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Lecture 14: Vicksburg

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Lecture 14

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Lecture 14: Vicksburg

  1. 1. The Hard Hand of War Military Campaigns, Vicksburg to the War’s End
  2. 2. Changing nature of the war, beginning mid-1863 • From intermittent battles to constant campaigning • Last 2 ½ years of the war, battles often no longer discrete events – Lengthy sieges; trench warfare • Union began pursuing a more centralized military strategy – Campaigns fought on multiple fronts – Much higher death rates • New kind of warfare involving massive armies cut off from their supply lines – Pioneered especially by Grant and William T. Sherman – Destroying civilian morale as a war aim
  3. 3. William T. Sherman • From a prominent Ohio family • Went to West Point, but did not actually fight in the Mexican- American War • Resigned and went into banking and law • Lived in the South a long time – Head of the Louisiana Military Academy when the war broke out • Moved his family when LA seceded • High strung—talked incessantly • White supremacist – Did not “evolve” in his racial views • Passionately committed to the Union
  4. 4. Vicksburg, MS • Population of about 5K • Sits on a high bluff, heavily fortified • Strategically critical – Mississippi – Railroads – bring in supplies and food from the West – Last stretch of the MS that the Confederacy controlled b/n Vicksburg and Port Huron • Lincoln knew this topography well – Road flat boats down river as a young man
  5. 5. Vicksburg, 1855
  6. 6. Failed attempts (Feb.-March 1863) • Grant makes four failed attempts to get to Vicksburg • Some involved building canals, trying to get the river to change course • Incredibly difficult labor – Union soldiers laboring in the muck – Grant widely criticized in the press • Revealed his extraordinary tenacity
  7. 7. Crossing the Mississippi • He decides that he can’t cross the Mississippi without ships – Most generals would have retreated to Memphis to regroup • Grant comes up with a scheme that Sherman thinks is quite mad • Have Adm. David Dixon Porter takes his fleet past Vicksburg (which he does on the night of April 16) – Only one ship sank, but Grant had difficulty finding a place where the fleet could land – A contraband advised them there were no Confederates at Bruinsburg, Mississippi • Will rely on engineers to build bridges across the marshy bayous – They build 4; about 4K feet of bridges • He’ll then get his men across and live off the land • Once he’s across, he decides he first has to take Jackson, MS • Then lays siege to Vicksburg
  8. 8. Siege of Vicksburg (May 26-July 3) • Lasted for 46 days • Some of the first real trench warfare • Civilians dug caves into the riverbank • Unions used mines to try to weaken the Confederate fortifications • Confederates began going hungry; rationing imposed • By the end of the siege, Grant has over 80,000 men under his command • Pemberton has only 30,0000
  9. 9. Surrender • July 3 (same day as Pickett’s charge), Grant moves within 100 yards of rebels • Gen. Pemberton surrenders – Says he knows he’ll get better terms if they surrender on the 4th – Soldiers and civilians were fed by Union Army • Soldiers were paroled on July after signing oath; left city with parole documents promising not to take up arms again • But Grant faced many of them again at Chattanooga
  10. 10. Impact • When Vicksburg fell, it undermined the notion of a Confederate nation • Along with Gettysburg victory, gave a huge boost to Northern morale • Big impact on the Confederate elections • Elevated Grant – he’s promoted
  11. 11. But war is still far from over… • Union forces go after Chattanooga – Railway hub; manufacturing center for iron – Taking city would allow Union access to the Confederate heartland • Union troops push the CSA out of Chattanooga but then lose a major battle fought at Chickamauga (Sept 1863) • CSA forced Union troops back to Chattanooga and laid siege to the city • Lincoln sent Grant to relieve the general in charge – Battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge – Retake the city; liberate troops (late Nov. 1863) • But at great cost; Union losses were second only to Gettysburg
  12. 12. Lookout Mountain
  13. 13. Ulysses S. Grant (by early 1864, Lieut. Gen of entire Union Army) Grant understood the target wasn’t really Richmond. Understood that the conflict had become a war about resources and civilian morale. Strategy: involved a simultaneous Union advance on at least five fronts at once: Grant would go after Lee in the East, Sherman would attack Atlanta. Three further Union forces would attack other parts of the Confederacy. Lincoln was delighted: “concurrent action is the thing,” he reportedly said, “Those not skinning can hold a leg.”
  14. 14. Change in Northern sentiment • Almost no one in the North would have supported such a war in 1861 – High death rates – Marauding through civilians’ homes • But Northerners have grown harder and more bitter in their feelings – No more talk about Southerners as errant family members – Much more talking about teaching them a lesson

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