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Title: Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Author: Everhart, William C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    [Illustration: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR · March 3, 1849]

                     Stewart L. Udall, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_


This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service of the United States
Department of the Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing
Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
Washington 25, D. C. Price 25 cents.

                  National Military Park, Mississippi

                         by William C. Everhart

    [Illustration: Siege cannon.]

                        Washington, D. C., 1954
                             (Reprint 1961)

_The National Park System, of which Vicksburg National Military Park is
a unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic
heritage of the United States for the benefit and inspiration of its



      Vicksburg and the Mississippi                                     1
      The First Moves Against Vicksburg                                 3
      Grant’s First Failure at Vicksburg                                6
      The Geographical Problem of Vicksburg                             8
      Grant’s Canal                                                    10
      Duckport Canal                                                   12
      Lake Providence Expedition                                       12
      The Yazoo Pass Expedition                                        14
      The Steele’s Bayou Expedition                                    14
      Porter Runs the Vicksburg Batteries                              16
      The River Crossing                                               19
      The Battle of Port Gibson                                        21
      The Strategy of the Vicksburg Campaign                           21
      The Battles of Raymond and Jackson                               23
      The Battle of Champion’s Hill                                    26
      The Battle of Big Black River                                    30
      The Campaign Ended                                               31
  THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG                                               33
      The Confederate Defense Line                                     33
      The Assault of May 19                                            34
      The Assault of May 22                                            35
      Union Siege Operations                                           40
      Confederate Trench Life                                          41
      Civilian Life in Vicksburg During the Siege                      45
      Fraternization                                                   45
      Johnston’s Dilemma                                               47
      The Surrender of Vicksburg                                       49
      The Significance of the Fall of Vicksburg                        52
  GUIDE TO THE AREA                                                    54
  THE PARK                                                             60
  HOW TO REACH THE PARK                                                60
  ADMINISTRATION                                                       60
  RELATED AREAS                                                        60
  VISITOR FACILITIES                                                   60

    [Illustration: _Merchant steamers unloading supplies at Vicksburg
    after the surrender._ Courtesy Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: Cannon overlooking the river.]

_Across the imperishable canvas of the American Civil War are vividly
recorded feats of arms and armies, and acts of courage and steadfast
devotion which have since become a treasured heritage for all Americans.
Among the military campaigns, few, if any, present action over so vast
an area, of such singular diversity, and so consequential to the outcome
of the war, as the great struggle for control of the Mississippi River.
Seagoing men-of-war and ironclad gunboats engaged shore defenses and
escorted troops along river and bayou; cavalry raids struck far behind
enemy lines as the armies of the West marched and countermarched in a
gigantic operation which culminated in the campaign and siege of
Vicksburg. Protected by heavy artillery batteries on the riverfront and
with land approaches to the north and south guarded by densely wooded
swamplands, Vicksburg defied large-scale land and river expeditions for
over a year. Finally the tenacious Grant, in a campaign since accepted
as a model of bold strategy and skillful execution, forced the surrender
of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, splitting the Confederacy in two and
securing for the North its great objective in the Western Theater._


Control of the Mississippi River, whose course meandered over 1,000
miles from Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf of Mexico and divided the
Confederacy into almost equal parts, was of inestimable importance to
the Union from the outbreak of hostilities. The agricultural and
industrial products of the Northwest, denied their natural outlet to
markets down the great commercial artery to New Orleans, would be
afforded uninterrupted passage. It would provide a safe avenue for the
transportation of troops and their supplies through a tremendous area
ill-provided with roads and railroads; the numerous navigable streams
tributary to the Mississippi would offer ready routes of invasion into
the heart of the South. Union control would cut off and isolate the
section of the Confederacy lying west of the river—Texas, Arkansas, and
most of Louisiana—comprising almost half of the land area of the
Confederacy and an important source of food, military supplies, and
recruits for the Southern armies. Forcefully emphasizing the strategic
value of the Mississippi was the dispatch of the General in Chief of the
Union armies to Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant on March 20, 1863, as Grant
prepared to launch his Vicksburg campaign:

    [Illustration: _“Johnny Reb.” A volunteer soldier of the
    Confederacy._ Courtesy Confederate Museum, Richmond.]

  The great objective on your line now is the opening of the Mississippi
  River, and everything else must tend to that purpose. The eyes and
  hopes of the whole country are now directed to your army. In my
  opinion, the opening of the Mississippi River will be to us of more
  advantage than the capture of forty Richmonds.

To protect this vital lifeline, the Confederacy had erected a series of
fortifications at readily defensible locations along the river from
which the Union advance could be checked. Pushing southward from
Illinois by land and water, and northward from the Gulf of Mexico by
river, Union army and naval units attacked the Confederate strongpoints
from both ends of the line. They captured post by post and city by city
until, after the first year of the war, Vicksburg alone barred complete
Union possession of the Mississippi River. From the city ran the only
railroad west of the river between Memphis and New Orleans. Through the
city most of the supplies from the trans-Mississippi were shipped to
Confederate armies in the East. The city’s batteries on the bluffs,
commanding a 5-mile stretch of the river, effectively prevented Union
control of the Mississippi. Vicksburg was indeed the key, declared
Lincoln, and the war could not be brought to a successful conclusion
“until that key is in our pocket.”

    [Illustration: _“Billy Yank.” A volunteer soldier of the Union._
    Courtesy Library of Congress.]


David Farragut, first admiral of the United States Navy, early in May
1862, headed his Western Gulf Squadron of oceangoing vessels up the
Mississippi. In a spectacular engagement he passed the forts protecting
New Orleans and captured the South’s largest port city. Proceeding 400
miles up river, Farragut received the surrenders of Baton Rouge, capital
of Louisiana, and Natchez, Miss., arriving before Vicksburg on May 18,
just 1 year before Grant’s army invested the city from the rear. At the
same time, Flag Officer C. H. Davis was moving down the Mississippi
River from the north, commanding a flotilla whose striking power was
largely provided by a ram fleet under Col. Charles Ellet, Jr., and the
seven “Pook Turtles”—ironclad gunboats, built on the Northern rivers,
which mounted 13 guns in an armored casemate resting on a flat-bottomed

After capturing Memphis in June 1862 and completely destroying the
Confederate fleet of converted river steamboats, Davis pushed southward
and on July 1 dropped anchor beside Farragut’s fleet just north of
Vicksburg. All of the Mississippi River was now in Union possession,
except for a section at and below Vicksburg.

The batteries of Vicksburg had been passed for the first time on June
28. On that day Farragut blasted the city and its defenses with
broadsides from his ships and a devastating fire from Comdr. David Dixon
Porter’s mortar boats in an unsuccessful attempt to reduce the city by
naval attack. It was clearly evident from this experience that a
powerful land force would be required to capture fortress Vicksburg.
Only 3,000 troops under Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams had accompanied the
expedition, and they were put to work with pick and shovel to dig a cut
off which might permit river traffic to bypass the Vicksburg batteries.
As the fleets idled above Vicksburg, the sweltering monotony was
spectacularly interrupted by the short but battle-filled career of the
Confederate ironclad ram _Arkansas_, which performed at Vicksburg one of
the great feats of arms on the Western waters.

The energy and skill of Lt. Isaac N. Brown, who commanded the
_Arkansas_, had enabled the ram to be readied for action despite almost
impossible handicaps in securing materials. Routing the Union vessels
sent to apprehend her, the venturesome man-of-war stood for the two
Federal fleets lying at anchor just above Vicksburg and, with guns
blazing, passed entirely through the massed flotillas to safety under
the Vicksburg batteries. Here the _Arkansas_ withstood all attempts to
destroy her and presented a formidable threat to Farragut’s wooden

By the end of July, conditions indicated to Farragut that a withdrawal
from Vicksburg was necessary. In the hot, fetid atmosphere of the river
the disease rate had so increased that only 800 of Williams’ 3,000 men
were fit for duty. At the same time, the steadily falling waters
threatened to maroon his deep-draught vessels. Farragut, with Williams’
troops aboard, moved down river to New Orleans, while Davis steamed up
river, leaving Vicksburg unopposed. The initial expedition against
Vicksburg had failed.

    JULY 1862]

    [Illustration: _Scene of Sherman’s assault against the Bluffs at
    Chickasaw Bayou._ From _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_.]

With the Union withdrawal, communications between the sections of the
Confederacy east and west of the Mississippi, which had been temporarily
curtailed, were resumed. From Vicksburg to Port Hudson, a distance of
250 miles by river, the Mississippi was now in Confederate hands. Into
the Mississippi, just above Port Hudson, emptied the Red River which
drained much of the trans-Mississippi South, and down which great stores
of food were being floated to supply the armies of the Confederacy. It
was imperative for the North to close off this important supply route.


In October 1862, Grant, who had won the sobriquet of “Unconditional
Surrender” at Fort Donelson and had rallied his army from near defeat at
bloody Shiloh, was placed in command of the Department of the Tennessee
with headquarters at Memphis; his objective—to clear the Mississippi
River. The same month, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, a West Pointer, born
and raised in Pennsylvania, who had served with Grant in the Mexican
War, was placed in command of the Confederate troops defending the
Mississippi; his objective—to keep the Southern supply line open and
prevent loss of the river. Vicksburg would be the focus of military
operations for both commanders.

The first full-scale expedition against Vicksburg was initiated in
December 1862, with Grant pushing southward through the State of
Mississippi to strike Vicksburg from the rear as Maj. Gen. William
Tecumseh Sherman, with an army of 32,000 men aboard 60 transports,
proceeded down river from Memphis. Grant anticipated that his advance
would pull Pemberton’s army away from Vicksburg, permitting Sherman to
make a lodgment on the bluffs immediately north of the city against a
greatly reduced garrison. On December 20, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, with
a striking force of 3,500 Confederate cavalry, swung in behind the Union
line of march, capturing and burning $1,500,000 of military goods at
Grant’s supply base in Holly Springs. Unwilling to wage a campaign
without a base of supply, Grant abandoned his campaign and returned to

Sherman made his assault on December 29 at Chickasaw Bayou, 5 miles
north of Vicksburg. The land here was a low, swampy shelf lying between
the Yazoo River and the bluffs. The few dry causeways over which the
Federal infantry could advance were completely covered by Confederate
rifle and artillery fire from the bluffs 200 feet above. The Union Army
lost nearly 2,000 men against Confederate casualties of less than 200.
Tersely, Sherman reported his defeat: “I reached Vicksburg at the time
appointed, landed, assaulted and failed.”

