Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg–Osborn H. Oldroyd

A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg 46





HE FOURTH OF JULY! The siege is at last ended. Behold the white flag now waving over the rebel ramparts. Vicksburg has at length surrendered. Speed the glad news to our loved ones at the North, who, during our long trial, have helped us with their prayers. Speed it to the entire forces of the Union, that they may all take courage and move again.

We are all full of rejoicing, as the event will no doubt prove a death-blow to the rebellion in the Southwest. Vicksburg has been the boast of the enemy, who thought it to be impregnable, and they confidently defied the Army of the West to take it. But by the untiring energy, skill and forecast of our gallant leader, U. S. Grant, aided by the willing and brave hearts about him, Vicksburg has been taken, and over it the stars and stripes now float proudly in all their majestic beauty. How glad I am that I have been one of those who have endured the trials requisite to plant our banner there. And while rejoicing over our success, let us not forget those who have died on these fields of honor. While we surviving raise Liberty‘s ensign over Vicksburg, let us remember the graves at Raymond and Champion Hills. And in after years, when we meet to refresh the memory of soldier days, let our dead here around Vicksburg never be forgotten. Let us think of them as standing guard over our dearly-won prize, until the final roll-call, when each shall be “present” or “accounted for.”


“They struggled and fell, their life-blood staining

The assaulting foeman’s hand;

And clasping freedom’s flag, sustaining,

Cried, God save our native land.


Let angels spread their wings protecting;

Let sweetest flowers ever bloom;

And let green bays, our faith reflecting,

Mark each martyr’s sacred tomb.”


Now that the enemy have resigned possession of Vicksburg, I trust the wicked rebellion will not fail soon to near its end, when all our boys in blue will have leave, at will, to present arms to the girls they left behind them. A star heralding the coming peace already seems to twinkle in the sky. We rejoice not less over our triumph to-day because it was consummated upon the glorious Fourth. And while we rejoice for our country, we show no unworthy exultation over the fallen, to whom we extend the sympathy of victors.

Our division, under its commander, General Logan, marched into the city in triumph, and there took command and completed the long desired event—raising the star spangled banner over the court house cupola.


“The armies of the Union

Round Vicksburg long had lain;

For forty-seven days and nights

Besieging it in vain.


Then came the morning of the Fourth,

Our Nation’s jubilee—

Ah, could the news this hour go north—

In Vicksburg soon we’ll be.


The siege is done, the struggle past.

On this eventful day

Glad triumph crowns us, as, at last,

Our thanks to God we pay.


Above the vanquished walls I stand,

My country, proud to see

The festive hosts, with flag and band,

Parading gloriously.


O, glorious Fourth! O blissful day!

How hearts of thousands swell

To see such toils such hopes repay,

Such dangers end so well.”

JULY 3D.—Uncle Sam’s cashier has arrived at last, and we have been paid for two months’ service. The married men are quite anxious to send their money home to their wives and little ones. It is risky sending money North from here, yet, to some, more dangerous to keep it. I saw two boys sitting on a log, today, playing poker at five cents a game. Five cent currency is paid in a sheet, and, as either lost the game, a five cent piece was torn off.

JULY 2ND.—This is Camp Tiffin. Our regiment was favored to-day with a large mail, and nothing could have been more acceptable. Letters from home were looked into first, and next, of course, came sweethearts. One letter was read aloud, describing the capture of a butternut camp, in Holmes county, Ohio. The fort was built on a hill, and manned with several cannon, to resist the draft. A few soldiers from Camp Chase, however, went over and soon put an end to that attempt at resistance. I regret to hear of such a disgraceful affair occurring in my native State. From other letters and papers it appears this thing occurs in many other Northern States, and of course it must give encouragement to the rebels.

The rumor now runs that the paymaster will be at hand tomorrow, but he is about as reliable as Johnston, for we have been something like a week looking for both these gentlemen. I confess I would rather meet greenbacks than graybacks.

This afternoon, with several others, I went blackberrying again, and in searching for something to eat, we paid a visit to a house where, to our happy surprise, we found a birthday party, brightened by the presence of no less than eleven young ladies. We asked, of course, where “the boys” were, and they replied, as we expected, “out hunting Yanks.” Well, we found it a treat to get a taste of sociality once more, after being so long famished. They were very nice rebel girls, though I think the color of the eyes of one of them was what I might call true blue. They asked us to lunch with them, which we did with pleasure. The eatables were good, and we had a splendid time—all the while, of course, keeping one eye on the girls and the other on the window. We told our experience at our last blackberrying excursion, when they assured as we had nothing to fear with them, for they were all “for the Union.” No doubt they will be whenever their “boys” come home.

