Battle of Raymond
Three sketches of the Battle of Raymond, including Logan’s Division Battling the Confederates Near Fourteen Mile Creek. Battle of Raymond, 12 May 1863, American Civil War.
This article provides a detailed account of the Battle of Raymond, which took place on May 12, 1863, during the American Civil War. It describes the movements and strategies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General John Gregg, leading up to the battle. The battle itself resulted in a Union victory, although it was a tough start for General James B. McPherson’s corps. The subsequent actions and decisions that shaped the campaign, including Grant’s plan to attack both Johnston’s and Pemberton’s armies, and the fall of Jackson, Mississippi, are addressed.
Although Gettysburg was a major emotional victory for the Union, it was the Fall of Vicksburg that was the devastating event of July 1863. And the central moment that set up that victory, before the siege, before Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge, was the little appreciated Battle of Richmond on May 12, 1863. This battle is often overlooked because it wasn’t where Johnston or Pemberton were defeated. But it is where Grant made a brilliant observation that set up those wins.
After Grant’s victory at Port Gibson on May 1 and his decision to proceed on Vicksburg, without an established supply line or General Banks, Grant informed Halleck that he was going to move on his own. Due to communications delays, he knew Halleck wouldn’t be able to tell him to stop for 8 days. This was a gamble in the sense that he had 8 days to make things happen and if it didn’t work, he might well be demoted. Grant’s original plan was to pursue retreating Confederates northward toward the Big Black River and then directly on Vicksburg.
Grant’s plan was to move up the Big Black River and cut the railroad before turning on Vicksburg. As he moved closer to the railroad, he realized that Pemberton was constructing fortifications to guard it. Grant learned that Vicksburg had very strong defenses on the southern section of the city and a strong supply line from Jackson via the railroad. He thought the enemy was to his north, defending the railroad.
Pemberton suspected that Grant’s target was the railroad and positioned his troops to cover the entire line from Warrenton on the Mississippi River to Bovina on the Big Black and construct fortifications at key points. As it became more obvious that Grant’s target was the railroad, Pemberton extended his line to Edwards Station and began digging there as well. However, this left two rail centers exposed: Bolton and Clinton. To cover these, he ordered all reinforcements arriving from the south and east at the state capital to march to the roadway hub of Raymond 17 miles away. There, they would form the left wing of his army covering all of the north-south roads accessing the rail line from Jackson to Vicksburg.
If Grant attacked Edwards Station or Big Black Bridge, the force at Raymond would move out and strike Grant in the flank. If Grant turned toward Jackson, Pemberton would strike him in flank and rear as he passed.
Grant divided his 3 corps to take 3 separate routes (see the map). As it moved eastward from Port Gibson, Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Corps held the left, closest to the Big Black River; Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s XV Corps moved in the center; and Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson’s XVII Corps advanced on the right, farthest removed from the enemy—or so it was thought.
Again, what is very important to know is that many renderings of this week’s events suggest that Johnston is in command in Jackson at this time. In fact, on May 10, he was not present in the vicinity, having just been appointed commander. He is en route. Pemberton knows that reinforcements are gathering in Jackson. So, on May 10 he ordered them all to a small town called Raymond about 20 miles southwest of Jackson.
A brigade under General John Gregg marched to Raymond where the intent was to ambush a Union advance party. Gregg (see photo) was a Texas politician with limited military experience. He was unexpectedly about to find himself in a heap of trouble. Faulty intelligence led him to believe that he would only face a small contingent of Union troops.
General John Gregg with his 3,000 man brigade arrived in Jackson on May 9th after an exhausting 200 mile march from Port Hudson. After a day of rest 2 miles north of Jackson, he was ordered to march 19 miles to Raymond. He arrived late in the afternoon on May 11th, his men so exhausted they dropped to rest where they stood. Also on the 11th, Grant had given the green light to McPherson to begin his march toward Jackson. The stage was set for the contest to see whose plan would materialize properly: Grant’s or Pemberton’s.
Gregg had explicit orders to not engage a larger force, but to withdraw slowly in the direction of Jackson while alerting Pemberton so he could strike. But McPherson realized that Gregg’s force would only withdraw toward the fortifications being constructed at Jackson if McPherson showed his hand by deploying up the road. So, McPherson lured Gregg into a pitched battle by hiding his men: he deployed only Logan’s 2nd Brigade up the road, then had the 1st and 3rd Brigades march through the woods unseen. Once Logan’s entire division was in place, he ordered the men forward.
