After a series of victories through Mississippi early in the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had reached the critical point in its campaign to capture Vicksburg. Taking the city on the hill would allow the Union to control the Mississippi River and would divide the Confederacy in half. Confederate morale was low, and a Union victory in the war appeared close before the start of Grant’s assault against General John C. Pemberton’s Army of Mississippi.
But due to difficult terrain, strong defenses, and uncoordinated movements, the quick triumph Grant desired was unattainable. On the afternoon of May 19, with little rest, preparation, or reconnaissance, Union forces charged the Confederate lines only to be repulsed. A respite between the assaults allowed both sides to reinforce their positions. Early on May 22 the Union artillery sought to soften the stronghold’s defenses before the general attack, but despite the Union forces’ preparation, the fighting proved even more disorganized and vicious. Again Grant failed to move Pemberton. Not wanting to risk more soldiers in a third attack, Grant conceded to the necessity of laying siege. Confederate morale climbed as the Southerners realized they had held their ground against an overwhelming force.
Editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear have assembled five captivating essays that examine Grant’s unsuccessful assaults against Confederate defensive lines around Vicksburg. Ranging from military to social history, the essays further historical debates on prominent topics, such as the reactions of Midwesterners to the first failures of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. Two essays from opposing sides analyze the controversial decisions surrounding the Railroad Redoubt, the site of the bloodiest fighting on May 22. Another investigates how the tenacity of Texan reinforcements forced Union soldiers to abandon their gains.
Peppered with first-hand observations and bolstered by an impressive depth of research, this anthology is an invitingly written account and comprehensive assessment. By zeroing in on the two assaults, the contributors offer essential clarity and understanding of these important events within the larger scope of the Civil War’s Vicksburg Campaign.
Edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear Southern Illinois University Press, 2020 Library of Congress E475.27 | Dewey Decimal 973.7344
A detailed analysis of the end of the Vicksburg Campaign and the forty-day siege
Vicksburg, Mississippi, held strong through a bitter, hard-fought, months-long Civil War campaign, but General Ulysses S. Grant’s forty-day siege ended the stalemate and, on July 4, 1863, destroyed Confederate control of the Mississippi River. In the first anthology to examine the Vicksburg Campaign’s final phase, nine prominent historians and emerging scholars provide in-depth analysis of previously unexamined aspects of the historic siege.
Ranging in scope from military to social history, the contributors’ invitingly written essays examine the role of Grant’s staff, the critical contributions of African American troops to the Union Army of the Tennessee, both sides’ use of sharpshooters and soldiers’ opinions about them, unusual nighttime activities between the Union siege lines and Confederate defensive positions, the use of West Point siege theory and the ingenuity of Midwestern soldiers in mining tunnels under the city’s defenses, the horrific experiences of civilians trapped in Vicksburg, the Louisiana soldier's defense of Jackson amid the strains of piano music, and the effect of the campaign on Confederate soldiers from the Trans-Mississippi region.
The contributors explore how the Confederate Army of Mississippi and residents of Vicksburg faced food and supply shortages as well as constant danger from Union cannons and sharpshooters. Rebel troops under the leadership of General John C. Pemberton sought to stave off the Union soldiers, and though their morale plummeted, the besieged soldiers held their ground until starvation set in. Their surrender meant that Grant’s forces succeeded in splitting in half the Confederate States of America.
Editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear, along with their contributors—Andrew S. Bledsoe, John J. Gaines, Martin J. Hershock, Richard H. Holloway, Justin S. Solonick, Scott L. Stabler, and Jonathan M. Steplyk—give a rare glimpse into the often overlooked operations at the end of the most important campaign of the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant’s ingenious campaign to capture the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River was one of the most decisive events of the Civil War and one of the most storied military expeditions in American history. The ultimate victory at Vicksburg effectively cut the Confederacy in two, gave control of the river to Union forces, and delivered a devastating blow from which the South never fully recovered. Editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear have assembled essays by prominent and emerging scholars, who contribute astute analysis of this famous campaign’s most crucial elements and colorful personalities.
Encompassed in this first of five planned volumes on the Vicksburg campaign are examinations of the pivotal events that comprised the campaign’s maneuver stage, from March to May of 1863. The collection sheds new light on Grant’s formidable intelligence network of former slaves, Mississippi loyalists, and Union spies; his now legendary operations to deceive and confuse his Confederate counterparts; and his maneuvers from the perspective of classic warfare. Also presented are insightful accounts of Grant’s contentious relationship with John A. McClernand during the campaign; interactions between hostile Confederate civilians and Union army troops; and the planning behind such battles as Grierson’s Raid, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River Bridge.