Battle of Vicksburg

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Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Battle of Vicksburg History

Battle of Vicksburg
Vicksburg and the Civil War

Other Names: Siege of Vicksburg; Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg; Operations Against Vicksburg; Vicksburg Campaign

Location: Warren County, Mississippi

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.

Vicksburg Casualties
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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
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Map showing location of Vicksburg Battlefield

Battle of Vicksburg Killed, Wounded, and Captured
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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.

 

The 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
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Civil War Battle of Vicksburg Map

Hand Grenades at the Battle of Vicksburg
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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. 

 

The Confederate 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
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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
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High Resolution Map of Civil War Western Theater and Vicksburg in 1863

Battle of Vicksburg
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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
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Battle of Vicksburg Map

Battle of Vicksburg Interpretive Marker
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Battle of Vicksburg History Marker

Siege: President 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 victory.
 
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
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Abraham Lincoln

Battle of Vicksburg History
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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 wide front.
 
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
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Battle of Vicksburg, or Vicksburg Campaign, Battlefield and Union Assault Map

Total Casualties for Battle of Vicksburg
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Battle of Vicksburg Total Killed, Wounded, and Captured Soldiers

Grant Assaults Vicksburg Stronghold: May 22, 1863

Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
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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.

Vicksburg Battlefield
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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
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May 22nd, Attack on Vicksburg

The Siege of Vicksburg: May 26 - July 3, 1863

Vicksburg Civil War Battle
Union Soldiers and Confederate Fortifications.jpg
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 assault.
 
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 Mississippi River.

Vicksburg and the Civil War
Vicksburg Shelter.jpg
Camp life behind the Union Siege Lines

Stockade Redan: May 19-July 4, 1863

Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi, History
Confederate Defenses and Union Approaches.jpg
Confederate Defenses and Union Approaches

The Fortress Surrenders on July 4, 1863

Battle of Vicksburg Civil War History
Vicksburg Court House.jpg
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.jpg
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.jpg
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 treasures.
 
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.)

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. Continued below...

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.

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Related Studies:

 

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.

Sources: Vicksburg National Military Park; Library of Congress; National Archives and Records Administration; National Park Service; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

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