May 12, 1863
The Battle of Raymond was fought south of Raymond, Mississippi on May 12, 1863, during the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War.
At the onset of the American Civil War, the State of Tennessee comprised the majority of the northern border of the Confederate States of America in the West. Defending that border was difficult for the Confederacy because three major rivers (the Mississippi, which flows south to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, which flow north to the Ohio River) provided relatively easy access to the South.
By late 1861, President Abraham Lincoln was pressuring Union commanders in the west to invade the South. In February 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant responded by capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, both in northwestern Tennessee. With two of the three main rivers connecting the North and South under Union control, the Federals turned their attention to the Mississippi River. If the Union could gain control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy would be denied easy access to supplies from the Gulf of Mexico and territories in the American West.
Admiral David Farragut captured the port city of New Orleans, Louisiana on May 18, 1862, closing down Confederate access to the Gulf of Mexico. In June, the Union tightened its grip on the Mississippi, when Federal forces captured the river city of Memphis, Tennessee. Nevertheless, the South still controlled traffic on much of the river because of its strong fortifications at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In July 1862, General Henry Halleck was called to Washington and promoted to chief of all Union armies, leaving Grant in charge of operations in the Western Theater. In December, Grant launched his first of several failed attempts to capture Vicksburg. When spring arrived, he initiated a new, more complicated plan. On March 29, 1863, Grant put part of his army to work constructing bridges, draining bayous, and building a road past Vicksburg on the west side of the Mississippi. By mid-April, his men had carved a path through the Louisiana wilderness that would enable Grant to march the Army of the Tennessee past Vicksburg, cross the Mississippi River, and then threaten the city from the south. The plan proved successful, and by May 1, 1863 the Federals had established a base of operations at Port Gibson, Mississippi
Anticipating Grant's attack from the south, General John C. Pemberton, commander of the Confederate troops defending Vicksburg, fell back and assumed a defensive position. Rather than attack Vicksburg immediately, however, Grant instead marched his army northeast, roughly parallel to the Big Black River, toward the Southern Railroad of Mississippi, which connected Vicksburg to the state capital at Jackson, fifty miles to the east. Grant intended to sever the railroad and thereby cut off supplies and reinforcements for Pemberton's army before assaulting Vicksburg.
On May 7, 1863, Grant's army of 45,000 soldiers began advancing on the railroad in three columns, with each column consisting of 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, marching toward the town of Raymond, Mississippi, located on Fourteen Mile Creek, a few miles south of the railroad. 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.
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.
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 numbers 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 12,000 Union soldiers.
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, Confederate infantrymen, concealed by trees along the stream, delivered a deadly volley. The ambush incited some panic among the Federals, but Major General John A. Logan restored order and formed a battle line, buying time for reinforcements to arrive. While the Yankees were 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 were facing a Union brigade, but Gregg discovered soon enough that he had engaged an entire corps. For more than three hours, the outnumbered Confederates fought the Federals to a stalemate, which was finally broken when McPherson positioned his artillery on a ridge overlooking the battlefield and began bombarding the Rebels. The Confederate assault faltered by early afternoon, and as more Union troops arrived on the field, the new soldiers forced the Rebels to retreat across the creek. When the Federals continued in pursuit, the Confederate line, broke and Gregg retreated back through Raymond toward Jackson.
Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Raymond included:
- 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- 32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- 68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- 78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- 80th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- 3rd Ohio Light Artillery Battery
- 11th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
The official casualty count for the Confederacy was 569 men killed, wounded, and captured, but the total is disputed because a number of locals and state troops 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 on 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 remainder of the Vicksburg Campaign.