DO miles

I CO km

Situation after the fall of Corinth, 30 Ma/ 1862

atiiiniii by Confederates to be the 'Gibraltar of the West.'

By June 1862. no commander in either army could boast of successes like Halleck's in the Western Theater of war. With Kentucky, Missouri. Tennessee, and much of Arkansas in Federal hands, 'Old Brains', as Halleck was commonly known before the war (an inference due to the size of his forehead and his intellect), had become the architect of success. Northern hopes for an end to the war escalated. But as the rivers began to shrink due to the summer heat, so too did Union activity in the west begin to decelerate.

Waging a limited war for limited goals, at a time when Union armies were now poised to strike at the South's vital slavery districts in the west, proved cumbersome for Union commanders whose armies occupied a region

Op the morning of 6 June 1862. thousands of residents lined the nver bluffs to view the Battle of Memphis. It took less than two hours for the Union fleet to ''educe the city, and the Union used the Mississippi River city as a base for the Vicksburg expedition (Ann Ronar Picture library)

about the size of France. Fighting in battle constituted one brand of warfare, but attempting to maintain supremacy in the occupied regions while respecting the constitutional rights of Southern civilians, including their right to own slaves, would soon demoralize soldiers and Northern civilians alike. Thus the summer of 1S62 was a defining period not so much in combat, hut rather in how far Union authorities

Op the morning of 6 June 1862. thousands of residents lined the nver bluffs to view the Battle of Memphis. It took less than two hours for the Union fleet to ''educe the city, and the Union used the Mississippi River city as a base for the Vicksburg expedition (Ann Ronar Picture library)

and the Union populace would go in continuing to support Lincoln's desire to fight a war that made ultimate peace and reunion possible.

By mid-June, with the rivers no longer at his disposal. Halleck had dispersed his large army overland and turned his sights to securing the fruits of his army's labors. He ordered Buell and his 31,000 soldiers east toward Chattanooga, an important Tennessee city on the edge of the Appalachians, through which passed the Memphis and Charleston railroad and the Tennessee River. Because his army would be marching in the same direction as the railroad. Halleck considered the use of the iron horse to be an asset to Buell's campaign. But the railroad in this case proved to be a curse, and Buell's army would have serious difficulty in moving east. In the meantime, Halleck used Grant and Sherman to police West Tennessee with the 67,000 soldiers left in his grand army. The string of victories ceased.

By mid-July, Lincoln had made Halleck his chief-of-staff, which left Grant the command in West Tennessee and Buell the command of his soldiers stalled in northern Alabama. Because of the disposition of their forces, neither commander was prepared to continue the momentum of offensive warfare. The recalcitrant temper of the Southern populace, guerrilla activity, and the frustration of protecting long and vulnerable supply lines and railroads all combined to stall operations.

The Confederate counteroffensive

During the summer of 1862, in the absence of offensive Union strikes, the Confederates seized the opportunity to take the war back into the Upper South states of Tennessee and Kentucky. Besides, the Federals had held the upper hand long enough in those states that civilians might desire Confederate redemption, particularly in light of the fact that Northern authorities were directing their armies to strike at the institution of slavery. About the same time that Halleck left the west, so too did Beauregard. Major-General Braxton Bragg was his successor.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg had a distinguished pre-war career After serving m the Seminole War Bragg won three brevets in the Mexican War He was ordered to command in the west m early 1862 and participated in the battles of Shiloh, Rerryville. Stone's Hiver. Chickamauga. and Chattanooga. He was constantly in dispute with severa' top commanders, which considerably weakened his command (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

Confederate General Braxton Bragg had a distinguished pre-war career After serving m the Seminole War Bragg won three brevets in the Mexican War He was ordered to command in the west m early 1862 and participated in the battles of Shiloh, Rerryville. Stone's Hiver. Chickamauga. and Chattanooga. He was constantly in dispute with severa' top commanders, which considerably weakened his command (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

A West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran. Bragg enjoyed a prominent reputation. He was bright, industrious, and an able administrator, but his argumentative manner often invited criticism and alienated him from others. Still, once he assumed command of the Confederate army in the west, he was determined to redeem the Confederacy's lost fortunes. Having been driven from the Confederate heartland, Bragg devised a scheme that would reverse the war in the west.

