Lt. Col. Lysander Webb did write an account of the battle for the Peoria Transcript, a clipping of which is in Anna McKinney Grier’s scrapbook, also in the museum collection. The “flag which Mrs. Cockle presented us with” was a regimental banner given the 77th by the Women’s National League of Peoria.]
In Field in Rear of Vicksburg
May 24 1863
My Dear Anna
I have but little time to write you as we are now in front of the Enemy and there is a continuous roar of Artillery and musketry pouring in on us and I can not tell how soon we will be called on to take our turn opening fire on the Enemy. Since I last write you we have been having very hard times this is the sixth day we have been fighting in the rear of Vicksburg and I am afraid we will have to Keep at it several days longer before we get [p2] the place. The second day after I last write you we attacked the Enemy at Champion Hills and after one days hard fighting we drove the Rebels from the field and captured a great many prisoners and a large quantity of their Artillery. They retreated back to Black River and made another stand at the Rail Road Bridge we again attacked them and again give them a terrible whipping, and captured a great many prisoners. They the run into Vicksburg and got behind their fortifications [p3] and at the present writing we are having one of the biggest fights of the season.
Day before yesterday Grant determined to take the City by storm and orders were given that at two oclock a ground charge should be made by the whole Army. Accordingly we were started in at the hour named and for two hours had one the bloodiest times I ever witnessed or heard of. We started in with two hundred + seventy five men and lost one hundred + thirty five Killed wounded and missing. I shall not enter in to the details of our fight [p4] as Col Webb is writing an account of it to the Transcript in which he will probably give all the details. The 77th had to charge over + down + up two hills to the Rebel fortifications in plain view of them and exposed to a tremendous fire from their men. This they did in splendid style on the double quick with their Bayonets fixed. When we arrived at the ditch we found it full of Rebs, our Boys went in on them, drove them out, climbed up into their Fort and raised the Colors of our Regiment on their Fort. the Colors were planted at about Eleven [p5] Oclock, at three the Flag which Mrs Cockle presented us with was shot of and fell into the ditch where it was buried under five feet of dirt. Our Regimental Banner still floated, and staid there until six in the evening, when our whole line on our right and left commenced falling back
and this we did not Know in time but still held our Fort. The Rebs seeing this made a charge on us with a large Force took the Fort. Killing, wounding + taking prisoner most of the men we had there and captured the [p6] Banner. We held this Fort ten hours under a murderous fire, and was the only Regiment that succeeded in planting the Stars + Stripes on the Rebel Fort. The General says it was the finest fighting he ever saw and compliments the 77th very highly. Our loss however was terrible one hundred + thirty men gone, out of two hundred + seventy five. I had my usual good luck and did not get a scratch, though I believe I never had so many narrow escapes in my life. it was terrible when the Rebels charged on us with fixed Bayonets. The I ordered [p7] our men to do the same and as they came up on us with a yell, our men met them half way, and I tell you it was terrible, but they had ten men to our one and they took the Fort in spite of us, that is they took one end of it, but the other end we held and they could not draw us out, and we continued to hold it until midnight when we were ordered to fall back to our former position. We are now in good rifle range of the Fortifi-cations and the whole army is laying siege to Vicksburg having come to the conclusion [p8] that Vicksburg fortifications are to strong to take by storm. I do not think they can hold out long as they have not provisions to last them very long, and we have them completely shut in. They hope for Reinforcements from Gen Johnson to attack our Rear but we have every thing ready for Johnson if he should take a notion to come along.
I tell you Anna during the engagement of the other day I was sick of war. I never saw or imagined any thing could be as terrible. At one time I had not the slightest idea that one of us would get out [p9] alive. Shell, cannister, grape + Minnie Bullets were rained in on us thick and fast.
I have just learned that all our mail is lying up at Harris Bluff and will be held there until we get into Vicksburg. This accounts for me not hearing from you for so long a time. I feel strongly in hopes that we will soon be in Vicksburg. Be sure and be ready in September for our wedding I will be there if I should not get Killed before that time. Write me very often and believe me dear Anna to be yours + yours only