Thursday, July 4, 2013

Florida troops at the Fall of Vicksburg (July 4, 1863)

Florida Monument at Vicksburg, Mississippi
Troops from Florida were among the Confederates who marched to Jackson, Mississippi, as part of a desperate effort to form an "Army of Relief" that could break through the Union army surrounding Vicksburg and rescue the city and its garrison.

Among the troops from the Sunshine State in the Army of Relief were the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry Regiments (Consolidated) and the 4th Florida Infantry.
Brig. Gen. M.A. Stovall
The 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry (Consolidated) was part of Brig. Gen. Marcellus A. Stovall's Brigade in the Division of the former U.S. Vice President turned Confederate general, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge. The men were not part of the army trapped in Vicksburg, but arrived at Jackson, Mississippi, on June 1, 1863, to join the "Army of Relief" being formed by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. They were to join with other Confederate troops under Johnston in a desperate effort to break through Grant's Union army surrounding Vicksburg, but the attack never took place. Commanded by Col. W.S. Dilworth, the regiment was at Bolton, Mississippi, when Vicksburg fell.

Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge
Like the 1st & 3rd (Consolidated), the 4th Florida infantry was part of Stovall's Brigade, Breckinridge's Divison. Commanded by Col. L.L. Bowen and Lt. Col. Edward Badger, the regiment arrived in Jackson on June 1, 1863.  It then waited, with the other gathering troops, as overall commander Gen. Joseph E. Johnston tried to decide what he could do to lift the siege.  On July 4, 1863 - 150 years ago - the regiment was near Bolton, Mississippi, between Jackson and Vicksburg when the city fell.

The two regiments were seasoned, having been formed in Florida in 1861-1862. Both were part of the Army of Tennessee and had after initially serving in Florida, had both taken part in the desperate winter fighting at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro). The 1st and 3rd also had fought as individual regiments at Perryville before they were consolidated into a single command in December 1862. Prior to Perryville, the old 1st Florida Infantry (a 12-months unit) had fought at Santa Rosa Island and many of its original members were at Shiloh and still part of the regiment when it participated in the Kentucky Campaign.

The Florida regiments and the rest of the "Army of Relief" had slowly moved west from Jackson, Mississippi, in late June 1863, intending to find a weak point where it could attack Union general Ulysses S. Grant's army from behind. Comprising a total force of around 30,000 men, the army was in position at the bridges of the Big Black River by July 1, 1863. What Johnston found there, however, was not an opportunity, but the waiting IX Corps of the Union Army of the Tennessee. 
1863 Photograph of Big Black River
Courtesy Library of Congress

Realizing he could not hope to break through at the Big Black River bridges, Johnston was searching for another vulnerable point when suddenly the cannon fire to the west at Vicksburg fell silent. The silence told the entire army that Vicksburg had fallen.

With the Union army now free to turn against him, Johnston began withdrawing the "Army of Relief" back into the fortifications of Jackson. There the soldiers prepared for a coming siege as the Union IX, XV, XIII and part of the XVI Corps followed them under the command of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.

I will discuss more about the Siege of Jackson in coming posts, so be sure to check back here over the coming week: http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com.

Brig. Gen. Francis L. Shoup
In addition to the role of the two Florida regiments in the "Army of Relief," several key officers with Florida connections took part in the Siege and Battle of Vicksburg.

Brig. Gen. Francis L. Shoup commanded a section of the Confederate lines at Vicksburg. Raised in Indiana, he had relocated to St. Augustine before the war. He had fought with distinction as commander of artillery at Shiloh and was promoted to brigadier general in recognition of his service there. He went on to fight as commander of artillery at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.  

Maj. Gen. Martin L. Smith
Maj. Gen. Martin L. Smith designed most of the massive fortifications that surrounded Vicksburg. He commanded a division during the siege.  A Graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the Class of 1842, he served in Florida during the later part of the Second Seminole War. Some of the best maps of antebellum Florida were prepared by Shoup. He served in the Mexican-American War and distinguished himself in the mapping of the valley of Mexico City prior to Gen. Winfield T. Scott's assaults. Promoted to 1st lieutenant and then captain after the war, he left the service and from 1856 to 1861 lived in Florida and served as chief engineer of the Cedar Keys & Fernandina Railroad. After helping plan the defenses of New Orleans, he was ordered to Vicksburg where his outstanding work as a military engineer in placing batteries and defenses helped defeat the first Union attempts to take the city.  He was taken prisoner at the Fall of Vicksburg.

Maj. Gen. William W. Loring
Maj. Gen. W.W. Loring (called "Old Blizzards" by his men) had commanded the fortifications north of Vicksburg prior tot he main siege. Cut off from the city after the Battle of Champion's Hill, he crept around Grant's army and withdrew his men with remarkable skill. He then joined Johnston's "Army of Relief." Loring's family moved to St. Augustine, Florida, when he was four years old and he grew up in that city.  His first military service was in the Florida Militia at the age of 14. He served in action against the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Educated at Alexandria Boarding School and Georgetown University from 1837-1840, Lorind was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1842. The next year he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives where he served until 1845. In 1846 Loring joined the Regiment of Mounted Rifles and saw service in the Mexican-American War. His arm was shattered in the charge into Mexico City. He later fought against the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache and then traveled extensively in Europe and Egypt on the eve of the War Between the States.

Loring was in New Mexico when the South fired on Fort Sumter. He resigned his commission in the U.S. Army on May 13, 1861, and cast his lot with the Confederacy. He served under Stonewall Jackson as a brigadier general early in the war. His men began calling him "Old Blizzards" because in the heat of battle he could be heard calling out for his troops to "Give them blizzards!"  He was with the Army of Relief when Vicksburg fell.

There is a Florida Monument at Vicksburg. Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy at a cost of $5,000, it stands on South Confederate Avenue. To reach it from I-20, take Exit 1A and turn north on Washington Street. Take the first right onto Frontage Road and follow it to South Confederate Avenue. Turn left on South Confederate and the monument will be on your left near the intersection with Mulva Hill Street.

To learn more about the Battle of Vicksburg, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/vicksburg1.



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