John Gregg had watched Logan’s 2nd Brigade march up the road, chase off the skirmishers posted on Fourteen Mile Creek, then stack arms and rest. Having been informed of a cavalry force foraging in the area, he assumed this was a single brigade of cavalry bent on raiding Raymond. He decided to capture the entire force after it pushed across the creek. To this end, he deployed two large veteran regiments in the woods to the front that would first pitch into them and pin them in place, while three regiments would slip through the woods onto the flank and encircle them. Unbeknownst to Gregg, he was about to pitch into an entire federal infantry division fully deployed into line of battle.
Map of Raymond Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program.
Around 10:30 am McPherson gave the order to advance. The 23rd Indiana, considering themselves to be expert skirmishers, disobeyed orders and moved across the creek well in advance of the federal line and triggered the Confederate ambush. They were quickly overwhelmed by the two Confederate regiments and fled with the Confederates in close pursuit. The Confederates chased the Hoosiers across the creek only to find themselves confronting one of the hidden federal infantry brigades.
On the flank the three Confederate regiments emerged from the woods after chasing away a cavalry picket only to find that the force they had been ordered to encircle was actually two federal brigades. A third federal brigade in the rear was posted in reserve, had been alerted to the presence of the Confederates, and was already marching their direction. Gregg would spend the balance of the day desperately trying to extricate himself from the fight. Around 4 pm he finally managed to rally his force and ordered the retreat. In the heat of battle, he forgot to send word to Pemberton about what had transpired.
As Gregg retreated through Raymond, the expected reinforcements finally began to arrive and cover his retreat: Wirt Adams’ cavalry regiment, the 20th Mississippi and 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry regiments, and a small brigade under WHT Walker recently sent from Georgia. In all, McPherson had seen about 5,000 men on the field, all withdrawing towards the fortifications being constructed in Jackson.
The opposing forces met at a river crossing called Fourteen Mile Creek. Gregg chose to try to stop the advance of the Union army. As Logan’s men approached, the Confederates opened fire, initially causing heavy casualties. Some Union troops broke, but Logan rallied a force to hold the line. Although outnumbered, Confederate troops attacked the line. They were forced to retire when met by artillery and a much larger force. Then, McPherson sent reinforcements and ultimately 5 brigades were deployed against the single Confederate brigade, which was forced to retire back to Jackson.
A smaller Confederate force had held off an entire corps for 6 hours. However, Gregg’s retreat towards Jackson uncovered the railroad. Lacking military experience, he had not considered what a Union corps was doing there or what their objective was.
James Birdseye McPherson was one of the most promising men of the Civil War. At his death in the Battle of Atlanta, General Ulysses S. Grant is reported to have said, “The country has lost one of its best soldiers, and I have lost my best friend.” He graduated first in the 1852 class at West Point. Grant ordered McPherson to move on Raymond on the 11th, and on the morning of the 12th McPherson had his corps up and on the road before sunrise with John Logan’s division leading followed by Crocker’s division. Captain John Foster’s provisional battalion of cavalry led the march on a very dusty road through dense woods. Skirmishing began soon after sunrise and about 10 o’clock it became intense enough that McPherson ordered Foster to make way and for Logan to advance.
The brigade of Elias Dennis straddled the road and encountered the leading regiments of John Gregg’s large Confederate brigade in a meeting engagement. Because of the dense woods neither side knew exactly what they were up against. Gregg believed he was fighting a foraging brigade and McPherson at first thought he could be facing a full division. Dennis had trouble on the right so Logan deployed his second brigade, commanded by John E. Smith on the right and followed it with his third brigade commanded by John Stevenson. McPherson ordered a six gun battery to support Dennis on the road and hastened Crocker to the front and deployed them to the left of the road.
On May 12, 1863, McPherson led his corps of 12,000 for the first time in battle, outside Raymond. It was a tough start: his men faltered at first and required over 4 times the number of defenders and a full day to overcome. The victory was due to overwhelming numbers, not his tactical strategy.
Despite the delay and the victory, Grant now realized that he was between two armies. Further, he learned that General Johnston was expected in Jackson with reinforcements; hence, both his flanks had an enemy army in their front.
Meanwhile, Johnston was given orders to take command of the field. He arrived May 13, the day after Raymond.
