General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign

What flag is this you carry

Along the sea and shore?

The same our grandsires lifted up--

The same our fathers bore.

In many a battle's tempest

It shed the crimson rain--

What God has woven in his loom

Let no man rend in twain.

To Canaan, to Canaan,

The Lord has led us forth,

To plant upon the rebel towers

The banners of the North.


On January 29, 1863, General Grant took command of the army intended

to operate against Vicksburg, the last place held by the rebels on the

Mississippi, and the only point at which they could cross the river and

keep up communication with their armies and territory in the southwest.

It was the first high ground below Memphis, was very strongly fortified,

and was held by a large army under General Pemberton. The complete

possession of the Mississippi was absolutely essential to the National

Government, because the control of that great river would cut the

Confederacy in two, and do more, probably, than anything else, to make

the overthrow of the Rebellion both speedy and certain.

The natural way to invest and capture so strong a place, defended and

fortified as Vicksburg was, would have been, if the axioms of the art

of war had been adhered to, by a system of gradual approaches. A strong

base should have been established at Memphis, and then the army and the

fleet moved gradually forward, building storehouses and taking strong

positions as they went. To do this, however, it first would have been

necessary to withdraw the army from the positions it then held not far

above Vicksburg, on the western bank of the river. But such a movement,

at that time, would not have been understood by the country, and would

have had a discouraging effect on the public mind, which it was

most essential to avoid. The elections of 1862 had gone against the

government, and there was great discouragement throughout the North.

Voluntary enlistments had fallen off, a draft had been ordered, and the

peace party was apparently gaining rapidly in strength. General Grant,

looking at this grave political situation with the eye of a statesman,

decided, as a soldier, that under no circumstances would he withdraw the

army, but that, whatever happened, he would "press forward to a decisive

victory." In this determination he never faltered, but drove straight

at his object until, five months later, the great Mississippi stronghold

fell before him.

Efforts were made through the winter to reach Vicksburg from the north

by cutting canals, and by attempts to get in through the bayous and

tributary streams of the great river. All these expedients failed,

however, one after another, as Grant, from the beginning, had feared

that they would. He, therefore, took another and widely different line,

and determined to cross the river from the western to the eastern bank

below Vicksburg, to the south. With the aid of the fleet, which ran the

batteries successfully, he moved his army down the west bank until he

reached a point beyond the possibility of attack, while a diversion

by Sherman at Haines' Bluff, above Vicksburg, kept Pemberton in his

fortifications. On April 26, Grant began to move his men over the river

and landed them at Bruinsburg. "When this was effected," he writes, "I

felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equaled since. Vicksburg was not

yet taken, it is true, nor were its defenders demoralized by any of our

previous movements. I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river

and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies, but

I was on dry ground, on the same side of the river with the enemy."

The situation was this: The enemy had about sixty thousand men at

Vicksburg, Haines' Bluff, and at Jackson, Mississippi, about fifty

miles east of Vicksburg. Grant, when he started, had about thirty-three

thousand men. It was absolutely necessary for success that Grant, with

inferior numbers, should succeed in destroying the smaller forces to

the eastward, and thus prevent their union with Pemberton and the

main army at Vicksburg. His plan, in brief; was to fight and defeat a

superior enemy separately and in detail. He lost no time in putting his

plan into action, and pressing forward quickly, met a detachment of the

enemy at Port Gibson and defeated them. Thence he marched to Grand Gulf,

on the Mississippi, which he took, and which he had planned to make a

base of supply. When he reached Grand Gulf, however, he found that he

would be obliged to wait a month, in order to obtain the reinforcements

which he expected from General Banks at Port Hudson. He, therefore, gave

up the idea of making Grand Gulf a base, and Sherman having now joined

him with his corps, Grant struck at once into the interior. He took

nothing with him except ammunition, and his army was in the lightest

marching order. This enabled him to move with great rapidity, but

deprived him of his wagon trains, and of all munitions of war except

cartridges. Everything, however, in this campaign, depended on

quickness, and Grant's decision, as well as all his movements, marked

the genius of the great soldier, which consists very largely in knowing

just when to abandon the accepted military axioms.

