Prelude to the Battle
Grant Crosses the Mississippi
On April 29, 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant launched his spring offensive aimed at capturing Vicksburg, the “Gibraltar of the Mississippi.” With the aid of Admiral Porter’s gunboats, Grant attempted to move Major General John A. McClernand’s 13th Army Corps across the Mississippi River at Grand Gulf, below Vicksburg. When the Confederate resistance proved too formidable, Grant bypassed the Rebel works and moved the crossing nine miles farther down the river. On the morning of April 30, 1863, roughly 23,000 Union soldiers disembarked from barges at Bruinsburg, Mississippi during the largest amphibious offensive in American history prior to the invasion of Normandy, France, during World War II.
Federals Nearly Unchallenged
Despite the great number of Yankees involved, the Confederate forces in the area were still larger. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, the commander of Confederate troops in and around Vicksburg, had roughly 30,000 soldiers at his disposal.
Fortunately for Grant, Pemberton took his orders to defend Vicksburg at all costs literally. Rather than moving forward to stem the Union invasion force at Bruinsburg, where it was most vulnerable, Pemberton kept most of his troops in garrison at Vicksburg. As a result, the landing went unchallenged. The only Confederates nearby were Major General John S. Bowen’s force of 6,000-8,000 soldiers who had marched to Port Gibson after thwarting Grant’s landing at Grand Gulf the previous day.
Battle of Port Gibson
As the Union forces came ashore, they secured a beachhead and began marching toward Port Gibson, twenty miles to the east. The next day, the Federals defeated Bowen’s outnumbered Rebels at the Battle of Port Gibson (May 1, 1863).
After establishing his presence in Mississippi, Grant had three options.
- He could move directly north and assault Vicksburg—his primary target. To do so, however, would expose his army to attack from the rear by the roughly 6,000 Confederate forces garrisoned at Jackson, Mississippi, fifty miles to the east of Vicksburg.
- Alternatively, Grant could turn and face the Rebels at Jackson, commanded by Brigadier General John Gregg, and then assault Vicksburg.
- Finally, Grant could follow his original orders and march his army south to combine with General Nathaniel P. Banks’ Army of the Gulf, capture the river town of Port Hudson, and then return to assault Vicksburg.
Grant Focuses on Jackson
If Grant merged forces with the Army of the Gulf, he would be under Banks’ command because of seniority—a situation that Grant probably did not find appetizing. When Banks informed Grant that he was not ready to assault Port Hudson, Grant focused on Jackson. On May 7, 1863, Grant’s force, which by then had swelled to 45,000 soldiers, began marching northeast toward the state capital in three columns, with each column comprising one corps.
When Grant moved toward Jackson, Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon, telegraphed General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Department of the West, to “Proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces, giving to those in the field, as far as practicable, the encouragement and benefit of your personal direction.”
On May 10, 1863, Pemberton ordered Gregg to march his brigade of 3,000 to 4,000 Confederate soldiers from Jackson to Raymond. Gregg’s men arrived in Raymond on the afternoon of May 11 and spent the night preparing for battle the next day.
Grant Advances toward Raymond, Mississippi
On May 7, 1863, Grant’s army of 45,000 soldiers began advancing on Raymond in three columns, with each column comprising one corps. Major General John A. McClernand’s 13th Corps was on the left, closest to the river; Major General William T. Sherman’s 15th Corps was in the middle; Major General James B. McPherson’s 17th Corps was on the right, Hampered by heat and a lack of drinking water, McPherson’s corps advanced slower than the other two columns and was still nine miles south of Raymond by the end of the day on May 11.
Rebels Move to Raymond
Meanwhile, Pemberton ordered Brigadier General John Gregg to march a brigade of 3,000 to 4,000 Confederate soldiers from Jackson to Raymond. Gregg’s men arrived in Raymond on the afternoon of May 11, and they spent the night preparing for battle the next day.
May 12, 1863 — Clash at Raymond
Gregg Receives Poor Intelligence Report
At Grant’s urging, McPherson resumed his advance toward Raymond before dawn on the morning of May 12. Confederate scouts encountered McPherson’s lead cavalry force early in the morning and, after exchanging fire, returned to Raymond and erroneously reported to Gregg that a federal brigade of about 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers was moving toward the town. Believing that the odds were fairly even, Gregg decided to stand and fight. Unfortunately for Gregg, his scouts had seen only the lead brigade of McPherson’s corps. Unbeknownst to Gregg, he was about to send his brigade into battle against an entire Union corps numbering 12,000 Union soldiers.
Gregg’s Surprise Attack
Gregg decided to surprise the Federals as they approached a wooden bridge over Fourteen Mile Creek. At 10:00 a.m., as the head of McPherson’s column approached the creek across open fields, Rebel infantrymen, concealed by trees along the stream, delivered a deadly volley. The ambush incited some panic among the Yankees, but Major General John A. Logan restored order and formed a battle line, buying time for reinforcements to arrive.
When the Federals stalled in front of the bridge, Gregg launched an attack across the creek, intending to turn McPherson’s right flank. The maneuver might have worked if the Rebels faced a Union brigade, but Gregg soon discovered that he had engaged an entire corps.
Rebels Retreat After McPherson’s Artillery Ends Stalemate
For over three hours, the outnumbered Confederates fought the Yankees to a stalemate. McPherson ended the impasse by positioning his artillery on a ridge overlooking the battlefield and bombarding the Rebels. The Confederate assault faltered by early afternoon. As Union reinforcements arrived, they forced the Confederates to retreat across the creek. When the Federals pursued, the Rebel line broke, and the Confederates retreated through Raymond toward Jackson.
Aftermath of the Battle
The official casualty count for the Confederacy was 569 men killed, wounded, and captured, but the actual total is unclear because some casualties were local citizens and state troops that took part in the battle. The Union suffered a little over 400 casualties.
Although the casualty numbers were not high by Civil War standards, the Battle of Raymond was significant because it altered Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign strategy. When Grant learned that Gregg was falling back to Jackson where he might buttress an army that Confederate General Joseph Johnston was hastily trying to assemble, the Union commander realized that he risked being caught between two Rebel armies if he continued with his original plan.
A more cautious general might have withdrawn, but Grant boldly turned his back to Pemberton’s army in Vicksburg and attacked Johnston at the Mississippi capital. Grant’s victory at Jackson on May 14, 1863, drove Johnston away and deprived Pemberton of any hope for relief during the rest of the Vicksburg Campaign.