The History Book Club discussion

Battle Cry of Freedom
This topic is about Battle Cry of Freedom
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR > 18. Military Series: BATTLE CRY... June 11th ~ June 17th ~~ Chapter TWENTY ONE (626 - 665); No Spoilers Please

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Bryan Craig Hello Everyone,

Welcome all to the eighteenth week of the History Book Club's brand spanking new Military Series. We at the History Book Club are pretty excited about this offering and the many more which will follow. The first offering in the new MILITARY SERIES is a wonderful group selected book: Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.

The week's reading assignment is:

Week Eighteen - June 11th - June 17th -> Chapter TWENTY ONE p. 626 - 665

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other books.

This book was officially kicked off on February 13th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle/Nook. This weekly thread will be opened up either during the weekend before or on the first day of discussion.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.




Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson



It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.


If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however. For citations, add always the book cover, the author's photo when available and always the author's link.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:


Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.


There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author may have used in his research or in his notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations or other books either non fiction or historical fiction that relate to the subject matter of the book itself. No self promotion, please.

Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson James M. McPherson James M. McPherson

message 2: by Bryan (last edited Jun 11, 2012 06:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Chapter Overview and Summary

Chapter Twenty One: Long Remember: The Summer of '63

The South thought Grant gave up on Vicksburg, but Grant had a new plan. He would go overland and hit Vicksburg from the southeast! It is a risky move, a move even Sherman opposed at first. They crossed at Port Gibson, while Sherman diverted the Confederates' attention. Grant moved north-east to Jackson, Mississippi living off the land. Once they reached Jackson, they went west. They fought at Champion Hill (May 19), then at Vicksburg. However, they failed twice to take the city and suffered over 3,000 casualties in the process. Grant settled in for a siege and the city fell on July 4. However, Johnston slipped away from Sherman's army.

In the east, Joseph Hooker was in command of the Army of the Potomac. He attacked Lee at Chancellorsville with Jackson accomplishing a daring flank maneuver. Jackson was shot and died 8 days later. Hooker lost the battle and retreated, sinking Northern morale and giving the south and Lee a feeling of over-confidence.

Lee told Davis about a plan to invade Pennsylvania. Davis agreed hoping it would strengthen the Peace Democrats and pull the Union army out of Virginia. Lee brought 75,000 men north, with Hooker following him. However, Lincoln was frustrated by Hooker's slowness and replaced him with General Meade, who began to follow Lee in earnest. Meanwhile, Confederate Vice President Stephens went to Washington in hopes of working out a prison exchange and maybe bringing up peace talks.

The two armies met at Gettysburg and fought one of the bloodies and important battles in the war. In the end, Lee could not dislodge Meade from the high ground and retreated. Stephens was refused permission to cross enemy lines to talk to Lincoln, and southern optimism about the war was dampening.

Bryan Craig Vicksburg Campaign:

It is one of the more remarkable campaigns of the American Civil War. For many a hard fought month, Ulysses S. Grant and his Union soldiers had been trying to wrest away the strategic Confederate river fortress of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Previous, direct attempts to take this important town high above the Mississippi River were blocked by deft rebel counter moves and some of the most pernicious terrain in the entire Western theater.

In late April 1863, Grant would undertake a new and bold campaign against Vicksburg and the Confederate defenders under John Pemberton. After conducting a surprise landing below Vicksburg at Bruinsburg, Mississippi, Grant’s forces would rapidly move inland, pushing back the threat posed by Joseph E. Johnston’s forces near Jackson. Once his rear was clear, Grant would move back towards Vicksburg, from the East.

Victories at Champion Hill and Big Black Bridge would leave Pemberton’s forces weakened and besieged in Vicksburg. With the fall of Vicksburg and the surrender of Pemberton’s forces on July 4, 1863, one of the greatest Union victories of the Civil War would be secured.


Bryan Craig Would you agree this is one of Grant's finest moments?

I like these quotes:
"Gant had not gone to Memphis; he had only backed up for a better start." (p. 626)

Grant tells Sherman he can't return to Memphis:

"If we went back so far as Memphis it would be discourage the people so much that bases of supplies would be of no use...No progress was being made in any other field, and we had to go on." (p. 627)

Why do you think Grant thought his supply bases wouldn't work if he returned to Memphis?

message 5: by Bryan (last edited Jun 11, 2012 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Battle of Port Gibson:

Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant launched his march on Vicksburg in the Spring of 1863, starting his army south, from Milliken’s Bend, on the west side of the Mississippi River. He intended to cross the river at Grand Gulf, but the Union fleet was unable to silence the Confederate big guns there. Grant then marched farther south and crossed at Bruinsburg on April 30. Union forces came ashore, secured the landing area and, by late afternoon, began marching inland. Advancing on the Rodney Road towards Port Gibson, Grant’s force ran into Rebel outposts after midnight and skirmished with them for around three hours. After 3:00 am, the fighting stopped. Union forces advanced on the Rodney Road and a plantation road at dawn. At 5:30 am, the Confederates engaged the Union advance and the battle ensued. Federals forced the Rebels to fall back. The Confederates established new defensive positions at different times during the day but they could not stop the Union onslaught and left the field in the early evening. This defeat demonstrated that the Confederates were unable to defend the Mississippi River line and the Federals had secured their beachhead. The way to Vicksburg was open.


Bryan Craig Battle of Jackson, MS:

On May 9, 1863, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston received a dispatch from the Confederate Secretary of War directing him to “proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces in the field.” As he arrived in Jackson on the 13th, from Middle Tennessee, he learned that two army corps from the Union Army of the Tennessee—the XV, under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, and the XVII, under Maj. Gen. James Birdseye McPherson—were advancing on Jackson, intending to cut the city and the railroads off from Vicksburg. Johnston consulted with the local commander, Brig. Gen. John Gregg, and learned that only about 6,000 troops were available to defend the town. Johnston ordered the evacuation of Jackson, but Gregg was to defend Jackson until the evacuation was completed. By 10:00 am, both Union army corps were near Jackson and had engaged the enemy. Rain, Confederate resistance, and poor defenses prevented heavy fighting until around 11:00 am, when Union forces attacked in numbers and slowly but surely pushed the enemy back. In mid-afternoon, Johnston informed Gregg that the evacuation was complete and that he should disengage and follow. Soon after, the Yankees entered Jackson and had a celebration, hosted by Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant who had been travelling with Sherman’s corps, in the Bowman House. They then burned part of the town and cut the railroad connections with Vicksburg. Johnston’s evacuation of Jackson was a tragedy because he could, by late on the 14th, have had 11,000 troops at his disposal and by the morning of the 15th, another 4,000. The fall of the former Mississippi state capital was a blow to Confederate morale.


Bryan Craig Battle of Champion's Hill:

Following the Union occupation of Jackson, Mississippi, both Confederate and Federal forces made plans for future operations. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston retreated, with most of his army, up the Canton Road, but he ordered Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, commanding about 23,000 men, to leave Edwards Station and attack the Federals at Clinton. Pemberton and his generals felt that Johnston’s plan was dangerous and decided instead to attack the Union supply trains moving from Grand Gulf to Raymond. On May 16, though, Pemberton received another order from Johnston repeating his former directions. Pemberton had already started after the supply trains and was on the Raymond-Edwards Road with his rear at the crossroads one-third mile south of the crest of Champion Hill. Thus, when he ordered a countermarch, his rear, including his many supply wagons, became the advance of his force. On May 16, 1863, about 7:00 am, the Union forces engaged the Confederates and the Battle of Champion Hill began. Pemberton’s force drew up into a defensive line along a crest of a ridge overlooking Jackson Creek. Pemberton was unaware that one Union column was moving along the Jackson Road against his unprotected left flank. For protection, Pemberton posted Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee's men atop Champion Hill where they could watch for the reported Union column moving to the crossroads. Lee spotted the Union troops and they soon saw him. If this force was not stopped, it would cut the Rebels off from their Vicksburg base. Pemberton received warning of the Union movement and sent troops to his left flank. Union forces at the Champion House moved into action and emplaced artillery to begin firing. When Grant arrived at Champion Hill, around 10:00 am, he ordered the attack to begin. By 11:30 am, Union forces had reached the Confederate main line and about 1:00 pm, they took the crest while the Rebels retired in disorder. The Federals swept forward, capturing the crossroads and closing the Jackson Road escape route. One of Pemberton's divisions (Bowen’s) then counterattacked, pushing the Federals back beyond the Champion Hill crest before their surge came to a halt. Grant then counterattacked, committing forces that had just arrived from Clinton by way of Bolton. Pemberton’s men could not stand up to this assault, so he ordered his men from the field to the one escape route still open: the Raymond Road crossing of Bakers Creek. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman’s brigade formed the rearguard, and they held at all costs, including the loss of Tilghman. In the late afternoon, Union troops seized the Bakers Creek Bridge, and by midnight, they occupied Edwards. The Confederates were in full retreat towards Vicksburg. If the Union forces caught these Rebels, they would destroy them.


Bryan Craig Battle of Milliken's Bend:

On June 6, Col. Hermann Lieb with the African Brigade and two companies of the 10th Illinois Cavalry made a reconnaissance toward Richmond, Louisiana. About three miles from Richmond, Lieb encountered enemy troops at the Tallulah railroad depot and drove them back but then retired, fearing that many more Rebels might be near. While retiring, a squad of Union cavalry appeared, fleeing from a force of Rebels. Lieb got his men into battle line and helped disperse the pursuing enemy. He then retired to Milliken’s Bend and informed his superior by courier of his actions. The 23rd Iowa Infantry and two gunboats came to his assistance. Around 3:00 am on June 7, Rebels appeared in force and drove in the pickets. They continued their movement towards the Union left flank. The Federal forces fired some volleys that caused the Rebel line to pause momentarily, but the Texans soon pushed on to the levee where they received orders to charge. In spite of receiving more volleys, the Rebels came on, and hand-to-hand combat ensued. In this intense fighting, the Confederates succeeded in flanking the Union force and caused tremendous casualties with enfilade fire. The Union force fell bank to the river’s bank. About that time Union gunboats Choctaw and Lexington appeared and fired upon the Rebels. The Confederates continued firing and began extending their right to envelop the Federals but failed in their objective. Fighting continued until noon when the Confederates withdrew. The Union pursued, firing many volleys, and the gunboats pounded the Confederates as they retreated to Walnut Bayou.


message 9: by Bryan (last edited Jun 12, 2012 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Vicksburg:


In May and June of 1863, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s armies converged on Vicksburg, investing the city and entrapping a Confederate army under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton. On July 4, Vicksburg surrendered after prolonged siege operations. This was the culmination of one of the most brilliant military campaigns of the war. With the loss of Pemberton’s army and this vital stronghold on the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in half. Grant's successes in the West boosted his reputation, leading ultimately to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies.

Vicksburg Is the Key The Struggle for the Mississippi River by William L. Shea William L. Shea
(no image)The Vicksburg Campaign: Vicksburg is the Key Vol. 1 by Edwin C. Bearss
Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom Winston Groom Winston Groom
The Beleaguered City The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863 by Shelby Foote Shelby Foote Shelby Foote
Vicksburg Campaign by David G. Martin David G. Martin
Vicksburg The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi by Michael B. Ballard Michael B. Ballard

message 10: by Bryan (last edited Jun 12, 2012 09:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Port Hudson:

Port Hudson was the site of the longest siege in American history, lasting 48 days, when 7,500 Confederates resisted some 40,000 Union soldiers for almost two months during 1863. Realizing that control of the Mississippi River was a key military objective of the Union, the Confederacy in August 1862, had its forces erect earthworks at Port Hudson. In 1863, Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks moved against Port Hudson. Three Union divisions came down the Red River to assail Port Hudson from the north, while two others advanced from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to strike from the east and south. By May 22, 1863, 30,000 Union soldiers had isolated 7,500 Confederates behind 4 ½ miles of earthen fortifications. On May 26 Banks issued orders for a simultaneous attack all along the Confederate perimeter the following morning. The first Union assault fell on the Confederate left wing, which guarded the northern approaches to Port Hudson. Timely reinforcements from the center allowed the Confederates to repulse several assaults. The fighting ended on the left wing before the remaining two Union divisions advanced against the Confederate center. Here the Confederates repulsed the Federal advance across Slaughter's Field, killing approximately 2,000 Union soldiers. Union casualties included 600 African-Americans of the First and Third Louisiana Native Guards. Free blacks from New Orleans composed a majority of the First Louisiana Native Guards, including the line officers. Former slaves commanded by white officers composed the Third Louisiana Native Guards. Led by Captain Andre Cailloux, a black officer, the two regiments made their advance on the extreme right of the Union line. Captain Cailloux was shot down as he shouted orders in both French and English.

Another attempt to take Port Hudson failed on June 13, when the Confederates inflicted 1,805 casualties on the Union troops while losing fewer than 200. The Confederates held out until they learned of the surrender of Vicksburg. Without its upriver counterpart, Port Hudson, the last Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River, lacked strategic significance and the garrison surrendered on July 9, 1863.


Bryan Craig We also see the relationship between Grant and Sherman really in full force here. You wonder what would have happened if Sherman could destroy Johnston's army after Hudson??