Bragg's Kentucky invasion began after the Confederates retreated south to Tupelo in June. From there he would move his 22,500-man army by rail to Mobile and then to Chattanooga before Buell reached the city. In mid-July, he left Van Dorn at Tupelo and set out on a circuitous journey that would take several weeks, finally reaching Chattanooga by the end of August. From

there lie and Major-General Edmund Kirbv Smith, already at Lexington. Kentucky, with 10,000 soldiers, would bypass Nashville and head north to Louisville. Along the way he was disappointed to find that Kentuckians showed little interest in enlisting in his Confederate ranks, as he had hoped. Nearing Louisville. Bragg's forces captured Munfordville on 17 September after convincing the Federal commander there. Colonel John T. Wilder, that he was greatly outnumbered. Residents of Louisville and across the Ohio River were panic-stricken that Bragg's army would soon arrive and advance across the river into Indiana.

Bragg's raid into Kentucky forced Buell to abandon northern Alabama and return to Louisville to protect the city. Consequently, he forfeited much of the region that his army had fought hard to conquer earlier in the year. Though it was a demoralizing march, to its credit his army moved swiftly-north, some days marching nearly 30 miles (48kmi, and by the end of September had made it to Louisville.

In early October, Buell's 60,000 men engaged Bragg's force of less than half that size at the Battle of Perryville. The battle opened on the 8th when soldiers from both armies, searching for water, blundered into one another. The fight developed chaotically, as neither commander fully understood the strength or exact whereabouts of the other commander's entire army. In Buell's case, peculiar atmospheric conditions prevented him from realizing the seriousness of the engagement until the afternoon. By 2.00 pm the battle was raging furiously, although Buell was unable to commit his entire army to the fight. By nightfall, the uncoordinated character of the battle yielded little of immediate significance, except that the Federals had lost roughly 4,200 casualties and the Confederates about 3,400 men.

Though both commanders interpreted the fight to be a victory on their part. Bragg recognized during the night that Buell outnumbered him and would make short work of the Confederates unless he abandoned the battlefield and retreated

Confederate Genera! Earl Van Dorn was sent to command in Arkansas early in 1862. His army lost the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862. and was shortly after ordered east of the Mississippi River. In 1862. he successfully defended Vicksburg. but in October he failed to retake Corinth, Mississippi, and A-as shortly after ordered to serve under John C Pemberton (Review of Rev.ews Company)

Confederate Genera! Earl Van Dorn was sent to command in Arkansas early in 1862. His army lost the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862. and was shortly after ordered east of the Mississippi River. In 1862. he successfully defended Vicksburg. but in October he failed to retake Corinth, Mississippi, and A-as shortly after ordered to serve under John C Pemberton (Review of Rev.ews Company)

south. His invasion of Kentucky was over and in the days following the battle he crossed back into Tennessee and encamped at Murfreesboro. When Buell made excuses for not pursuing Bragg, Lincoln lost his patience with the overly cautious commander and eliminated him from command.

The initial Confederate late-summer thrusts to counter the Union spring offensive ended in October. By the time Bragg and Buell finally met at Perryville, other battles had taken place in northern Mississippi. At Iuka, just a few miles southeast of Corinth. General Grant sent Major-General William S. Rosecrans with 15,000 soldiers to dislodge Sterling Price's Confederates. On 19 September, Rosecrans succeeded in driving Price away before he could be reinforced by Earl Van Dorn at Tupelo and move into West Tennessee. In the weeks that followed, however, Van Dorn arrived to reinforce Price. Together the Confederates advanced to Corinth and battled Rosecrans for two days, on 3-4 October, but failed to defeat him. Fresh from victory, Rosecrans replaced Buell.

With Price and Van Dorn checked by Grant's forces in northern Mississippi, and now with Bragg retiring back to Tennessee, the Confederates would never again be poised to redeem either Kentucky or

Northern-born Johr, C Pemberton resigned his commission tn 1861 to offer his services in the Confederate army. In 1662. he was promoted to lieutenant-general and sent to guard Vicksburg and Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. By the summer of 1863, the Union army had enveloped his command, forcing it into Vicksburg. The Federals laid siege to the town, forcing it to capitulate on 4 July, (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

Tennessee. The Southern populace would have more to worry about than the sacrifice of their plantations and church bells. The Union army was bearing down on the South's wealthiest cotton and agricultural regions, where slaves were most numerous.

