American Civil War: Battle of Raymond

James B. McPherson in the Civil War
Major General James B. McPherson. Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Battle of Raymond - Conflict & Dates:

The Battle of Raymond was fought May 12, 1863, during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Armies & Commanders

Union

Confederate

    • Brigadier General John Gregg
    • 4,400 men

    Battle of Raymond - Background:

    In late 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant began efforts to capture the key Confederate bastion of Vicksburg, MS. Located high on the bluffs above the Mississippi, the city was key to controlling the river below.

    After several false starts, Grant elected to move south through Louisiana and cross the river south of Vicksburg. He was aided in this effort by Rear Admiral David D. Porter's gunboats. On April 30, 1863, Grant's Army of the Tennessee began crossing the Mississippi at Bruinsburg, MS. Sweeping aside Confederate defenders at Port Gibson, Grant moved inland. With Union forces to the south, the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, Lieutenant General John Pemberton, began organizing a defense outside of the city and calling for reinforcements from General Joseph E. Johnston.

    The bulk of these were directed to Jackson, MS though their transit to the city was hampered by damage inflicted to the railroads by Colonel Benjamin Grierson's cavalry raid in April. With Grant advancing northeast, Pemberton expected the Union troops to directly drive on Vicksburg and began pulling back towards the city. Successfully keeping the enemy off balance, Grant instead set his sights on Jackson and cutting the Southern Railroad which connected the two cities.

    Using the Big Black River to cover his left flank, Grant advanced with Major General James B. McPherson's XVII Corps on the right with orders to proceed through Raymond to strike the railroad at Bolton. To McPherson's left, Major General John McClernand's XIII Corps was to sever the Southern at Edwards while Major General William T. Sherman's XV Corps was to attack between Edwards and Bolton at Midway (Map).

    Battle of Raymond - Gregg Arrives:

    In an effort to halt Grant's advance towards Jackson, Pemberton directed that all reinforcements reaching the capital be sent twenty miles southwest to Raymond. Here he hoped to form a defensive line behind Fourteen Mile Creek. The first troops to arrive in Raymond were those of Brigadier General John Gregg's over-strength brigade. Entering the town on May 11 with his tired men, Gregg found that local cavalry units had not properly posted guards on the area roads. Making camp, Gregg was unaware that McPherson's corps was approaching from the southwest. As the Confederates were resting, Grant ordered McPherson to push two divisions into Raymond by noon on May 12. To comply with this request, he directed Major General John Logan's Third Division to lead the advance.

    Battle of Raymond - First Shots:

    Screened by Union cavalry, Logan's men pushed towards Fourteen Mile Creek early on May 12. Learning from locals that a large Confederate force was ahead, Logan deployed the 20th Ohio into a long skirmish line and sent them towards the creek. Hampered by rough terrain and vegetation, the 20th Ohio moved slowly. Shortening the line, Logan pushed Brigadier General Elias Dennis' Second Brigade forward into a field along the west bank of the creek.

    In Raymond, Gregg had recently received intelligence which implied that Grant's main body was south of Edwards. As a result, when reports arrived of Union troops near the creek, he believed them to be part of a small raiding party. Marching his men from the town, Gregg concealed them on the hills overlooking the creek.

    Seeking to lure the Federals into a trap, he sent a small guard detachment to the bridge over the creek in the hope that the enemy would attack. Once the Union men were across the bridge, Gregg intended to overwhelm them. Around 10:00 AM, Union skirmishers pushed towards the bridge but halted in a nearby tree line rather than attacking. Then, to Gregg's surprise, they brought forward artillery and began firing on the Confederates near the bridge. This development led Gregg to conclude he was facing a full brigade rather than a raiding force.

    Undeterred, he altered his plan and shifted his command to the left while preparing for a larger ambush. Once the enemy was across the creek, he intended to attack while also sending two regiments through the trees to strike the Union artillery.

