Siege of Vicksburg

In the 1860s, Vicksburg, Mississippi, was strategically located along the Mississippi River (the river changed course in 1876). If the Union took the city, they would control the river, and Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas would be separated from the rest of the Confederacy.

The citizens of Vicksburg first endured bombardment in 1862, but the major siege of the city occurred from May to July 1863. Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant commanded the forces besieging the city. Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton was given the duty of defending it.

John Cheney, who had reunited with his unit in June, settled down with them at Snyder's Bluff, Mississippi, along the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg. He described it for his wife in his June 12, 1863, letter. Cheney's unit never had to move closer to Vicksburg.

Grant, supported by Major General William T. Sherman, worked his siege strategy using troops on land and gunboats. He used frontal assaults, artillery bombardments, and even dug under the Confederate earthworks to place explosives. The Confederate soldiers and civilians trapped in Vicksburg dealt with dwindling supplies of food and ammunition, frequent bombardments, and disease. Pemberton realized that he was outdone and surrendered on July 4, 1863, a day after the Union victory at Gettysburg. Vicksburg did not celebrate the Fourth of July again until the mid-1940s, while in the midst of another war—World War II.


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Map of Vicksburg At the time of the battle, Grant was a major general (two stars) in command of the Army of the Tennessee. Commander of the Army of Vicksburg. Major General Ulysses S. Grant and Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton discuss the terms of surrender. MM Vol 75, pg 3704 - Vicksburg from the river MM Vol 75, pg L3706 - Battery Sherman at Vicksburg MM Vol 129, pg 6625 - boats besieging Vicksburg "Whistling Dick" was originally an iron smoothbore Model 1839 18-pound siege gun. It was rifled to increase its range and power, but the rifling caused all the shells fired by the gun to whistle. The gun was used by the Confederates at Vicksburg and credited with sinking the U.S. gunboat Cincinnati. Sometime after the war, questions were raised about whether the captured gun held at West Point was the real "Whistling Dick." Stories persist that the real gun was hidden by Confederate soldiers or perhaps sunk in the Mississippi to prevent it from falling into Union hands With Vicksburg in the distance, Union and Confederate soldiers battle over a crater created by Union troops who tunneled under Confederate lines and set off a mine. The Union could not maintain its unusual attack and fell back.