Vicksburg and Gettysburg

Siege of Vicksburg

After the fall of Vicksburg on July 5, 1863, Lincoln declared, “Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the war” (McPherson, 638). Grant’s Vicksburg campaign remains one of the most studied in American military history.  Students in History 288 should be able to explain why the months of maneuvering and the long siege are considered so pivotal.  And those interested in reviewing some primary sources from the siege, should consult this post from Blog Divided.

We will also begin a period of study concerning the Gettysburg Campaign which culminated in early July 1863.  The House Divided Project offers a number of resources about the campaign and the battle.   There is the beginning of a major topic section here inside the research engine that includes a number of powerful images, maps, and newspaper articles.  But students might find it more compelling to consult various posts at the Blog Divided, such as one about the Taylor Brothers from the First Minnesota.  Isaac Taylor died on the second day of the battle.  His brother Henry, also enrolled in the regiment, helped bury him.  Or check out the dramatic story of Sam Wilkeson, a reporter for the New York Times, who was “embedded” with the Army of the Potomac and whose young son was a Union artillery officer killed on the first day of the battle.  There is also a post directing students to an engaging online exhibit from the US Army on the battle.

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4 Responses to Vicksburg and Gettysburg

  1. Darcy says:

    The events that occurred in the months leading up to the Battle of Vicksburg were paramount to the success of Grant’s army. Many of the decisions Grant made in his strategic planning for the battle were extremely risky. This was especially true as many Union troops were placed with no access to supply lines, some even deep within enemy territory. The troops had to live off of the land. This new strategy allowed the troops to move faster as they didn’t have to move large amounts of supplies and also because they did not have to attempt to protect the supply line from base to their field position.

    Grant’s plan was based largely in chance: chance that the gunboats would survive long enough to ferry the troops across river; chance that the Union cavalry could wreak enough havoc without being caught to distract Pemberton and his army; chance that Sherman could distract the rest of Pemberton’s army with his attack. Luckily for Grant, Grierson’s cavalry units were able to destroy key railroad tracks that supplied the Confederate Army, train cars and depots filled with supplies and capture, kill or wound many Confederate soldiers. The cavalry was able to avoid both the Confederate cavalry and infantry units in its pursuit.

    Maneuvers and strategy much like these enabled Grant to gain a psychological edge over the Confederate Army. Grant, after crossing the Mississippi River, went towards Jackson, rather than Vicksburg as many Confederate military leaders in the West predicted. The CSA Army was slow to respond to the movements of Grant’s Army due to bureaucracy and divisive opinions. Eventually Johnston was ordered to take command of the army, but he was not very willing to be a leader in this theatre. He eventually becomes involved and attempts to defend Jackson from the Union, but was unsuccessful in the face of Sherman’s tactics.

    Following this, Grant and his army were able to eventually lay siege to Vicksburg with the Confederate troops within. The Union Army fought incredibly well in the battle leading up to the siege, which inspired confidence among the soldiers. This was a marked change from the losses that the North had continued to suffer in the West—defeats that also angered the disheartened Northern citizens. The events leading up to the Union victory at Vicksburg, however, were distinct in that the Confederate was undergoing a crisis of confidence.

    Through this campaign, the Confederate troops were cut off from their supply lines, witnessed the destruction of Jackson, watched the residents of Vicksburg starve, waited for Johnston to rescue their fellow Southerners to no avail, and learned about the surrender of both Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Port Hudson was defeated with only the news that Pemberton had surrendered Vicksburg. The Western Theatre was unraveling for the Confederacy as the Union began to win key victories that cut the Confederate states in half.

    This is vitally important both strategically as it enabled the Union to control a key waterway, the Mississippi, and it geographically and militarily split the already quite politically divided South. This campaign and victory destroyed some of the morale in the West among Confederates, who before now believed the CSA to be invincible. This dispirited morale slowly spread across the Southern states as news of the defeat was learned, only increasing when information of the Gettysburg Campaign reached the Confederacy.

  2. Hannah Wagner says:

    By getting in position to attack Vicksburg, Grant ran the risk of an attack on his ships as they sailed down the river, and having to reside in enemy territory while he prepared to attack. Nevertheless, he knew that it was a necessary risk. Thanks to the raids of Grierson, Grant’s forces were able to cross the river unopposed. The most important event during the campaign involved McPherson and McClernand’s corps, with a total of 29,000 Union troops verses 20,000 Confederate troops in Pemberton’s army. McPherson enegaged in battle right away, but McClernand hesitates, and the majority of the Pemberton’s troops retreat. Up to this point, Grant has won all five of the battles between the north and south while trapping the soldiers defending Vicksburg. After two failed assault attempts, Grant orders a siege of Vicksburg. Johnston refuses to come to the Pemberton’s aid; he does not believe that he has the power to defeat the Union army. Pemberton finally surrenders as conditions in the city become unbearable for the army and the civilians trapped inside. Soon after, Port Hudson was surrendered after it commander saw what had happened at Vicksburg. The Capture of Vicksburg is considered the most important northern strategic victory of the war because it gave control of the Mississppi River to the Union.

