Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Battle of Vicksburg History
and the Civil War
Other Names: Siege of Vicksburg; Grant's
Operations Against Vicksburg; Operations Against Vicksburg; Vicksburg Campaign
Location: Warren County,
Campaign: Grant’s Operations Against Vicksburg (1863)
Date(s): May 18--July 4, 1863, Siege of Vicksburg (47 Days);
March 29--July 4, 1863, Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg (97 Days)
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant [US]; Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton [CS]
Forces Engaged: Army of the Tennessee [US]; Army of Vicksburg [CS]
Estimated Casualties May 18th--July 4th: 8,037 (US
4,835; CS 3,202)
Estimated Casualties March 29th--July
4th: 19,233 total (US 10,142; CS 9,091)
Result(s): Union victory
Battle of Vicksburg: A History
Introduction: Vicksburg, being absent any reinforcements, was an utterly doomed
city during the prolonged Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862--July 1863, as Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's
siege of the Mississippi port locale was relentless and accompanied with daily shelling from both land and
river. The city was reduced to large heaps of rubble that emanated the pungent odor of a modern-day trash dump. The inhabitants
had transitioned from palatial mansions to living in caves and large holes that had been burrowed in the bluffs
and hills that laced the ruins, and were living off dogs, mules, and snakes, as well as rats and other vermin that
occasionally strayed into the trap. There were so many caves and holes being occupied by the local citizenry that the Union
soldiers referred to Vicksburg as Prairie Dog Village.
|Battle of Vicksburg
"Vicksburg is so strong by nature and so well fortified that sufficient
force cannot be brought to bear against it to carry it by storm against the present Garrison. It must be taken by a regular
siege or by starving out the Garrison." Letter from Grant to Maj. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut, May 31, 1863
Grant's campaign was "one of the most brilliant in the world," said Lincoln, as Lee meanwhile
was opening the distance between his army and the entire State of Mississippi, because the Virginian had business
in the North at a familiar location named Gettysburg, a small town that would undoubtedly be unknown had it not
been for the 51,000 casualties that fell among its fields in July of 1863. Vicksburg would not receive assistance from Lee,
nor from any other army, because the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia had hoped that by pushing his massive army
into Union territory it would force Grant to abandon the ruinous port place and pursue him, and the other objective in
Pennsylvania was to forage for food and supplies in the abundant Northern fields and warehouses, and therefore grant
a much needed respite to the depleted crops just south of the Mason-Dixon.
In May and June of 1863, Maj.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s armies converged on Vicksburg, investing the city and entrapping a Confederate army under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton. On July 4, Vicksburg surrendered after
prolonged siege operations. This was the culmination of one of the most brilliant military campaigns of the war. With
the loss of Pemberton’s army and this vital stronghold on the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in half, therefore fulfilling Gen. Winfield
Scott's Anaconda Plan and further tightening the noose on the Confederacy. Grant's successes in the West boosted
his reputation, leading ultimately to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies.
On this site will you
receive reliable casualty figures for each battle during the 47-day Siege of Vicksburg and also the
casualty reports for both the Union and Confederate armies by battle, phase, and operation, and finally the
total numbers for all dates specified. An easy to read casualty list is included for quick reference, which shows
the killed, mortally wounded, wounded, missing, and captured for each army and action during the Battle of Vicksburg
and for Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg. Lastly, the final casualty tallies and grand totals concur with
all figures for the battle and operations against Fortress Vicksburg.
|Battle of Vicksburg Map
|Map showing location of Vicksburg Battlefield
|Battle of Vicksburg Killed, Wounded, and Captured
|Battle of Vicksburg Casualties, March 29 to July 4, 1863
Summary: Whereas Vicksburg was said to be a stronghold that
no army could ever conquer, a determined Ohioan by the name of General U.S. Grant thought otherwise. The Battle
of Vicksburg was a 47-day siege of the city (May 18--July 4, 1863) and was a part of Grant's Operations against
Vicksburg (March 29–July 4, 1863). While the subject is the Battle of Vicksburg, it is important to place
the action in context with its parent Vicksburg Campaign, which was an exhaustive effort to capture the City of Vicksburg,
a fortress city located high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River.
The Union army converged on Vicksburg, trapping Pemberton's force, and then
forcing the Confederate surrender. Grant attempted two assaults, May 19 and 22, in a brutal attempt to break through
the strong Confederate fieldworks. The latter assault initially achieved some success in McClernand's sector, according to
some, but it was repulsed with 3,200 casualties and not one inch of ground was gained by the Union command. Johnston ordered
Pemberton to evacuate the city and save his army, but Pemberton, now encircled, thought it impossible to withdraw safely.
