The Siege of Vicksburg


Who: Ulysses S Grant (USA) vs John Pemberton (CSA)

What: Union victory; major battle in the Civil War – one of the turning points.

Where: Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Why: Vicksburg was key to control of the Mississippi River.

When: May 18 – July 4, 1863.

“Vicksburg is the key. The War can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket.” – Abraham Lincoln

The fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi turned out to be one of the most important battlegrounds of the entire war. Situated on the mighty Mississippi River, then a major supply line and huge economic highway opening up the Northwest to world markets, Vicksburg was the last stronghold preventing the Union from controlling the entire river. Ulysses S Grant’s Vicksburg campaign led him to the city’s limits by May 18, having marched 180 miles, won five battles and capturing 6,000 prisoners in three weeks. After flanking the city in a daring midnight raid, Grant had exposed Vicksburg’s more vulnerable underbelly to the south. However, the city remained too well-defended, and after two failed assaults with high casualties on May 19 and 22, Grant resorted to besieging the city on May 25. The situation became dire for the Confederates and the civilians, who abandoned their homes and dug caves in the hills around the city. After six weeks of constant bombardment, and without reinforcement or resupply – the Union navy had cut off the city from the rest of the Mississippi – the starving garrison finally surrendered on July 4, Independence Day, and the day after the equally crucial Union victory Battle of Gettysburg. It also marked the turning point in the careers of both Grant and William T Sherman, two of the most important men in American military history.

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