Fac-simile of a "hard tack" issued at Vicksburg, June, 1863.  The scene on it represents a soldier toasting his cracker, and the spots in the cracker were caused by the worms that inhabited it.

A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg 43

July 1ST.—Here we enter upon the patriotic month of July, and where and how we are to spend it is yet beyond our conjecture, for we never know in this kind of service what a day may bring forth.

Preparations appear to have been made here for remaining in camp, and yet we may sleep to-night many miles away, or perhaps, without sleeping, march the whole night through. If only life is spared, it is enough; our duties are not shirked. If we camp only for a day, our quarters are to be all cleaned up, and everything put in the best order possible for comfort. On such excursions as this we have no mess cooking, but every fellow cooks for himself. The first man up in the morning, therefore, gets the frying-pan, from whom the next must engage it, and then may come number three, who is referred to number two.

So the utensil goes round a group or mess. The coffee is generally made in a camp kettle for the entire company. I have spent more time hunting up the owner of the last claim on the frying-pan than it afterward took to fry my bacon and crackers.

The pay-master is said to be not far from camp, which creates quite an excitement, since he may charge upon us any moment. There were orders for inspection every morning at eight o’clock for all companies. A little exercise of this kind hurts nobody. I took a stroll through the woods, looking at the graves of those who had fallen by the wayside while our army fought for the position it now holds around Vicksburg. These graves will soon be leveled, and their last trace lost. Friends may mourn for the fallen, but their tears will never water the graves of the heroes.

I write with the aid of a bayonet candle-stick. The latter end of this month will find me just twenty-one years of age.

JUNE 3OTH.—Our dreams were broken this morning at daylight by the bug’e call, and in a very few minutes the whole command was up and ready to march—their beds around the owners’ necks. Our woolen blankets are rolled up as tight as possible, having a rubber one outside, which, when the two ends are tied, are swung around our necks. If there has been a rain to wet the blankets, and no time to dry them, they make a heavy load on the march; so no time is lost in drying blankets whenever the opportunity is offered. If it is raining when we retire, and brush can be cut to lay the blankets on, we get a number one spring bed, and when the weather is pleasant a good bed can be made by laying down two rails the width of the blanket apart, and filling the space with grass, or straw from any adjacent stack, on which the blankets may be spread. There is a sort of tall grass growing in this country which makes a soft bed, and is quite worth the puffing. Everything possible is done by the soldier to secure a good night’s sleep. I have seen straw stacks torn to pieces, sheds pulled down, and fences melt away in the twinkling of an eye, about camp time. A certain officer has ordered his men to take only the top rail, which order was obeyed to the letter, yet every rail disappeared—the bottom rail finally becoming the top one. I have seen half a regiment bearing rails, boards and straw toward camp before even the end of the day’s march was reached. They will have good beds and fires.

JUNE 29TH.—The 4th of July is fast approaching, and if we do not get our prize by that time, we will have a little celebration out here in the woods, for we have flags, drums and plenty of spread-eagle speakers, and we can omit the cannon, of which kind of music we have had a surfeit. Yes, we have all the material for a patriotic celebration, but I had hoped we should waive the old flag in Vicksburg that day.

I was sick last night, and up many times before day; and as I walked among the sleepers, I was astonished at the snoring; the variety of sounds made was as great as that of a brass band.

A rumor circulates that Pemberton has made an attack on our lines at Vicksburg, trying to cut his way out, but failed of his purpose. From a prisoner brought in, I have learned, by questioning, that the rebel authorities have made numerous drafts for young and old, to refill their ranks, and I think their army now must be as strong as it can ever be. By conscription and terrorism they have forced into the field every available man. With the North it is not so, for the old song, “We are Coming, Father Abraham, Three Hundred Thousand More,” is being sung there yet, with good will, and volunteers are still pouring in to fill up what may be lacking in our ranks. We can thus throw renewed forces against failing ones.

JUNE 28TH.—The boys of the 20th left at Vicksburg joined our regiment to-day. We were very anxious to hear how the siege was progressing, and, to our surprise, learned that it was going right on as usual, without our assistance. It was interesting to hear of the blowing up of Fort ‘Hill by our division, but we did not ascertain the number killed, though the explosion


Hoisted two or three.

And blew a darky free

From slavery to freedom.