Johnston planned to attack Grant and relieve Pemberton but was unable
to execute his plan in time. Johnston, who was commanding general, had intentionally delayed any action, thought some
at Richmond, and therefore he too was culpable for the fall of Vicksburg. Grant
besieged the Confederate army, and on July 4, after six weeks in which the soldiers and civilians of Vicksburg had no food
supplies and were bombarded constantly, Pemberton surrendered the city and his army.
In addition to Pemberton at his front, Grant had to be concerned with Confederate
forces to the rear. He stationed one division in the vicinity of the Big Black River bridge and another reconnoitered as far
north as Mechanicsburg, both to act as a covering force. By June 10, the IX Corps, under Maj. Gen. John G. Parke, was transferred
to Grant's command. This corps became the nucleus of a special task force whose mission was to prevent Johnston,
gathering his forces at Canton, from interfering with the siege. Sherman was given command of this task force and Brig. Gen.
Frederick Steele replaced him at the XV Corps on June 22. Johnston
eventually began moving in the direction of Vicksburg to relieve Pemberton and reached the Big Black River on July 1, but, in
what would have been a difficult encounter with Sherman, Johnston stalled until it was too late for the Vicksburg garrison,
and then fell back to Jackson, the capital.
Understanding Vicksburg: The Battle of Vicksburg is also known as the
Siege of Vicksburg and was fought from May 18 to July 4, 1863. The basis
for referring to the activity at Vicksburg as both a siege and battle is from the fact that more than 85% of the
total Union casualties were derived from two Federal assaults that were fought during May 19 and 22.
47-day Siege was part of Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg, which spanned 97-days from March 29 to July 4,
and the full Vicksburg Campaign (December 29, 1862–July 4, 1863) is oftentimes divided by military historians
into two formal phases: Operations Against Vicksburg (December 1862–January 1863) and Grant's Operations
Against Vicksburg (March–July 1863).
Since both phases are made
up of operations, it is important to state clearly which phase or operation is being studied and to be consistent when
using the terms for any offensive involving Vicksburg. The National Park Service, for instance, has some conflicting
dates and casualties for all things Vicksburg. While the Park shows Battle of Vicksburg it presents erroneous dates
and casualty figures for the timeframe (more than 19,000 casualties), and this is perhaps the primary reason for a lot
of the conflicting numbers that are available to the reader online.
Because many historians and
authors frequently interchange the term campaign when examining any battle, portion, or phase of the more
than six month contest for Vicksburg (December 29, 1862 to July 4, 1863), it has been very difficult to understand even
the basic history of the siege and from complicated to impossible to know
the casualties of both armies. Whereas writers often use the word campaign while discussing the Battle of Vicksburg, the
subject becomes rather muddled when either of the two phases of the Vicksburg Campaign are examined in another
chapter or section.
Two nouns that are not frequently used in this study are redan
and bluff. Redan is a work in a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack, and can be made of earthworks
or other material. A bluff is a steep ridge or cliff.
The Union casualties for the
Battle of Vicksburg are derived from the Skirmishes About Vicksburg on May 18, 20, and 21, (56 casualties);
First and Second Assaults on May 19 and 22, (4141 casualties); and Siege Operations from May 23--July 4
(638 casualties), for a grand total of 4845. The Confederate casualties during its Vicksburg Defense, May 18--July,
were 3,202. Grand total of 8,047 casualties during the Battle of Vicksburg.
|Battle of Vicksburg
|Civil War Battle of Vicksburg Map
|Hand Grenades at the Battle of Vicksburg
|Hand Grenades during the Siege of Vicksburg
Was it a battle or a siege? Which dates constitute the Vicksburg
Campaign? When was the battle and siege of Vicksburg? There were actually two principal battles within the siege, such
as when Grant moved a portion of his army out of the lines and pressed the enemy fiercely on both May 19 and
22, which resulted in more than 85% of the Union casualties during the 47-day siege. While the dates for the Battle
of Vicksburg, May 18 to July 4, are generally universally agreed upon, the battles inclusive of the dates are not, however.
Since the battles within the Siege of Vicksburg vary so do the casualty figures. Whereas the majority of the sources
for the killed and wounded vary greatly for the 47-day investment and siege, most sources seem to agree on the same 97-day
timespan for Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg (March 29 to July 4, 1863) and show the usual Union casualties of
10,142 and Confederate losses of 9,091. For most writers to reconcile their dates and casualties for all of
Grant's Operations, they tally their numbers for the Siege of Vicksburg (47-days), but only indicate the National
Park Service figures and leave it to the reader to imagine which battles were included and how the respective
Union and Confederate casualties were tabulated for the entire 97-days.
army suffered 3,202 in killed and wounded while Union casualties totaled 4,835 during the 47-day Siege
of Vicksburg, of which 4141, some 85%, of the Union losses occurred on the days of May 19 and 22, respectively.
