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Friday, February 3, 2017

He surrendered at Vicksburg, Mississippi

Samuel James Webb  (more about him here,)

He was my mother's great grandfather, on her father's side.

He was in Waul's Texas Legion, Company B, which surrendered July 4, 1863 at Vicksburg MS Col. Waul was exchanged and the the Confederates promoted him to General.  My ancestor was a private, and I don't know the details of his survival of that battle. But I'll share a little information with you.

What was the siege of Vicksburg MS like from May 18-July 4, 1863? I won't go into much detail, but as usual, a siege meant starvation.  The citizens of the town left their homes and dug caves where they were safer from the shelling. Vicksburg is on the Mississippi River between Memphis TN and New Orleans LA.
 During the siege, Union gunboats lobbed over 22,000 shells into the town and army artillery fire was even heavier. As the barrages continued, suitable housing in Vicksburg was reduced to a minimum. A ridge, located between the main town and the rebel defense line, provided a diverse citizenry with lodging for the duration. Over 500 caves, known locally as "bombproofs," were dug into the yellow clay hills of Vicksburg. Whether houses were structurally sound or not, it was deemed safer to occupy these dugouts. People did their best to make them comfortable, with rugs, furniture, and pictures. They tried to time their movements and foraging with the rhythm of the cannonade, sometimes unsuccessfully. Because of the citizens' burrowing, the Union soldiers gave the town the nickname of "Prairie Dog Village." Despite the ferocity of the Union fire against the town, fewer than a dozen civilians were known to have been killed during the entire siege.
Vicksburg - Images from a Civil War Battle Shirley House, and bombproofs (caves) where civilians lived during siege
On July 3, (Confederate) Lt. General Pemberton sent a note to (Union) General Grant regarding the possibility of negotiations for peace. Grant...first demanded unconditional surrender. But Grant reconsidered, not wanting to feed 30,000 hungry Confederates in Union prison camps, and offered to parole all prisoners. Considering their destitute state, dejected and starving, he never expected them to fight again; he hoped they would carry home the stigma of defeat to the rest of the Confederacy. In any event, it would have occupied his army and taken months to ship that many prisoners north.  Pemberton officially surrendered his army on July 4. Most of the men who were paroled on July 6 were exchanged and received back into the Confederate Army on August 4, 1863, at Mobile Harbor, Alabama. They were back in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by September and many continued to fight in other battles. (Wikipedia)
Private Samuel James Webb was probably home before Christmas 1863, because his wife gave birth to a daughter in August of 1864, who died the following May.  Two days after the baby died, an older 6 year old daughter also died.  Perhaps an epidemic?  But they had another daughter in 1866, who died within 2 months.  It wasn't until their daughter was born in 1868 that she survived childhood.  And then they seemed healthy enough, for they had 3 more children.

I would guess that Samuel James Webb might have been wounded (or sick) enough that he was sent home rather than to continue fighting following the surrender.  The other option to consider would have been desertion, which is unlikely. As mentioned above, the soldiers and citizens of Vicksburg were starving and sick following the siege.

Three Children at the civil war battle of Vicksburg, by Andrea Warren

Hand colored lithograph of the battle for Vicksburg MS
Samuel and Ellen's oldest son was Leroy (Larry or Leary) Francis Webb, (1857-1921), my great grandfather.   Of the 8 children of his parents, three died between 1865-66.  And of the last 4 who were born after 1868, 3 of them lived until the 20th century.  Leroy was only a very young child during the war, and he lived until 1921.  (More information about his life, here.)

I share this with Sepia Saturday, with the weak link to their meme of beautiful well-used steps to compare to the caves dug into the bluffs at Vicksburg during the siege so people might live. Sepia Saturday suggested meme:


The Webb family were ranchers (or farmers as nobody in Texas had yet coined the term rancher for the census taker).  It's also interesting to see that Samuel had been 30 years old in the census of 1860, while his wife Ellen was just 19.  They lived in the south of Texas, in DeWitt County, after they met and married there in 1856.

Remember, Texas had just become a state in 1846 after having been the Republic of Texas which had gained independence from Mexico in 1836. Texas had many Union sympathizers, like a lot of areas where people settled from all of the older states of the US and Europe. The Webbs may have come from Maryland, but originally I would guess their families came from Europe.
Dewitt County voted in favor of secession from the Union, and sent several military units to serve. During Reconstruction, the county was occupied by the Fourth Corps, based at Victoria.
From April 1866 until December 1868 a subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau served at Clinton (DeWitt County.) The community of Hopkinsville was established in 1872 by Henry Hopkins, freedman former slave of Judge Henry Clay Pleasants, the judge credited for ending the Sutton-Taylor Feud. Residents began a school that was active until 1956, and established the Antioch Baptist Church.
The notorious Sutton–Taylor feud began as a Reconstruction era county law enforcement issue between the Taylor family and lawman William E. Sutton. It eventually involved both the Taylor and Sutton families, the Texas State Police, the Texas Rangers and John Wesley Hardin. The feud, which lasted a decade and cost 35 lives, has been called the longest and bloodiest in Texas history. (Texas State History)
April 1, 1866 marked the first cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail.

I think I'd better quit before going any further with other family members who survived the Civil War.  More next week!

Quote for today:

“It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.” — Epictetus, Stoic philosopher.


  1. Don’t worry. There’s no need to have a link, weak or otherwise, to the theme image. Your own wonderful images and stories are all that is required.

  2. Those dug caves at Vicksburg must have been dreadful...but then, the whole war was dreadful! I, too, have ancestors who fought in it; I have some letters that have survived. I'm glad yours survived...

    1. No war is good for any human, so all suffered. Great to hear about letters that pin point that moment in someone's life.

  3. Gosh - my great grandfather served in the Union Navy during the Civil War and I know he took part in quite a few battles eg: shelling forts. Not sure if any ships he was on shelled cities? Vicksburg sounds familiar but that may be simply from known general history. I'll have to check his journal regarding his naval experience during the war?

    1. I haven't even started looking at my ancestors from New England...oh my. There won't be as many, but perhaps a few.

  4. Many years ago I spent a day touring the Vicksburg battlefield and was astonished at the history of the siege. In the 1860s Vicksburg was quite an important port on the Mississippi and Grant's victory was the reason Lincoln brought him to command the eastern war.

  5. Oh Barbara - that story of the dugouts was amazing. I had no idea. Honestly...what some people suffered doesn't bear thinking about huh?


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