    _DECEMBER 1862_]

    Grant’s advance was halted and turned back when Van Dorn’s cavalry
    raid destroyed the huge Union supply base at Holly Springs.

    Sherman assaulted the bluffs at Chickasaw Bayou, 5 miles north of
    Vicksburg and was repulsed.

    [Illustration: _The Confederate ironclad ram _Arkansas_ engaging the
    combined Union fleets at Vicksburg._ From _Battles and Leaders of
    the Civil War_.]

    _The Bayou Expeditions: Grant Moves Against Vicksburg—and Fails_

By the end of January, Grant had arrived at the Union encampment at
Milliken’s Bend, 30 miles north of Vicksburg, and assumed leadership of
the operations against Vicksburg. His army, numbering about 45,000, was
divided into three corps under General Sherman, Maj. Gen. John
McClernand, and Maj. Gen. James Birdseye McPherson. Cooperating with the
army, and providing aid without which the bayou expeditions would not
have been possible, was the Western Flotilla under Porter. This fleet
consisted of 11 ironclads, 38 wooden gunboats, rams, and sundry
auxiliary craft mounting over 300 guns and carrying a complement of
5,500. The war in the West now hinged upon the effectiveness of this
combined land and naval force. Under Grant’s direction it maneuvered
over hundreds of miles of river and bayou seeking to outflank Vicksburg.
The capture of the city would result not from great battles but from a
war of movement.


The capture of Vicksburg proved difficult partly because of the
topography of the area, which so favored defense of the city as to
render the fortress almost impregnable to attack. To move against the
city it was necessary to reach the bluffs which extended north and south
and on which Vicksburg had been built. Behind the bluffs, to the east,
lay dry ground on which an army might maneuver; below the bluffs, on
both sides of the river, flooded swamplands prevented ground movements.
With his army behind the bluffs, either above or below, Grant might come
to grips with Pemberton’s Army of Vicksburg. Unless he reached the
bluffs, capture of the city would be impossible; it could not be
assaulted from the river.

The line of bluffs which marks the eastern boundary of the Mississippi
Valley leaves the river at Memphis, curves in a great 250-mile arc away
from the river, and then swings back to reach the river again at
Vicksburg. Enclosed between the bluffs and the river is the “Delta”—a
strip of land averaging some 60 miles in width, which is now a fertile,
well-drained, cotton-growing region. In 1863, it was a swampy bottom
land containing numerous rivers and bayous, subject to incessant floods.
It was covered with thick forests and dense undergrowth, a condition,
which, according to Grant’s engineer officer, “renders the country
almost impassable in summer, and entirely so, except by boats, in
winter.” This impenetrable swampland, lying before the bluffs,
effectively guarded Vicksburg’s right flank. Unless the waterways of the
Delta might provide a passage to the bluffs, operations against
Vicksburg to the north were hopeless.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant, commanding the Union Army of
    the Tennessee._ Courtesy National Archives.]

    [Illustration: _Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, commanding the
    Confederate Army of Vicksburg._ Courtesy Flohr Studio, Vicksburg.]

South of Vicksburg the prospect for the Union Army was equally dismal.
After meeting the river at Vicksburg, the bluffs follow the river course
closely to the south and were accessible, therefore, to troops from the
Mississippi River. But the river batteries of the city prevented passage
of transports to the river below; for troops to get below the city it
was necessary to move through the Louisiana lowlands west of the river.
This region was like the Delta north of Vicksburg—flooded bottom lands
interspersed with bayous, rivers, and lakes. It would prove equally
obstinate to land movements.

To increase Grant’s difficulties, his campaign against Vicksburg was
begun during the wet season when streams were overflowing and lowlands
impassable. The winter of 1862-63 was a period of unusually high water,
the Mississippi cresting higher than its natural banks from December
until April. Had Grant reached Vicksburg during the dry season, his
problem would have been less formidable.

Until the bottoms were dry enough to permit land movements, the Union
commander felt himself compelled to keep the army active. Even if
success along the water routes seemed unlikely, he reasoned that
prolonged idleness would be injurious to the health and morale of his
troops. Grant had come to believe that military success was won by the
aggressive. To Grant’s critics, who demanded that he open the
Mississippi without delay or be replaced by someone who could, Lincoln
replied, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

As Pemberton prepared to defend Vicksburg he was beset by difficulties
rivaling those of his opponent, despite the topography which was
friendly to his defensive purpose. Vicksburg would be secure only so
long as the Confederate Army could prevent Grant from achieving a
foothold on the high ground above or below the city. Yet, to prevent
such a lodgment, it was necessary for Pemberton to defend a wide front
extending 200 miles above and below Vicksburg, at any point along which
Grant might strike. To cover this large area the Confederate commander
would have to disperse his limited garrison dangerously and at the same
time retain sufficient troops to protect the city—his primary
responsibility. Under such conditions it was essential for Pemberton to
receive information of Federal movements in order to concentrate his
troops rapidly to meet the advance. Yet Pemberton was almost wholly
lacking in cavalry and had no navy to interfere with and report Union
progress through the rivers and bayous. Both Pemberton and Grant faced
exacting problems in command during the Vicksburg operations.


Vicksburg’s location on the horseshoe bend of the river had suggested a
solution to the Vicksburg problem the previous summer. By digging a
canal across the peninsula below Vicksburg and diverting the river
through it, unarmored transports could bypass the city batteries and
deliver troops safely to the bluffs below. In January, Sherman’s Corps,
assisted by dredging machines, began excavation of the mile-long canal.
This project continued until March when a sudden rise in the river
flooded the peninsula, driving the troops to the levees, and destroying
much of their work.

    [Illustration: _Pivot-gun and crew of the Union warship
    _Wissahickon_, which fought the Vicksburg batteries._ From
    _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

    [Illustration: GRANT’S CANAL
    _FEBRUARY-MARCH 1863_]

    By digging a canal across the mile-wide peninsula, Grant hoped to
    by-pass the Vicksburg batteries, move the army on transports below
    the city, and attack from the south.

    [Illustration: _Union soldiers at work on Grant’s canal opposite
    Vicksburg._ From a wartime sketch.]


A similar effort to turn Vicksburg’s left flank was essayed by cutting a
canal at Duckport, between Milliken’s Bend and Vicksburg. By this avenue
it was hoped vessels might leave the Mississippi above Vicksburg, pass
through a series of circuitous bayous and emerge again on the
Mississippi 20 miles below the city. The route was laboriously opened
for navigation and one small steamer safely passed to the river below.
Then the level of the river fell and blocked the Duckport attempt.


While the canal work was in progress, McPherson’s Corps was assigned the
opening of the Lake Providence route. The objective of this activity was
the turning of Vicksburg’s left flank by passing southward through the
Louisiana waterways to reach the bluffs below the city. A canal was cut
to provide entrance from the Mississippi into Lake Providence, 75 miles
above Vicksburg. From Lake Providence a route was surveyed through the
labyrinth of bayous, lakes, and rivers by which a fleet might emerge
again on the Mississippi 200 miles below the city and move on Vicksburg
from the south. While presenting great difficulties to navigation, the
entire 400 miles would be safe from enemy action. By the end of March
1863, McPherson’s men had almost cleared the route for navigation. The
dredging of shoals and the sawing off of trees far enough below the
water to permit passage of the transports proved the most severe
obstacles. Before this long and extremely difficult route could be
completed, however, other, more likely, plans were formulated, and the
Lake Providence expedition was recalled.

    [Illustration: THE BAYOU EXPEDITIONS
    _FEBRUARY-APRIL 1863_]

    Four unsuccessful attempts by Grant to strike Vicksburg from the
    rear by moving his army on transports through the rivers and bayous
    to the bluffs north or south of the city.

    Yazoo Pass Expedition blocked by the guns of Fort Pemberton.

    Lake Providence Route abandoned; unable to clear route for

    Steele’s Bayou Expedition cut off in Rolling Fork.

    Duckport Canal Expedition abandoned because of low water in the


The Yazoo Pass project, which sought to turn the right flank of
Vicksburg by sending an expedition through the Delta waterways to the
bluffs north of the city, was for a time the most promising of the bayou
attempts. By exploding a mine in the Yazoo Pass, 325 river miles north
of Vicksburg, access from the Mississippi into the rivers of the Delta
was secured. With paddle wheels reversed against the roaring current
which surged through the crevasse, and suffering extensive damage in
collisions with trees and floating debris, the gunboats and transports
carrying a division of infantry began the hazardous journey. Almost a
month was required to reach the calmer waters of the Coldwater River.

Notified of the threat, Pemberton dispatched Maj. Gen. W. W. Loring’s
Division to halt the Union advance. Fort Pemberton, overlooking the
Yalabusha River 90 miles north of Vicksburg, was quickly constructed of
earth and cotton bales. The land surrounding the fort was completely
flooded, permitting approach by water only. On March 11, the Union
gunboats began an artillery bombardment and were promptly greeted by a
heavy return fire as “Old Blizzards” Loring gained his nickname by
pacing the parapet and urging his gunners to, “Give them blizzards,
boys! Give them blizzards!” Grant had planned to send 30,000 men through
the Yazoo Pass; but Loring’s gunners blasted back every attempt to pass
the fort, forcing the fleet to withdraw. The Yazoo Pass expedition was
one of the great flanking attempts of the war—the route from Milliken’s
Bend to the rear of Vicksburg through the pass was over 700 miles, yet
it was only 30 miles direct from Milliken’s Bend to Vicksburg.


The last and most extraordinary of Grant’s unsuccessful attempts to
reach Vicksburg was the Steele’s Bayou expedition through 200 miles of
narrow, twisting bayous north of Vicksburg. Like the Yazoo Pass
operation, it was an effort to turn the city’s right flank. This shorter
route had been originally scouted in order to send aid to the Yazoo Pass
expedition when that column seemed in great danger of being cut off and
captured. Further exploration suggested the route to the bluffs by way
of Steele’s Bayou might prove the best of all possible approaches to
Vicksburg, and Porter himself commanded the squadron of 11 vessels which
entered Steele’s Bayou from the Yazoo River on March 16.

The route was heavily obstructed by natural hazards, but Porter, warned
by apprehensive officers who feared that superstructures would be
carried away in crashing through the closely overhung waterways,
answered with the declaration, “All I need is an engine, guns, and a
hull to float them.” Progress was slow through winding streams barely
wide enough to admit passage of the gunboats. This time alert
Confederates, aided by treacherous obstructions in the mouth of the
Rolling Fork, nearly succeeded in shutting up and capturing the entire
fleet by felling huge trees across the bayou to block Porter’s retreat.