The Vicksburg campaign_

Having survived the Confederate attack at Corinth, Grant now focused his attention on the Mississippi River citadel of Vicksburg, located 300 miles (480km I south of Memphis on a hairpin turn high above the river. The city's small size, however, belied its military importance. Not only was it a prosperous and strategically significant city linked by

rail; it was also the link between the Confederate forces east and west of the river. If Vicksburg were captured, the Confederacy would have no chance to coordinate operations in the region or move supplies from Texas to the east. Throughout the spring and summer the Union had failed to capture the city. But with renewed vigor, Grant decided to direct a more concerted effort to achieve that objective.

In November 1862, Grant's army, now-designated the Army of the Tennessee, set out overland south on a 250-mile (400km) journey. It would require quartermasters to perform herculean labors to keep his 40,000 soldiers fed by using the north-south Mississippi Central railroad. The inhospitable geography of the Yazoo Delta country, characterized by swamps and vast stretches of woodlands without roads, made for frustrating campaigning. Grant had concluded that the only feasible way to reduce the risk to his army and to be in a position to capture the city once the army arrived would be to move slowly, but steadily.

Lieutenant-Genera! John C. Pemberton was the Confederate commander assigned to defend Vicksburg. As Grant advanced south, Pemberton retreated in the face of numerical superiority all the way to Grenada, Mississippi. To strengthen his chances, Grant divided his army into two movements on Vicksburg in early December. He ordered Sherman to return to Memphis with a division, collect enough troops to give him more than 20,000 men, and move down the Mississippi River with Admiral David Dixon Porter's gunboats. The amphibious expedition was designed to strike at Vicksburg from one direction while Grant advanced from central Mississippi, hoping to paralyze Pemberton.

Grant advanced all the way to Oxford, Mississippi, and Sherman had made it to Vicksburg by the time Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate cavalrymen had destroyed numerous stretches of the railroad. Earl Van Dorn meanwhile raided Grant's supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi, capturing 1.500 Federals and destroying S1.500,000 worth of supplies. With his communications severed and his principal supply depot wrecked. Grant pulled back, enabling Pemberton to swing a portion of his army at Sherman. On 29 December, the Confederates managed to repel both Union forces.

Forced to live off the countryside in mid-December, Federal troops stripped the landscape bare of livestock, grain, and forage. When the inhabitants begged for enough to live on through the winter, Grant sternly ordered them to move further south. It was a dismal winter, although the Federals managed to suffer less than the Southerners.

The Battle of Stone's River

Some 300 miles (480km) northeast of Vicksburg, Rosecrans replaced Buell in late October 1862. The army became known once again as the Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans's nickname, 'Old Rosy,' was an accurate characterization of his temper. Red-cheeked, affable, and energetic, Rosecrans was a favorite among the soldiers. Slovenliness infuriated him and he impressed soldiers by purging his command of incompetents. 'Everything for the service, nothing for individuals,' was his motto. Still, he was cautious and wavered at the critical hour.

When he inherited the army it was in Nashville, where he spent nearly two months preparing to move against Bragg's 38,000-man army, encamped at Murfreesboro along a swollen Stone's River. On 26 December, he set out with his 47,000 men to hit Bragg. Having been abused by the press and feeling political pressure for abandoning Kentucky, Bragg was determined not to be defeated. To the east of Stone's River he positioned Major-General John C. Breckinridge, and to the west of the river Bragg deployed his main force. By 29 December, Rosecrans's army had arrived in the vicinity of Murfreesboro, and during the night he positioned his men along the

Union General William S. Rosecrans //as sent .vest at his own reauest and served under John Pope dunng the advance on Connth. Mississippi, in May 1861 He fought successfully at the Battle of Connth in October, and replaced Don Carlos Buell in November Well liked by his men and a bnlliant strategist Rosecrans was known for his heavy drinking, profuse language and hot temper, and his soldiers dubbed him 'Old Rosey.' (Huton Getty)

Nashville turnpike several hundred yards from the Confederate line.

Ironically, both Rosecrans and Bragg had determined to attack the enemy's left flank, which meant that whoever attacked first would be advantaged. Bragg awaited an attack throughout the day on 30 December, but none was forthcoming. Bragg then struck the first blow on the following day by marching Major-General William Hardee's corps around the Federal right flank. At dawn, Hardee's men surprised the Federals and drove them back toward the Murfreesboro-Nashville turnpike and pinned them against Stone's River. The Confederates threw brigade after brigade at the Federal line, but failed to break it as both Generals George H. Thomas and Philip H. Sheridan resisted stubbornly.

