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May 19, 1863: First Assault at Vicksburg

First Assault at Vicksburg

 

After his successes at Jackson, Champion Hill and Big Black River, Grant assumed that Confederate morale might be low enough that Vicksburg could be taken by assault and avoid a time consuming siege.  In that he was mistaken.  The Confederates lacked the strength to defeat him in open battle. but they had both the strength, and the morale, to hold Vicksburg.  The first assault by Grant occurred on May 19, 1863 and was aimed at the Stockade Redan. Continue Reading

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Grant and Vicksburg

 By the swollen flood
Of the Mississippi, stumpy Grant is a mole
Gnawing at Vicksburg.  He has been blocked four times
But he will carry that beaver-dam at last.
There is no brilliant lamp in that dogged mind
And no conceit of brilliance to shake the hand,
But hand and mind can use the tools that they get.
This long way out of Galena.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Something for the weekend.  The song I Left my Love from the movie The Horse Soldiers (1959) a fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavalry raid of the war, Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.  The one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the raid will occur on April 17th.

With his victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh, for a time it seemed in 1862 that Grant was spearheading a Union drive that would lead to an unraveling of the Confederacy in the West and a rapid end to the War.  Instead Grant was stymied since December by Vicksburg, which was earning its nickname of the Gibraltar of the West.  Located on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi at a horseshoe bend, the heavily fortified city prevented Union control of the Mississippi, vital for the Union war effort in cutting away from the main Confederacy, Arkansas, Texas and most  of Louisiana, while restoring the Father of the Waters to the Union for commerce.

The heavily fortified city, garrisoned by a Confederate army, seemed impregnable.  Union fleets trying to run the batteries of the City faced potentially ruinous losses.  The Mississippi Delta north and east of the city, 200 miles of largely trackless swamp, made it impossible to march an army from the north and take Vicksburg by land assault.  Somehow Grant needed to get his fleet south of Vicksburg so he and his army could cross the Mississippi.  To accomplish this Grant made five efforts prior to mid-April of 1863, all of which ended in frustration: Continue Reading