The list of battles and casualties disclosed on this site for Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg total exactly
10,142 Union losses and 9,091 Confederate casualties, for a grand total of 19,233 casualties, therefore removing the guess
work as to which battles were fought and how many men perished on any given date.
Consider the following
questions as you read about the battle and capitulation of Vicksburg. How good was Lt. Gen. Grant's generalship? Was Confederate
Lt. Gen. 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? Why didn't Gen. Joseph Johnston move earlier in an attempt to break the siege? Did Gen.
Robert E. Lee have the authority to reinforce Vicksburg, if so, why didn't he come to the aid of Vicksburg?
How did the civilians deal with the constant bombardment and lack of food and supplies? What were the roles of infantry,
artillery, and cavalry in this critical campaign? How did the capitulation of Vicksburg effect the outcome of the war?
Was there any silver lining for the Confederacy with the loss, such as lessons learned?
Background: Vicksburg was strategically vital to
the Confederates, because while under their control it blocked Union navigation down the Mississippi. Together with control
of the mouth of the Red River and of Port Hudson to the south, it allowed communication with the states west of the river,
upon which the Confederates depended extensively for horses, cattle and reinforcements. The natural defenses of the city were
ideal, earning it the nickname "The Gibraltar of the Confederacy."
|Civil War and Vicksburg Bluffs
|Viewing down at the Mississippi River from the Vicksburg Bluffs
Vicksburg was located on a high bluff overlooking a horseshoe-shaped bend
in the river, De Soto Peninsula, making it almost impossible to approach by ship. North and east of Vicksburg was the
Mississippi Delta (sometimes known as the Yazoo Delta), an area 200 miles north to south and up to 50 miles across, which was
an astonishingly complex network of intersecting waterways some of which were navigable by small steamboats. The regions between
modern rivers and bayous formed closed basins called backswamps, of which were, for all practical purposes, untamed wildernesses,
utterly impassable by a man on horseback or by any form of wheeled vehicle, and very difficult even for a man on foot. About
twelve miles up the Yazoo River were Confederate batteries and entrenchments at Haynes Bluff. The Louisiana land west of Vicksburg
was also difficult, with many streams and poor country roads, widespread winter flooding, and it was on the opposite side
of the river from the fortress.
The city had been under Union naval attack before. Admiral David Farragut
moved up the river after he captured New Orleans and on May 18, 1862, demanded the surrender of Vicksburg. Farragut had insufficient
troops to force the issue, and he moved back to New Orleans. He returned with a flotilla in June 1862, but their attempts
(June 26–28) to bombard the fortress into surrender failed. They shelled Vicksburg throughout July and fought some minor
battles with a few Confederate vessels in the area, but their forces were insufficient to attempt a landing, and they abandoned
attempts to force the surrender of the city. Farragut investigated the possibility of bypassing the fortified cliffs by digging
a canal across the neck of the river's bend, the De Soto Peninsula.
On June 28, Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams, attached to Farragut's command,
began digging work on the canal by employing local laborers and some soldiers. Many of the men fell victim to tropical diseases
and heat exhaustion, and the work was abandoned by July 24. Williams was killed two weeks later in the Battle of Baton Rouge.
In the fall of 1862, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck was promoted from command
of the Western Theater to general-in-chief of all Union armies. On November 23, he stated to Grant his preference for
a major move down the Mississippi to Vicksburg. In Halleck's style, he left considerable initiative to design a campaign,
an opportunity that Grant seized. Halleck had received criticism for not moving promptly overland from Memphis, Tennessee,
to seize Vicksburg during the summer when he was in command on the scene. He believed that the Navy could capture the fortress
on its own, not knowing that the naval force was insufficiently manned with ground troops to finish the feat. What might have
achieved success in the summer of 1862 was no longer possible by November because the Confederates had amply reinforced the
garrison by that time.
|Battle of Vicksburg Map
|High Resolution Map of Civil War Western Theater and Vicksburg in 1863
|Battle of Vicksburg
|Stockade Redan, Vicksburg, present-day
Grant's army marched south down the Mississippi Central Railroad, making
a forward base at Holly Springs. He planned a two-pronged assault in the direction of Vicksburg. His principal subordinate,
Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, was to advance down the river with four divisions (about 32,000 men) and Grant would continue
with the remaining forces (about 40,000) down the railroad line to Oxford, where he would wait for developments, hoping to
lure the Confederate army out of the city to attack him in the vicinity of Grenada, Mississippi. On the Confederate side,
forces in Mississippi were under the command of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, an officer from Pennsylvania who chose to fight
for the South. Pemberton had approximately 12,000 men in Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi, and Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn had
approximately 24,000 at Grenada.
