Confederate Army

PAGE 55: Federal naval schooners were able to shell Confederate shore positions with newly installed mortars. These large, heavy weapons fired shells high enough into the air that they plunged vertically into the entrenchments at which they were aimed. LEFT: The decisive point of the Confederate defensive along the Mississippi, the critical transportation route for the South, was the city of Vicksburg. General Fremont had claimed that the side "controlling the Mississippi Valley would win the war." Knowing that the loss of the crucial rail and river shipping that went through the city of Vicksburg would threaten the existence of the Confederacy, Grant began to move to claim the fortress city.

grand terms: the Mississippi River should "roll unvexed to the sea." The success of this campaign would yield far more than the symbolic and political results suggested by Lincoln's words. With the securing of the Mississippi, the Federal military would be able to deny the Confederate East the supplies and thousands of reinforcements from the rich states of the Confederate Southwest. Vicksburg was the key—if it should fall, Port Hudson could not be defended.

The strategically important city could have been occupied easily at any time in early 1862, but Van Dorn had been ordered there soon after the battle at Pea Ridge. Since June, fifteen thousand of Van Corn's men had been busily digging defenses and constructing field fortifications on the heights. Vicksburg was rapidly becoming the "Gibraltar of the West."

Federal troops, gunboats, and vessels carrying large siege mortars began to arrive along the Louisiana shore opposite Vicksburg, and troops were landed to begin to fortify the area. Engineering officers quickly recognized the obvious strength of Vicksburg and suggested a plan to bypass the fortress without a costly battle.

Vicksburg was located at the tip of a

Vicksburg River Batteries

made to dig a new channel for the Mississippi through the narrow neck of the peninsula. Soldiers and laborers, many of them African Americans, continuously worked on the canal while Farragut's floating batteries shelled the city's defenses from the river in an unsuccessful attempt to silence the defender's batteries. Farragut raced his vessels past Vicksburg's guns on June 22 and was joined upstream by additional gunboats from Memphis on July 1. Naval engagements against the strong shore batteries continued, but July 1862 was not a good month for the Federal forces.

Halleck was soon promoted to command in Washington, and Grant assumed command in the west. Pemberton was assigned Van Dorn's command in Vicksburg in October

Confederate And Union Army

TOP: Prosperity came to the river city of Vicksburg after taxpayers subsidized the construction of railroads linking it to distant markets. ABOVE: The Warren County Courtroom, with its Greek-styled columns, dominated the view of Vicksburg from the river. Steamboats delivered goods and produce to the city's wharves and warehouses, where they were stored until freight cars could move the items to the interior of the Confederacy.

TOP: Prosperity came to the river city of Vicksburg after taxpayers subsidized the construction of railroads linking it to distant markets. ABOVE: The Warren County Courtroom, with its Greek-styled columns, dominated the view of Vicksburg from the river. Steamboats delivered goods and produce to the city's wharves and warehouses, where they were stored until freight cars could move the items to the interior of the Confederacy.

Battle Mine Creek Battle Movements
Union forces under General William S. Rosecrans battled Braxton Bragg's Confederates to a bloody draw at Murfreesboro, a battle that took place early on in 1863-

as Grant placed Sherman in charge of a thirty-two-thousand-man army, which moved quickly to attack the city's defensive lines at Chickasaw Bayou on December 20. Pem-berton was able to rush reinforcements to the bluffs above Sherman's large army and the ensuing battle cost Sherman two thousand casualties while the Confederates lost fewer than two hundred men.

December was a month filled with additional reverses for Grant's men. Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the escapees from Fort Donelson, raided deep into the north of Grant's army and cut the Union army's telegraph communications and destroyed nearly sixty miles of railroad.

Van Dorn's Confederates had also been active; they raided the Federal supply depot at Holly Springs, capturing fifteen hundred men and $1,500,000 worth of military supplies. Grant was left without supplies and communications for eleven days as he marched northward to Grand Junction, Tennessee, a distance of eighty miles. Grant only learned of Sherman's defeat at Chicka-saw Bayou, the third of December's reverses, on January 8, 1863.

There was some good news for the Union in December, however, following the standoff between General William S. Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg at the battle of Murfreesboro. This battle, a strategic defeat for the Confederacy, cost Bragg twelve thousand men he could scarcely afford to lose as he was forced closer to Chattanooga.

Grant's reverses were taken in stride as he continued to keep his general objective in view. Lost battles did not mean the end of a

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Joseph Johnston Color
General Joseph E. Johnston, convalescing from a wound he had received at Seven Pines, had left Robert E. Lee in command in Virginia and could spare no troops for the defense or relief of Vicksburg after Grant began his siege.
Confederate Army

Very heavy casualties resulted from the Federal attack on Fort Beauregarda part of Vicksburg's defenses. The color-hearer of the 22nd Iowa Regiment may have planted his colors on the high breastworks, but the attackers were driven back.

campaign and Grant continued to press toward Vicksburg with his usual tenacity. Other plans failed and rising water destroyed the channel intended to allow Federal ships to bypass Vicksburg's guns, but these failures only served to increase Grant's determination to capture the fortress.