    [Illustration: _Skirmishing in the heavily wooded and flooded bottom
    lands during the bayou expeditions._ From a wartime sketch.]

Sherman, following behind the fleet with infantry, received word of
Porter’s danger, and an eerie night march ensued. By the flaring light
of candles held in the muzzles of their rifles, the Federal soldiers
splashed through the canebrake hip deep in water and arrived in time to
drive off the Confederates who had moved in behind the Union fleet.
Three days were required to back the fleet to safety on the Mississippi,
which was reached late in March. Grant had now tested all possible
approaches to Vicksburg as he attempted to swing wide around its flanks
to the north and south. Every effort had failed. In April, the Union
Army was no closer to Vicksburg than it had been in December. The
Southern bastion on the Mississippi had successfully withstood Union
land and naval attacks for almost a year.

  _The Vicksburg Campaign: Grant Moves Against Vicksburg—and Succeeds_

In the eyes of many in the North, Grant’s Army had floundered in the
swamps for months with nothing to show for it except a steadily mounting
death list from disease. Criticism of the Union commander mounted. “I
don’t know what to make of Grant, he’s such a quiet little fellow,” said
Lincoln, thinking of the more flamboyant leaders who had led his Eastern
armies, “The only way I know he’s around is by the way he makes things
_git_.” Lincoln had grown increasingly fond of Grant, whose army, while
ineffective, had never been inactive. Now he declared to Grant’s
critics, “I think we’ll try him a little longer.”

Although Grant had made every effort to navigate the bayous and reach
Vicksburg, he was later to record that little hope had been entertained
that success would greet these ventures. While waiting for the dry
season which would permit land operations, however, he had determined to
exhaust every possibility and to retain the fighting edge of his army by
keeping it constantly on the move. As April arrived and the roads began
to emerge from the slowly receding waters, Grant prepared to execute the
movement which he had believed from the first to be the logical approach
against Vicksburg—marching down the west bank of the Mississippi through
Louisiana, crossing the river south of the city, and laying siege to it
from the rear.


Grant’s Vicksburg campaign officially began on March 29, 1863, when he
ordered McClernand’s Corps to open a road for the army from Milliken’s
Bend to the river below the city. Considerable work had been done
previously when it was contemplated that a canal from Duckport to the
river below Vicksburg might offer passage to the fleet. Falling waters
had finally defeated this plan and, during April, McClernand’s engineers
labored to bridge streams, corduroy roads, and build flatboats to cross
areas still covered by flood waters. During that month also, elements of
the Army of the Tennessee accomplished the 70-mile march and assembled
at a small hamlet appropriately named, Hard Times, in view of Grant’s
unpleasant bayou experiences. Here they were across the river from the
Confederate stronghold of Grand Gulf, 25 miles below Vicksburg.

    [Illustration: _Adm. David Dixon Porter, commanding the Union naval
    operations on the inland waters._ Courtesy National Archives.]

    [Illustration: _Porter’s gunboats running the Vicksburg batteries on
    the night of April 16, 1863._ From a wartime sketch.]

    [Illustration: _This remarkable wartime photograph, taken by a
    Confederate Secret Service agent, shows Grierson’s cavalrymen near
    the end of their 600-mile raid behind the Confederate lines._ From
    _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

To ferry the Union Army across the Mississippi, it was necessary for
Porter’s fleet, in anchorage north of Vicksburg, to run the batteries
and rendezvous with Grant below. While naval craft singly and in groups
had, on occasion, passed these batteries successfully before, it was
still a formidable undertaking for which careful preparation was
required. As protection against shellfire, each vessel had its port
side, which would face the Vicksburg guns in passage, piled high with
bales of cotton, hay, and grain. Coal barges were lashed alongside as an
additional defense.

Shortly before midnight, April 16, Confederate pickets in skiffs at the
bend of the river above Vicksburg saw the muffled fleet bearing down
upon them and quickly gave the alarm. Tar barrels along the bank were
ignited and buildings in the small village of De Soto across the river
were set afire. The blinding light of a great flare helped illuminate
the river and outline the fleet for the Confederate gunners. Tier upon
tier of the river batteries thundered down on the Union vessels. In
return, these boats delivered their broadsides into the city as they
passed so close that the clatter of bricks from falling buildings could
be heard on board.

Through this “magnificent, but terrible” spectacle—one of the most
fearful pageants of the war—steamed the fleet in single file. “Their
heavy shot walked right through us,” related Porter. Every one of the 12
boats was hit repeatedly. Many went out of control and revolved slowly
with the current. Despite the furious bombardment, only one craft was
sunk; within a few days damages were repaired and the fleet joined the
army at the village of Hard Times. Because of the difficulty of
supplying the army by wagon train over the wretched road from Milliken’s
Bend, 6 transports and 12 barges loaded with supplies ran the batteries
a few nights later with the loss of 1 transport and 6 barges.


Grant’s plan was to make an assault landing at Grand Gulf, a fortified
road junction on the bluffs at the mouth of the Big Black River. On
April 29, the Union gunboats pounded the Grand Gulf fortifications for 6
hours, seeking to neutralize the defenses and clear the landing for
10,000 Federal infantry aboard transports just beyond range of the
Confederate cannon. The naval attack failed to reduce the Confederate
works, and that night Grant marched southward along the Louisiana shore
to a landing opposite Bruinsburg. There he was met by the fleet which
then slipped downstream under cover of darkness. By noon of the
following day, April 30, Grant was across the Mississippi, experiencing

  a degree of relief scarcely ever equaled since.... I was now in the
  enemy’s country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg
  between me and my base of supplies. But I was on dry ground on the
  same side of the river with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors,
  hardships, and exposures, from the month of December previous to this
  time, that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishment of
  this one object.

Grant’s landing was unopposed, partly because of two diversionary
movements and partly because of Pemberton’s decision to hold his army
close to Vicksburg and fight a defensive campaign. Both diversions were
completely successful. On April 17, the day after Porter’s running of
the batteries had indicated Grant’s strategy of striking from the south,
Col. B. H. Grierson with 1,000 cavalrymen moved out from southwestern
Tennessee on one of the celebrated cavalry raids of the war. They rode
entirely through the State of Mississippi behind Pemberton’s army to a
junction with Union forces at Baton Rouge, La. In 16 days Grierson
covered 600 miles, interfering with Confederate telegraph and railroad
communications and forcing Pemberton to detach a division of infantry to
protect his supply and communication lines. Sherman, whose corps had not
yet made the march from Milliken’s Bend, made an elaborate feint above
Vicksburg. Loading his men aboard every available gunboat, transport,
and tug, he landed at Haynes’ Bluff, north of Vicksburg, leading
Pemberton to expect the real attack from that direction. Both moves
helped screen Grant’s true objective.

The events immediately following Grant’s landing revealed a basic
difference in tactical concepts between Pemberton, commanding the Army
of Vicksburg, and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, his superior, who was in
charge of Confederate operations in the West. Johnston believed that to
defeat Grant it would be necessary for Pemberton to unite his whole
force in order to smash the Union Army, preferably before Grant could
consolidate his position on the east bank. Accordingly, he wired
Pemberton on May 2 “If Grant’s army crosses, unite all your troops to
beat him; success will give you back what was abandoned to win it.”

It was Pemberton’s concept that holding Vicksburg was vital to the
Confederacy and that he must primarily protect the city and its
approaches. To have marched his army to meet Grant “would have stripped
Vicksburg and its essential flank defenses of their garrisons, and the
city itself might have fallen an easy prey into the eager hands of the
enemy.” This inability of Pemberton and Johnston to reach agreement upon
the tactics that might thwart Grant’s invasion seriously affected
subsequent Confederate operations and prevented effective cooperation
between the two commanders in the Vicksburg campaign.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, commanding the
    Union XV Corps._ Courtesy National Archives.]

    [Illustration: _Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, commanding Confederate
    military operations in the West._ Courtesy National Archives.]


McClernand’s Corps, immediately upon debarking on April 30, headed for
the bluffs 3 miles inland. By nightfall the Federal soldiers had reached
the high ground and pushed on toward Port Gibson, 30 miles south of
Vicksburg. From this point, roads led to Grand Gulf, Vicksburg, and
Jackson. Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen moved his Grand Gulf command toward
Port Gibson to intercept the threat, and, at daylight on May 1, leading
elements of the Union advance clashed with Bowen’s troops, barring the
two roads which led to Port Gibson.

The battle of Port Gibson was a series of furious day-long engagements
over thickly wooded ridges cut by deep, precipitous gullies and covered
with dense undergrowth. While greatly outnumbering Bowen, McClernand was
prevented by the rugged terrain from bringing his whole force into
action. Slowly forced backward, Bowen conducted an orderly retreat
through the town, which he evacuated. The holding action had cost Bowen
800 casualties from his command of 8,000; Union losses were about the
same from a force at hand of about 23,000. Pemberton determined not to
contest Grand Gulf lest he risk being cut off from Vicksburg and
withdrew across the Big Black River. Thus he permitted Grant to occupy
Grand Gulf and gave him a strong foothold on the east bank of the


Grant’s overall strategy, up to the capture of Grand Gulf, had been
first to secure a base on the river below Vicksburg and then to
cooperate with Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks in capturing Port Hudson.
After this he planned to move the combined force against Vicksburg. Port
Hudson, a strong point on the Mississippi near Baton Rouge, was
garrisoned by Confederate troops after Farragut’s withdrawal the
previous summer. At Grand Gulf, Grant learned that Bank’s investment of
Port Hudson would be delayed for some time. To follow his original plan
would force postponement of the Vicksburg campaign for at least a month,
giving Pemberton invaluable time to organize his defense and receive
reinforcements. From this delay the Union Army could expect the addition
of no more than 12,000 men. Grant now came to one of the most remarkable
decisions of his military career.

Information had been received that a new Confederate force was being
raised at Jackson, 45 miles east of Vicksburg. Against the advice of his
senior officers, and contrary to orders from Washington, Grant resolved
to cut himself off from his base of supply on the river, march quickly
in between the two Confederate forces, and defeat each separately before
they could join against him. Meanwhile, he would subsist his army from
the land through which he marched. The plan was well conceived, for in
marching to the northeast toward Edwards Station, on the railroad midway
between Jackson and Vicksburg, Grant’s vulnerable left flank would be
protected by the Big Black River. Moreover, his real objective—Vicksburg
or Jackson—would not be revealed immediately and could be changed to
meet events. Upon reaching the railroad, he could also sever Pemberton’s
communications with Jackson and the East. It was Grant’s belief that,
although the Confederate forces would be greater than his own, this
advantage would be offset by their wide dispersal and by the speed and
design of his march.

