The ensuing ten days I consider the most critical period of the defenses of Vicskburg; batteries incomplete; guns not mounted; troops few, and both officers and men entirely new to service and not a single regular officer to assist in organizing and commanding. Had a prompt and vigorous attack been made by the enemy, while I think the dispositions made would have insured their repulse, still the issue would have been less certain than at any time afterwards.
The enemy opened fire on the afternoon of the 26th for the first time, and continued about two hours apparently with a view of getting our range. The orders given to the batteries were not to return their fire at extreme range, and at ordinary range only at considerable intervals. This policy was adhered to throughout; at first because little ammunition had then arrived; afterward for the reason that our works could not be injured by direct firing, and by saying the men they were fresh night and day to meet close and serious attacks, such as occurred before the termination of the bombardment; besides, the enemy were thus kept ignorant of our real strength as well as the effect of their own shot. It was not long before they apparently came to the conclusion that no impression could be made on our works by their gunboats, nor the erection of new batteries prevented whenever attempted, and the remaining six batteries of the ten first-mentioned were constructed under their eyes.
From May 20 to the middle of June the firing was kept up at intervals and more or less heavy, the latter part of the time directed mainly at the town and at localities where they apparently thought troops were encamped.
From June 14 to 18 there was an entire cessation of the attack the mortar fleet that had bombarded Forts Jackson and Saint Philip being on the way here to join in the attack. They began to arrive on the 18th, and to the number of eighteen or nineteen were in position on the 20th, on the afternoon of which day the bombardment again opened. Prior to this a new source of anxiety arose. Fort Pillow and Memphis had fallen, and, in addition to the attack we were enduring, Vicksburg was threatened by a combined land and naval force from above.
From the 20th to the 27th the bombardment was pretty constant during the day-time, at times very heavy but generally ceasing at 10 or 11 o'clock at night.
On the evening of the 27th the firing began to increase in fury,and for some hours a shower of bomb-shells was rained upon our batteries that severely tried the nerve and courage of both officers and men. Still the damage was quickly repaired, and the men held their places at the guns.
At daylight on the 28th the enemy recommenced with the same fury, and it was soon perceived that the entire gunboat fleet was in motion, moving rapidly up in front of the batteries and city, and it became apparent that the decisive struggle was at hand. Some thirty-five vessels were soon firing as rapidly as was possible, the mortars filling the air with shells, and the sloops of war and gunboats delivering broadside after broadside of shot, shell, and grape, according to their distance. Our batteries opened as soon as the vessels were within range and for the first time in full force. The roar of cannon was now continuous and deafening; loud explosions shook the city to its foundations; shot and shell went hissing and tearing through trees and walls, scattering fragments far and wide in their terrific flight; men, women, and children rushed into the streets, and, amid the crash of falling houses, commenced their hasty flight to the country for safety. This continued for about an hour and a half, when the enemy left, the ves-