June 8, 1863: Johnston’s not at Mechanicsburg

Charles A. Dana
Charles A. Dana

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Kimball advanced toward Mechanicsville, but reports of a large concentration of infantry ahead spooked him, and he returned to Haynes’ Bluff. He sent his confidant Charles Dana (a reporter, originally sent to spy on him to find out if he was drinking, Dana had become a staunch supporter) with some cavalry to see for himself. The report came back that Johnston’s concentration was a myth.

Charles A. Dana, “Recollections of the Civil War”, p.81-83


The chief variations from my business of watching the siege behind Vicksburg were these trips I made to inspect the operations against the enemy, who was now trying to shut us in from the rear beyond the Big Black. His heaviest force was to the northeast. On June 6th the reports from Satartia, our advance up the Yazoo, were so unsatisfactory that Grant decided to examine the situation there himself.

That morning he said to me at breakfast:

” Mr. Dana, I am going to Satartia to-day; would you like to go along? ”

I said I would, and we were soon on horseback, riding with a cavalry guard to Haynes’s Bluff, where we took a small steamer reserved for Grant’s use and carrying his flag. Grant was ill and went to bed soon after he started.

We had gone up the river to within two miles of Satartia, when we met two gunboats coming down. Seeing the general’s flag, the officers in charge of the gunboats came aboard our steamer and asked where the general was going. I told them to Satartia. “Why,” said they, “it will not be safe. Kimball [our advance was under the charge of Brigadier-General Nathan Kimball, Third Division, Sixteenth Army Corps] has retreated from there, and is sending all his supplies to Haynes’s Bluff. The enemy is probably in the town now.” I told them Grant was sick and asleep, and that I did not want to waken him. They insisted that it was unsafe to go on, and that I would better call the general.

Finally I did so, but he was too sick to decide. ” I will leave it with you,” he said. I immediately said we would go back to Haynes’s Bluff, which we did.

The next morning Grant came out to breakfast fresh as a rose, clean shirt and all, quite himself.

” Well, Mr. Dana,” he said, ” I suppose we are at Satartia now.”

” No, general,” I said, ” we are at Haynes’s Bluff.” And I told him what had happened.

He did not complain, but as he was short of officers at that point he asked me to go with a party of cavalry toward Mechanicsburg to find if it were true, as reported, that Joe Johnston was advancing from Canton to the Big Black.

We had a hard ride, not getting back to Vicksburg until the morning of the eighth. The country was like all the rest around Vicksburg, broken, wooded, unpopulous, with bad roads and few streams. It still had many cattle, but the corn was pretty thoroughly cleared out. We found that Johnston had not moved his main force as rumored, and that he could not move it without bringing all his supplies with him.

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