Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi

Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi

Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi

Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi


When Confederate troops surrendered Vicksburg on July 4, 1863--the day after the Union victory at Gettysburg--a crucial port and rail depot for the South was lost. The Union gained control of the Mississippi River, and the Confederate territory was split in two. In a thorough yet concise study of the longest single military campaign of the Civil War, Michael B. Ballard brings new depth to our understanding of the Vicksburg campaign by considering its human as well as its military aspects.

Ballard examines soldier attitudes, guerrilla warfare, and the effects of the campaign and siege on civilians in and around Vicksburg. He also analyzes the leadership and interaction of such key figures as U. S. Grant, William T. Sherman, John Pemberton, and Joseph E. Johnston, among others. Blending strategy and tactics with the human element, Ballard reminds us that while Gettysburg has become the focal point of the history and memory of the Civil War, the outcome at Vicksburg was met with as much celebration and relief in the North as was the Gettysburg victory, and he argues that it should be viewed as equally important today.


My interest in the Vicksburg campaign dates back to my childhood, when my parents occasionally took my brother and me to the Vicksburg National Military Park, a drive of some three hours from our north-central Mississippi home. I fell in love with the Park, the city, the Mississippi River, and the bluffs. Vastly improved roads make the trip easier now, and I still look forward to each and every journey to the place termed many years ago the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy." The city and the Park on the bluffs have become all the more special since December 2, 2000, when I married Jan on Fort Hill, with my dear friend Terry Winschel, Park historian, as my best man. A cold, brisk west wind made the day that much more memorable, as I realized a long-held dream of getting married at Vicksburg, in the Park.

My serious exploration of the Vicksburg campaign dates back to the 1960s, when I began reading the works of Edwin C. Bearss, who for a time was the Park historian, before moving on to become chief historian of the National Park Service. Ed inspired me to want to know more about the people and events that characterized and shaped this complex campaign. His pioneering work provided a foundation from which I launched my own research.

My attachment to historic Vicksburg and my endless fascination with the epic campaign that defined the course of the Civil War's Western Theater led me in later years to write a biography of John Pemberton, Confederate commander of the district that encompassed Vicksburg from November 1862 to the surrender on July 4, 1863. Pemberton's story stirred my interest all the more. So I decided to broaden my horizon, to produce a one-volume comprehensive overview of the longest campaign of the war, which began on May 18, 1862, and ended on July 17, 1863. In my view, there has been no prior published study that adequately covers that time period in enough detail to give us an appreciation of the magnitude of the Union's determined effort to wrest control of Vicksburg, and with it the Mississippi River, from the Confederacy.

My approach has been to produce what is primarily a tactical and strategic work that also addresses topics in several other areas. This blending of traditional military history methodology with the so-called new military history offers a well-rounded treatment, giving readers a . . .

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