Series 1 - Volume 24 (Part I) Chapter XXXVI page 50
- Friends of Raymond
- Raymond Battlefield Park Doubles in Size
- Barber, Flavell C., and Ferrell, Robert H., Holding the Line: The Third Tennessee Infantry 1861-1864, Kent State University Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-87338-504-6.
- Raymond Battlefield Page: Battle maps, photos, history articles, and battlefield news (CWPT)
- The Raymond Battlefield: Then & Now - An interview with Parker Hills
- Battle of Raymond
- Order of Battle
- Raymond Battlefield Preservation
- CWSAC Report Update