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The Vicksburg Campaign, Spring—Summer, 1863 By Larry Ray PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Quill and Musket Guest Lecturer Series. The Vicksburg Campaign, Spring—Summer, 1863 By Larry Ray. The Union campaign in the spring and summer of 1863 succeeded in capturing the “Gibraltar of the West”—Vicksburg, Mississippi.

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The Vicksburg Campaign, Spring—Summer, 1863 By Larry Ray

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Quill and Musket Guest Lecturer Series

The Vicksburg Campaign, Spring—Summer, 1863

By Larry Ray

  • The Union campaign in the spring and summer of 1863 succeeded in capturing the “Gibraltar of the West”—Vicksburg, Mississippi.

  • General Ulysses S. Grant’s previous attempt to take Vicksburg by an overland offensive through Mississippi had faltered by the end of December, 1862

  • New Orleans fell to Union forces in April 1862, Memphis in June 1862

  • Vicksburg and Port Hudson, LA were the remaining Confederate strong points on the Mississippi River

  • Vicksburg, though, was the key

Photo credit: http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/resources/csi/gabel5/Images/075L.jpg

  • Grant decides in the spring of 1863 to send his Army of the Tennessee down the west bank of the Mississippi River while sending the Union fleet past the batteries of Vicksburg to rendezvous with the army and then ferry troops across the river

  • Simple but risky plan

  • April 16, 1863: fleet runs gauntlet successfully, losing only one transport ship and no gunboats to enemy fire

  • By end of April 1863, 2 of the 3 corps of the Army of the Tennessee and the fleet were below Vicksburg and ready to cross the river

Vicksburg, MS, ca. 1862

  • Cavalry diversion: Colonel Benjamin Grierson embarks on a cavalry raid through Mississippi in April of 1863 to destroy supply lines and draw enemy attention away from the movement of troops toward Vicksburg

  • Raid is a great success, supplies destroyed, many miles of railroad destroyed, enemy troops diverted from Grant’s front

  • Grierson’s raid was vital to the success of the Vicksburg campaign

  • Grant crosses the river on April 30 unopposed at Bruinsburg Landing

  • Sherman crosses above Vicksburg and feints at Confederate General John C. Pemberton’s forces in Vicksburg, this deception also aids in Grant landing unopposed

Generals commanding: Grant, Pemberton, and Johnston

  • Battle of Port Gibson—initial clash between Grant’s army and Confederate forces occurs at Port Gibson, MS on May 1 just inland from the river, the battle is a sharp fight and the Confederate troops retire toward Jackson

  • Sherman and his troops join Grant, Pemberton is at Vicksburg, and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston is hurriedly assembling forces at Jackson, MS

  • Grant decides to move on Johnston first then deal with Pemberton

  • Grant cuts loose from his supply base, troops are to live off the land with only ammunition being brought along in wagons

  • Grant writes in his Memoirs after the war: “…What I…expect is to get up what rations of hard bread, coffee and salt we can, and make the country furnish the balance…” (291).

  • Confederate commanders are divided on how to deal with this threat

  • May 9, 1863: Johnston is ordered to overall command in Mississippi by the War Department in Richmond

  • Johnston is promised reinforcements

  • His forces get no further than Jackson

  • Grant advances with Sherman’s and McPherson’s Corps, they brush aside a small CS force at Raymond on May 12 and attack Jackson on May 14

  • Johnston’s 6000 men are driven through the city

  • Federal forces burn foundries, factories, arsenal, machine shops in Jackson---the city is known thereafter as Chimneyville because of the Federal destruction

  • Johnston now urges Pemberton to unite with him against Grant

  • This Pemberton refuses to do as his orders are to hold Vicksburg

  • Johnston argued that the main purpose is to defeat Grant’s army then reoccupy Vicksburg

  • Pemberton advances from Vicksburg on May 15 in the hopes of cutting Grant’s supply lines which did not exist since he had decided to live off the land

  • Grant converges his forces on Edward’s Station, MS between the two CS forces

  • The ensuing battle on May 16 is generally known as Champion’s Hill

  • CS forces were positioned along four miles of a 70 foot high ridge known as Champion’s Hill, after repeated assaults McPherson crushes the CS left, the Rebels retired toward Vicksburg and an entire CS division was cut off from Pemberton’s command

  • May 17, 1863: Grant’s army continues the advance and engages Pemberton’s forces at a position on the Big Black River, just 10 miles east of Vicksburg

  • The Battle of Big Black River Bridge on May 17 was another collapse for the CS forces, McClernand’s corps routed the Confederate left defending the bridge over the Big Black, the collapse forces another Confederate retreat—this time back to the defenses of Vicksburg

  • The campaign thus far had been breathtaking: In 17 days, his army had marched 180 miles, fought and won five battles against separate enemy forces, had prevented the union of tow armies, inflicted 7200 casualties against just over 4000 lost, and driven the enemy into the Vicksburg defenses

Battlefield of Big Black River Bridge, ca. 1864

  • Grant hoped to take the stunned defenders of the town before they could regroup

  • He ordered assaults on May 19 and on May 22 that were bloodily repulsed

  • Both sides now settled down into siege warfare

  • Grant continues to build up his army while keeping an eye on Johnston, whose army, now dubbed the ‘Army of Relief,’ had also grown and remained in the Jackson area

  • Pemberton believed his army could hold out but not indefinitely, he implored Johnston to come to the relief of his garrison

  • Johnston never did, spirits lagged inside the town and in Pemberton’s army, rations were cut as the summer and the siege wore on

  • The sick and malnourished army could no longer entertain the notion of a breakout, forcing Pemberton to seek terms on July 3

  • Grant offers parole instead of unconditional surrender, Pemberton accepts and on July 4, 1863 the garrison surrendered

Maps of the siege

Shirley House, inside Union lines, date of photo unknown but presumably just after the siege

  • In the wake of the surrender, the Confederate forces also besieged at Port Hudson realized that they would not be saved by the Vicksburg defenders and so capitulated on July 9

  • Johnston retreated to Jackson, hotly pursued by Sherman’s men, Johnston leads his army across the Pearl River on July 16 and moves toward the Alabama line

  • The campaign was thus over

  • The significance of the campaign is often debated—the psychological effect of the twin defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg are hard to overestimate, opening the Mississippi was a huge political victory for Lincoln and a serious setback to the Confederacy

  • The actual military implications of the loss of Vicksburg to the Confederacy are harder to estimate, stemming the flow of goods and communication from/to the trans-Mississippi theater was clearly not fatal to the Confederates on either side of the river

  • Many if not most of the paroled troops soon returned to the conflict

  • Vicksburg, though, remains significant if for no the reason than that it demonstrated the resolve of Grant and the troops under his command to win the war, this resolve would eventually propel Grant to the highest military command in the Union wherein he would apply that same resolve to ending the war

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