Grant Takes Command
The withdrawal of the Union fleet from Vicksburg and the loss of the Arkansas closed the first phase of Union operations against Vicksburg. The navy had tried for three months to take the town, but was unable to do so with its guns alone. Future efforts to take the town were directed from the landward side, and organized by Major General U.S. Grant, who put his career on the line against the "Gibraltar of the West."
Grant's career had been put temporarily on hold despite his victory at Shiloh in early April because of suspicions about his drinking and accusations that his laxness had permitted the Confederate surprise attack at Shiloh. Thus in the summer of 1862 he was consigned to guarding railroads in the District of West Tennessee, with his headquarters at Corinth, Mississippi. His command totaled almost 50,000 men, but they were too dispersed to enable him to assume an offensive. Grant wanted to be able to move on Vicksburg, or at least attack Vicksburg's railroad link to the east at Jackson, but he simply lacked the strength and the authorization to do so.
For these reasons Grant sat inactive while Farragut and the navy attempted in vain to take Vicksburg in the summer of 1862. In the fall, all attention in the West shifted from Vicksburg to Kentucky, where Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith were leading a desperate invasion. Back in Mississippi, General Earl Van Dorn decided to take advantage of this situation now that Vicksburg was free of pressure. What he wanted to do was put pressure on Grant and drive the Yankees