In February , warships with troops began squeezing their way toward Vicksburg but in numbers too small to overcome the defenses. In April Grant gave this up and decided to move south of Vicksburg, where the shore offered a land route to the interior. His memoirs claim the idea came in , but Ballard suggests this is hindsight. Certainly his initial moves suggest he was improvising. Bypassing Vicksburg by marching down the west bank, Grant first planned to overpower Grand Gulf, an outpost 40 miles to the south. Finding it well defended, he continued another 20 miles. On April 30, transports began ferrying troops.
After two days, with 20, men across, the army marched east, won several battles and reached the interior within a week, its numbers growing as more troops crossed. By mid-May, Grant still had no fixed aim beyond capturing Vicksburg. He decided to attack the state capital, Jackson, to secure his rear which, in retrospect, was not threatened. That accomplished, he turned back, marching 60 miles to Vicksburg in five days with two pauses to crush opposing forces. A five-week siege followed.
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The rest is history—or at least popular history. Ballard does not disagree but feels the blow was largely symbolic. Many histories assert the capture deprived eastern Confederate states of western cattle and grain. Examining the evidence, Ballard reveals that food supplies in the West mostly stayed in the West. There never was a massive transfer. He adds that the much-vaunted railroad through Vicksburg was a ramshackle affair with no direct connection to the East Coast. It was not an essential supply route.
The Fall of Vicksburg: Turning Point of the Civil War | Owlcation
After this revisionist jolt, Ballard makes no waves in evaluating poor Lt. John Pemberton, Confederate commander at Vicksburg. Incurring only a handful of casualties, Colonel Benjamin H.
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Grierson, a fellow Illinoisan, conducted the most successful Union cavalry raid of the entire war. Grant had devised this diversionary mission back on February 13, when he sent the following simple, flexible, and brilliant suggestion in a dispatch to General Hurlbut in Tennessee:. It seems to me that Grierson with about picked men might succeed in making his way South and cut the rail-road East of Jackson Miss.
The undertaking would be a hazardous [sic] one but it would pay well if carried out. I do not direct that this shall be done but leave it for a volunteer enterprise. On April 17, Grierson rode out of LaGrange, Tennessee, in command of 1, cavalrymen and a six-gun battery. In the early days of the raid, he deftly split off part of his force, primarily to confuse the Confederates as to his location and intentions. With still another thirty-five-man detached force drawing substantial Confederate infantry and cavalry away from his main force, Grierson continued to Newton on the east-west Southern Railroad the eastern extension of the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad in the heart of Mississippi.
There, on the 24th, he destroyed two trains both filled with ammunition and commissary stores. He also tore up the railroad and tore down the telegraph line—both linking Meridian with Jackson and Vicksburg to the west.
Pemberton, who had sent troops to head off Grierson before he reached the railroad, now sent additional soldiers to try to cut off the escape of his raiders. All the cavalry I can raise is close on their rear. They had inflicted one hundred casualties and captured over five hundred prisoners. Miraculously, all this had been accomplished with fewer than twenty-five casualties. While Grierson was traveling the length of Mississippi, other Union forces went on the offensive far to the east.
Colonel Abel D. To completely confuse Pemberton, Grant employed the fourth diversion. Having suffered no casualties, Sherman withdrew on May 1 and hastily followed McPherson down the west bank of the Mississippi.
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His troops were ferried across the river on May 6 and 7. When Colonel James H.
Instead, he had guns fired in a salute at a review and tried to bring his wife and servants along. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Shea ,. Terrence J. The struggle for control of the Mississippi River was the longest and most complex campaign of the Civil War. It was marked by an extraordinary diversity of military and naval operations, including fleet engagements, cavalry raids, amphibious landings, pitched battles, and the two longest sieges in American history.
Every existing type of naval vessel, from sailing ship to The struggle for control of the Mississippi River was the longest and most complex campaign of the Civil War. Every existing type of naval vessel, from sailing ship to armored ram, played a role, and military engineers practiced their art on a scale never before witnessed in modern warfare. Union commanders such as Grant, Sherman, Farragut, and Porter demonstrated the skills that would take them to the highest levels of command.
When the immense contest finally reached its climax at Vicksburg and Port Hudson in the summer of , the Confederacy suffered a blow from which it never recovered. Here was the true turning point of the Civil War. This fast-paced, gripping narrative of the Civil War struggle for the Mississippi River is the first comprehensive single-volume account to appear in over a century. Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River tells the story of the series of campaigns the Union conducted on land and water to conquer Vicksburg and of the many efforts by the Confederates to break the siege of the fortress.
William L. Shea and Terrence J. Winschel present the unfolding drama of the campaign in a clear and readable style, correct historic myths along the way, and examine the profound strategic effects of the eventual Union victory. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published November 1st by Bison Books first published September 1st More Details Original Title. Great Campaigns of the Civil War. Other Editions 4. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Vicksburg Is the Key , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Dec 07, Jerome rated it really liked it. A concise, readable and well-written history of the Vicksburg campaign. Shea emphasizes the advantages Union forces enjoyed in terms of mobility.
Shea maintains a good pace and begins with the campaign against New Orleans, and discusses how afterwards the Union was able to move on Port Hudson and finally Vicksburg, the last bastion of Confederate strength on the river. Shea a A concise, readable and well-written history of the Vicksburg campaign. Shea also does a fine job providing background on Vicksburg, its strategic and psychological impotence, and all of the commanders.
There is also little discussion of the various factors that made Vicksburg such an important victory. Still, a readable, engaging and very accessible history of an important campaign. May 19, Brian rated it really liked it. Nice, clearly written overview and analysis of the Vicksburg campaign. The authors do a nice job setting the stage for the campaign, discuss naval operations, Grant's campaign efforts, and include a discussion of Banks' campaign in Louisiana and capture of Port Hudson. Mar 17, Mtbike40 rated it it was amazing Shelves: history-civil-war.