(Siege of Vicksburg)
Location: Vicksburg, MS
Dates: May 18, 1863 - July 4, 1863
Ulysses S. Grant, Major General
John C. Pemberton, Lt. General
In the spring of 1863, Lincoln considering the strategic situation
of the Union army, presciently stated, "See what a lot of land these fellows
hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key
is in our pocket."
His commander of Union forces in that theater,
Ulysses S. Grant was well aware of how important this parcel
of ground was. With bluffs commanding the Mississippi River, Vicksburg
offered the Confederacy a naturally defensive line along a section of the
Mississippi River that changed direction three times - creating a large
After pushing CS Major General
Earl Van Dorn's army
out of Iuka, and Corinth, in September, and October of 1862,
Grant set his
sights on Vicksburg. In late November, Grant planned a grand feint.
He would push down into the area, around Holly Springs, from Tennessee.
This would draw rebel troops from the Vicksburg area, weakening its
defenses. Once weakened,
William T. Sherman, would lead his Corps into
Vicksburg, from the north. The plan failed early, as Grant ran into CS
John Pemberton's troops dug in on the south side of the
Yalobusha River. While being held, in check, by Pemberton,
Dorn led a successful cavalry raid in Grant's rear. Van Dorn tore up
over 50 miles of track that was Grant's supply line to Memphis. Unable
to supply his field forces, Grant would retire to Memphis for the winter.
Not to be deterred, from his plan,
Sherman's troops down the
Mississippi River to Milliken's Bend (later to be known for a bloody rebel
assault on black Federal troops). Disembarking, from troop transports, Sherman pushed his
troops into the swamp area, north of Vicksburg, on December 26.
Sherman would push 32,000 Union troops through the bayou and against a very
well defended Vicksburg. In a battle that would become known as
Chickasaw Bayou, Sherman would be repeatedly repulsed from December 27,
through December 29, by a much smaller Confederate force. Sherman
became convinced, that an attack on the north of Vicksburg could not
succeed, and on January 1, 1863, his troops boarded transports to the north.
All told, Sherman lost close to 1,200 troops at Chickasaw Bayou.
In January, 1863,
Grant, unperturbed by the failure of
Sherman, Grant pushed
down the west side of the Mississippi. With winter rains raising the
Mississippi, Grant set his troops to work, keeping them busy, to avoid the
demoralizing effects of inactivity. Grant set US Major General
John McClernand's troops to work, constructing a canal, that would move the
Mississippi away from Vicksburg, allowing boats to transport his troops
south. On March 8, the rising Mississippi overpowered a dam, on the
upper end, flooding McClernand's efforts and bringing a sorry end to this
At the end of March, Grant put
troops back in motion, sending them south, on the west side of the
Mississippi, to New Carthage. As a diversion, to this action, Grant
sent US Colonel
Benjamin Grierson's cavalry on one of the most successful
raids in the west. Grierson's cavalry tore up miles of railroad,
Pemberton to focus attention north, and east, of Vicksburg, allowing
Grant to operate more easily on the west side of the Mississippi.
On April 16, and again on April 22, Admiral David Dixon Porter sent his
gunboats down the Mississippi, past the guns of Vicksburg. This proved
highly successful, even when the rebels lit bales of cotton, on the banks
to silhouette the boats. This led to the battle of Grand Gulf, MS on
April 29, silencing the cannons south of Vicksburg. With the river
open to the Union gunboats,
Grant ferried 24,000 Federal troops across the
Mississippi, into the very heart of Mississippi. With this action,
Grant would embark on the most brilliant campaign of the war. Severing
his supply lines, he would march his troops, many miles, through
hostile country, with no supply lines. This move was so controversial,
that even Grant confidant,
William T. Sherman, advised Grant against making
the move. Over the next 17 days, Grant would win battles against the
Confederate army at Port Gibson (May 1), Raymond (May 12), Jackson (May 14),
Champion Hill (May 16) and Big Black River Bridge (May 17).
By May 18,
U.S. Grant had pushed CS General
Joseph Johnston's army, east of
Jackson, and had pushed
Pemberton's army back into the fortifications of
Vicksburg. On May 19,
Sherman's Corps would take the offensive,
pushing down Graveyard Road and into the area around the Stockyard Redan.
Sherman was repulsed, after much loss of life. Further south,
McClernand's troops, along with troops from US Major General
McPherson, pushed within a 1/4 mile of the Vicksburg outer perimeter.