    Battle of Raymond - Gregg Surprised:

    Across the creek, McPherson suspected a trap and directed the remainder of Logan's division to move up. While one brigade was held in reserve, Brigadier General John E. Smith's brigade was quietly deployed on Dennis' right. Ordering his troops to advance, Logan's men moved slowly through the vegetation towards the deep banks of the creek. Due to a bend in the creek, the first across was the 23rd Indiana. Reaching the far bank, they came under heavy attack from Confederate forces. Hearing the enemy yell, Colonel Manning Force led his 20th Ohio to the 23rd Indiana's aid. Coming under fire, the Ohioans used the creek bed for cover. From this position they engaged the 7th Texas and 3rd Tennessee. Hard pressed, Force requested the 20th Illinois to advance to his regiment's aid (Map).

    Surging past the 20th Ohio, the Confederates pushed forward and soon encountered Logan's main body which was in a nearby tree line. As the two sides exchanged fire, the Union troops at the creek began falling back to join their comrades. In an effort to better understand the situation, McPherson and Logan directed Union forces to withdraw a short distance back to a fence line. Establishing a new position, they were pursued by the two Confederate regiments who believed the enemy was fleeing.

    Encountering the new Union line, they began to take heavy losses. Their situation quickly worsened when the 31st Illinois, which had been posted on Logan's right began attacking their flank.

    Battle of Raymond - Union Victory:

    On the Confederate left, the two regiments that Gregg had ordered to get into the enemy's rear, the 50th Tennessee and consolidated 10th/30th Tennessee, pushed forward and scattered the Union cavalry screen. Seeing his cavalry retreating, Logan became concerned about his right flank. Racing around the field, he pulled two regiments from Brigadier General John Stevenson's reserve brigade to plug holes in the line and dispatched two more, the 7th Missouri and 32nd Ohio, to cover the Union right. These troops were later joined by additional regiments from Brigadier General Marcellus Crocker's division. As the 50th and 10th/30th Tennessees emerged from the trees and saw the Union troops, it quickly became clear to Gregg that he was not engaging an enemy brigade, but rather an entire division.

    As the 50th and 10th/30th Tennessees pulled back into the trees, the 3rd Tennessee began to crumble as the flanking fire from the 31st Illinois took its toll. As the Tennessee regiment disintegrated, the 7th Texas came under fire from the entire Union line. Attacked by the 8th Illinois, the Texans finally broke and fled back across the creek with Union forces in pursuit. Seeking new instructions, Colonel Randal McGavock of the 10th/30th Tennessee dispatched an aide to Gregg.

    Unable to find their commander, the aide returned and informed McGavock of the Confederate collapse to their right. Without informing the 50th Tennessee, McGavock advanced his men on an angle to attack the Union pursuers. Charging forward, they began to slow Logan's advance until they were taken in the flank by the 31st Illinois. Sustaining heavy losses, including McGavock, the regiment began a fighting withdrawal to a nearby hill. Here they were joined by Gregg's reserve, the 41st Tennessee, as well as remnants of other shattered regiments.

    Pausing to reform their men, McPherson and Logan began firing on the hill. This continued as the day passed. Frantically attempting to restore order to his command, Gregg saw McPherson's line moving to flank his position on the hill. Lacking the resources to contest this, he began retreating towards Jackson. Fighting a delaying action to cover the withdrawal, Gregg's troops took growing losses from Union artillery before fully disengaging.

    Battle of Raymond - Aftermath:

    In the fighting at the Battle of Raymond, McPherson's corps sustained 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing while Gregg lost 100 killed, 305 wounded, and 415 captured. As Gregg and arriving Confederate reinforcements were concentrating at Jackson, Grant decided to mount a major effort against the city. Winning the Battle of Jackson on May 14, he captured the Mississippi capital and destroyed its rail connections to Vicksburg. Turning west to deal with Pemberton, Grant defeated the Confederate commander at Champion Hill (May 16) and Big Black River Bridge (May 17). Falling back to the Vicksburg defenses, Pemberton turned back two Union assaults but ultimately lost the city after a siege which ended on July 4.

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    Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Battle of Raymond." ThoughtCo, Dec. 28, 2016, thoughtco.com/battle-of-raymond-3571823. Hickman, Kennedy. (2016, December 28). American Civil War: Battle of Raymond. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-raymond-3571823 Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Battle of Raymond." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-raymond-3571823 (accessed April 23, 2018).