  3. Colin Farrell says:

    Grant’s victory at Vicksburg can be argued to be the turing point of the war for the Union. This victory depleted Confederate morale and opened up the western theater to Union occupation and take over. Vicksburg was the gateway to both the west and the Mississippi, and by seizing Vicksburg Grant was able to move the Union forces one step closer to winning the war.

    However, this victory did not come easy for Grant and required a lot of strategic and tactical maneuvering. The risk associated with these maneuvers was very high. It was uncertain whether or not these maneuvers would benefit the Union. But what was certain was if they failed they would most definitely hurt the Union forces and their campaign in the western theater.

    In order to ensure that his attack on Vicksburg would succeed, Grant need a couple of things to work in his favor. First he needed to ensure that he would have artillery support from the gun boats stationed on the Mississippi. Secondly he needed the Union cavalry to work diligently to occupy Pemberton’s forces and allow for him to attack Vicksburg without the fear of the CSA having any form of military back up. Both of these maneuvers proved to be successful. Grierson’s cavalry unit was able to distract those of the CSA and was also able to cut of the CSA from supplies by destroying key rail tracks. This allowed Grant to cross over the Mississippi without any confrontation.

    After crossing the river Grant moved his forces to Jackson and than ultimately to Vicksburg. This strategic maneuver allowed Grant to move his forces quickly to Vicksburg as the CSA reacted slowly and was one step behind him. After Grant gathered his forces he orders two failed attacks on the city. Finally his third attempt to siege the city prevails and Grant is able to take Vicksburg with ease.

    The siege of Vicksburg was pivotal to the success of the Union army not only in the western theater but in the war as a whole. This defeat of the CSA proved to be demoralizing both physically and psychologically. After this defeat the tables turned in favor of the Union and started their push to end the war.

  4. John T. says:

    The nearly simultaneous victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg represent a pivotal moment in the Civil War with broad implications on both strategy and to a lesser degree morale. Lee sought with his second invasion of the North to relieve the farms and resources of Virginia and most importantly to draw Union attention and manpower away from Vicksburg. He advocated this strategy over detaching some of his own men, namely Longstreet’s Corps to make a move to relieve pressure on Pemberton’s army in Vicksburg. Tactically Gettysburg and Lee’s campaign accomplished little for either the Union or the Confederacy. The fate of Pemberton’s army was sealed and Lee was defeated at Gettysburg just one day before the surrender of Vicksburg. Meade’s victory at Gettysburg caused Lee’s army to retreat to Virginia, but failed to destroy Lee’s army when they were pinned against Potomac. For the rest of the war Lee would never field a larger army.

    The tactical significance of the surrender of Vicksburg and subsequently Port Hudson was tremendous as it secured the Mississippi River for the Union. Establishing control of the Mississippi was key to the divide and conquer element of the Anaconda plan. Victory on the Mississippi River allowed the Union army to begin sweeping east from the river, further disrupting the Confederate interior and ultimately culminating in Sherman’s March to the Sea and southeastern campaigns in 1864. The campaign leading up to the siege of Vicksburg illustrates of the audacity, talent, and persistence of U.S. Grant. Grant’s bold approach of Vicksburg, running gunboats past the city to cross his army south of the city, defeat of Johnston’s army at Jackson show Grant’s willingness to take risks and persevere in the face of defeat. These were traits the Union had been seeking for three years in its high command. These campaigns allowed Grant to demonstrate his ability immediately resulting in his selection by Lincoln as commander of the Division of the Mississippi and ultimate promotion to Lieutenant General.

    The boost of Union morale was significant, but its impacts were limited. Union war fatigue and partisan divisions in the North by no means disappeared. This fact is as evidenced by low recruitment returns, hostility and rioting in response to the Enrollment Act, and continued opposition to Lincoln. For the Confederacy, Gettysburg was an upsetting defeat, but in itself did not have a tactical cost. Vicksburg had greater impact as Southerners felt let down by Pemberton and Johnston, aware of the significant tactical importance the loss represented. The Confederacy’s leadership issues in the west would remain a lingering issue and sore point in the Southern war effort.

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