DURING THE OPENING months of 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant had been frustrated in every attempt to approach the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg on solid ground. After exploring numerous ways in which Vicksburg could not feasibly be attacked, he sent Acting Rear Admiral David D. Porter's fleet past the batteries and marched troops overland to a point south of the formidable Confederate defenses. At the end of April, he finally established his army on the east bank of the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg, from which roads led to both the state capital of Jackson and to Vicksburg. Then he moved directly and rapidly toward a major victory.
As Grant moved inland, Jefferson Davis, who also regarded Vicksburg as the key to the Mississippi, sent General Joseph E. Johnston with reinforcements to take overall command. Grant moved with dazzling speed to isolate the Vicksburg garrison commanded by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton. Instead of advancing directly on Vicksburg, the prize so long desired, Grant struck at Jackson, sending Johnston northward in some disarray, then turned toward Vicksburg, pushing Pemberton backward with victories at Champion's Hill and Big Black River. By May 18, Grant had driven Pemberton's army to Vicksburg and positioned his own force to prevent any cooperation between the two Confederate armies or to defeat each separately.
The campaign from Bruinsburg to Vicksburg showed Grant at his best. Disregarding the advice of Major General William T. Sherman, who had argued for resumption of the Mississippi Central campaign of