A sharp engagement fought during the Vicksburg Campaign occurred on 12 May 1863 just outside Raymond. Better intelligence by the Confederates would undoubtedly have forestalled the battle. The opponents consisted of a Confederate brigade under Brig. Gen. John Gregg and portions of the Union’s 17th Corps under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson. After crossing the Mississippi River and winning victories at Grand Gulf and Port Gibson, the Union Army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant advanced inland along several routes, with McPherson on the right flank. Grant ordered McPherson to advance to Raymond on 12 May in hopes of capturing the strategic crossroads and commissary stores reported to be there. McPherson had his men moving along the road from Utica by early morning.
John Gregg’s brigade had been at Port Hudson, Louisiana, before receiving orders to move to Jackson on 1 May. Gregg had perhaps between twenty-five hundred and three thousand men, and these Tennessee and Texas infantrymen, supported by a Missouri battery, took to the road soon the next day. They marched part of the two hundred miles from Port Hudson before arriving at Jackson by rail on 8 May. Confederate commander John C. Pemberton allowed them to rest briefly before ordering them to Raymond. When Gregg’s command entered town on the morning of 11 May, they met citizens anxious about reports that Union troops were advancing from Port Gibson. Gregg expected that cavalry under Col. Wirt Adams would be at Raymond, but only a detached patrol of five men from Adams’s command was there, supplemented by a small force of state troops out scouting the approaches to the south. During the night a cavalry detachment discovered the presence of Federal troops nine miles from Raymond, and early the next morning Gregg heard from various couriers that a Union column was advancing via the road from Utica. A cavalry screen shielded the approaching Federal force, and Gregg mistakenly inferred that he faced a “brigade on a marauding expedition.” He prepared to attack, unaware that McPherson had two full divisions and more than three times as many men. McPherson’s ability to disguise his advance arose in part as a consequence of the difficulties southern cavalry encountered in ascertaining the location, size, and potential movements of Grant’s various columns.
If Gregg badly underestimated the size of the approaching force, McPherson for his part did not expect any major resistance near Raymond. Both commanders were operating under false assumptions when musketry opened as the Union advance approached Fourteenmile Creek, two miles southwest of Raymond. Gregg hoped to strike the Union right flank and roll it up, with an eye toward capturing the supposedly smaller, weaker enemy force. Terrain played a role in the engagement, as thick undergrowth and timber, deep ravines, and steep banks along the creek made troop maneuvers difficult. The battle opened around 10:00 in the morning as the two sides clashed near Fourteenmile Creek. Gregg’s surprise offensive achieved early success against men from Maj. Gen. John Logan’s division. Fighting at close quarters ensued in some areas where the antagonists collided. An Ohio regiment wavered until Logan rode forward to rally them; elsewhere, Confederates drove the isolated 23rd Indiana Regiment back across the creek. Union troops rallied and began to gain the upper hand. Smoke and clouds of dust obscured the field, preventing both Gregg and McPherson from accurately assessing developments. Gregg had intended for units on the left of his line to take up the attack, but he lost contact and could not bring them into concert with the initial assault. McPherson brought up additional troops and extended his line to the right, where the creek bent back to the south. A Tennessee regimental commander in the area finally realized that his men confronted at least an entire Federal division and attempted in vain to apprise Gregg of this revelation.
The disparity in numbers began to tell as Union brigades successively came up and deployed on either side of the Utica road. Gregg belatedly became aware that he had attacked a force several times his own and disengaged. He did so in the afternoon, but not before suffering heavy casualties, particularly in the 3rd Tennessee and 7th Texas Regiments. The Tennesseans counted 187 casualties, while the Texans lost 158 of the 306 men they took into battle. Gregg’s survivors retreated through Raymond and encamped, while troops from several Union brigades entered the town and feasted on food originally intended for the Confederates. Looting took place as Union soldiers destroyed fences, raided smokehouses, stole animals, and sacked homes.
Raymond became a hospital for the wounded of both armies. Federal casualty figures show 66 killed, 339 wounded, and 37 missing, while corresponding figures for the Confederates are 73, 252, and 190. Yet in a report written two weeks after the battle, McPherson claimed enemy losses at 103 killed and 720 wounded and captured. Raymond was a brutal soldiers’ fight, fought largely on the initiative of individual regimental commanders. Both commanding generals struggled to control the action, partly because they could see little of the battlefield clearly. A cautious McPherson fed in units piecemeal, resulting in uncoordinated assaults that negated his vast numeric superiority. His artillery was relatively ineffective, owing chiefly to the smoke and dust hovering over the battlefield. Gregg for his part attacked without verifying the size of the enemy column and had difficulty managing the battle once it commenced. Throughout much of the battle, he had no idea what regiments on the left of his line were doing.
The battle altered Grant’s strategy. Learning of McPherson’s encounter near Raymond, Grant abandoned plans to move toward Edwards. He resolved to go immediately to Jackson and deal with the Confederate force under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston before swinging west to contend with southern forces that had come out from the Vicksburg defenses. As a result, his army arrived at Jackson two days later, fought elements of Johnston’s command, and captured the capital.
- Michael B. Ballard, Vicksburg: The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi (2004)
- Edwin Cole Bearss, The Campaign for Vicksburg, vol. 2, Grant Strikes a Fatal Blow (1986)
- Warren E. Grabau, Ninety-Eight Days: A Geographer’s View of the Vicksburg Campaign (2000)
- The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, vol. 24, parts 1 and 3 (1889)