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.


Grant hoped to break into the city before the Confederates had organized their defenses.  Pemberton since he had assumed command at Vicksburg in 1862 had been fortifying the city as the Union attack columns from Sherman’s corp found at as they attacked the Stockade Redan at 2:00 PM.    Under intense rifle and artillery fire from the 36th Mississippi, the attacking troops had to cross a ravine protected by an abatis, and then a 6 foot ditch before attempting to scramble up the 17 foot walls of the Redan.  Small wonder that the attack was easily, and bloodily, repulsed.  After an artillery bombardment Sherman tried again, but only a few of his men made it as far as the ditch.  Grant lost 157 killed and 777 wounded.  Confederate losses were only 8 killed and 62 wounded.  Nothing dismayed, Grant would try again on May 22.

Grant, who never liked admitting a mistake, characterized his attack on the 19th as follows, displaying perhaps a hidden talent for fiction:

On the 19th there was constant skirmishing with the enemy while we were getting into better position. The enemy had been much demoralized by his defeats at Champion’s Hill and the Big Black, and I believed would not make much effort to hold Vicksburg. Accordingly at 2 o’clock I ordered an assault. It resulted in securing more advanced positions for all our troops, where they were fully covered from the fire of the enemy.

One Comment

  1. No wonder he moved into politics so well.

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