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. (more…)


April 29, 1863: Battle of Grand Gulf

On April 29, 1863 Grant commenced his movement to cross the Mississippi and begin his operations to place Vicksburg under siege.  Grant decided to cross the river south of Grand Gulf, approximately twelve miles south of Vicksburg.  Admiral David Porter led seven gunboats against the Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf.  with the intention of silencing the Confederate guns and then securing the area with troops of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Corps troops who were loaded aboard transports and barges. The attack by the seven ironclads began at 8 a.m. and continued until about 1:30 p.m.  Uable to silence the batteries, he Union ironclads  and transports retreated. After dark,  the ironclads attacked the Confederate batteries again while the trasnsports and barges ran the batteries to get south of Grand Gulf. After the transports had passed Grand Gulf, they embarked the troops at Disharoon’s plantation and disembarked them on the Mississippi shore at Bruinsburg, below Grand Gulf.  Charles A. Dana, personal represenative of Secretary of War Stanton, reported on the fight at Grand Gulf and the crossing of the Mississippi: (more…)

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January 11, 1863: Battle of Arkansas Post

One of the more effective combined operations of the Civil War, the battle of Arkansas Post was fought January 9-11, 1863.  The Confederates constructed Fort Hindman at the mouth of the Arkansas River to prevent the Union from steaming up the river from the Mississippi and taking Little Rock.  The garrison consisted of about 5500 men under Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill.

Union Major General John McClernand, a War Democrat political general from Illinois.  He convinced Major General William Tecumseh Sherman to join him in landing 33,000 troops at Fort Hindman, bombard the fort with Union gunboats and take Fort Hindman.  McClernand informed Lincoln of his plans but did not tell Grant or Henry W. Halleck, the General in Chief.

McClernand began the movement on Hindman on January 4.   Troops landed at Hindman on January 9.  After two days of naval and land bombardment, most of the artillery at Fort Hindman was silenced and Churchill surrendered.  The Confederates put up a fierce resistance in those two days, with Union casualties exceeding a  thousand with 134 killed.  The entire Confederate garrison was captured, a true disaster for the Confederacy.  Grant was furious, ordering Sherman and McClernand back to the Mississippi and taking personal command of the stalled Vicksburg campaign.  Here is General Sherman’s comments on the Arkansas Post campaign from his memoirs: (more…)

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June 25, 1863: Mine Exploded at Vicksburg

I have always been somewhat bemused by the fact that vast attention is paid to the Battle of the Crater at the seige of Petersburg on July 30, 1864, while the mine explosion at Vicksburg on June 25, 1863 tends to be overlooked in popular memory of the War.  Both efforts were unsuccessful, both mine explosions producing a breach in the Confederate lines that Union troops were ultimately unable to exploit, with Confederate troops rallying and sealing the breach.  It is true that the Battle of the Crater was a much larger operation involving four times the explosives with divisions involved as opposed to regiments at Vicksburg.  The use of black troops in the Battle of the Crater and the slaying of some Union prisoners and their officers by Confederate troops, also helped ensure maximum press coverage.  Still it is surprising to me how little attention is paid to the Vicksburg mine even in fairly extensive histories of the War.  Here is Grant’s memories of the mining operations at Vicksburg in his Personal Memoirs: (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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May 17, 1863: Battle of Big Black River Bridge

Big Black River Bridge Battle



An anti-climatic engagement the day after the decisive battle of Champion Hill, the battle is chiefly memorable because it deprived General Pemberton of 1751 men taken prisoners, and demonstrated that Pemberton’s Army of Mississippi had no further taste to meet the Army of the Tennessee in open field combat.  Pemberton’s force could hold Vicksburg for a time, and his men did that valiantly, but a mass sortie to break the siege simply was no longer within their power or will.  Here is Grant’s description of the engagement taken from his Personal Memoirs: (more…)

April 17, 1863: Grierson’s Raid Begins

Grierson's Raid


Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavalry raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher from Illinois who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion for his crossing of the Missippi which occured on April 29-30.  Total Union casualties for the raid were minimal indeed:  three killed, seven wounded, and nine missing, with five sick left behind on the route.  Here is the report of  Colonel Grierson on the raid: (more…)

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May 16, 1863: Battle of Champion Hill


The decisive battle of the Vicksburg Campaign, and one of the decisive battles of the War, the battle of Champion Hill led to the siege of Vicksburg, and once it became a siege, with the Union able to bring endless reinforcements to reinforce Grant during the siege via the Mississippi, the fall of Vicksburg became merely a matter of time.  Pemberton with 22,000 men had planned to attempt to attack Union supply columns coming from Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, to Raymond, Mississippi.  Receiving repeated orders that he move on Clinton, Mississippi instead, he counter-marched and took up a defensive position against the advancing Federals at Champion Hill.

