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Vicksburg Civil War

The Vicksburg Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in the Western Theater of the American Civil War directed against Vicksburg, Mississippi, a fortress city that dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River. The Union Army of the Tennessee under the command of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gained control of the river by capturing this stronghold and defeating Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's forces stationed there.

 

The campaign consisted of many important naval operations, troop maneuvers, failed initiatives, and eleven distinct battles over the period December 26, 1862, to July 4, 1863. Military historians divide the campaign into two formal phases: Operations Against Vicksburg (December 1862–January 1863) and Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg (March–July 1863).

Vicksburg War Casualties Killed Total Dead.jpg

Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg (March–July 1863), which included the Vicksburg Siege (May 18--July 4), claimed 10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate killed and wounded. The Confederacy also surrendered 29,495 soldiers; however, most of the Rebels were paroled and rejoined the Confederate Army. Furthermore, the Union captured significant quantities of artillery, small arms, and ammunition. Grant's Operations make Vicksburg the tenth bloodiest or costliest Civil War battle. Some writers, however, place the Battle of Fort Donelson at the 10th costliest or bloodiest, because they include the fort’s 12,000-man garrison that had surrendered. If surrendered Confederates are to be included, Vicksburg witnessed nearly 50,000 casualties (includes surrendered troops during Vicksburg Siege) and it should be the second costliest Civil War battle and only surpassed in total losses by Gettysburg. (See Bloodiest and Costliest Civil War Battles.) Donelson also witnessed many of its captured soldiers paroled--through future "prisoner exchanges"--and recycled into the Confederate Army. (See Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi: American Civil War: Union Report.)

Union vessels & ships running Confederate blockade
Vicksburg Civil War Blockade.jpg
Mississippi River Squadron running the Confederate blockade at Vicksburg on April 16, 1863

Grant, in his Memoirs, discusses the Confederate capitulation at Vicksburg: "The enemy surrendered this morning. The only terms allowed is their parole as prisoners of war. This I regard as a great advantage to us at this moment. It saves, probably, several days in the capture, and leaves troops and transports ready for immediate service. Sherman, with a large force, moves immediately on Johnston, to drive him from the State. I will send troops to the relief of Banks, and return the 9th army corps to Burnside." Grant further proclaims: "At Vicksburg, 31,600 prisoners were surrendered, with 172 cannon, approximately 60,000 muskets, and a large amount of ammunition." See also Mississippi Civil War History Homepage.

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

Recommended Reading: Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (Civil War America). Description: When Confederate troops surrendered Vicksburg on July 4, 1863--the day after the Union victory at Gettysburg--a crucial port and rail depot for the South was lost. The Union gained control of the Mississippi River, and the Confederate territory was split in two. In a thorough yet concise study of the longest single military campaign of the Civil War, Michael B. Ballard brings new depth to our understanding of the Vicksburg campaign by considering its human as well as its military aspects. Continued below.

Ballard examines soldiers' attitudes, guerrilla warfare, and the effects of the campaign and siege on civilians in and around Vicksburg. He also analyzes the leadership and interaction of such key figures as U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, John Pemberton, and Joseph E. Johnston, among others. Blending strategy and tactics with the human element, Ballard reminds us that while Gettysburg has become the focal point of the history and memory of the Civil War, the outcome at Vicksburg was met with as much celebration and relief in the North as was the Gettysburg victory, and he argues that it should be viewed as equally important today.

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Recommended Reading: TRIUMPH AND DEFEAT: The Vicksburg Campaign. Description: Author Terry Winschel, chief historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, weaves a professional lifetime of personal experience and scholarship into this remarkable study. His chapters cover every major aspect of what many consider to have been the decisive military achievement of the war--the capture of "The Gibraltar of the Confederacy." Continued below.

How good was General Grant's generalship? Was Confederate Lieutenant General John Pemberton really as inept as we have been led to believe? Which battle of the months-long campaign was decisive and sealed the fate of the city? How did the civilians deal with the lack of food and supplies? What role did cavalry play in this critical campaign? Winschel discusses these issues and many others with articles on General Grant's march through Louisiana, Grierson's Federal cavalry raid, the battles of Port Gibson and Champion Hill, the infantry assault on Vicksburg, siege operations, John Walker's Texas Division, the citizens of Vicksburg, and much more. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terrence Winschel is the Chief Historian of Vicksburg National Military Park and the author or editor of several books and dozens of articles on the Civil War. Winschel and family reside in Vicksburg.

 

Recommended Reading: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author), James McPherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities, the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) Continued below...

The text is augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.
 
Recommended Reading: Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River (Great Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: The struggle for control of the Mississippi River was the longest and most complex campaign of the Civil War. It was marked by an extraordinary diversity of military and naval operations, including fleet engagements, cavalry raids, amphibious landings, pitched battles, and the two longest sieges in American history. Every existing type of naval vessel, from sailing ship to armored ram, played a role, and military engineers practiced their art on a scale never before witnessed in modern warfare. Union commanders such as Grant, Sherman, Farragut, and Porter demonstrated the skills that would take them to the highest levels of command.

When the immense contest finally reached its climax at Vicksburg and Port Hudson in the summer of 1863, the Confederacy suffered a blow from which it never recovered. Here was the true turning point of the Civil War. This fast-paced, gripping narrative of the Civil War struggle for the Mississippi River is the first comprehensive single-volume account to appear in over a century. Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River tells the story of the series of campaigns the Union conducted on land and water to conquer Vicksburg and of the many efforts by the Confederates to break the siege of the fortress. William L. Shea and Terrence J. Winschel present the unfolding drama of the campaign in a clear and readable style, correct historic myths along the way, and examine the profound strategic effects of the eventual Union victory.

