Imagine a major, respected news outlet trying to get the latest “scoop” out, and finding after that their information was wrong — good thing nothing like that ever happens nowadays. The New York Times knows what it’s like, though — on July 6,1862, the editor stuck a big headline on top of an item about the Union bombardment of Vicksburg by Admiral Porter’s gunboats the day before:
IMPORTANT FROM THE MISSISSIPPI.
REPORTED CAPTURE OF VICKSBURGH
Preliminary Bombardment of the Place.
The City Shelled by the Mortar Fleet and Partially Destroyed.
THE DESTRUCTION TO BE COMPLETED.
Vicksburgh is ours. No particulars yet.
THE BOMBARDMENT OF VICKSBURGH.
NEW-MADRID, Saturday, July 5.
CAIRO, Saturday, July 5.
The ram Monarch brings news from Vicksburgh to the 28th of June.
On Thursday, Com. PORTER’s fleet commenced to shell the upper battery below the town, This continued all day without any result.
The shelling was renewed on Friday, and in the afternoon the fire was directed on the town, over which the shells were seen plainly to burst This continued until 4 o’clock, when the firing ceased.
During the bombardment the rebel batteries replied feebly. Their firing was inaccurate.
Half an hour after the cessation of the bombardment, the rebel water battery opened on our mortar fleet, which replied until the battery ceased firing. At 8 o’clock in the evening a fire was opened from the entire fleet on the town, and it was continued for an hour.
The next morning, at 4 o’clock, the bombardment was renewed, during which eight of Commodore FARRAGUT’s vessels passed the batteries, without serious damage.
The city must have been damaged greatly, as conflagrations were seen in numerous parts of it.
We are informed on indisputable authority that five thousand negroes have been ordered by Gen. BUTLER to work on the canal across the Bend, on which Vicksburgh or its remains are now situated. The channel of the Mississippi will thus be changed and Vicksburgh will become an inland town hereafter.
Seven hundred more shells have been ordered from New-Orleans to reduce the remains of the place to ashes.
The next day, the Times ran, if not a correction, an obfuscation:
Our advices from Vicksburgh are not very lucid. The first dispatch from the Southwest announced with Caesarian brevity, that “Vicksburgh is ours;” but the subsequent dispatches of Saturday, dated at Cairo, though in many more words, did not tend to confirm the literal correctness of the first report. They spoke of the town having suffered greatly from the bombardment which had been opened upon it by Commodore FARRAGUT, and further announced that “seven hundred more shells had been ordered from New-Orleans to reduce the place to ashes.” The dispatch also stated that Gen. BUTLER had ordered five thousand negroes to go to work and change the channel of the Mississippi River at Vicksburgh, that so the contumacious place might be transformed into an inland town. It may be that all these statements are correct, though how BUTLER communicated his orders to the bombarding fleet does not appear; and whether it would have been necessary to have done all these things if the place was ours, is quite problematical. Altogether, the chances at present seem to be that Vicksburgh is not yet literally ours.
In fact, it was so literally not ours that it would hold out for another year.
Meanwhile, the Richmond Daily Dispatch ran an item from the Vicksburg Courier describing the bombardment, and reporting that, despite damage, they were confident in the Confederate troops.
The bombardment of Vicksburg.
–The VicksburgCourier, of Saturday, says:
At four o’clock this morning the entire Federal fleet, assisted by a park of artillery which had been placed across the river, opened a most terrific fire on our batteries and the city. The fleet, with the exception of the mortar boats, came slowly up the river, and presented almost one continuous sheet of flame. The scene throughout the city was awful beyond description. Almost every house was struck. Our batteries kept up a continuous roar, and with good effect, striking frequently. The flagship and another vessel, together with a number of gunboats, passed up, and are new above the bend. As we write the shells are exploding around us from the gun and mortar boats below. It is reported that several men were injured at the upper battery. From the lower batteries we hear nothing.
We are looking momentarily for the appearance of the up-river fleet, whose smoke is plainly visible above the bend. Our devoted city will then be subjected to the merciless fire of fifty to sixty boats, carrying the heaviest guns manufactured. So far as we have observed there is no panic, no excitement; but with a heroism beyond praise our citizens unflinchingly view the demolition of their homes, and show to the enemy and the world that while we may lose all, even life itself, the priceless boon of liberty can never be wrung from our hearts. Our troops are covering themselves with glory, and Generals Van-Dorn and Smith are proving themselves to be the right men in the right places. Thank Heaven, the command of this department is now placed in hands in which the people can and do repose the utmost confidence.
Last evening, about 8 o’clock, the enemy again renewed the bombardment of the day, and continued it for upwards of an hour, throwing hundreds of shell. We know of no damage resulting, except to a few frame tenements in the lower end of the city, and those but slight.