(Right) Stockade Redan was the site of Union determination and Southern mettle. Fighting on May 19
and 22 claimed 4141 Union men, and from henceforth Grant was forced to settle for a siege.
Meanwhile, political forces were at work. President Abraham Lincoln had
long recognized the importance of Vicksburg; he wrote "Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until
the key is in our pocket." Lincoln also envisioned a two-pronged offensive, but one up and down the river. Maj. Gen. John
A. McClernand, a War Democrat politician, had convinced Lincoln that he could lead an army down the river and take Vicksburg.
Lincoln approved his proposal and wanted Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks to advance up river from New Orleans at the same time.
While McClernand began organizing regiments, sending them to Memphis, back
in Washington, D.C., Halleck was nervous about McClernand and gave Grant control of all troops in his own department. McClernand's
troops were split into two corps, one under McClernand, the other under Sherman. McClernand complained but to no avail. Grant
appropriated his troops, one of several maneuvers in a private dispute within the Union Army between Grant and McClernand
that would continue throughout the campaign.
After crossing the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg at Bruinsburg
and driving northeast, Grant won battles at Port Gibson and Raymond and captured Jackson, the Mississippi state capital on
May 14, 1863, forcing Pemberton to withdraw westward. Attempts to stop the Union advance at Champion Hill and Big Black River
Bridge were unsuccessful. Pemberton knew that the corps under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was preparing to flank him from
the north; he had no choice but to withdraw or be outflanked. Pemberton burned the bridges over the Big Black River and took
everything edible in his path, both animal and plant, as he retreated to the well-fortified city of Vicksburg.
The Confederates evacuated Hayne's Bluff, which was occupied by Sherman's
cavalry on May 19, and Union steamboats no longer had to run the guns of Vicksburg, now being able to dock by the dozens up
the Yazoo River. Grant could now receive supplies more directly than by the previous route, which ran through Louisiana, over
the river crossing at Grand Gulf and Bruinsburg, then back up north.
Over three quarters of Pemberton's army had been lost in the two preceding
battles and many in Vicksburg expected General Joseph E. Johnston, in command of the Confederate Department of the West, to
relieve the city—which he never did. Large masses of Union troops were on the march to invest the city, repairing the
burnt bridges over the Big Black River; which Grant's forces crossed on May 18. Johnston sent a note to his general, Pemberton,
asking him to sacrifice the city and save his troops, a request that Pemberton would not follow.
|Vicksburg Battlefield Map
|Battle of Vicksburg Map
|Battle of Vicksburg Interpretive Marker
|Battle of Vicksburg History Marker
Abraham Lincoln told his political and military leaders, "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.... We can take all the northern ports
of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg." Lincoln assured his listeners that "I am acquainted with that
region and know what I am talking about, and as valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so."
It was imperative for the administration in Washington to regain control
of the lower Mississippi River, thereby opening that important avenue of commerce enabling the rich agricultural produce of
the Northwest to reach world markets. It would also split the South in two, sever a vital Confederate supply line, achieve
a major objective of the Anaconda Plan, and effectively seal the doom of Richmond. In the spring of 1863, Major General Ulysses
S. Grant moved his massive Army of the Tennessee on a campaign to pocket Vicksburg and provide Mr. Lincoln with the key to
At the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi River was the single
most important economic feature of the continent-- the very lifeblood of America. Upon the secession of the Southern states,
Confederate forces closed the river to navigation, which threatened to strangle Northern commercial interests.
The prize of Mississippi was thought to be impregnable by most strategists
of the war. By 1863, Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, controlling the transport
of troops, supplies and arms along a significant stretch of the river. The city was well defended on three sides by topography
— 200-foot bluffs mounted with guns overlooking the river to the west, impassable swamps and bayous to the north and
south — and on the east by a fortification-lined ridge. The Vicksburg
Campaign consisted of many important naval operations, troop maneuvers, failed initiatives, and eleven distinct battles from
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).
The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18–-July 4, 1863) was the final major
military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Vicksburg, led by Lt. Gen. John
C. Pemberton, into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. When
two major assaults (May 19 and 22, 1863) against the Confederate fortifications were repulsed with heavy casualties, Grant
decided to besiege the city beginning on May 25. Without reinforcements, supplies nearly gone, and after holding out for more
than forty days, the garrison finally surrendered on July 4. This action, combined with the surrender of Port Hudson to Maj.
Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks on July 9, yielded command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces, who would hold it for the
rest of the conflict.
Grant’s offensive in the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, began in late 1862 with setbacks. Confederate cavalry captured Grant's supply
base at Holly Springs, and William T. Sherman's
premature assault on Vicksburg failed. After a winter of frustration,
Grant's supporting fleet ran past the batteries and landed troops south of Vicksburg.
Grant then unexpectedly struck the capital at Jackson, Mississippi,
before turning toward Vicksburg. His lightning moves prevented
the cooperation of two Confederate armies in Mississippi and led to eventual surrender of
the besieged citadel of Vicksburg in July 1863. Grant's victory
virtually opened the river and bisected the Confederacy. A smashing victory against Gen. Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga
in November 1863 firmly established his reputation as the Union's finest commander. See also
(See also Mississippi Civil War History Homepage).
As the Union forces approached Vicksburg, Pemberton could field only 18,500 troops in his lines. Grant had
over 35,000, with more on the way. However, Pemberton had the advantage of terrain and fortifications that made his defense
nearly impregnable. The defensive line around Vicksburg ran approximately 6.5 miles, based on terrain of varying elevations
that included hills and knobs with steep angles for an attacker to ascend under fire.
The perimeter included many gun pits, forts, trenches, redoubts, and lunettes. The major fortifications of the line included
Fort Hill, on a high bluff north of the city; the Stockade Redan, dominating the approach to the city on Graveyard Road from
the northeast; the 3rd Louisiana Redan; the Great Redoubt; the Railroad Redoubt, protecting the gap for the railroad line
entering the city; the Square Fort (Fort Garrott); a salient along the Hall's Ferry Road; and the South Fort.
Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Union Army of the Tennessee brought three corps
to the battle: the XIII Corps, under Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand; the XV Corps, under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman; and the
XVII Corps, under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson. Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's
Confederate Army of Mississippi inside the Vicksburg line consisted of four divisions, under Maj. Gens. Carter L. Stevenson,
John H. Forney, Martin L. Smith, and John S. Bowen.
|Battle of Vicksburg
|Battle of Vicksburg History
|Map of Battle of Vicksburg, aka Siege of Vicksburg
Stockade Redan: Stockade Redan was a Confederate fortification constructed to protect the
Graveyard Road approach to Vicksburg. And the fortification was given its name because
of the wall, or 'stockade,' of poplar logs built across the Graveyard Road. The redan was attacked twice, on May 19 and 22,
and each time the Confederate garrison successfully repulsed the Union advance.
With lines neatly dressed and their battle flags blowing in the breeze above them, Sherman's troops surged
across the fields at 2:00 p.m. and through the abatis (obstructions of felled trees) toward Stockade Redan. Although the men
of the 1st Battalion, 13th United States Infantry, planted their colors on the exterior slope of Stockade Redan (a powerful
Confederate fort which guarded the road), the attack was repulsed with Union losses numbering 942 men.
Grant planned another assault for May 22, but this time with greater care. The Union troops would first
reconnoiter thoroughly and soften up the defenses with artillery and naval gunfire. The lead units were supplied with ladders
to ascend the fortification walls. Grant did not want a long siege, and this attack was to be by the entire army across a
First Assault on Vicksburg: Anxious for a quick victory, Grant made a hasty reconnaissance
of the Vicksburg defenses and ordered an assault on May 19. Of his three corps, however, only one was in proper position to
make the attack--Sherman's corps astride the Graveyard Road northeast of Vicksburg. Early in the morning Union artillery opened
fire and bombarded the Confederate works with solid shot and shell.
General Grant thought that Southern morale was so low after the defeats at Champion Hill and Big Black River
Bridge, so he wanted to overwhelm the Confederates before they could fully organize their defenses and ordered an immediate
assault against Stockade Redan. Troops from Sherman's corps had a difficult time approaching the position under rifle and
artillery fire from the 36th Mississippi Infantry, Brig. Gen. Louis Hébert's brigade—they had to negotiate a steep ravine
protected by abatis and cross a 6-foot-deep, 8-foot-wide ditch before attacking the 17-foot-high walls of the redan.
General Francis P. Blair, Jr.'s division, Sherman's corps, continued pressing toward the redan. Blair's
three brigades advanced over rough terrain obstructed by dozens of felled trees cut by the
Confederates to impede any Federal advances. Fresh Southern troops defended the redan, however, and as Blair's men began to
rise over the nearby knolls and hills, they fell quickly as trained Confederate guns began unleashing accurate shots into
the busted Union lines. Blair's advance, the Union first attempt, was easily repulsed.