As the early sunset, the last of 1862, closed the day's fighting, Bragg believed he had won a major victory. Indeed, he had redeemed his army's fortunes. 'God has granted us a Happy New Year,' he telegraphed Richmond. That night Rosecrans held a council of war and questioned his corps commanders as to the feasibility of a retreat. Hell.' Thomas replied, this army can't retreat.' Impressed by the resolve of his subordinates, Rosecrans decided to stay and fight.

The new year opened quietly and ominously. It was cold and the soldiers were tense with anticipation. They had recovered from the previous day's fight and were expecting any minute to commence fighting again. But the fighting never came. Rosecrans redeployed his troops to strengthen his lines, while Confederate scouts concluded that this was a ruse to mask the Federal retreat. On

This sketch by an artist of Ff®* Leslie's Illustrated depicts the Battle of Stone's River On Friday. 2 January 1863. at about 400 pm General Rosecrans ordered a final charge of General James Negiey's Union division across Stone's River. Here the 18th Ohio Infantry, followed dose behind by the 19th Illinois and the 21st Ohio, made their way across the river The artist of this sketch reported that 'the scene was grand in the extreme It was indeed a momentous battle on a miniature scale (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

2 January 1863, Bragg was dumbfounded to find that Rosecrans had not left. When the Confederate commander ordered Breckinridge to dislodge what he thought remained of the enemy force east of Stone's River late in the afternoon, the Federals initially fell back. As the Confederates advanced to the river, they found to their tremendous surprise that the Federals had prepared to counter the charge. Nearly 60 Federal cannon unleashed a thunderous barrage, and a counter of infantrymen followed that retired the Confederates in short order.

With his army exhausted and convinced that Rosecrans had been reinforced, Bragg reluctantly left the battlefield that night. He fell back toTullahoma. Tennessee, thus conceding the battlefield and the victory to Rosecrans, whose soldiers had stood their ground. The Battle of Stone's River was a stalemate that cost the Union some 13,000 casualties and the Confederates roughlv 10,200 casualties, or in both cases roughly 30 percent of their forces. In proportion to

men engaged and men lost, this battle ranked as the bloodiest of all battles.

The Union campaign on the Mississippi_

Southern hopes of redeeming the western losses had been significantly dashed by the new year. The Union army was now poised to move against Chattanooga. One demoralized Confederate remarked, 'I am sick and tired of this war, and I can see no prospects of having peace for a long time to come, I don't think it ever will be stopped b\ fighting, the Yankees can't whip us and we can never whip them.' Lincoln was so impressed by the victors' that he later confided to Rosecrans, you gave us a hard earned victory which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could hardly have lived over.'

The Civil War had not begun with Union authorities arguing that points ol occupation were more important than defeating Confederate armies. By 1863. however, it certainly appeared that this was the case in the Western Theater. The war in this region was about occupation of significant Southern ports, railroad junctions, cities, loyalist pockets, and plantation districts. Although this meant supplying armies over long distances and protecting the vital transportation arteries, the Union held firm to a belief that occupying strategic points would ultimately bring about the demise of the Confederacy. It was how to conduct affairs as proprietors of Southern domain rather than how to combat soldiers that consumed the attention of Union authorities. The resolve of Southern soldiers and civilians alike convinced mans commanders that the war would not end until popular support ended. Consequently, the limited-war attitude gave way to total war - the seizure and destruction of personal property as part of subjugating the enemy, irrespective of their presumed loyalty.

The Union campaigns of 1863. therefore, would be at a distinct advantage over those

The Battle of Stone's River, 3 I December 1862-2 January 1863

Union forces, 31 December am. Confederate forces. 31 December am.

Union forces, 31 December am. Confederate forces. 31 December am.

of the previous year. Commanders were able to exercise more liberality in foraging, confiscating contraband, and dealing with Southern civilians. Still, the objects remained the same. Control of the Mississippi River was paramount to the Union's strategic plan in the west. Although Confederates considered the Memphis and Charleston the backbone of their nation, Federals came to believe that the great spinal cord of the

Confederacy was the Mississippi. The Confederates still held two vital points on the river: Port Hudson, Louisiana, 25 miles (40km) north of Baton Rouge, and Vicksburg, near the mouth of the Yazoo River. But because they never managed to develop sufficient naval strength, Confederates were unable to control the river that they claimed for the Confederacy. Meanwhile, because of the river campaigns of early 1862, Union

TheVicksburg campaign, December 1862-May 1863

authorities had invested in new boats specifically designed for river warfare.

Nothing of much consequence occurred in January, as winter storms inhibited military operations. On 2 I-'ebruary, in broad winter daylight, the Union ram Queen of the West steamed past the Vicksburg batteries. Although it was struck 12 times, its commander, Colonel Charles R. Ellet, made it past and then struck three Confederate vessels, destroying the

A Confederate siege-gun mounted in the nver fortifications at Port Hudson. Louisiana.The Confederates blasted 20 of these pieces with deadly precision at David Farragut's fleet throughout the night of i-* March 1863. (Review of Reviews Company i supplies on board. Ellet was under orders to continue south all the way to the Red River near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line, disrupting (Confederate shipping as he went.

By February, Grant's army had taken up winter camp at Milliken's Bend, a few miles north of Vicksburg, where he devised a series of plans to take the river fortress. The difficulty of getting his army into a position to successfully attack the city remained his nemesis. Throughout the winter and early spring, he attempted a number of schemes, lie put his soldiers to work constructing a complex makeshift waterway by connecting creeks, old river channels, and bayous,

A Confederate siege-gun mounted in the nver fortifications at Port Hudson. Louisiana.The Confederates blasted 20 of these pieces with deadly precision at David Farragut's fleet throughout the night of i-* March 1863. (Review of Reviews Company i through which he could send Union vessels south around Vicksburg. Once the waterway was completed. Grant thought he would simply march his army down the river and the vessels could then ferry troops across to the eastern bank. But after several long weeks of arduous labor, he abandoned the operation, t hen he put his army to work digging an alternative channel bypassing the

This picture of Benjamin H. Gnerson and his men was taken shortly after his famous raid. Sitting with chin in hand. Gnerson boasted of the most significant Umon cavalry raid of the war in the west, luring |ohn Pemberton's cavalry into futile pursuit (Review of Reviews Company)

anxious and demanding Northern public, by mid-April the commander had settled on a plan that would work. It would ultimately prove so successful that it would immortalize Grant as the great victor of Vicksburg. He would move his troops below the city, head to Jackson and cut the railroads, and then move west toward Vicksburg and seize the high ground in the rear of the city.

This picture of Benjamin H. Gnerson and his men was taken shortly after his famous raid. Sitting with chin in hand. Gnerson boasted of the most significant Umon cavalry raid of the war in the west, luring |ohn Pemberton's cavalry into futile pursuit (Review of Reviews Company)

city, through which they could redirect the river waters and float vessels south. Again, the operation failed. Next, lie ordered an expedition to cut a waterway through Yazoo Pass via a bayou. When that failed, Grant put his men to work creating a waterway that ran down from Yazoo Pass at the northern end of the delta, but it was blocked by the Confederates when they constructed Fort Pemberton in its path. After weeks of monotonous laboring for nothing, one soldier called this winter 'the Valley Forge of the War.'

Although Cirant's futile attempts to get at the river fortress did little to satisfy an

important of which went to Vicksburg. Jackson provided the lifeline to the river fortress and to destroy it meant that Vicksburg would wither on the vine. Still, 1'emberton commanded 52,000 soldiers and if Grant attempted to supply his 41,000-man army from Bruinsburg 40 miles (64km) away, the Confederates could easily put up a stern defense while possibly cutting the Union

As Grant moved his forces from Milliken's Bend to below Vicksburg, Admiral David Dixon Porter, the naval commander accompanying the land expedition, sent his fleet of 12 vessels past the city on the night of 16 April. In dramatic fashion, all but one vessel managed to run past Confederate batteries and grouped together near Hard Times on the west bank of the Mississippi, where Grant's troops were concentrated. Five nights later, six Federal transports and 12 barges loaded with supplies attempted to run past the city. Although Confederate batteries sunk one transport and six barges, the operation was a success. Grant could now get his men across the river to the eastern shore.

Fifty miles (80km) south of Vicksburg, Bruinsburg, Mississippi, provided Grant with the ideal place to ferry his army across the river. Although the Confederates frustrated the initial crossing, on 30 April Grant had his army back in Mississippi poised to strike. To divert attention from his main force and to destroy Confederate supplies, Grant would need some help. Rosecrans kept Bragg sufficiently busy in Tennessee, so he could not send reinforcements to Pemberton's aid. 'Old Rosy' accomplished this by setting out on what became the Tullahoma campaign. Sherman was ordered to demonstrate against the high bluffs north of Vicksburg and would then catch up to the main force. Grant also ordered raids against the Confederates' logistics bases. One of the most successful raids was undertaken by Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson. a professional bandmaster before the war. Beginning on 17 April, Grierson's 1,700 cavalrymen started from La Grange, Mississippi, and in a few short weeks wreaked havoc all the way south to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Jackson, the state capital of Mississippi, was more important to Grant because four railroads intersected the city, the most

Soldiers and residents alike dug into the hillsides around Vicksburg during the siege on the city.The bombproof shelters in this picture were carved out by the soldiers of the 45th Illinois. (Hulton Getty)

supply. Grant concluded then to live off the land. After all, his army had done this before in Mississippi during the winter. Now, with the growing season about to provide Southern farms with bountiful crops, there would be plenty for his troops to feed on. In addition to forage for the animals, Mississippi farms yielded corn, hogs, cattle, sheep, and poultry. Many planters had reduced the cultivation of cotton in favor of food staples.

Hv the second week of May, Grant's army had started east for Jackson. Resupplied and eager to move, his three corps commanded by Sherman, Major-General James B. McPherson, and himself moved along the Black River, a natural boundary that flowed north-south and east of Vicksburg and that

favored his advance. On 12 May, the Federals met resistance at Raymond. 15 miles (24km) south of Jackson. After several hours of fighting, the Confederates pulled back to the capital. The following day. Confederate General Joseph F.. Johnston, recently sent to take command of all the troops in besieged Mississippi, pulled together 12,000 troops to protect Jackson. On 14 May, in a severe rainstorm. Sherman's and McPherson's corps drove the Confederates through the city and captured it by mid-afternoon. Outnumbered nearly five to one, Johnston headed north.

While Sherman's corps destroyed the city of Jackson, burning manufacturing installations. Grant ordered McPherson's corps to head west toward Vicksburg and threaten the enemy's communications. Pemberton responded to an order to join Johnston and strike a counteroffensive against Grant's army while it remained at Jackson. The Confederate commander moved a portion of his army out of Vicksburg and placed it on the railroad east of the Black River. The two Confederate forces were only miles apart.

On 16 May, just before noon, a division of Grant's army attacked Pemberton's 20,000 Confederates at Champion's Hill, a commanding ridge east of the Black River, driving them back on the left. The Confederates, however, countered and a full-scale battle ensued. McPherson's men were called up to support the Union right flank, bringing the effective Union strength to 29,000 men, and late in the day, the Federals managed to take the ridge. Pemberton fell back to the Black River, and eventually all the way to Vicksburg. On 18 May, the triumphant Federals crossed the Black River and seized the bluffs around the town. Now, having taken the high ground that skirted the town, Grant dug in.

The siege ofVicksburg

While Johnston was being reinforced by troops from Tennessee and South Carolina, Grant collected his troops and, thanks to

Halleck in Washington, also received reinforcements. Pemberton. meanwhile, was contemplating a way out of Vicksburg. Realizing that attempting to evacuate the city would not only be futile, but also give the Federals complete control of the Mississippi, Pemberton chose to stay and try to outlast the siege. Anxious to capitalize on his string of successful operations and capture the entire force and the town. Grant launched a series of quick assaults on 19 May. Within minutes the Confederates shattered the Union wave, causing about 1,000 casualties. Three days later, a determined Grant made another attempt on the town using his entire 45,000-man force, but it produced the same bloody result. Grant resolved not to assault the town again, and instead began the siege in earnest, using not only land forces but also his gunboats. 'The enemy are undoubtedly in our grasp.' wrote Grant on 24 May. 'The fall of Vicksburg and the capture of most of the garrison can only be a question of time.'