But this calculated risk was accompanied by grave dangers, of which
Grant’s lieutenants were acutely aware. It meant placing the Union Army
deep in alien country behind the Confederate Army where the line of
retreat could be broken and where the alternative to victory would not
only be defeat but complete destruction. The situation was summed up in
Sherman’s protest, recorded by Grant, “that I was putting myself in a
position voluntarily which an enemy would be glad to maneuver a year—or
a long time—to get me.”

The action into which Pemberton was drawn by the Union threat indicated
the keenness of Grant’s planning. The Confederate general believed that
the farther Grant campaigned from the river the weaker his position
would become and the more exposed his rear and flanks. Accordingly,
Pemberton elected to remain on the defensive, keeping his army as a
protective shield between Vicksburg and the Union Army and awaiting an
opportunity to strike a decisive blow—a policy which permitted Grant to
march inland unopposed.

With the arrival of Sherman’s Corps from Milliken’s Bend, Grant’s
preparations were complete and, on May 7, the Union Army marched out
from Grand Gulf to the northeast. His widely separated columns moved out
on a broad front concealing their objective. When assembled, Grant’s
Army numbered about 45,000 during the campaign. To oppose him, Pemberton
had available about 50,000 troops, but these were scattered widely to
protect important points. On the day of Grant’s departure from Grand
Gulf, Pemberton’s defensive position was further complicated by orders
from President Jefferson Davis that both Vicksburg and Port Hudson must
be held at all cost. The Union Army, however, was already between
Vicksburg and Port Hudson and would soon be between Vicksburg and

In comparison with campaigns in the more thickly populated Eastern
Theater, where a more extensive system of roads and railroads was
utilized to provide the tremendous quantities of food and supplies
necessary to sustain an army, the campaign of Grant’s Western veterans
(“reg’lar great big hellsnorters, same breed as ourselves,” said a
charitable “Johnny Reb”) was a new type of warfare. The Union supply
train largely consisted of a curious collection of stylish carriages,
buggies, and lumbering farm wagons stacked high with ammunition boxes
and drawn by whatever mules or horses could be found. (Grant began his
Wilderness campaign in Virginia the following year requiring over 56,000
horses and mules for his 5,000 wagons and ambulances, artillery
caissons, and cavalry.) Lacking transportation, food supplies were
carried in the soldier’s knapsack. Beef, poultry, and pork
“requisitioned” from barn and smokehouse enabled the army which had cut
loose from its base to live for 3 weeks on 5 days’ rations.

    [Illustration: _Troops on the march, going into bivouac at night._
    From a wartime sketch.]

A noted historian described this campaign: “The campaign was based on
speed—speed, and light rations foraged off the country, and no baggage,
nothing at the front but men and guns and ammunition, and no rear; no
slackening of effort, no respite for the enemy until Vicksburg itself
was invested and fell.”


When it became likely that Grant might strike the railroad in the
vicinity of Edwards Station, Pemberton moved from Vicksburg toward that
point with his main force, leaving a strong reserve in this city. At the
same time he ordered the units collecting at Jackson to hit Grant’s
flank and rear if the opportunity presented itself. Maj. Gen. John A.
Logan’s Division, in advance of McPherson’s Union Corps, reached the
vicinity of Raymond, a crossroads village 15 miles from Jackson on May
12, and was there engaged by a Confederate brigade under Brig. Gen. John
Gregg. A sharp clash lasting several hours followed, Gregg’s outmanned
infantry being driven back toward Jackson. Each side lost about 500 men
during the engagement. Confederate resistance at Raymond indicated to
Grant that Jackson might be held more strongly than had been
anticipated, and rumors reached the Union Commander that strong
reinforcements under Johnston were expected there. Grant then determined
to make sure of Jackson and, on May 13, wheeled his entire army toward
the east.

    _MARCH 29-MAY 18, 1863_
    × BATTLES]

Johnston arrived by rail in Jackson, on the night of the Raymond
engagement, in order to take field command of all troops defending
Vicksburg, and was notified that Grant’s Army was between Pemberton’s
forces and those in Jackson. About 12,000 troops were at Jackson,
against which the entire Union Army was reported to be moving. Johnston
telegraphed Richmond, “I am too late.”

    [Illustration: _Photograph of Vicksburg taken from across the
    Mississippi River by a Union surgeon during a bombardment._ From
    _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

In a pouring rain, Sherman and McPherson approached Jackson on the
morning of May 14. Johnston posted the brigades of General Gregg and
Brig. Gen. W. H. T. Walker on the approaches to the city with
instructions to hold just long enough for valuable stores to be removed
from Jackson northward to Canton where he hoped to combine forces with
Pemberton. Delaying their attack until the rain (which would spoil their
powder) slackened, the Union infantry charged the Confederate
entrenchments, driving the defenders before them and capturing the city
along with 35 guns and much equipment. Having intercepted a dispatch
from Johnston to Pemberton ordering a junction of all Confederate
troops, Grant put his men on the road toward Edwards Station at daylight
the following morning. His plan was to drive a wedge between the
Confederate forces before Johnston, circling to the north, could effect
a junction with Pemberton. Sherman remained in Jackson to destroy the
railroad yards and stores.

    [Illustration: _A Union assault during the battle of Champion’s
    Hill._ From a wartime sketch.]


Events preceding the battle of Champion’s Hill emphasized the opposing
tactical views held by the two Confederate commanders. Pemberton
believed the retention of Vicksburg so imperative that no move which
might endanger the city should be considered. It was Johnston’s view
that Admiral Porter’s successful passage of the batteries and Grant’s
approach from the rear had already doomed the city, and that it was
consequently valuable only for the military supplies and troops which it
contained. Johnston believed that the South’s only chance to prevent
loss of the Mississippi was for Pemberton and himself to join forces and
fight the great battle which might smash and destroy Grant’s Army.

On the morning of May 14, Pemberton, at Edwards Station, received the
dispatch from Johnston (a copy of which Grant had already intercepted)
informing him of the position of Union troops at Clinton, between the
two Confederate forces, and ordering him “if practicable, come up on his
[Grant’s] rear at once.” Pemberton considered the order “suicidal.”
Convinced that Johnston’s recent arrival on the field and separation
from the main body did not give him sufficient information to survey the
situation accurately, Pemberton called a council of war and placed the
order before his commanders. Although a majority of his council favored
obedience to Johnston’s order, Pemberton was unwilling to endorse a
movement which might endanger Vicksburg. It was decided to move instead
against Grant’s supposed communications which were believed essential to
the Union Army’s existence away from the river.

On May 15, Pemberton marched to the southeast with 17,000 men, his route
further separating him from Johnston to the north. Grant, meanwhile,
prepared to head westward, his line of march threatening to pierce the
gap between Johnston and Pemberton and beat both of them in the race for
Vicksburg. On the morning of the 16th, a second order was received from
Johnston ordering Pemberton to move to the north and join Johnston. This
order was obeyed, but as Pemberton’s troops were countermarching they
were struck by Union troops.

The battle of Champion’s Hill centered around a crescent-shaped ridge of
about 75 feet elevation near the Champion plantation home and involved
three parallel roads leading from Edwards Station to Raymond. Each of
Pemberton’s three divisions—led by General Bowen, General Loring, and
Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson—covered one of these roads. The battle
opened shortly before noon on the 16th when Brig. Gen. A. P. Hovey’s
Union Division, supported by Logan’s Division, attacked along the north
road which passed over the slope of Champion’s Hill. From the crest of
the hill, Stevenson’s Confederate Division opened a heavy fire on the
advancing Union lines which steadily mounted the ridge, driving the
Confederates back and capturing 11 guns. To meet this threat to the
Confederate left flank, Bowen’s Division was shifted to the north to
prevent a breakthrough. Re-forming his lines, Bowen counterattacked the
ridge position. He dislodged the Federal infantry, driving them from the
slope, and recaptured all but two of the lost guns.

Grant, in turn, was now compelled to reinforce his hard-pressed right,
and at 3:30 p. m. massed Union batteries concentrated fire on the ridge.
The Federal infantry followed with heavy and repeated attacks along the
entire line, and for the third time the hill changed hands. Pemberton
was unable to rally his troops against these attacks, and the divisions
of Bowen and Stevenson began to retreat toward Baker’s Creek. Loring was
detailed to hold the road open for the withdrawal of the Confederate
Army. Before Loring could rejoin the main body, after its crossing of
the stream, the Union Army secured the crossings. Loring was thus cut
off, and he was only able to join Johnston after a long 3-day march
around the Union Army. Pemberton retreated toward Vicksburg and that
night took position at Big Black River, 12 miles east of the city.

    [Illustration: VICKSBURG


    [Illustration: _Wartime photograph of a Union supply station on the
    Big Black River in rear of Vicksburg._ Courtesy Library of

The battle of Champion’s Hill (or Baker’s Creek) was the bloodiest
action of the Vicksburg campaign. The numbers actually engaged were
relatively equal, although a large Union reserve was close at hand.
Pemberton lost nearly 4,000 men, not counting the entire division of
Loring which was lost to his army. Grant listed casualties of 2,500,
with Hovey losing one-third of his entire division killed and wounded.


Not knowing that Loring’s Division had been cut off, Pemberton made a
stand at the Big Black River in order to hold the bridges open for
Loring to join the main force. The Confederate entrenchments spanned the
river at a readily defensible location where the stream made a horseshoe
bend. Across the mile-wide neck of the river the Confederates
constructed a line of works, and behind the earthworks, with their backs
to the river, were placed 4,000 infantry of Bowen’s Division supported
by artillery.

Before dawn on the 17th the Union Army pushed on toward Vicksburg.
Grant, still hoping to win the race for Vicksburg, had dispatched
Sherman’s Corps to the north to pass the retreating Confederate Army as
Grant engaged it from the front. At an early hour the Federal troops
came in sight of the Confederate line, whereupon they opened an
artillery barrage and deployed to assault. Before the deployment was
complete, Brig. Gen. Eugene A. Carr’s Division charged “with a shout”
from the woods fronting the Confederate position. Realizing the danger
of their position, where they might be cut off from the crossing to
their rear, the Confederate troops broke and headed for the bridges in
disorder. After the withdrawal, the bridges were burned, effectively
halting Union pursuit. In the confusion, Grant captured over 1,000
prisoners along with 18 artillery pieces.

While Pemberton’s Army retreated into the defenses of Vicksburg, Grant’s
engineers immediately began construction of bridges across the Big Black
River, using trees, cotton bales, and lumber from nearby buildings as
bridging materials. Sherman’s Corps, which had struck the river 11 miles
to the north attempting to outflank Pemberton and prevent his retreat to
Vicksburg, threw a pontoon bridge across the river at that point. By
light of pitch torches, the bridges were completed during the night. On
the following morning, May 18, troops crossed en route to Vicksburg.

    [Illustration: _A regiment drawn up in line of battle._ From a
    wartime sketch.]


The Union Army, now within a few miles of its long-sought objective,
had, in the 18 days since it crossed the Mississippi, completed one of
the most noteworthy campaigns of the war. Marching deep into enemy
territory, the Army of the Tennessee had successfully lived off the
country while fighting and winning five engagements and inflicting
critical losses in men and equipment, had prevented Johnston and
Pemberton from joining forces, and had driven the Army of Vicksburg into
the defenses of the city.

    [Illustration: _“Whistling Dick.” This Confederate cannon which
    guarded Vicksburg gained widespread fame among Union soldiers and
    sailors because of the peculiar whistle of its projectiles._ From
    _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

    [Illustration: _The terrain of the siege of Vicksburg—looking from
    the Confederate line to the Union position on the far ridge._]

By noon of May 18, with Grant’s advance expected momentarily, Pemberton
believed the defenses of Vicksburg strong enough to stand off the Union
Army until Johnston received sufficient reinforcements to raise the
expected siege and prevent loss of the Mississippi River. There, while
inspecting his defenses, Pemberton received a dispatch from Johnston
advising the evacuation of Vicksburg which, Johnston felt, was already
doomed. Military necessity demanded that “instead of losing both troops
and place, we must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late,
evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies and march to the northeast.”

Unwilling to yield the city without a fight, Pemberton placed the order
before his senior officers. They were of unanimous opinion that it would
be “impossible to withdraw the army from this position with such
_morale_ as to be of further service to the Confederacy.” As the council
of war reached its decision to remain and fight, Union guns opened on
the works. The siege of Vicksburg had begun.

                        _The Siege of Vicksburg_


From his assumption of command 7 months before, Pemberton had put his
engineers to work constructing a fortified line which would protect
Vicksburg against an attack from the rear. A strong line of works had
been thrown up along the crest of a ridge which was fronted by a deep
ravine. The defense line began on the river 2 miles above Vicksburg and
curved for 9 miles along the ridge to the river below, thus enclosing
the city within its arc. So long as this line could be held, the river
batteries denied to the North control of the Mississippi River.

At salient and commanding points along the line, artillery positions and
forts (lunettes, redans, and redoubts) had been constructed. The earth
walls of the forts were up to 20 feet thick. In front of these was dug a
deep, wide ditch so that assaulting troops which climbed the steep ridge
slope and reached the ditch would still have a high vertical wall to
climb in order to gain entrance into the fort. Between the strong
points, which were located every few hundred yards, was constructed a
line of rifle pits and entrenchments, for the most part protected by
parapets and ditches. Where spurs jutted out from the main ridge,
advanced batteries were constructed which provided a deadly crossfire
against attacking lines. The Confederates had mounted 128 artillery
pieces in these works, of which 36 were heavy siege guns; the remainder,
field pieces.

Greatly strengthening the Confederate position was the irregular
topography which resulted from the peculiar characteristics of the
region’s loess soil. Possessing an unusual tenacity, except when eroded
by the action of running water, the loess had over the centuries been
cut into deep gullies and ravines with abrupt faces separated by narrow,
twisting ridges. This resulted in a broken and complicated terrain which
would seriously obstruct the Union movement. To permit a clear field of
fire and to hinder advancing troops, all the trees fronting the
Confederate line were cut down. Several hundred yards away from the
Confederate position and roughly parallel to it was a ridge system not
so continuous and more broken than that occupied by Pemberton’s Army.
Along this line, the Union Army took position and began its siege

On the scattered natural bridges of high ground, which spanned the
ravines and provided approaches to Vicksburg, were located the six roads
and one railroad leading into that city. Nine forts had been constructed
overlooking each of these routes into Vicksburg, their guns completely
commanding the approaches—Fort Hill on the river north of the city,
Stockade Redan, Third Louisiana Redan, Great Redoubt, Second Texas
Lunette, Railroad Redoubt, Fort Garrott (also known as Square Fort),
Salient Works, and South Fort on the river below Vicksburg. (All but two
of these works are well preserved today.) The Confederate divisions,
left to right, were commanded by Maj. Gen. M. L. Smith, General Bowen,
Maj. Gen. John H. Forney, and General Stevenson. The Army of Vicksburg,
at the beginning of the siege, numbered about 31,000 men, of which
Pemberton listed 18,500 effectives as available to man his defense line.
Grant gave his strength, shortly after the siege began, as 50,000
effectives; his army was steadily enlarged during the siege by
reinforcements from Memphis.


By midday of May 19, Grant had completed his investment of the city. In
the north, Sherman’s Corps was in position opposite the Confederate left
from the river (at the present location of the national cemetery) to the
Graveyard Road, at an average distance of about 500 yards. McPherson’s
Corps took position on Sherman’s left from the Graveyard Road to near
the Baldwin’s Ferry Road; the front of McClernand’s Corps extended from
the Baldwin’s Ferry Road southward.

Considerable skirmishing had preceded the Union approach, as the
Confederate pickets fell slowly back inside the defenses, thus
preventing a close inspection of the Confederate fortifications. Grant
determined, however, to attack immediately, before Pemberton had time to
post his defenses strongly. The Union general ordered an assault at 2 p.
m. on the 19th. Sherman’s troops, whose early arrival had enabled them
better to prepare for attack, moved under heavy fire against the
Confederate left. Although they succeeded in making a close lodgment
against the walls of the Stockade Redan, they failed to breach the works
and were repulsed. McPherson and McClernand, not yet in good position
for attack, were unable to do more than advance several hundred yards
closer to the siege line. Grant lost 1,000 men testing the Vicksburg
defenses and discovered an unyielding army manning the works.
Confederate losses were slight.

    [Illustration: _Confederate Railroad Redoubt. Plaques mark angle
    where fort wall was breached and entered by Union troops during the
    assault of May 22, 1863._]


While the probing operation of the 19th had failed, Grant further
considered the important results which a successful assault would
achieve. Such a move, however costly, would save a long siege. In the
end, fewer men might be lost, and a growing threat to the Union
rear—General Johnston raising troops near Jackson for the relief of
Vicksburg—could be eliminated by quickly capturing Vicksburg and
throwing the entire Union strength against Johnston. In addition, the
Federal troops, spirited by recent victories and impatient to seize the
prize for which they had campaigned so long, would not work so zealously
in the trenches with pick and shovel unless assault had failed. On the
21st, Grant issued orders for a general assault against Vicksburg the
following day.

    [Illustration: _The heavy guns of this Union siege battery were
    borrowed from the Federal gunboats and used against the Confederate
    siege defenses._ From _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

The Union assault of May 22 was delivered against the center of the
Confederate siege line along a 3-mile front from Stockade Redan to Fort
Garrott. The felled trees and thick undergrowth, as well as the
precipitous faces of the ravines, restricted the scope of Union
maneuver. Only a portion of Grant’s full strength could be brought into
action, reserves being posted to exploit a breakthrough. Careful
preparations preceded the attack: field batteries were run forward and
emplaced to provide a covering fire for the infantry, and troops were
advanced into concealed positions—in places, within 200 yards of their
objective. Watches of all Union commanders were synchronized, the attack
to begin simultaneously at 10 a. m. in order to prevent Pemberton from
shifting his forces from one threatened point to another.

    [Illustration: THE SIEGE OF
    _MAY 18-JULY 4, 1863_]

    [Illustration: _This hospital ship provided medical care for the
    sick and wounded of Grant’s Army during the Vicksburg operations._
    From _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

Of the six forts in the area of the grand assault, the Stockade Redan,
under attack by Maj. Gen. Frank Blair’s Division of Sherman’s Corps,
exemplified the day’s action in method and result. Blair’s men were
faced with two formidable obstacles: the fort could be reached only by
way of the Graveyard Road because of the deep ravines bordering the
road, and the road was completely covered by the guns of the fort. In
front of the fort was a deep ditch which protected it from attempts to
climb the wall and enter the works. The night before, Sherman had
decided that a bridge would be needed by his men to span the ditch. Only
one source of lumber could be found—a frame house in which General Grant
was sleeping. Informed of the need, Grant dressed and watched the house
quickly torn down for bridging materials.

At the stroke of 10, the artillery bombardment of the fort ceased and
the “Forlorn Hope”—a volunteer company of 150 men—raced from their
position over the Graveyard Road toward the Stockade Redan, carrying the
planks to bridge the ditch for the regiments to follow. Until the
Federal troops almost reached the Confederate line, there was no sign of
its defenders. Then the Southern soldiers “rose from their reclining
position behind the works, and gave them such a terrible volley of
musketry” that the road soon was nearly obstructed by the bodies of the
killed and wounded, “the very sticks and chips, scattered over the
ground jumping under the hot shower of Rebel bullets.”

Although two color-bearers climbed the wall of the fort and planted
their flags near the crest, the remnants of regiments which reached the
ditch were unable to storm the walls and enter the redan. Attempting to
prevent the fort garrison from firing down into the ditch, the Federal
infantry swept the top of the wall with rifle fire. The toll was costly
among the Confederate defenders, who fought back, using artillery shells
as hand grenades and rolling them down among the Union troops in the
ditch. After 4 hours of fighting, the attack was stalemated at Stockade

Union flags were placed also on the walls of the Great Redoubt and
Second Texas Lunette, but it was at the Railroad Redoubt that a
momentary breach was made in the Confederate defenses. Here,
McClernand’s men reached the fort in force, and Sgt. Joseph E. Griffith
and several comrades of the 22nd Iowa crawled through a gap in the wall,
which had been blasted by Union artillery, and entered the outer works.
All were shot down but Griffith. He was able to back out through the
opening, bringing a dozen prisoners with him. When the Union assault
threatened to engulf the fort, there was a call for Confederate
volunteers to regain the lost ground. A volunteer company from the Texas
Legion counterattacked and drove the Union troops from the outer

    [Illustration: _Union Battery Hickenlooper during the siege, within
    100 yards of the Confederate line._ From a wartime sketch.]

Encouraged by his partial success, McClernand asked Grant for
reinforcements and a renewal of the attack which, he felt, would enable
his men to break the Confederate line. Grant ordered Sherman and
McPherson to commit their reserves and create a diversion in
McClernand’s favor. The renewed assault was shattered by the resolute
Confederate defense. It served only to increase Union losses and to
intensify an already bitter controversy over McClernand’s military
ability, which eventually resulted in his removal from command and the
appointment of Maj. Gen. Edward Ord to head the XIII Corps. More than
3,000 Union soldiers lay dead or wounded in the ditches and on the
slopes of the ridge. It was the last assault against Vicksburg.


To bring the Union Army close against the Confederate defense line,
construction of protected approaches was begun. As the siege progressed,
“saps” or “approach trenches,” deep enough to conceal troops, zigzagged
their way toward the works protecting Vicksburg. Ten major approaches
were carried forward by pick and shovel details, each with a network of
parallels, bomb proofs, and artillery emplacements. Over 60,000 feet of
trenches and 89 artillery positions, mounting 220 guns, were completed.
In the siege of Vicksburg “Spades were trumps.”

A Federal infantryman was later to recall that

  Every man in the investing line became an army engineer day and night.
  The soldiers worked at digging narrow, zigzag approaches to the rebel
  works. Entrenchments, rifle pits, and dirt caves were made in every
  conceivable direction. When entrenchments were safe and finished,
  still others, yet farther in advance were made, as if by magic, in a
  single night. Other zigzag underground saps and mines were made for
  explosion under forts. Every day the regiments foot by foot, yard by
  yard, approached nearer the strongly armed rebel works. The soldiers
  got so they bored like gophers and beavers, with a spade in one hand
  and a gun in the other.

With an almost limitless ammunition supply, Federal sharpshooters and
artillerymen kept up a relentless fire, giving the Confederates little
opportunity to pick off the work parties which continued digging
operations during the day. Pemberton’s ammunition supply dwindled each
day. Considering the possible duration of the siege until an effective
relief army might be assembled, the Confederate commander considered it
“a matter of vital importance that every charge of ammunition on hand
should be hoarded with the most jealous care.” He therefore issued
strict orders that both rifle and cannon should be fired only when
absolutely necessary. This prevented the Confederates from keeping up
the steady, harassing fire needed to hold in check the Union siege

Trench life for Grant’s soldiers was not so rigorous or dangerous as for
the Vicksburg defenders. Food supplies were ample, although lack of pure
water was a problem for both armies and resulted in considerable
disease. The burning sun and frequent rains made life miserable for both
“Yank” and “Reb.” Particularly as a result of the low ammunition stores
of the Vicksburg army, Union losses during the siege, after the assaults
of May 19 and 22, were comparatively light.

After the unsuccessful assault of May 22, only two attempts were made to
break through the Confederate defenses, neither of which succeeded.
Sherman, holding the Union right opposite the strong Fort Hill position,
determined to reduce the fort with naval aid, and on May 27 the gunboat
_Cincinnati_, protected by logs and bales of hay, moved into position
and engaged the several batteries of that sector. Subjected to a deadly
plunging fire which “went entirely through our protection—hay, wood, and
iron,” the _Cincinnati_ went down with her colors nailed to the stump of
a mast.

The other attempt to pierce the defense line was by exploding a mine
under the Third Louisiana Redan. Logan’s approach trench had reached the
fort walls and from here a shaft was sunk under the fort and a powder
charge prepared for its demolition. The Confederate garrison, hearing
the miners’ picks at work beneath the fort, began countermines in a grim
race for survival. On June 25, as the entire Union line opened fire to
prevent shifting of reinforcements, a charge of 2,200 pounds of powder
was exploded beneath the Third Louisiana Redan, creating a large crater
into which elements of the 23rd Indiana and 45th Illinois raced from the
approach trench. Anticipating this result, General Forney had prepared a
second line of works in the rear of the fort where survivors of the
blast and supporting regiments met the Union attack and drove it back.
Still other mines were also being prepared by Union engineers at the
time of the surrender.


Siege life for the Confederate soldier was a hazardous ordeal; nearly
3,500 were killed or wounded. Because of the limited number of effective
troops available to Pemberton, almost the entire Vicksburg Army had to
be placed in the trenches; sufficient numbers were not available to
rotate frontline duty as was done by the Federal Army. Never knowing
when an attempt might be made to assault the defense line, it was
necessary for them to be on guard at all times, enduring sun, rain, mud,
poor and inadequate food, as well as the bullets and shells of the Union
Army for 47 days and nights. The unending barrage of small arms and
artillery fire, one Confederate exclaimed, “can be compared to men
clearing land—the report of musketry is like the chopping of axes and
that of the cannon like the felling of trees.”

Rations were generally prepared by details of soldiers behind the lines
and carried to the troops at the breastworks. Coffee, the soldier’s
staple, was soon unobtainable and an ersatz beverage introduced, the
somewhat questionable ingredients of which included sweet potatoes,
blackberry leaves, and sassafras. To replace the exhausted flour supply,
a substitute was devised from ground peas and cornmeal. When this was
baked over a fire, one soldier complained, “it made a nauseous
composition, as the corn-meal cooked in half the time the peas-meal did,
so this stuff was half raw.... It had the properties of india-rubber and
was worse than leather to digest.” Its effect on the digestive systems
of the Confederate soldiers was possibly the equivalent of a secret
Yankee weapon. A more famous, although not necessarily a more palatable,
item of the besieged soldiers’ diet was the mule meat introduced late in
the siege. General Pemberton heartily approved of its appearance,
observing that mule proved “not only nutritious, but very palatable, in
every way preferable to poor beef.”

    [Illustration: _Bombproofs of the 45th Illinois in Union siege line.
    Shirley House in background is only surviving wartime building in
    the park._ From _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

For protection against artillery fire, the Confederate troops dug
bombproofs in the reverse slope of their fortified ridge. From these
dugouts, bulwarked by heavy timbers, trenches connected with the
fortifications, affording the besieged some degree of relaxation in
reading or playing cards a few yards from the front line. To defend
against surprise night attacks, they were forced to sleep on their arms
in the trenches.

At night the unending bombardment from Porter’s fleet provided the
troops of both armies with an awesome pyrotechnic display. Especially
popular with the pickets were the giant 13-inch mortar shells whose
sputtering fuses described a tremendously high arc in the blackness
before disappearing into the city. It was a “wonderful spectacle,” one
soldier remembered, “to see the fuse from the shells—and you could see
them plainly—the comet or star-like streams of fire and then hear them
coming down into the doomed city. We used to watch them while on picket
at night.”

    [Illustration: _Fort Hill, on the Confederate left flank above
    Vicksburg, commanding the bend of the Mississippi._]

    [Illustration: _South Fort, on the Confederate right flank below
    Vicksburg, overlooking the Mississippi._]

    [Illustration: _Each of Porter’s mortar boats carried one of these
    giant 17,000-pound mortars which hurled 200-pound shells into
    Vicksburg throughout the campaign and siege._ Courtesy National

    [Illustration: _The _General Price_. This merchant steamer was
    converted into a ram by the Confederate Navy, captured by the Union
    Fleet at Memphis and used as a Federal gunboat against Vicksburg._
    From _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

Only when the Union trenches approached close to the defensive works
were determined efforts made to halt the Union threat. Then the Union
sap rollers (woven cane cylinders filled with earth or cotton rolled in
front of the open end of the trench to protect the work party) became
targets for destruction. Fuses were set on artillery shells which were
then rolled down against the sap rollers, or they were ignited by Minié
balls dipped in turpentine. Occasional night sallies succeeded
temporarily in driving off Union work parties and filling up trenches,
but no daylight forays were attempted by the Confederates.


For the civilian population of Vicksburg, the siege was a grim and
harrowing experience. Ordered to evacuate the city or prepare to face
siege, many of the townspeople preferred to remain and share the fate of
the army. They were joined by refugees accompanying the Confederate
retreat into the city. Vicksburg had been subjected to periodic naval
bombardment during the year of preliminary action and continuously
during the siege. For relief and protection against shellfire, many of
the townspeople occupied caves dug into the city’s plentiful hillsides.

To the civilians, as to the Confederate soldiers, there seemed only
three intervals during the day when the shelling ceased—8 a. m., noon,
and 8 p. m.—when the Union artillerymen ate their meals. However, much
of the accustomed social life of the town continued. Men and women
passed along the streets despite frequent shell explosions, and the
town’s newspaper continued to appear—finally printed on wallpaper.
Despite the artillery fire, few civilians were killed, although many
dwellings were destroyed or badly damaged. Over more and more buildings,
as the siege progressed, the yellow hospital flags floated. Thousands of
Confederate sick and wounded were brought into the city, many being
cared for by the women of Vicksburg. In the latter stages of the siege
the food stores of the city were badly depleted, placing the people of
Vicksburg on extremely short rations.


A unique feature of the American Civil War was the inclination of the
private soldier—Union and Confederate—to fight with unrelenting ferocity
during the engagements of the war and yet to engage in friendly
intercourse with each other once the battle had ended, or even during
lulls in the fighting. Swapping of Northern coffee for Southern tobacco
was a commonplace picket activity in all theaters of the war. In the
long, weary siege of Vicksburg, the monotony was often lightened by
jeers and pleasantries exchanged between lines. Many examples of soldier
humor were recorded. The Confederates, taking grim delight in their
ability to withstand the onslaughts of a steadily increasing Federal
Army, would shout “When are you coming in Vicksburg for a visit?” To
which a grimy, sweating Federal private would yell, “Not till you show
better manners to strangers.”

    [Illustration: _A Civil War drummer boy._ From a wartime sketch.]

To prevent surprise attacks, both armies posted pickets in advance of
their lines at night. With the lines so close in the latter stages of
the siege, pickets would often stand within a few feet of one another,
or even side by side. Discussions of good shots and bad officers, or
vice versa, helped to pass the long night watches. By common agreement,
out of respect for the exposed and unprotected position of the
sentinels, there was no firing at men on picket duty.

One Union veteran best remembered the siege of Vicksburg for the nightly
verbal exchanges with the “Rebs” when “we used to talk to each other
after fighting all day.”

  In the evening when everything had stopped for the day, some of our
  men or some of the Johnnies would yell, “hello Johnnie” or “hello
  Yank” “how did you enjoy the day?” The other would say “Fine;” then
  some one would say, “Johnnie, how do you like mule meat?” and they
  answer “Fine;” then “How do you like beef dried on the bone?” to which
  they would reply “Not so well; it is too close to the bone to be
  good.” Then some one would say, “Come over and we will give you some
  ‘sow belly’ to fry it in.” They would reply, “We can’t eat meat
  alone;” then the reply was, “We will give you some hardtack.” Then
  they would reply, “The tack you sent over today was so hard we could
  not chew it.” So you see how soon those on both sides forgot their
  troubles when night came, but in the morning about daylight, when the
  business of the day was about to open, we would say, “Watch out
  Johnnie, and hunt your hole,” and things were on in earnest for the

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen, commanding the Confederate
    troops at the battle of Port Gibson._ Courtesy Confederate Museum,

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand, commanding the Union
    XIII Corps._ Courtesy National Archives.]


Pemberton’s foremost objective in prolonging the siege had been to
afford Johnston and the Confederate government time to collect
sufficient troops to raise the siege. But shortly after Grant had
invested the city, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began
its invasion of the North, which ended on the field of Gettysburg. No
troops could be spared from that point. To have removed troops from Lt.
Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army in Tennessee would have dangerously weakened
that place in a desperate attempt to save the Mississippi. Johnston
wired Secretary of War James A. Seddon “We cannot hold both.”

    [Illustration: _The Surrender Site. The monument was erected and
    inscribed by Union soldiers on spot where Grant and Pemberton met._]

During June, General Johnston had succeeded in increasing his force to
about 30,000, many of whom were green troops, but efforts to secure
adequate weapons, ammunition and wagons to equip the regiments had been
only partly successful. Preparing to encounter an expected move by
Johnston against his rear, Grant used reinforcements arriving from
Memphis to construct and man a strong outer defense line facing
Johnston’s line of advance. Grant then had two lines of works, one to
hold Pemberton in, the other to hold Johnston out. While Seddon notified
Johnston “Rely upon it, the eyes and hopes of the whole Confederacy are
upon you, with the full confidence that you will act, and with the
sentiment that it is better to fail nobly daring, than, through prudence
even, to be inactive,” Johnston notified his government on June 15 “I
consider saving Vicksburg hopeless.”

On July 1, Johnston moved his army of 4 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions
to the east bank of the Big Black River, seeking a vulnerable place to
attack Grant’s outer defenses. His reconnaissance during the next 3 days
convinced him that no move against the Federal position was practicable.
Receiving word of the surrender on July 4, he withdrew to Jackson.


By July, the Army of Vicksburg had held the line for 6 weeks, but its
unyielding defense had been a costly one. Pemberton reported 10,000 of
his men so debilitated by wounds and sickness as to be no longer able to
man the works, and the list of ineffectives swelled daily from the twin
afflictions of insufficient rations and the searching fire of Union
sharpshooters. Each day the constricting Union line pushed closer
against the Vicksburg defenses, and there were indications that Grant
might soon launch another great assault which, even if repulsed, must
certainly result in a severe toll of the garrison. (Grant had actually
ordered a general assault for July 6, 2 days after the surrender.)

General Pemberton, faced with dwindling stores and no help from the
outside, saw only two eventualities, “either to evacuate the city and
cut my way out or to capitulate upon the best attainable terms.”
Contemplating the former possibility, he asked his division commanders
on July 1 to report whether the physical condition of the troops would
favor such a hazardous stroke. His lieutenants were unanimous in their
replies that siege conditions had physically distressed so large a
number of the defending army that an attempt to cut through the Union
line would be disastrous. Pemberton’s only alternative, then, was

    [Illustration: _The Union ironclad gunboat _Cairo_, sunk by a
    Confederate “torpedo” (mine) near Vicksburg._ From _Photographic
    History of the Civil War_.]

    _David and Goliath of the Union fleet, photographed at Vicksburg
    after the surrender:_

    [Illustration: _A patrol boat, the “tinclad” _Silver Lake_._]

    [Illustration: _The powerful ironclad ram _Choctaw_._ From
    _Photographic History of the Civil War_.]

Although not requested, Pemberton also received the verdict of his army
in a message from an unknown private, signed “Many Soldiers.” Taking
pride in the gallant conduct of his fellow soldiers “in repulsing the
enemy at every assault, and bearing with patient endurance all the
privations and hardships,” the writer requested his commanding general
if he would “Just think of one small biscuit and one or two mouthfuls of
bacon per day,” concluding with the irrefutable logic of an enlisted
man, “If you can’t feed us, you had better surrender us, horrible as the
idea is.”

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. M. L. Smith, commanding the Confederate
    left at Vicksburg._ Courtesy Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, commanding the Union
    XVII Corps._ Courtesy Library of Congress.]

On July 3, white truce flags appeared along the center of the
Confederate works. A few hours later, Grant and Pemberton met beneath an
oak tree, on a slope between the lines, to arrange for the capitulation
of Vicksburg and its army of 29,500. It had been 14 months since
Farragut’s warships had first engaged the Vicksburg batteries, 7 months
since Grant’s first expedition against the city, and 47 days since the
beginning of the siege. On the morning of July 4, 1863, while Northern
cities celebrated Independence Day, Vicksburg was formally surrendered.
The Confederate troops marched out from their defenses and stacked their
rifles, cartridge boxes, and flags before a hushed Union Army which
witnessed the historic event without cheering—a testimonial of their
respect for the courageous defenders of Vicksburg, whose line was never

Into the city which had defied him for so long, and which nearly proved
the graveyard rather than the springboard of his military career, rode
General Grant. At the courthouse, where the Stars and Bars had floated
in sight of the Union Army and Navy throughout the siege, he watched the
national colors raised on the flagstaff, and then proceeded to the
waterfront. With every vessel of the Navy sounding its whistle in
celebration, he went aboard Porter’s flagship to express gratitude for
the work of the fleet.


Vicksburg, and the simultaneous repulse of Lee’s invasion at the battle
of Gettysburg, marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Previously, there had been confidence that victory, although demanding
desperate measures, could yet be achieved. Afterward, there was only the
hope that the North might sicken of the frightful cost of continuing the
war and terminate hostilities. The great objective of the war in the
West—the opening of the Mississippi River and the severing of the
Confederacy—had been realized with the fall of Vicksburg. While in the
East the Union armies battled on in bloody stalemate before Richmond,
the armies of the West would now launch their columns deep into the
vitals of the Confederacy.

Grant emerged from the Vicksburg campaign with a hard-won reputation as
a master strategist, which prompted President Lincoln to place him in
supreme command of all the armies of the United States. From this
position he was destined to direct the final campaigns of the Civil War
and to receive Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. As for Pemberton, the fall
of Vicksburg subjected him to painful criticism from those who held that
a more resourceful defense might have saved the city, or his army, or
both. Essentially, both commanders had disobeyed orders in like
manner—Grant in striking behind Vicksburg alone rather than waiting to
combine forces with Banks; Pemberton in deciding to protect Vicksburg at
all cost rather than joining Johnston and risking loss of the city. But
Grant’s gamble had succeeded and Pemberton’s had failed; and in war, as
a leading Confederate commander had soberly remarked, the people measure
a general’s merit by his success. “I thought and still think that you
did right to risk an army for the purpose of keeping command of even a
section of the Mississippi River,” President Davis wrote to General
Pemberton after the fall of Vicksburg. “Had you succeeded none would
have blamed, had you not made the attempt few if any would have defended
your course.”

In the Confederate capital, Gen. Josiah Gorgas, one of the most able of
Southern leaders, confided to his diary the implications of the
calamitous change in fortune to the South attending the twin disasters
of Gettysburg and Vicksburg:

  Events have succeeded one another with disastrous rapidity. One brief
  month ago we were apparently at the point of success. Lee was in
  Pennsylvania threatening Harrisburgh, and even Philadelphia.
  Vicksburgh seemed to laugh all Grant’s efforts to scorn.... All looked
  bright. Now the picture is just as somber as it was bright then. Lee
  failed at Gettysburgh.... Vicksburgh and Port Hudson capitulated,
  surrendering thirty-five thousand men and forty-five thousand arms. It
  seems incredible that human power could effect such a change in so
  brief a space. Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle of success—today
  absolute ruin seems to be our portion. The Confederacy totters to its

In Washington, a grateful President sat at his desk seeking words to
express appreciation to Grant “for the almost inestimable service you
have done the country.” Explaining the fear he had entertained that the
Union Army might be destroyed during its daring thrust in the rear of
Vicksburg, which he believed at the time to be “a mistake,” Lincoln
wrote to Grant, “I wish now to make the personal acknowledgement that
you were right and I was wrong.”

On July 9, the Confederate commander at Port Hudson, upon learning of
the fall of Vicksburg, surrendered his garrison of 6,000 men. One week
later the merchant steamboat _Imperial_ tied up at the wharf at New
Orleans, completing the 1,000-mile passage from St. Louis undisturbed by
hostile guns. After 2 years of land and naval warfare, the Mississippi
River was open, the grip of the South had been broken, and merchant and
military traffic had now a safe avenue to the gulf. In the words of
Lincoln, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

    [Illustration: _The Union Army passing the courthouse as it took
    possession of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863._ From a wartime sketch.]

                          _Guide to the Area_

Vicksburg National Military Park is shaped like a great crescent,
enclosing the city of Vicksburg within a 9-mile arc which curves from
the old bed of the Mississippi River north of the city to the river
south of Vicksburg (from U. S. 61 north of Vicksburg, across U. S. 80
east of the city, to U. S. 61 south of Vicksburg). The two main avenues
in Vicksburg National Military Park, Union Avenue and Confederate
Avenue—constructed along the siege lines established by the two
armies—are parallel. The black markers, on iron standards, indicate the
position of the fortified lines and the units which occupied that
sector. The remains of artillery batteries, forts (and the ditches in
front), and trenches are clearly visible, although, during the 36-year
interval between the siege and the establishment of the park, the
fortifications and trenches have suffered marked alteration from wind
and weather. All the cannon barrels are originals, used during the Civil
War; the carriages are replacements. This self-guiding tour begins at
the museum, going north on Confederate Avenue. It provides a brief
inspection of Union Avenue, proceeds to the national cemetery, a
distance of 6 miles, and returns south by way of Union Avenue. The
numbered stops of this tour correspond to the numbers on the tour map
found on pages 28-29.