Pressing forward, Grant met the enemy, numbering between seven and eight

thousand, at Raymond, and readily defeated them. He then marched on

toward Jackson, fighting another action at Clinton, and at Jackson he

struck General Joseph Johnston, who had arrived at that point to take

command of all the rebel forces. Johnston had with him, at the moment,

about eleven thousand men, and stood his ground. There was a sharp

fight, but Grant easily defeated the enemy, and took possession of the

town. This was an important point, for Jackson was the capital of

the State of Mississippi, and was a base of military supplies. Grant

destroyed the factories and the munitions of war which were gathered

there, and also came into possession of the line of railroad which ran

from Jackson to Vicksburg. While he was thus engaged, an intercepted

message revealed to him the fact that Pemberton, in accordance with

Johnston's orders, had come out of Vicksburg with twenty-five thousand

men, and was moving eastward against him. Pemberton, however, instead

of holding a straight line against Grant, turned at first to the south,

with the view of breaking the latter's line of communication. This was

not a success, for, as Grant says, with grim humor, "I had no line of

communication to break"; and, moreover, it delayed Pemberton when delay

was of value to Grant in finishing Johnston. After this useless turn to

the southward Pemberton resumed his march to the east, as he should have

done in the beginning, in accordance with Johnston's orders; but Grant

was now more than ready. He did not wait the coming of Pemberton.

Leaving Jackson as soon as he heard of the enemy's advance from

Vicksburg, he marched rapidly westward and struck Pemberton at Champion

Hills. The forces were at this time very nearly matched, and the

severest battle of the campaign ensued, lasting four hours. Grant,

however, defeated Pemberton completely, and came very near capturing

his entire force. With a broken army, Pemberton fell back on Vicksburg.

Grant pursued without a moment's delay, and came up with the rear guard

at Big Black River. A sharp engagement followed, and the Confederates

were again defeated. Grant then crossed the Big Black and the next day

was before Vicksburg, with his enemy inside the works.

When Grant crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg and struck into the

interior, he, of course, passed out of communication with Washington,

and he did not hear from there again until May 11, when, just as his

troops were engaging in the battle of Black River Bridge, an officer

appeared from Port Hudson with an order from General Halleck to return

to Grand Gulf and thence cooperate with Banks against Port Hudson.

Grant replied that the order came too late. "The bearer of the despatch

insisted that I ought to obey the order, and was giving arguments to

support the position, when I heard a great cheering to the right of our

line, and looking in that direction, saw Lawler, in his shirt-sleeves,

leading a charge on the enemy. I immediately mounted my horse and rode

in the direction of the charge, and saw no more of the officer who had

delivered the message; I think not even to this day." When Grant reached

Vicksburg, there was no further talk of recalling him to Grand Gulf or

Port Hudson. The authorities at Washington then saw plainly enough what

had been done in the interior of Mississippi, far from the reach of

telegraphs or mail.

As soon as the National troops reached Vicksburg an assault was

attempted, but the place was too strong, and the attack was repulsed,

with heavy loss. Grant then settled down to a siege, and Lincoln and

Halleck now sent him ample reinforcements. He no longer needed to ask

for them. His campaign had explained itself, and in a short time he

had seventy thousand men under his command. His lines were soon made so

strong that it was impossible for the defenders of Vicksburg to break

through them, and although Johnston had gathered troops again to the

eastward, an assault from that quarter on the National army, now so

largely reinforced, was practically out of the question. Tighter and

tighter Grant drew his lines about the city, where, every day, the

suffering became more intense. It is not necessary to give the details

of the siege. On July 4, 1863, Vicksburg surrendered, the Mississippi

was in control of the National forces from its source to its mouth, and

the Confederacy was rent in twain. On the same day Lee was beaten at

Gettysburg, and these two great victories really crushed the Rebellion,

although much hard fighting remained to be done before the end was


Grant's campaign against Vicksburg deserves to be compared with that of

Napoleon which resulted in the fall of Ulm. It was the most brilliant

single campaign of the war. With an inferior force, and abandoning

his lines of communication, moving with a marvelous rapidity through a

difficult country, Grant struck the superior forces of the enemy on the

line from Jackson to Vicksburg. He crushed Johnston before Pemberton

could get to him, and he flung Pemberton back into Vicksburg before

Johnston could rally from the defeat which had been inflicted. With an

inferior force, Grant was superior at every point of contest, and he won

every fight. Measured by the skill displayed and the result achieved,

there is no campaign in our history which better deserves study and


Francis Parkman George Rogers Clark And The Conquest Of The Northwest facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail