June 28, 1862: Farragut can’t take Vicksburg without the Army

Admiral David Farragut

The New York Times wasn’t alone in recognizing that Vicksburg was the vital point controlling the Mississippi; David Farragut had been ordered to take Vicksburg with his gunboat fleet. He recognized, though, that the position was too strong to be taken with naval forces alone. Here he informs his superior officer of the problem.


Letter from Flag-Officer Farragut, U. S. Navy, to Flag-Officer Davis, U. S. Navy, regarding the impossibility of reducing Vicksburg without increased cooperation.

FLAGSHIP HARTFORD,
Above Vicksburg, June 28, 1862.

DEAR COMMODORE: I requested Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet to send you word that I intended to make an attack on this place in a day or two. We have been shelling it with the mortar fleet two days and made the attack with the fleet proper this morning at 4 oclock. We passed along the whole line, silencing the batteries for the moment; but the moment we had passed out of our range, they would up again and rake us with the guns that were intended for your fleet. I think, therefore, that so long as they have the military force to hold the back country, it will be impossible for me to reduce the place without your assistance and that of the Army. I have only about 3,000 soldiers, under General Williams, associated with me, but they are not sufficient to land in the face of all Van Dorn’s division of Beauregard’s army.

I shall request Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet to send you this letter, and then I shall pass down again below the city, where my supplies are. You can communicate across the peninsula, through General Williams, who is cutting a ditch to change the rivers course. We sustained a very heavy fire from the numerous batteries for a while; some of my fleet did not get through. I have not yet heard the amount of casualties. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet has just informed me that General Halleck is in or near Memphis. I will therefore address him a letter to ask the land force to take Vicksburg. It is impossible for us to take the place, as their troops lie in the rear of the hills. I will await your answer with great anxiety.

My orders are so peremptory that I must do all in my power to free the river of all impediments; that I must attack them, although I know it is useless. The river will soon be so low that we will not be able to get our ships down. So you see my position.

Very truly, yours, D. G. FARRAGUT,
Flag-Officer, Commanding West Gulf Squadron.

Flag-Officer CHAS. H. DAVIS,
Commanding Western Gun boat Flotilla.

Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. / Series I – Volume 23: Naval Forces on Western Waters: pp. 231-232.

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