Located at the center of Confederate Avenue, at its junction with U. S.
80. Here are exhibits illustrating and explaining the campaign and siege
of Vicksburg and the outstanding features of Vicksburg National Military
Park. A recorded lecture synchronized with lights on a large relief map
explains fully the story of the Vicksburg operations.


(in front of museum) Davis was a West Point graduate, Mexican War
colonel, Mississippi cotton planter, United States Senator, Secretary of
War, and, finally, President of the Confederacy.

As you begin the tour, notice the natural strength of the Confederate
position on the crest of the ridge. The ground drops away to your right
and, several hundred yards across the ravine, rises to a similar and
parallel ridge. From this, the Union Army launched its siege operations
against the Confederate line. Before the siege began, all the trees
between the lines had been cut down by the Confederate engineers to
insure a clear field of fire.


Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, a native Pennsylvanian, elected to fight for
the South and commanded the Confederate Army of Vicksburg. When a
command in keeping with his rank of three-star general was unavailable
after Vicksburg, he voluntarily resigned his commission and served as a
lieutenant colonel of artillery for the remainder of the war—a
testimonial of his loyalty to the South.

    [Illustration: _Museum and administration building of Vicksburg
    National Military Park._]


A State memorial to her 4,600 soldiers in the siege, the bas-relief and
sculptures around the base of the shaft depict battle scenes. The 9-inch
Dahlgren gun at the rear of the monument was one of the largest used at


This is a monument to Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman who was killed at the
battle of Champion’s Hill, 18 miles east of Vicksburg, as he manned an
artillery piece in an attempt to hold off a Union charge. A broken gun
carriage lies under his horse’s forefeet.


The largest fort on the Confederate line, its well-preserved walls
extend on both sides of the Louisiana memorial. On top is the Eternal
Torch. The low marble markers on the slope, below the avenue in front of
the fort, mark the farthest advance of Union regiments in the
unsuccessful assault of May 22. On the ridge, 200 yards away, is the
Union line.


Grant and Pemberton met under an oak tree, midway between the lines, for
surrender negotiations. The tree immediately vanished to provide
souvenirs of the historic event; notches on this monument erected by
Union soldiers after the surrender are the work of latter-day souvenir

The tour now follows Union Avenue, which parallels Confederate Avenue,
for a short distance before returning to the Confederate line.

    [Illustration: _The Illinois Memorial._]


Symbolic figure of Michigan bringing laurels to her soldiers of the
siege. Beyond the monument, left of the avenue, notice the wall which
protected the Union artillery.


A siege landmark, and termed the “White House” by the soldiers, it is
the lone surviving wartime structure in the park.


Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, this Memorial Temple, the largest
monument on the field, is dedicated to the 36,312 Illinois men whose
names are inscribed on the bronze plaques within. The Illinois
Commission specified that no device indicative of war should appear on
the memorial.


This Confederate fort, marked by the three artillery pieces at right of
the avenue, was reached by “Logan’s Approach,” a Union advance trench.
Federal engineers constructed a mine underneath the redan and exploded
2,200 pounds of powder, which blasted a tremendous crater into which
Union infantry raced, only to be driven back after severe fighting.


The precipitous slopes of the ridges and deeply cut ravines protected
the city, making Vicksburg a natural fortress. The 75-foot drop from the
bridge well illustrates the difficult terrain over which the Union Army


Site of the Arkansas memorial. The twin pylons are representative of
North and South, which were split by the sword of war and reunited by
the cross of faith in a restored Union. Depicted on the left are
Arkansas soldiers repelling a Union assault; on the right, the
Confederate ram _Arkansas_.


A border State, Missouri was divided in sympathy during the Civil War.
Her soldiers enlisted in the armies of both the North and the South. By
the fortunes of war, in this sector of the siege line, Missouri soldiers
of the Union and Confederate armies faced and fought each other. The
monument honors both. The plaque on the left depicts Missouri Federals
attacking this position; on the right, Missouri Confederates defending
it. Between the panels, the prow of the Ship of State symbolizes the
divided Union; the figure above is the Republic, emerging from the war
with renewed strength.


For a close view of siege warfare, walk up into the fort, to the
artillery piece at the right of the avenue. From the ridge 150 yards
away, Union cannon, which are trained on the fort, blasted the
Confederate defenders continuously. During the assault of May 22,
Grant’s infantry reached the wall of the fort. The two black markers in
front of the cannon and just below it indicate where colorbearers
planted their flags, almost at the top of the wall, before the assault
was broken and driven back.


Erected by the Vicksburg National Military Park Commission, in 1909, to
provide a panoramic view of the park and the city of Vicksburg.

    [Illustration: _Terraces in Vicksburg National Cemetery._]


Anchoring the Confederate left flank on the Mississippi River, its guns
commanded the Union right as well as the river. The flags of England,
France, Spain, the United States, and the Confederate States have flown
over this historic site, where the bluffs meet the river, during the
centuries-old struggle for control of the Mississippi. Fort Nogales
(Spanish) was built here in 1791, and Fort McHenry, 1798, was the first
American settlement at Vicksburg. The water below the fort is not the
Mississippi River—it changed its course in 1876—but the Yazoo Diversion
Canal, bringing the Yazoo water into the old bed of the Mississippi.


Established in 1866 to reinter the remains of nearly 17,000 Union
soldiers who had been given temporary burial in scattered locations
during the war. The identity of almost 13,000 of the soldiers is
unknown. The national cemetery also contains the remains of veterans of
the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars, World Wars I and II, and Korea.

From the lower cemetery drive, you may leave the park and emerge 2 miles
north of downtown Vicksburg on U. S. 61. If time permits, we recommend
your completing the tour of the park by following the “Park Tour” arrows
from the cemetery, south on Union Avenue, in order that you may view the
Union lines and monuments and the southern portion of the park.


The 202-foot shaft is a tribute to the achievements of the Union Navy in
the Vicksburg operations. Statues of four fleet commanders, Admirals
Farragut and Porter and Flag Officers Davis and Andrew H. Foote,
surround the base.


An equestrian statute of General Grant marks his headquarters location.
Impressive monuments, here, of five northeastern States—PENNSYLVANIA,
troops were on the exterior line of defense against Johnston’s army.


“Old Abe,” the famous Wisconsin war eagle and mascot of the 8th
Wisconsin, was carried alongside the regimental colors, on the march and
in battle, through 3 years of war. A 6-foot bronze replica atop the
State monument now honors his war service. Names of all Wisconsin
soldiers at Vicksburg are on plaques around the base.


At the base of the 100-foot shaft, a symbolic figure of Peace holds a
shield and a sword, signifying that the soldiers of both armies have
placed their weapons in her keeping, and the Union is at peace.

    [Illustration: _The Alabama Memorial._]


In front, a mounted colorbearer with unfurled flag awaits the order to
advance. The six bronze bas-relief panels portray scenes of the
Vicksburg operations in which Iowa soldiers participated—the bombardment
of Grand Gulf, the battles of Port Gibson, Jackson, Champion’s Hill, and
Big Black River, and the assault on Vicksburg of May 22, 1863.


Also called Square Fort, its walls are well preserved. The two lines of
markers in front of the fort indicate the site of “Hovey’s Approach”—a
Union trench dug almost against the walls of the Confederate fort.


Around the flag—which represents the spirit of Alabama—the group of
figures symbolizes the courage and devotion of both the soldiers and
women of Alabama during the war. The monument was dedicated in 1951.

This completes the park tour. By continuing northward on Confederate
Avenue for one-half mile, you will reach U. S. 80 at Memorial Arch.
Turning left, through the arch, you will be in the city of Vicksburg.
Colored route markers will guide you over U. S. 61 north and south and
U. S. 80 west through the city. You may also reach U. S. 61 south and U.
S. 80 west by turning south at the Alabama Monument and following
Confederate Avenue through the southernmost portion of Vicksburg
National Military Park to U. S. 61, below the city of Vicksburg.

                               _The Park_

Vicksburg National Military Park was established in 1899 to preserve the
site of the siege of Vicksburg and was placed under the jurisdiction of
the War Department. In 1933, it was transferred to the National Park
Service of the United States Department of the Interior. The park
consists generally of the Confederate and Union siege lines, now
Confederate and Union Avenues, and the area between. The park’s 30 miles
of avenues and about 1,330 acres of federally owned land contain 128
artillery pieces and 1,600 monuments, markers, and tablets, as well as
17 State memorials.

                        _How To Reach the Park_

The park forms a semicircle around the city of Vicksburg, Miss., which
is located at the intersection of U. S. 80 and 61, midway between
Memphis and New Orleans.


Vicksburg National Military Park is administered by the National Park
Service of the United States Department of the Interior. Communications
should be addressed to the Superintendent, Vicksburg National Military
Park, Box 349, Vicksburg, Miss.

                            _Related Areas_

Other Civil War battlefields administered by the National Park Service,
and important to the military operations in the West, are: Shiloh,
Stones River, and Fort Donelson National Military Parks, Tenn., and
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Ga.-Tenn.

                          _Visitor Facilities_

The Union and Confederate siege-lines are well marked and readily
visible from Union and Confederate Avenues. Information and free
literature, as well as the service of park historians, are available in
the museum which contains exhibits explaining and illustrating the
Vicksburg operations. An electrical relief map synchronized with a
recorded lecture affords a full explanation of the campaign and siege to
each visitor. Educational groups may receive a guided tour of the park.

             U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1961 O-586734

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                       HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES

   (Price lists of National Park Service publications may be obtained
       from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington 25, D.C.)

  Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields
  Custer Battlefield
  Custis-Lee Mansion, the Robert E. Lee Memorial
  Fort Laramie
  Fort McHenry
  Fort Necessity
  Fort Pulaski
  Fort Raleigh
  Fort Sumter
  George Washington Birthplace
  Guilford Courthouse
  Hopewell Village
  Jamestown, Virginia
  Kings Mountain
  The Lincoln Museum and the House Where Lincoln Died
  Manassas (Bull Run)
  Montezuma Castle
  Morristown, a Military Capital of the Revolution
  Petersburg Battlefields
  Scotts Bluff
  Statue of Liberty
  Vanderbilt Mansion

    [Illustration: Memorial column]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—Corrected a few palpable typos.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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