Grant found out that the enemy was not just to his north but also to his east. He divided his army to both move north toward the railroad and east to Jackson. Grant decided to attack both armies, but one at a time. He believed that Pemberton would not move first, so he decided to attack Johnston first. He sent Sherman’s Corps to help McPherson in the attack while McClernand was positioned to defend the west flank. Johnston saw that he had only about 6,000 troops altogether. He ordered Gregg to fight a holding action at Jackson while he evacuated. Fortunately, heavy rain precluded an early attack and after 24 hours, Jackson was abandoned and Grant in possession. McPherson had done well during this action. We will discuss tomorrow if there was an alternative Johnston might have considered.
History has never given Joseph E Johnston much respect as a commander, in large part because, well, his strategy in every campaign and almost every circumstance was to retreat. And at Jackson, he retreated. With Johnston’s retreat, Grant had completely isolated Vicksburg. Grant’s ability to rapidly assess changes in his circumstances and develop new strategies on the fly are what separate him from other civil war generals. Butcher? Not hardly.
But Johnston gets blamed for retreating at this moment despite being outnumbered by perhaps 30,000 to 6,000. After all, Jeff Davis sent him there to fight, not run, and to command and coordinate all of the soldiers on the field.
Actually, Johnston is unfairly criticized at Vicksburg. He was outnumbered with many new recruits. And, he gave orders to Pemberton that, if followed, might have saved his army.
Reinforcements were being sent as fast as possible. By May 14, Johnston had 11,000 troops and by the morning of May 15, another 4,000.These were way too few to defeat Grant as a stand-alone army. By then, he’s estimated to have had 70,000. The fall of the Mississippi state capital was a blow to Confederate morale, but it was not Johnston’s fault. 2) He ordered Pemberton to leave Edwards Station and attack at Clinton (see map). The idea was to fight his way out and merge armies. 3) Because Pemberton chose not to follow them. He thought it was too dangerous a plan. He’d also been ordered by Davis to hold Vicksburg at all costs. Instead, he decided to attack supply trains on the Raymond-Edwards road. This was the start of the battle of Champion Hill.
Obviously as shown in the map, his decision was to turn east, not north. Despite what is often written, it was not that General Joseph E Johnston was near; Johnston wasn’t even appointed until May 9 and didn’t arrive until May 13. Grant’s strategy was based on breaking the railroad supply line to Vicksburg that started from the capital of Mississippi. Grant didn’t want to get attacked from behind by Johnston who was at Jackson which would have put him between Pemberton and Johnston. He altered his plan: once McClernand and Sherman had pinned Pemberton in place, McPherson would sprint from the rear and strike out for the undefended state capital of Jackson, cutting Pemberton’s supply line and reducing the city before rejoining Grant’s army.
Battle of Raymond historic site on the Natchez Trace Parkway near Raymond, Mississippi.
McPherson had overwhelming numbers but it took hours to force Gregg to retreat. The traditional interpretation maintains that McPherson did not do well at Raymond but Gregg performed admirably. Although the aggressiveness of Gregg has been much admired, his attack really accomplished very little. McPherson reported Union casualties at 446; 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing. Gregg reported his casualties at 515; 73 killed, 252 wounded, 190 missing. However, McPherson reported his men buried 103 rebels and captured 720 including over 80 wounded left behind. Perhaps the reason is that since McPherson wouldn’t survive the war, he wasn’t around afterwards to write articles and books touting his side of the story. Meanwhile Logan went on to become an important figure who developed the Memorial Day holiday.
Civil War Historian Dr. Lloyd W Klein Dr. Lloyd W. Klein is Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Cardiology Division of the University of California, San Francisco. In addition, Dr. Klein is an accomplished consultant, author, lecturer and investigator. In addition, with over thirty-five years’ experience and expertise in managing myocardial infarction and tailoring coronary revascularization strategies.
Moreover, Dr. Klein is a nationally recognized expert in individualizing coronary revascularization strategies. He has published extensively on analyzing operator quality and decision making.
Dr. Klein is also an amateur historian who has read extensively on the Civil War with a particular interest in political and military leadership and their economic ramifications. Furthermore, Dr. Klein has published numerous articles on the Civil War. Moreover, with a special concentration in why decisions were made and the people who made them. Lastly, using his professional experience in appraising leadership, he is especially insightful in evaluating the internal and external motivations which influenced decisions in battle and in the political hall.