 
Recommended Reading: Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg. Description: The Battle of Champion Hill was the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. The May 16, 1863, fighting took place just 20 miles east of the river city, where the advance of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Federal army attacked Gen. John C. Pemberton's hastily gathered Confederates. Continued below.
The bloody fighting seesawed back and forth until superior Union leadership broke apart the Southern line, sending Pemberton's army into headlong retreat. The victory on Mississippi's wooded hills sealed the fate of both Vicksburg and her large field army, propelled Grant into the national spotlight, and earned him the command of the entire U.S. armed forces. Timothy Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State and works as a historian for the National Park Service, has written the definitive account of this long overlooked battle. His vivid prose is grounded upon years of primary research and is rich in analysis, strategic and tactical action, and character development. Champion Hill will become a classic Civil War battle study
 

Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, by David J. Coles (Editor), David Stephen Heidler (Editor), Jeanne T. Heidler Ph.D. (Editor, Introduction), Jeanne T. Heidler (Author), James M. McPherson (Author) (Hardcover) (2784 pages). Review From Booklist: After more than 100 years, the Civil War still attracts more public interest than any other event in U.S. history. This fact is reflected in the inordinate number of books, well over 50,000, written about the conflict. ABCCLIO has published the most comprehensive reference work, offering more than 1,600 signed entries, over 300 contributors, more than 500 illustrations and 75 maps, and over 250 primary source documents. Continued below...

The encyclopedia provides in A-Z format information on the war's strategic aims, diplomatic and political maneuvering, key military actions (with descriptions of more than 60 engagements), key participants (civilian and military), and impact on American society and history. Mary Ann Ball Bickerdyke, a Union Army nurse; Matthew Brady, a photographer who accompanied the Union Army in the first main battle; and military leaders such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and James Longstreet are just a few of the individuals covered. The encyclopedia not only treats the military aspects of the war but presents full coverage of the politics, literature, art, music, and homefront events. Every conceivable subject--from Chickamauga, Battle of to Harper's Weekly to Gatling gun to Jews-- receives consideration. .Entries range from less than one-half page to more than eighteen pages for the Atlanta Campaign. Each essay is followed by see also references to related entries elsewhere in the set, as well as extensive suggested readings for deeper research on that particular subject. The final volume compiles more than 250 topically arranged documents, including Abraham Lincoln's famous "A house divided against itself cannot stand" speech, excerpts from Frederick Douglass' "My Escape from Slavery" speech, Jefferson Davis' "Proclamation of 1861," the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and more. These primary source materials are an invaluable enhancement to the set. Following the documents, one finds five appendixes. Appendix I lists the Confederate States of America's general officers, followed by its government in appendix II. Appendix III lists the officers of the United States of America, followed by its government in appendix IV. Appendix V is a directory of Civil War battlefield sites with addresses, phone numbers, and maps. Following the appendixes is a "Civil War Chronology" showing relationships between military actions and political, diplomatic, and social developments. A brief glossary provides definitions for the researcher unfamiliar with such terms as cashier ("dishonorably discharge an office") and retrograde ("an orderly retreat usually designed to move away from an enemy"). An extensive bibliography lists all the resources referenced throughout the volumes. The index indicates main entries in bold print, while illustrations are identified with italics. The index is detailed and comprehensive. For example, under African American sailors, there are references to individuals who relate to this category, such as Gideon Welles and Francis Shoup. Under Gettysburg, battle of one finds page references not only to information about the battle but also to related people, places, and events. The set is handsomely designed, with numerous period photographs complementing the text.. There are some minor criticisms regarding layout, which makes maneuvering the set a bit cumbersome. The index to all volumes can only be found in volume five, which means the researcher has to use two volumes most of the time; a cumulative index in each volume would have made access easier. The index cites only page numbers, leaving the user to guess which volume a page might be in. Neither the bibliographies nor the directory to battle sites makes reference to the copious information that is available through the World Wide Web. However, these are small shortcomings. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War is the most comprehensive reference work written about its topic, providing both the novice and the expert an opportunity to expand their knowledge of this vital aspect of U.S. history. Recommended for high-school, public, and academic libraries. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap (Special features): 1,600+ signed, A-to-Z entries, each with references to further reading. 300+ contributors, including some of the leading Civil War scholars at work today. 500+ illustrations, including contemporary photographs, lithographs, and drawings. 75 maps created specially for this encyclopedia. 250+ primary source documents that provide "you-are-there" immediacy: the Dred Scott decision, Lee’s Farewell Address—speeches, legislation, military and civilian correspondence, editorials, and eyewitness reports. Chronology of major political, diplomatic, and military events. Glossary that defines military terms and explains usages peculiar to the period. In-depth coverage of the often-overlooked roles of African Americans, immigrants, and women, in battle and on the home front. Comprehensive treatment of subjects usually covered only in specialized monographs, from social conditions and public reactions to the war to press coverage and elections. Full accounts of the major battles, complete with detailed dispositions of forces, commanders, and orders of battle—as well as smaller engagements and their role in the larger military context. Coverage of subjects related to or affected by the war: slavery, states’ rights, secession, emancipation, Reconstruction, the involvement of foreign powers, literature, photography, art, conscription, conscientious objection, the role of immigrants. Biographies of military, political, diplomatic, and cultural figures, among them Horace Greeley, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Fitzhugh Lee, George E. Pickett, Herman Melville, Eppa Hunton, Petroleum V. Nasby, Henry Wirz. Lists of the officers of the Union and Confederate armies and the members of the two governments. Special battlefield section for sites in sixteen states, with location maps and visitor information. Exhaustive subject index and cross-referencing.

Sources: Casualty numbers from National Park Service and Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph: Colored lithograph initially published by Currier & Ives, New York, 1863; Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.

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