Bryan Craig Chancellorsville:


On April 27, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker led the V, XI, and XII Corps on a campaign to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Passing the Rapidan via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Federals concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30 and May 1. The III Corps was ordered to join the army via United States Ford. Sedgwick’s VI Corps and Gibbon’s division remained to demonstrate against the Confederates at Fredericksburg. In the meantime, Lee left a covering force under Maj. Gen. Jubal Early in Fredericksburg and marched with the rest of the army to confront the Federals. As Hooker’s army moved toward Fredericksburg on the Orange Turnpike, they encountered increasing Confederate resistance. Hearing reports of overwhelming Confederate force, Hooker ordered his army to suspend the advance and to concentrate again at Chancellorsville. Pressed closely by Lee’s advance, Hooker adopted a defensive posture, thus giving Lee the initiative. On the morning of May 2, Lt. Gen. T.J. Jackson directed his corps on a march against the Federal left flank, which was reported to be “hanging in the air.” Fighting was sporadic on other portions of the field throughout the day, as Jackson’s column reached its jump-off point. At 5:20 pm, Jackson’s line surged forward in an overwhelming attack that crushed the Union XI Corps. Federal troops rallied, resisted the advance, and counterattacked. Disorganization on both sides and darkness ended the fighting. While making a night reconnaissance, Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men and carried from the field. J.E.B. Stuart took temporary command of Jackson’s Corps. On May 3, the Confederates attacked with both wings of the army and massed their artillery at Hazel Grove. This finally broke the Federal line at Chancellorsville. Hooker withdrew a mile and entrenched in a defensive “U” with his back to the river at United States Ford. Union generals Berry and Whipple and Confederate general Paxton were killed; Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded. On the night of May 5-6, after Union reverses at Salem Church, Hooker recrossed to the north bank of the Rappahannock. This battle was considered by many historians to be Lee’s greatest victory.

Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears Stephen W. Sears Stephen W. Sears

Bryan Craig Some things about Chancellorsville:

1. Sickles and Reynolds did a huge hike to get to Chancellorsville from Fredericksburg.

2. Jackson's flanking move to the West with a divided army. Bold, bold move!

Bryan Craig I wonder how much impact Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania had on Lincoln to fire General Hooker.

Bryan Craig Pickett's Charge:


Pickett's Charge was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), and one of the most famous infantry attacks of the American Civil War (1861–1865). Lasting about an hour on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, it pitted 12,000 Confederates—including three brigades of Virginians under George E. Pickett—against half that number of Union troops. On July 2, Robert E. Lee had unsuccessfully attacked the Union flanks; in what even some of his own men perceived as a desperate gambit, he now attacked the center, asking his troops to cross an open field nearly three-quarters of a mile long. They were bloodily repulsed, losing half their number. Controversy resulted, as Confederate veterans struggled to lay claim to honor and glory, pitting Virginians against North Carolinians in efforts to explain why the attack had failed. Many Southerners came to believe the charge represented the "High Water Mark" of Confederate hopes for independence, a view cultivated by proponents of the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War. Meanwhile, twentieth-century popular culture transformed Pickett into a soldier as "gallant and graceful as a knight of chivalry riding to a tournament," in the words of his wife, LaSalle Corbell Pickett. And films like Gettysburg (1993) glorified the attack even while historians continued to debate Lee's decision, sometimes comparing it to Union general Ulysses S. Grant's equally futile attacks at Cold Harbor in Hanover County in 1864.


Bryan Craig The charge: heroism or lost cause?

I forgot that Longstreet had a pretty good pulse on what was going on.

message 18: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Both Vicksburg and Gettysburg have great national parks to help you understand the battles fought there.

Bryan Craig I have been to Gettsyburg and it is amazing. Would love to see Vicksburg

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Wow this chapter - the fighting - the generals dying everywhere it seemed - not the generals of the 20th century.

I am struck that Lee came to the opinion that they needed a positive situation at the time of Gettysburg. His error (major) of Picketts charge was maybe the first time I have seen a "dream wish" of success from him in this book - or all my readings where he is mentioned.

I will get to Gettysburg during 2013 or sooner I am sure. Vicksburg will have to wait but if I have to go near there for biz likely I will steal a day.

Thanks so much Bryan for all the support and maps etc.

Bryan Craig Welcome Vince. Lee seems to have had good luck and bold decisions. Picketts charge was bold but foolhardy

back to top