Battle of Vicksburg

Vicksburg campaign

Vicksburg campaign, in the American Civil War, the fighting (Nov., 1862–July, 1863) for control of the Mississippi River. The Union wanted such control in order to split the Confederacy and to restore free commerce to the politically important Northwest. New Orleans and Memphis fell to Union forces in the spring of 1862, but an attempt to take Vicksburg, Miss., by water failed (May–June). As a result the South still held 200 mi (320 km) of the river between Port Hudson, La., and Vicksburg. Early in Nov., 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Dept. of the Tennessee, planned a converging assault on Vicksburg; Gen. William T. Sherman led an expedition down the river from Memphis to attack the city from the north, while Grant himself advanced overland from the east. However, Confederate cavalry under Earl Van Dorn and Nathan B. Forrest cut Grant's line of communications, forcing him to retreat, and Sherman was repulsed in the battle of Chickasaw Bluffs (Dec. 29, 1862). In Jan., 1863, Grant concentrated his army across the river from Vicksburg. He took over the command of John A. McClernand, who had succeeded Sherman. After several unsuccessful experiments to gain an approach to the seemingly impregnable city (Feb.–Mar., 1863), Grant in April began a brilliant movement to take it from the south. To divert the attention of the Confederate commander, John C. Pemberton, Grant left Sherman before the city and ordered a cavalry raid through central Mississippi. On the night of Apr. 16–17, David Dixon Porter ran gunboats and transports down the river past Vicksburg, and in the following days Grant marched his army south to meet the fleet and be transported across the river at Bruinsburg (c.30 mi/48 km S of Vicksburg). On May 1, McClernand and James B. McPherson defeated the Confederates at Port Gibson, forcing them to abandon their batteries at Grand Gulf, which Grant seized as a base. When Sherman joined him on May 7, 1863, Grant left Grand Gulf, marched northeast, and on May 12 defeated the Confederates at Raymond. At Jackson (May 14), he met Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Confederate commander in the West, who retreated. Turning west toward Vicksburg, Grant defeated Pemberton in successive battles (May 16, 17) at Champion's Hill and at the bridge over the Big Black River, forcing him back into Vicksburg. After two unsuccessful attempts at storming the city's fortifications, Grant opened siege. With the Union forces between them, Pemberton and Johnston were unable to unite, and after about six weeks of gallant resistance Vicksburg's defenders surrendered on July 4, 1863. The fall of Port Hudson a few days later placed the Mississippi River entirely in Union hands.

See J. D. Milligan, Gunboats Down the Mississippi (1965); A. A. Hoehling, Vicksburg (1969).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Vicksburg Campaign: April 1862-July 1863
David G. Martin.
Combined Books, 1994
Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River
William L. Shea And; Terrence J. Winschel.
University of Nebraska Press, 2003
Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi
Michael B. Ballard.
University of North Carolina Press, 2004
Vicksburg: Fall of the Confederate Gibraltar
Terrence J. Winschel.
McWhiney Foundation Press, 1999
Civil War Mississippi: A Guide
Michael B. Ballard.
University Press of Mississippi, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Vicksburg"
War on Two Fronts: Shiloh to Gettysburg
John Cannan.
Combined Books, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "Vicksburg"
The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction
William B. Hesseltine.
George Braziller, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Fall of Vicksburg"
Americans at War
Stephen E. Ambrose.
University Press of Mississippi, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Struggle for Vicksburg: The Battles and Siege That Decided the Civil War" begins on p. 1
The American Iliad: The Epic Story of the Civil War as Narrated by Eyewitnesses and Contemporaries
Otto Eisenschiml; Ralph Newman.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1947
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "The Struggle for the Mississippi: Grant's Vicksburg Campaigns"
Recollections of the Civil War: With the Leaders at Washington and in the Field in the Sixties
Charles A. Dana.
University of Nebraska Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "The Siege of Vicksburg"
Reluctant Witnesses: Children's Voices from the Civil War
Emmy E. Werner.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the battle of Vicksburg begins on p. 77
This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War
Bruce Catton.
Doubleday, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the battle of Vicksburg begins on p. 258
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