Grant learned quickly, that Pemberton's army was not going to be easily
Over the next four days,
Grant re-formed, and
solidified his positions around Vicksburg. On May 22, Grant had
Porter's gunboats soften Vicksburg, south of town, while his artillery,
north, and west, of town, lobbed shells into the rebel works. At 10:00
AM, Grant sent
Sherman's Corps into the area of Stockyard Redan,
Corps into the area around Third Louisiana Redan, in the center, and
McClernand's Corps into the area of the Second Texas Lunette on the south.
McClernand's troops were able to reach the ground, in front of the Railroad
Redoubt, where they were pinned. Learning of McClernand's
success, in the south sector, Grant ordered another army wide assault of the
rebel works. Once again, across the entire line, the Confederates
pushed the Federal troops back. Throughout the day, Grant suffered
close to 3,200 casualties, compared with less than 500 on the rebel side.
By May 25, Grant determined he could not break the rebel works, and
instructed his engineering staff to plan for a siege. Grant's troops
would control all roads into, and out of Vicksburg, while Porter's river
gunboats would quarantine Vicksburg along the water approaches.
Over the coming days, engineers would work with the
infantry, around the Vicksburg perimeter, to dig connected trenches, moving
ever closer to the enemy lines. These trenches were constructed, using
ingenious tools, such as saprollers, to protect the workers. These
saprollers were man-made barriers, constructed of cane, and cotton bales,
that would be rolled ahead of the troops. The trenches would be built
in a zig-zag route, that would prevent the enemy from enfilading long
sections of line. Additional protection, along the walls, would be
gained by gabions. Gabions were large cylindrical tubes, made of
wicker and filled with dirt. They could strengthen walls and trenches.
Over the coming weeks,
Grant would call for reinforcements to fortify his
lengthened lines. Troops arrived from Kentucky, and Missouri,
eventually providing Grant with over 75,000 troops. Meanwhile,
Confederate President Jefferson Davis was sending reinforcements to General
Joseph Johnston, at Jackson, MS and encouraging him to assist
Vicksburg. Johnston could not be persuaded and would offer no help to
Pemberton. Eventually, he would actually encourage Pemberton to leave Vicksburg to join
him. Johnston, being 30 miles away could not grasp the tactical
situation, for Pemberton, as Pemberton had no means of pushing through the
By the last of June, with food supplies
dwindling, and the local Vicksburg citizens dug into caves,
situation became critical. He had two options, going into July.
Cut his way out of the defenses, or surrender his army. In a war
council, with his lieutenants, Pemberton pushed for the first option, while
the majority of his generals pushed him to surrender. Pemberton would
meet with Grant, on July 3 to discuss possible terms for the capitulation of
U.S. Grant, true to his character would accept no terms other
than unconditional surrender. However, over the night of July 3 - July
4, Grant reconsidered. He knew the logistical difficulties he
encountered when Fort Donelson surrendered and did not want to have to
arrange transport for over twice as many troops entrenched at Vicksburg.
Grant would send
Pemberton revised terms, that only required the rebel
soldiers to sign paroles, promising not to fight again until properly
At 10:00 AM, on a very symbolic July 4th,
John C. Pemberton would officially surrender his army to
Ulysses S. Grant. The second
such surrender Grant received in little more than 18 months. Close to
30,000 Confederate soldiers would file out of the Vicksburg defenses,
stacking their arms. Shortly afterward, a selected cadre of Union
troops would march into Vicksburg, once again lofting the "Stars and
Stripes" over the Warren County Court House.
Outcome: Union victory
Union: 4,835 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 32,697 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
The July 4th holiday, in 1863, was a a day long remembered. In
the eastern theater, Major General
George Gordon Meade, pushed
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, once and for all, from northern soil at
Gettysburg, PA. While this battle was horrific in magnitude, it was
not the "key" Lincoln referred to early in the spring. With the
Pemberton's army, at Vicksburg,
U.S. Grant had permanently
removed two Confederate armies. Armies that would never again rebel
against the federal authority of the United States. Additionally, the
Mississippi, would, for the rest of the war, be the exclusive domain of the
Federal government, effectively cutting the Confederacy in two. After
the fall of Port Hudson, on July 9, Lincoln would succinctly state, "The
Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."
star would continue to rise. When Major General
William S. Rosecrans,
was trapped in Chattanooga, in November, Lincoln would send for Grant.
Creating the Department of Mississippi, Grant would command all troops west
of the Appalachians. In March, 1864, Grant would be promoted to
Lieutenant General, the first since George Washington, and would command all
Union land forces.