. . . . the [Third] battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. T. A. Burgin, reported to General W. E. Baldwin, whose brigade occupied a line of works [i.e., fortifications] to the north of the city, . . . and on the 19th they went into the trenches. Later they were transferred to General Vaughn’s Brigade, where they were on duty in the trenches until the end.The Siege of Vicksburg lasted 47 days. For 46 of those days and nights the city was intermittently pounded by shelling, both from Grant’s 220 artillery pieces on land and, now, from Federal gunboats and mortar boats on the river. There was hardly a house or other building that did not sustain at least some artillery damage. Like the defenders, the attacking troops took shelter in trenches and behind earthworks. The Federal trench lines surrounding the city moved ever closer to Vicksburg’s lines of trench defenses, until the Union and Confederate soldiers were sniping at each other at almost point-blank range. So tight were the siege lines that one Confederate officer remarked that “A cat could not have crept out of Vicksburg without being discovered.”
Grant tried to take the city by frontal assaults, on May 19 and again on May 22. When both failed, he decided to besiege the city.
Somewhere in the Confederate trenches were Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Burgin and his battalion of Mississippi State Troops. This battalion was combined with the Fifth Infantry Regiment, Mississippi State Troops, commanded by Colonel Henry C. Robinson, first to form a brigade commanded by Brigadier General Jeptha V. Harris; both units were later assigned to Brigadier General John C. Vaughn’s Brigade. Historian Dunbar Rowland said of the State Troops
. . . . they were in the trenches until the end, suffering frequent losses in killed and wounded, of which, however, no official summaries are available. Vaughn’s daily reports mention 1 killed, 8 wounded.Throughout the city food quickly became scarce, even at inflated prices: $200 for a barrel of flour, $30 for a barrel of sugar, $100 for a bushel of corn, $5 for a pound of bacon. Citizens enraged by perceived price-gouging burned down a row of shops. All military personnel had their rations cut in half, to 140 ounces of food per man per day. The quality of food available, at any cost, deteriorated rapidly. When beef and pork could no longer be found, mule meat became a staple. Necessity, as the proverb says, was the mother of invention. With no more flour, something vaguely resembling bread was made from peas; with the real beverage only a memory, something called coffee was made from sweet potatoes. There were unconfirmed rumors of rats and kittens being eaten. Even good drinking water was hard to find; there were a fixed number of wells, and the river water was not potable.
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