Grant ordered an artillery bombardment to soften the defenses and at about 2 p.m., Sherman's division under
Maj. Gen. Francis P. Blair rose and advanced again, but only a small number of men were able to move even as far as the ditch
below the redan. The assault collapsed in a melee of rifle fire and hand grenades lobbing back and forth.
At Stockade Redan the Confederates had massed behind its earthworks, firing close-range volleys
into the attacking Federals, while intense Union artillery fire, along with keen-eyed sharpshooters, raked and blanketed
the field in attempts to pin the Confederates down as the blue uniforms appeared and moved like blue waves rolling
onto the scene. A few Union soldiers got close to the redan, but heavy Confederate fire
pinned them down, and under cover of darkness, the Federals withdrew.
The failed Federal assaults of May 19 damaged Union morale, deflating the
confidence the soldiers felt after their string of victories across Mississippi. They were also costly, with casualties of
157 killed, 777 wounded, and 8 missing, versus Confederate casualties of 8 killed and 62 wounded. The Confederates, assumed
to be demoralized, had regained their fighting edge.
1st Union Assault Map: May 19, 1863
|Vicksburg Siege and Vicksburg Campaign Map
|Battle of Vicksburg, or Vicksburg Campaign, Battlefield and Union Assault Map
|Total Casualties for Battle of Vicksburg
|Battle of Vicksburg Total Killed, Wounded, and Captured Soldiers
Grant Assaults Vicksburg Stronghold: May 22, 1863
|Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
|Union Troops attack Confederate positions
Still the Southern force was able to hold their position, and following
the failure of the May 22 assault, General Grant decided to conduct siege operations.
Grant still thought that his army could successfully storm the Vicksburg
defenses, and three days later, on May 22, he ordered another attack along the entire line. Gen. William T. Sherman ordered
his men to attack straight down the Graveyard Road to avoid the difficult terrain and Southern obstructions. Additionally,
150 volunteers, carrying wooden planks to bridge the ditch in front of the redan and ladders to climb the wall, went ahead
of the Federal infantry.
The Confederates held their fire until the assaulting wave neared the
redan, then opened with a devastating volley. The Union advance buckled as soldiers fell, but they were able to bridge
the ditch and two color bearers planted flags on the redan's exterior slope. But Southern fire was so intense that the Federals
soon retreated with heavy losses. Following this repulse of his troops, Grant did not order any additional frontal assaults
after the 22 May, but settled in for a siege.
|Union artillery target the Vicksburg Fortifications
2nd Union Assault: May 22, 1863
Undaunted by his failure on the 19th and realizing that he had been
too hasty, Grant made a more thorough reconnaissance then ordered another assault. Early on the morning of May 22, Union artillery
opened fire and for four hours bombarded the city's defenses. At 10:00 the guns fell silent and Union infantry was thrown
forward along a three-mile front. Sherman attacked once again down the Graveyard Road, McPherson in the center along the Jackson
Road, and McClernand on the south along the Baldwin Ferry Road and astride the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. Flags of
all three corps were planted at different points along the exterior slope of Confederate
fortifications. McClernand's men even made a short-lived penetration at Railroad Redoubt. But the Union forces were again
driven back and their casualties, now triple the loss sustained on May 19, were 3,199 and not one inch of ground
was gained. Gen. Grant, now obviously aware of the futility of the assaults, wisely accepted and settled for a long siege.
The style of fighting that Grant was now engaged in, would allow him to make many adjustments for another fight at Richmond
and Petersburg, when he and Gen. Lee would engage and grapple, only to withdrawal and then sway to and fro
in a cat and mouse attempt to outsmart the other while, Grant, stretching the siege lines daily, eventually cracked Lee's
line. Grant would be ready for the next siege, and it would be Lee who would settle in the trenches for nearly ten months
before Grant's overwhelming numbers would stretch and break the Confederate lines, and force Lee to move his battered and
bruised Army of Northern Virginia out of the lines and into the open in hopes of reaching the safety of a better defensive
position, but it would fail to materialize, and Lee would surrender to Grant within days.
|Battle of Vicksburg
|May 22nd, Attack on Vicksburg
The Siege of Vicksburg: May 26 - July 3, 1863
|Vicksburg Civil War Battle
|Union soldiers dig approach trenches
Following the failure of the May 22 assault, Grant realized that Vicksburg
could not be taken by storm and decided to lay siege to the city. Slowly his army established a line of works around the beleaguered
city and cut Vicksburg off from supply and communications with the outside world. Commencing on May 26, Union forces constructed
thirteen approaches along their front aimed at different points along the Confederate defense line. The object was to dig
up to the Confederate works then tunnel underneath them, plant charges of black powder, and destroy the fortifications. Union
troops would then surge through the breach and gain entrance to Vicksburg.