Grant's next moves were more successful. Gunboats and transports protected infantry regiments that were delivered fresh (i.e. not exhausted by days of marching prior to entering battle). Sherman was sent on a diversion against the doomed city's defenses in late April as Grant prepared to move on a fast-paced campaign into the interior of Mississippi.

Abandoning his base and supply depots at Grand Gulf, knowing that Pemberton could be expected to move against his nonexistent supply lines back to the river, Grant moved out on a three-week campaign inside hostile territory. His gamble permitted his troops to operate on the dry land south and east of the city while his troops lived off the land as they maneuvered between the forces of both Pemberton and Johnston. As anticipated, Pemberton moved to cut Grant's abandoned supply lines with the river rather than unite his forces with those of Johnston to strike Grant in a decisive battle. This error allowed Grant to wage a maneuver campaign between the forces of his two enemies over which he would have had no numerical advantage if they had united their forces. Grant's losses were slight, and within three weeks Vicksburg was completely invested by

The Supplies For The Confederate Army

ABOVE: While Grant's army attacked Vicksburg from land, the Union navy shelled the town from the Mississippi River. Federal naval officers had accepted the risks associated with sailing their ocean warships into the shallow waters near Vicksburg. RIGHT: The Union navy played a decisive role in securing various waterways important to the Confederacy and shelling strategic cities along southern and western rivers.

ABOVE: While Grant's army attacked Vicksburg from land, the Union navy shelled the town from the Mississippi River. Federal naval officers had accepted the risks associated with sailing their ocean warships into the shallow waters near Vicksburg. RIGHT: The Union navy played a decisive role in securing various waterways important to the Confederacy and shelling strategic cities along southern and western rivers.

Confederate ArmyUnion ArmyimagesConfederate ArmyImages The Creek Confederacy

OPPOSITE: The 8th Wisconsin Infantry and mascot, an immature bald eagle named "Old Abe," rush into withering fire during the siege of Vicksburg. ABOVE: The artillery at Vicksburg turned out to be useless because defenders were unable to lower their muzzles sufficiently to draw a bead on the Union attackers.

OPPOSITE: The 8th Wisconsin Infantry and mascot, an immature bald eagle named "Old Abe," rush into withering fire during the siege of Vicksburg. ABOVE: The artillery at Vicksburg turned out to be useless because defenders were unable to lower their muzzles sufficiently to draw a bead on the Union attackers.

Union besiegers. His army had marched 180 miles, won five battles, captured Jackson, Mississippi (the state capital), and caused six thousand Confederate casualties.

Grant ordered a general assault on the defenses of Vicksburg by his entire army on May 22, 1863, but the attack failed. The Federal army settled into a general siege: trenches were dug, tunnels were dug beneath the defenders and exploded, and by July 1 the Confederate garrison was using the last of its resources. Vicksburg raised the surrender flag on July 3, and on the following day, the nation's birthday, Pemberton and his sol diers surrendered. The "Gibraltar of the West" had fallen.

As predicted, Port Hudson was unable to continue to resist Bank's attacks and the entire garrison surrendered three days after Vicksburg capitulated to Grant. July 1863 was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Vicksburg's defenders had ceased to resist on July 3—the same day the final shots were fired at Gettysburg.

Grant had demonstrated his ability to successfully manage his army through military reverses that would have halted other generals in their tracks. He had shown that he was willing to gamble for high stakes when he abandoned his base of operations and entered a maneuver campaign for three weeks inside enemy territory. His excellent Mississippi campaign served as a model for Sherman in the latter's triumphant march through Georgia to the sea. Grant

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had proven that the risky project of maneuvering behind enemy lines could be handled successfully.

Losses for the Confederacy were enormous following the fall of Vicksburg. Nearly thirty thousand officers and men surrendered, giving up 172 artillery pieces and approximately sixty thousand muskets. More seriously, the Mississippi River was now open to Federal navigation from New Orleans to St. Louis. The Confederacy had been dealt a near-mortal blow. The new nation had been split, denying the East large quantities of supplies from the West. At the same time, the possibility of recognition from Britain and France was more unlikely than ever following major Union victories and the Emancipation Proclamation. The Union was winning on both military and political fronts.

Who Commanded The Confederate Army
General John C. Pemberton served as the Confederate commander at Vicksburg. He came under suspicion from other Confederates because he had been born in Pennsylvania. After marrying a woman from Virginia and serving in the South with the prewar national army, he came to love the region.

chapter chapter

Gettysburg

Pitting Force Against Force

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