Elsewhere, Federals were on the move and shoring up their strongholds. On 21 May, Major-General Nathaniel Banks moved from Baton Rouge toward Port Hudson, below Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. His 13,000 Federals besieged the 4,500-man garrison under the command of Major-General Franklin Gardner. On 14 June, Banks ordered the garrison to surrender, and when they refused he stormed the fort, but the Confederates held strong. The siege continued. Meanwhile, on 23 June, Rosecrans moved south from Murfreesboro against Bragg's Confederates at Tullahoma. By outflanking Bragg, the Federal commander hail forced him to retreat across the Tennessee River by the end of the month.

As the siege progressed, Grant attempted to break through the Confederate defenses by mining under them and blowing them up. On 25 June, Federal engineers detonated 2,2001bs of powder in a tunnel that had been run under the Third Louisiana Redan. Two Union regiments stormed into the gap, but Confederates had ordered a second defensive line slightly to the rear in case the Federals broke through, and they repelled the advancing Yankees.

By late June. Grant's communications along the Mississippi, safeguarded by gunboats, were secure and the Federal command simply waited for the Confederates to capitulate out of starvation. Day after day, artillery shells poured down on the trembling town. Trapped against the river and forced to abandon the town for the immediate countryside, the residents flocked to the nearby caves in the hills. Federals and Confederates alike wondered how long the siege would continue. Hundreds of wounded Southern soldiers were forced to remain in the Vicksburg hospitals, many of which were makeshift operations and converted abandoned homes. As the shelling continued, so too did the starvation of soldiers and citizens, many forced to eat mule meat, rats, and dogs. Most serious was the lack of fresh drinking water.

Finally, after 47 days the siege came to an end. I'emberton decided he must surrender on 4 July 1863. Grant and I'emberton had served in the same division during part of the Mexican War and the two men greeted one another as old acquaintances. When I'emberton asked for terms, Grant responded that 'the useless effusion of blood you propose stopping by this course can be ended at any time you may choose, by the unconditional surrender of the city and the garrison.' As the fatigued and disheartened Southern soldiers marched out of the city, the Federals quietly lowered the Confederate flag and raised the Stars and Stripes in its place. River vessels blew their whistles and the Union bands struck up the 'Battle Cry of Freedom.' From a distance residents watched with tears in their eyes as the jubilant Yankees went wild. Grant recalled years after the war that the capture of Vicksburg 'gave new spirit to the loyal people of the North.' Embittered Vicksburg residents did not celebrate the 4th of July again until the Second World War inspired a renewed patriotic enthusiasm and devotion for the United States.

The siege cost the Federals nearly 5.000 casualties, while the Confederates suffered significantly fewer casualties resulting from combat. The cumulative effect of the capitulation, however, handed over 29,000 soldiers to the Federal army. More important was the loss of the Confederacy's final fortress itself and the heavy equipment and small arms.

The capitulation was hailed all over the North with exuberance, especially when just a few days later Port Hudson succumbed to siege and surrendered. Capturing I'ort Hudson, however, had cost nearly 10,000 Union soldiers, while the Confederates had lost 871 men. The Union had reclaimed the river. 'The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea,' remarked Lincoln. Not only had Lincoln been given the 'Gibraltar of the West,' but also he had found in Grant a general unlike any he had in the Eastern Theater. 'He doesn't worry and bother me,' remarked Lincoln. 'He isn't shrieking for reinforcements all the time. He takes what troops we can safely give him ... and does the best he can with what he has got. And if Grant only does this thing right down there ... why, Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the war.'

The summer of 1863 was a defining period in the Civil War. The campaigns in the Western Theater went a long way in determining whether or not the Confederacy-would win its independence. The Union victories in the West had shaped the contours of the conflict. Much fighting had been done, but the conflict was hardly nearing an end. Equally important to the Union overall scheme in the West, Chattanooga remained in Confederate hands. Since the opening of the conflict, possession of the strategic railroad nexus and river city had been the desire of Lincoln. Positioned in the heart of East Tennessee. Chattanooga in Union hands would open the way for Union armies in the West to penetrate further into the Southern heartland. Although the Union armies were positioned to further dominate the Western Theater, it was still too soon to tell whether or not those who had fallen in the battles in the previous two and a half years had died in vain for their cause.

The capture ofVicksburg and Port Hudson cut the Confederacy in half and opened the entire Mississippi River to Union gunboats and transports. Lincoln remarked at the time that the 'Father of Waters goes unvexed to the sea.' (Hulton Getty)

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