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21 Readings About the Great Battles of the Civil War #9-- The Battle & Siege of Vicksburg, MS


John Clifford Pemberton (August 10, 1814 – July 13, 1881), was a career United States Army officer who fought in the Seminole Wars and with distinction during the Mexican–American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, noted for his defeat and surrender in the critical Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. 1 Early life and career


The Battle of Vicksburg was fought from May 18, 1863 to July 4, 1863 and led by the Union General Ulysses S. Grant against the Confederate Army led by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton. This famous Civil War battle and siege was fought between 77,000 Union soldiers and 33,000 Confederate troops.

       A primary objective of the Union forces in the Civil War was to cut the Confederacy in two by winning control of the Mississippi River. To do this it was necessary to take the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Miss. As long as Vicksburg was held by the South, Union vessels could not operate freely on the river. The city also served as an important transportation point for the Confederacy. Supplies, arms, and men from the southwestern states were assembled at Vicksburg and then transported eastward by rail.

       On Jan. 29, 1863, General Grant was put in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg. It was a difficult assignment because the city, located east of the Mississippi, was on a high bluff overlooking a hairpin bend in the river. All earlier attacks against Vicksburg had failed. Grant now set his men to work with pick and shovel rather than with guns. They tried to dig a canal across the neck of land opposite the city and thus bypass Vicksburg by turning the river from its old bed. Despite their most strenuous efforts Grant's troops failed to change the course of the river. Another way to reach the city had to be found. Grant saw that Vicksburg could be approached only from the south and east.

       The west bank of the Mississippi became dry enough for the men to travel over, but how were they to recross to the east bank after getting below the city? This could be done in only one way: The Union fleet would have to face the Confederate batteries and go down the stream as the men marched along the west shore. One dark night the attempt was made. The Confederates learned of the plan and sent troops across the river in skiffs. They set fire to houses on the shore so that Confederate gunners might have light to see the Union ships. Nevertheless all but one of the Union's vessels ran by the batteries in safety and transported Grant's men to the eastern bank.

        This was all accomplished by the end of April 1863. Now began the task of pushing the Confederate troops back into the city. Seven times Grant met and defeated them before he reached Vicksburg. Failing to take the town by storm, he settled down to starve it into surrender. For seven weeks the town held out.

       A Confederate woman who was shut up in the city gave this description of life during that time: "So constantly dropped the shells around the city that the inhabitants made preparations to live under the ground during the siege. We seized the opportunity one evening, when the gunners were probably at their supper, for we had a few moments of quiet, to take possession of our cave. Our dining, breakfasting, and supper hours were quite irregular. When the shells were falling fast, the servants came in for safety, and our meals waited; again they would fall slowly . . . and out would start the cooks to do their work."

       Supplies ran low and were rationed. Horses and mules were killed for meat. Men died of disease and starvation. When Gen. John Pemberton finally asked what terms would be given them, Grant replied: "Unconditional surrender." Pemberton was forced to accept these hard terms on July 4, 1863. Vicksburg had fallen; the Confederacy was divided.

From Wikepedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Vicksburg

Siege of Vicksburg

Part of the American Civil War

Battle of Vicksburg, Kurz and Allison.png

Siege of Vicksburg, by Kurz and Allison



May 18 – July 4, 1863


Warren County, Mississippi


Decisive Union victory


United States

Confederate States

Commanders and leaders

Ulysses S. Grant

John C. Pemberton (POW)

Units involved

Army of the Tennessee

Army of Vicksburg




Casualties and losses

4,835 total

3,202 killed or wounded
29,495 surrendered

A Letter from Vicksburg

U.S. Grant's Letter to his Father

June 15, 1863
Ulysses S. Grant

The following is a letter from U.S. Grant to his father explaining his position and the situation during the Siege of Vicksburg.


I have received several letters from Mary and yourself, but as I have to deal with nineteen-twentieths of those received, have neglected to answer them.

All I can say is that I am well. I have the enemy closely hemmed in all round. My position is naturally strong and fortified against an attack from outside. I have been so strongly reinforced that Johnston will have to come with a mighty host to drive me away.--I do not look upon the fall of Vicksburg as in the least doubtful. If, however, I could have carried the place on the 22nd of last month, I could by this time have made a campaign that would have made the State of Mississippi almost safe for a solitary horseman to ride over. As it is, the enemy have a large army in it, and the season has so far advanced that water will be difficult to find for an army marching, besides the dust and heat that must be encountered. The fall of Vicksburg now will only result in the opening of the Mississippi River and demoralization of the enemy. I intended more from it. I did my best, however, and looking back can see no blunder committed.


 From  http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/us-grants-letter-to-his-1.html


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