The Siege of Vicksburg was a major victory for the Union during the Civil War. The Union Army surrounded the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi and eventually took control.
Battle of Vicksburg by Kurz and Allison
When did it take place?
The siege took much longer than your typical battle. It began on May 18, 1863 and lasted over a month until July 4, 1863.
Who were the commanders?
The commander for the Union forces was General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant led the Army of Tennessee and had over 35,000 men under his command. Other Union generals included William T. Sherman and John McClernand.
The leader of the Confederates was General John Pemberton who commanded the South's Army of the Mississippi. He had only 18,000 soldiers under his command.
Why was Vicksburg important?
The city of Vicksburg is located on the Mississippi River. It was the last major port on the river held by the South. If the North could take Vicksburg, the Confederacy would be cut off from supply lines to the west. Also, rebel states such as Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas would be isolated from the rest of the South.
Before the Battle
The Siege of Vicksburg was the end of a long series of battles in the western theatre of the Civil War called the Vicksburg Campaign. The Union Army, led by General Grant, had won a number of battles against the Confederates pushing them back towards Vicksburg. They also captured the city of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi.
Grant approached the city slowly, forcing the Confederates to retreat before him. While approaching the city, he captured the local railroad and secured his own supply lines while isolating the city of Vicksburg.
On May 18, 1863, Grant's army approached Vicksburg. The Confederate Army of General Pemberton were dug in. They were going to be nearly impossible to defeat while hiding behind the defenses of the city. Over the first couple of days, Grant tried to break into the city by overwhelming them with his superior numbers. It didn't work. Many Union soldiers lost their lives and the Confederates still held the city.
Battery of the Sherman Vicksburg by Unknown
Grant then decided to lay siege to the city. He would bomb them constantly and wait until they ran out of food. He knew that eventually they would have to surrender.
The conditions in the city got worse and worse over the next several weeks. The people in the city began to run out of food. They started to eat anything available including the horses, dogs, and cats. Near the end they were even eating rats and tree bark. Because of malnutrition, many of the soldiers became sick from diseases like scurvy, dysentery, and malaria.
In addition to not having food, the city was constantly being bombed. People couldn't safely walk the streets or live in their houses. They had to hide day and night in their basements or dug out caves in the hills.
On July 4, 1863, the Confederates had had enough. General Pemberton surrendered to Grant.
The Siege of Vicksburg was a great victory for the Union. It gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union. Around the same time, the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee was defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg. These two victories marked the major turning point of the Civil War in favor of the Union.
Interesting Facts about the Siege of Vicksburg
Grant at first demanded unconditional surrender. He later relented and the captured prisoners were "paroled" instead of taken prisoner. This meant they promised not to fight again (although many of them did).
Confederate General Pemberton later resigned as a general, but continued to fight for the South as a lieutenant colonel.
Around 24,000 people live in the city of Vicksburg today.
Legend has it that the people of Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for the next 80 years as this was the day they surrendered to Grant. Many historians, however, say this is not the case.