Vicksburg, Siege of


Vicksburg, Siege of
(1862–1863)
   A pivotal action of the American Civil War. Vicksburg, Mississippi lies on high bluffs above the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. In May 1862, Confederate forces began fortifying the bluffs at Vicksburg with artillery to block Union passage on the Mississippi River. Union naval forces attacked the city and its fortifications but were unable to capture the city. Confederate operations against Union supply and artillery forces on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River were without lasting success.
   Above Vicksburg, the mouth of the Yazoo River was guarded by Fort Pemberton. The Yazoo River was the entryway to a delta land rich in cotton production. During the fall and winter of 1862 and into the spring of 1863, Union forces commanded by General Ulysses S. Grant fought a number of engagements against Confederate Major General John C. Pemberton. The latter was inhibited in his operations because he had been issued conflicting orders by General Joseph E. Johnston and by President Jefferson Davis.
   Grant drove the Confederates out of the Mississippi capital of Jackson on May 14 and then defeated Pemberton at Champion Hill on May 16 and Big Black River the following day, forcing Pemberton into Vicksburg. In June 1863, the attempt by Johnston to relieve Vicksburg was blocked by superior Union forces. In Vicksburg nine miles of Confederate earthen fortifications protected 30,000 troops. Outside were 12 miles of Union earth works with 50,000 soldiers. Continual bombardments by heavy Union guns took a heavy toll of civilians, soldiers, and the dwindling livestock. Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863. The news of the fall of Vicksburg was paired with the Union victory at Gettysburg. In Europe it spelled the end of Confederate hopes for European support.
   FURTHER READING:
    Bearss, Edwin C. The Vicksburg Campaign. 3 vols. Dayton: Morningside, 1995.
   ANDREW JACKSON WASKEY

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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