It was one of the bloodiest sieges of the war—a siege that drove men, women, and children to seek shelter in caves underground; where shortages of food drove people to eat mules, rats, even pets; where the fighting between armies was almost as nothing to the privations suffered by civilians who were under constant artillery bombardment—every pane of glass in Vicksburg was broken.
But the drama did not end there. Vicksburg was a vital strategic point for the Confederacy. When the city fell on July 4, 1863, the Confederacy was severed from its western states of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Its fall was simultaneous with General Robert E. Lee’s shattering defeat at Gettysburg far to the north. For generations, July 4 was no day to celebrate for Southerners. It was a day or mourning—especially for the people of Mississippi.
Yet this epic siege has long been given secondary treatment by popular histories focused on the Army of Northern Virginia and the Gettysburg campaign. The siege of Vicksburg was every bit as significant to the outcome of the war. The victorious Union commander, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, learned hard lessons assaulting Vicksburg, “the Confederate Gibraltar,” which he attempted to take or bypass no less than nine times, only to be foiled by the outnumbered, Northern-born Confederate commander, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton.
At the end, despite nearly beating the odds, Pemberton’s army was left for dead, without reinforcements, and the Confederacy’s fate was ultimately sealed.
This is the incredible story of a siege that lasted more than forty days, that brought out extraordinary heroism and extraordinary suffering, and that saw the surrender of not just a fortress and a city but the Mississippi River to the conquering Federal forces.
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Table of Contents
1 Vicksburg: The First Siege 1
2 John C. Pemberton 17
3 Northern Mississippi, 1862 33
4 Chickasaw Bluffs 53
5 The Canal, the Lake, and the River 75
6 The Yazoo Pass Expedition 87
7 The Steele's Bayou Expedition 99
8 To Grand Gulf 111
9 Port Gibson 137
10 Raymond 151
11 First Battle of Jackson 163
12 Champion Hill 175
13 The Big Black River 195
14 Into Vicksburg 203
15 The Assaults 219
16 Siege 243
17 The Surrender 293
18 Port Hudson 311
19 Aftermath 323
20 Conclusions 333
21 A Historical Footnote 339
Epilogue: What Happened to Them? 345
Order of Battle, Army of Mississippi at Vicksburg 389