Here is Pemberton’s description of how the battle began, taken from his official report: (more…)

The season of freedom – introduction: the men of Milliken’s Bend

Milliken's Bend



A guest post by commenter Fabio Paolo Barbieri on the battle of Milliken’s Bend during the campaign to take Vicksburg:


Many of us have seen an excellent movie called GLORY, telling the story of the doomed but heroic assault by the black troops of the 53rd Massachusetts against the formidable coastal confederate Fort Wagner. With due respect for those brave men, that movie had the wrong subject. If they wanted to tell the story of black victims of oppression and dehumanization, taking up arms and proving themselves men on the battlefield, there is an episode that does it much better than even the fight for Fort Wagner; I mean the battle of Milliken’s Bend (June 7, 1863).As the situation of Vicksburg was growing dire, and Grant’s wide-ranging operations had driven any hope of support far away (taking of Jackson and battles of Champion Hill and of Big Black River Bridge, mid-May), the Confederates pinned their last hopes on attempts to break Grant’s inevitably long supply lines. A union depot was known to exist at Milliken’s Bend, upriver from Vicksburg, and an elite unit, General John Walker’s Texas cavalry division, was dispatched to destroy it.

The Texans attacked late in the night of June 6-7. The garrison at Milliken’s Bend had had some advance warning of their arrival, and were reinforced by the experienced white troops of the 23rd Iowa; but the bulk of the local garrison was made up of two nominal regiments, the Louisiana Ninth and Eleventh: black volunteers, most of them escaped slaves, who had been enlisted for only a few weeks, with as much training as could have been expected for that period, officered by white soldiers promoted directly from private for the purpose, frequently illiterate, and often armed with out-of-date, broken-down Austrian rifles. Numerically, the defenders and the attackers were about equal, but given the different levels of skill and training of the Texans, the outcome would have seemed to be inevitable. The Texans broke the Union line, screaming “No quarter! No quarter!”, and the Iowans and the Louisianans became separated from each other, each understandably convinced that the other had left. (more…)

Vicksburg Surrenders

It is one of the ironies of the Civil War that July 4, 1863 marks the turning point of the War with the retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia from Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg.  Of the two, clearly the surrender of Vicksburg was more important.  With the fall of that bastion, the Mississippi passed into Union control and the states of Arkansas and Texas and a portion of Louisiana were effectively cut off from the Confederacy.  Additionally a Confederate army of 31,000 surrendered, the largest surrender of the War.  With the capitulation of Vicksburg, the Union took a big step towards ultimate victory.

Here is Grant’s account of the surrender at Vicksburg which he wrote as an article for The Century Magazine in 1884.  The success of this article and others written by Grant for the magazine, part of a series of articles written by top commanders of the War, helped inspire him to write his Personal Memoirs, to secure the financial future of his family, as he was  dying of cancer in 1884-1885. (more…)

Published in: on July 7, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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June 10, 1863: Letter From Vicksburg

Captain R.W. Burt



After the failure of the two assaults in May, Grant’s Army of the Tennessee set about the business of taking Vicksburg by siege.  With control of the Mississippi, the Union army was well supplied, and by June 14 the Army of Tennessee would swell with reinforcements to 77,000 troops.  Long odds for the 33,000 Confederate troops, grimly holding on to Vicksburg while trying to sustain themselves on rations that could at best barely hold starvation at bay.    Confederate morale plummeted as Union morale soared.

This letter by Captain Richard W. Burt of the 76th Ohio written to an Ohio newspaper indicates the high morale of the Union forces and their faith that Vicksburg would inevitably fall: (more…)

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