(Right) Union soldiers dig approach trenches toward Confederate fortifications.
During June, Union troops advanced their approaches slowly toward the Confederate defenses. Protected by the fire
of sharpshooters and artillery, Grant's fatigue parties neared their objectives by late June. Along the Jackson Road, a mine
was detonated beneath the Third Louisiana Redan on June 25, and Federal soldiers swarmed into the crater attempting to exploit
the breach in the city's defenses. The struggle raged for 26 hours during which time clubbed muskets and bayonets were freely
used as the Confederates fought with grim determination to deny their enemy access to Vicksburg. The troops in blue were finally
driven back at the point of bayonet and the breach sealed. On July 1, a second mine was detonated but not followed by an infantry
Throughout the weary month of June the gallant defenders of Vicksburg suffered under the constant bombardment of enemy
guns from reduced rations and exposure to the elements. Reduced in number by sickness and battle casualties, the garrison
of Vicksburg was spread dangerously thin. Soldiers and citizens alike began to despair that relief would ever come. At Jackson
and Canton, General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding Army of the West, gathered a relief force which took up the line
of march toward Vicksburg on July 1. By then it was too late as the sands of time had expired for the fortress city on the
|Vicksburg and the Civil War
|Camp life behind the Union Siege Lines
Stockade Redan: May 19-July 4, 1863
|Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi, History
|Confederate Defenses and Union Approaches
The Fortress Surrenders on July 4, 1863
|Battle of Vicksburg Civil War History
|U.S. Flag raised over Courthouse in Vicksburg
By early July, the Confederates were exhausted and starving, and Pemberton
was running out of options. Reinforcements were not coming. He knew that Grant was planning another attack for July 6, so
he arranged a meeting with the Union general on July 3, 1863.
On the hot afternoon of July 3, 1863, a cavalcade of horsemen in gray rode
out from the city along the Jackson Road. Soon white flags appeared on the city's defenses as General Pemberton rode beyond
the works to meet with his adversary--Grant. The two generals dismounted between the lines, not far from the Third Louisiana
Redan, and sat in the shade of a stunted oak tree to discuss surrender terms. Unable to reach an agreement, the two men returned
to their respective headquarters. Grant told Pemberton he would have his final terms by 10 p.m. True to his word, Grant sent
his final amended terms to Pemberton that night. Instead of an unconditional surrender of the city and garrison, Grant offered
parole to the valiant defenders of Vicksburg. Pemberton and his generals agreed that these were the best terms that could
be had, and in the quiet of his headquarters on Crawford Street, the decision was made to surrender the city.
(Right) U.S. Flag raised over Vicksburg Court House following surrender.
At 10 a.m., on July 4, white flags were again displayed from the Confederate
works and the brave men in gray marched out of their entrenchments, stacked their arms, removed their accouterments, and furled
their flags, at which time the victorious Union army marched in and took possession the city.
When informed of the fall of Vicksburg, President Lincoln exclaimed,
"The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."
Casualties: The total
casualties for the nearly six month struggle to subdue Vicksburg have been difficult to ascertain, and because Confederate
reports were incomplete, casualties vary for both phases of the campaign. The casualty
reports were derived from every respective action of the Siege of Vicksburg, and the figures add to the exact total of
the Second Phase, known as Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg.
As a result of the 47-day Battle of Vicksburg,
May 18 to July 4, the Confederate army suffered 3,202 casualties while Union losses totaled 4,835. Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg, lasting 97-days from March 29 to July 4, claimed
10,142 Union casualties and 9,091 Confederates in killed, wounded, missing, and captured. Grant said in his memoirs
that at Vicksburg 31,600 prisoners were surrendered, together with 172 cannon and about 60,000 muskets, and a large amount
of ammunition. The Union general also said that the 31,600 soldiers were paroled, but not without controversy.
Aftermath: The Confederate surrender following the Siege at Vicksburg is often considered a turning
point of the war, but when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade the previous
day, a major turning point had occurred. The capitulation of Vicksburg cut off the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and
Texas from the rest of the Confederacy, as well as communication with Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department
for the remainder of the war. Lee, turned back from Pennsylvania, would never attempt another invasion of the North,
and his army, now dispirited, realized that Lee too was not immortal.