This negro, blown up with other chattels in the fort, was dropped into our lines and taken to General Logan’s headquarters, none the worse for his trip. When asked what he saw, he said, “As I was comin’ down I met massa gwine up.” Nothing, however, was gained by blowing up the fort, except planting the stars and stripes thereon, by our troops who made the charge after the explosion ; but our colors were removed, for safety, after dark. While our men lay all the afternoon on the side of the fort, the rebels threw into their ranks hand-grenades which killed and wounded quite a number. Our boys, however, would occasionally catch them and toss them back to the place from which they came, just in time to explode among their owners.

Living out here in the woods is quite different from camping before Vicksburg. Yet all is life and bustle wherever we are, from reveille at daybreak, to tattoo at night. Each man must answer to his name in ranks at roll-call in the morning, and must be properly dressed. Some of the most ludicrous scenes of army life are to be witnessed at this exercise. A few of the old fashioned, steady fellows, as a general thing appear quite thoroughly dressed ; but as you go down the ranks from the head where they stand, you will begin to find, now and then, a man who has but one boot or shoe on, with the other but half way on. Another boy will be putting on his blouse—having grabbed it in the dark—of course wrong side out. Another has tossed his blouse over his shoulders, and is trying to hide close to his right-hand man. Still another, trying to get his pants on between his bed and the line, has caught a foot in the lining, and hops along like a sore-footed chicken. I saw one fellow come out, at the foot of the company, wrapped only in a blanket. The orderly, however, sent him back to be better uniformed; he could not play Indian at morning roll-call. The last one of those who have overslept, makes his appearance holding on to his clothes with both hands. Some answer to their names before taking position in the ranks, and in fact, even some before they are fairly out of bed. A company which has for its orderly a person who is a little lenient, fares well ; but if he is inclined to strain his authority, he is bound to have its ill will. After roll-call, some of the half-dressed return to bed for another snooze, while the rest complete their toilet. After that comes the splitting of rails, building of fires, and a general rush for breakfast, which winds up the duties of the morning.

Map of the Siege of Vicksburg

June 27TH.—A number of our boys went a few miles, blackberrying, and picked quite a quantity to bring home, when we heard the sound of horses’ hoofs, and suddenly concluding we had berries enough, we beat a hasty retreat for camp and got there safely.

The weather is not quite as hot here as it was in our close quarters at the front, but while we enjoy that change we would much prefer remaining at our post there, until the end of the siege.

Some of the boys have had to boil their pants—the only process which is sure death to an enemy lurking there which we find most troublesome. While our pants are boiling the owner leans over the kettle anxiously, for it is probably his only pair. Well, it is now summer time, and, it will do to sun ourselves an hour or two. These little pests lurking in our pants become very annoying when they go foraging. These creatures are about the only war relics from which I have not gathered specimens to send home. I have, in fact, gathered enough of them, but with no view to a museum or cabinet. It is fun to see a fellow get into a pair of boiled pants. The boiling has shrunk them till they fail to reach the top of his brogans by some inches, and accordingly he bends over to try to pull them down to a junction, when the contrary things seem to recoil still further ; and the only satisfaction left to him at last—and it is no mean one, either—is that they are at least clean, and he himself is once more their sole occupant. How long he will remain so, however, it is hard to say.

JUNE 26TH.—We have heard that Port Hudson is ours, and I hope this may be true, for it will tend to hasten the surrender of Vicksburg.

A little dirt has been thrown up ahead of us, as a shield, in case we have to fight the enemy. We hear all sorts of reports about the strength of Johnston‘s army, but the truth will only appear when we meet it. One captive said the report in Vicksburg was that Pemberton despaired of getting help from the out side, and was ready to surrender when the last meal rations have been eaten. He probably understands the resources of our commissary, as well as the magnanimous disposition of Grant to issue provisions to a starving foe.

Well; why not? The first square meal received from Uncle Sam will be an occasion to them of thanksgiving. They will get the best that we can issue. And when the war is over, true soldiers of both armies will be among the first to break the bread of reunion and quaff the cup of restored peace and good will.

Combined knife, fork, and spoon, used by the boys at the siege of Vicksburg -- A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg.

JUNE 25TH.—We have orders to stay in camp, ready to move at a moment’s notice. Our marching orders are still delayed, so we have enjoyed a good rest. We are now out of hearing of the guns at Vicksburg, and it seems very still around us, indeed.

The term of the enlistment of some members of our regiment has now expired, and they seem to want to get home again to see their mamas; but go they can not until our “rabbit is caught.” Shame on them for wanting to leave before the flag flies over Vicksburg. Many of them have had letters from friends at the North, urging them not to stay after their time is out. But they may as well make up their minds that Grant will hold them till Vicksburg is taken.