The Consequences

Two coincidences made the news of Vicksburg's surrender particularly welcome in the North. The date had a powerful symbolic connotation. The Fourth of July was the day, as it still is, when Americans traditionally celebrated their achievement of independence from British colonial rule. Of greater practical importance was the fact that the victory at Vicksburg happened at the same time as the great and terrible victory at Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania.

Only two months earlier things had looked blacker than ever for the North. The Confederate general-in-chief, Robert E. Lee, won his brilliant victory, very much against the odds, at Chancel-lorsville in Virginia at the beginning of May. In the middle of the month he set off on another bold march into Northern territory, hoping that it might force the recall of many of Grant's soldiers to the eastern sector and so take the pressure off Vicksburg. Lee's advance was finally halted, and reversed, in the battle at Gettysburg, fought over the first three days of July 1863, the greatest and bloodiest battle ever fought in North America. The Federals suffered 23,000 casualties. Lee lost one-third of his army and had no alternative but to turn for home.

Those few days were the turning-point of the Civil War. The two Northern successes, east and west, made it clear that the North's vastly superior strength, in men and industry, would prevail in the end. There was no further danger of Britain recognizing and helping the Confederacy. Three of the eleven breakaway states, those w est of the Mississippi, were virtually lost to the Southern cause. Only five days after the fall of Vicksburg, Port Hudson, the last Confederate strong-point on the river, was surrendered. As usual, President Lincoln said it best: 'The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.' When the news from Vicksburg reached Washington, Gideon Welles, the Navy Secretary, hurried round to tell the President, and for once 88

that most articulate of men was almost at a loss. 'I cannot, in words,' he said, 'tell you my joy over this result. It is great, Mr. Welles, it is great!' To Grant, Lincoln wrote:

'My dear General,

'I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did - march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was w rong.'

Ever since the beginning of the w ar Lincoln had been searching in vain for an effective military commander, a general-in-chief who would do for the North what Robert E. Lee was doing so ably for the South. Many were given the chance to prove themselves and all failed - through senility or incompetence, excessive caution or over-confidence, or sheer bad luck. Now Lincoln began to wonder whether the solution might lie in the eastern sector.

He took his time over the decision. In November 1863 Grant won another punishing victory, at Chattanooga. Early the following March he was summoned to Washington to be promoted to lieutenant general, the army's highest rank, which meant that he would be in charge of all the Federal armies. The appointment proved a wise one. It was Grant who, in April 1865, met Lee at Appomattox and accepted the final surrender of the Southern

► I'icksburg front the north, after a sketch made subsequent to the surrender.

▼ The attack on Port Hudson, which surrendered to the Federal forces Jive da ys after the surrender of Vicksburg.

► I'icksburg front the north, after a sketch made subsequent to the surrender.

▼ The attack on Port Hudson, which surrendered to the Federal forces Jive da ys after the surrender of Vicksburg.

army. Three years later Grant became President but that is another, and not so triumphant story.

The great innovation of the Y icksburg campaign was the discovery by Grant that a large army could operate deep in enemy territory without worrying about its supply lines, so long as it was in country rich enough in food production. Oddly, it was the man who had been most apprehensive about Grant's adventure when it started, General Sherman, who put the lesson to its next and most cruelly effective use in his march through the Deep South in the winter of 1864-5.

The campaign saw another innovation that was to prove significant for the rest of the war, and indeed for the American armed services ever since -the employment of Negroes as fighting men. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1 January 1863 had declared that all Negroes behind Confederate

lines were regarded as free by the Federal government. Until this time Lincoln's overriding war aim had been simply to restore the original United States. From this time on, the ending of Negro slavery was an equally important objective.

The next big issue in the North was whether or not Negroes should be enlisted in the fighting services. They had long been employed behind the lines, generally as labourers. Should they be given arms? The question was hotly debated. Grant made his view plain: 'I have given the subject of arming the Negro my hearty support. This, with the emancipation of the Negro, is the heaviest blow yet given the Confederacy... By arming the Negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weakens him in the same proportion as they strengthen us.'

The new soldiers were given their first sizeable test on 7 June 1863 at Milliken's Bend, on the Louisiana bank of the Mississippi above Vicksburg. By that time Grant's main army was besieging Vicksburg, but he had left small garrisons behind him at vital points and the force at Milliken's Bend was composed of white and Negro troops, though all the officers were white. They were attacked by 1,500 Texan Confederates and a fierce little battle, at very close quarters, ensued. The Confederates were driven off. In his Memoirs Grant wrote: 'This was the first important engagement of the war in which coloured troops were under fire. These men were very raw, having all been enlisted since the beginning of the siege, but they behaved well.' By the end of the Civil War one-tenth of the Federal army was Negro, though there were very few black officers.

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