After his surrender, Pemberton was exchanged as a prisoner on October 13,
1863, and he returned to Richmond. There he spent some eight months without an assignment. At first Gen. Braxton Bragg thought
he could use Pemberton, but after conferring with his own ranking officers he advised Davis that taking on the discredited
lieutenant general "would not be advisable." Pemberton resigned as a general officer on May 9, 1864.
Gen. Robert E. Lee would be promoted to General-in-Chief of Confederate
forces on January 31, 1865, and surrender to Gen. Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, VA. Gen. Joe Johnston
would continue to fight, and then meet with Gen. William T. Sherman and surrender the Army of Tennessee and all remaining
Confederate forces still active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, on April 26, making it the largest
surrender of the war, totaling 89,270 soldiers. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant would ride his war fame into politics and become the
18th U.S. President, and when he died, his pallbearers included Sheridan, Sherman and none other than Joe Johnston himself,
who had become friends with his late foe during their waning years.
Vicksburg Surrenders: July 4, 1863
|Battle of Vicksburg
|Vicksburg Surrenders on 4 July
Analysis: With the capture of Vicksburg, the mighty Mississippi
River was under Union control and the South was sliced in halves, but while it was a strategic Union victory, the Confederacy
was able to recycle the majority of the 31,600 men paroled by Grant, which perhaps only served to add more men in
the killed columns of the casualty reports since the war would continue for another 21 months.
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."
During the exhaustive Vicksburg Campaign,
December 26, 1862, to July 4, 1863, Grant said of Vicksburg,
31,600 prisoners were surrendered, with 172 cannon, approximately 60,000 muskets, and a large amount of ammunition.
The Vicksburg Campaign, which included the
battle and siege of Vicksburg, was a series of maneuvers and battles in the Western Theater of the 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, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, gained control of the river by capturing
this stronghold and defeating Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's Confederate forces stationed there.
On July 3, Pemberton sent a note to Grant,
who, as at Fort Donelson, first demanded unconditional surrender. But Grant reconsidered, not wanting to feed 30,000 hungry
Confederates in Union prison camps, and offered to parole all prisoners. Considering their destitute state, dejected and starving,
he never expected them to fight again; he hoped they would carry home the stigma of defeat to the rest of the Confederacy.
In any event, it would have occupied his army and taken months to ship that many prisoners north. Most of the men who were
paroled on July 6 were exchanged and received back into the Confederate Army on August 4, 1863, at Mobile Harbor, Alabama.
They were back in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by September and some fought in the Battles for Chattanooga in November and against
Sherman's invasion of Georgia in May 1864. The Confederate government protested the validity of the paroles on technical grounds
and the issue was referred to Grant who, in April 1864, was general in chief of the Army. The dispute effectively ended all
further prisoner exchanges during the war except for hardship cases. Surrender was formalized by an old oak tree, "made historical by the event."
The surrender was finalized on July 4, Independence Day, a day Pemberton had hoped would bring more sympathetic terms
from the United States. Although the Vicksburg Campaign continued with some minor actions, the fortress city had fallen and,
with the surrender of Port Hudson on July 9, the Mississippi River was firmly in Union hands and the Confederacy split in
two. President Lincoln famously announced, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."
After Vicksburg surrendered
on July 4, its residents refused to celebrate the holiday for 81 years. While it is correct to note that Vicksburg did occasionally
commemorate the holiday during the 81 year drought, it was only until the Second World War that July 4th would henceforth
be recognized and celebrated on a annual basis.
|Vicksburg National Military Park Map. NPS
|Vicksburg Battlefield Map. NPS
Vicksburg National Military Park: The 1,800 acre Vicksburg
National Military Park is home to hundreds of priceless artifacts that commemorate the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. The
park is home to 1,300 monuments, reconstructed forts, cannons and largest National Cemetery of Union soldiers in the country.
Within the park rests the U.S.S. Cairo which was retrieved from the bottom of
the Yazoo River in 1964. It is the only remaining Union ironclad gunboat. The adjacent museum displays innumerable artifacts
that were found on-board. The Old Court House Museum and the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum house collections of Civil War era
The once cleared topography has changed since the Civil War. The Vicksburg Battlefield today bears
little semblance to the landscape at the time of the siege and defense of Vicksburg. At the time of the battle, the land of
the Mississippi Delta had been cleared of its trees to make room for farms, but in the 1930s, trees were planted on the Vicksburg
Battlefield to minimize erosion.
(Sources and related reading listed below.)
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. Continued
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: 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.
Military Park; Library of Congress; National
Archives and Records Administration; National Park Service; Official Records of the Union
and Confederate Armies.