Wreck of the U.S.S. Cairo
One of the most remarkable
artifacts in Vicksburg is the
wreck of the Civil War ironclad
U.S.S. Cairo. The gunboat is
now part of the national park.
The "Widow Blakely"
So named because it was the
only gun of its type used in the
Battle of Vicksburg, the Civil
War cannon still aims out
over the Mississippi River.
The Battle of Vicksburg - Vicksburg, Mississippi
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg National Military Park
During the late spring and early summer of
1863, Union and Confederate armies battled
for control of
Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The beautiful city on the Mississippi River
now preserves some of America's most
significant historic sites. Among these are
forts, batteries, miles of fortifications, historic
homes and structures and even the wreck of
a Civil War ironclad. The fate of a continent
was determined here and Vicksburg today
draws visitors from around the world. It is a
place where the modern world steps into the
past and where visitors still walk in the foot-
prints of the men and women that forged a
nation.

The Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was the
culmination of a two year effort by Union
armies and navies to wrest control of the
Mississippi River from Confederate forces.

Located on a strategic bend of the great river,
the city became a focal point of the Civil War
when Confederate troops fortified the bluffs
with an astounding array of heavy artillery.
New Orleans and Memphis both fell, along
with other Confederate posts up and down
the river, but by the spring of 1863 Vicksburg
still remained firmly in Southern hands.

The task of conquering the "Gibraltar of the
Mississippi" fell to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
With an array of impressive subordinates
and a massive army, he moved down the
Mississippi River.

Grant tried first to bypass the Confederate
guns by digging a canal that would divert the
flow of the river and bringing about the fall of
the citadel without the firing of a shot. The
effort failed.

Grant next tried to land troops downstream at
Grand Gulf. Confederate troops dug in,
however, and the firepower of the U.S. Navy
could not blast them from their defenses.

Frustrated but undeterred, Grand moved
further south and finally came ashore near
Port Gibson. Fighting his way through
Confederate defenders at Port Gibson,
Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill and Big
Black River, he closed in on Vicksburg from
the east.

The Confederate commander of the city, Gen.
John C. Pemberton, withdrew his men into
the fortifications surrounding Vicksburg. In
addition to powerful batteries overlooking the
Mississippi, Vicksburg was encircled by
miles of massive earthwork forts, batteries
and infantry trenches. Although Pemberton's
army was much smaller than Grant's, he and
his thousands of determined men left no
doubt that they planned to fight for control of
the city.

Grant moved his forces into position around
Vicksburg, surrounding the Confederate
army but also trapping hundreds of civilians
in the city now turned into a war zone. Union
troops began to dig siege works and place
artillery to bombard the town as Southern
soldiers and civilians prepared to withstand
the coming onslaught.

The Battle of Vicksburg began on May 19,
1863, when Grant sent thousands of men
storming forward in an effort to overwhelm
the Stockade Redan, a powerful Confederate
fort with 17-foot high walls and an 8-foot wide
ditch. Defended by the 36th Mississippi
Infantry, the redan (a redan was a triangular
fortification) provided impossible to take. By
the time the smoke cleared, Grant had lost
157 men killed and 777 wounded compared
to only 8 killed and 62 wounded for the
Confederate defenders.

Determined to try again before Pemberton
could further strengthen his fortifications,
Grant opened fire on Vicksburg on the night
of May 21st with more than 220 pieces of
artillery. Union warships on the river joined in
and Southern soldiers and civilians alike
tunneled into the ground to try to save them-
selves from the barrage.
The Guns of Vicksburg
Civil War cannon still frown from miles of preserved
fortifications at Vicksburg National Military Park.
The next morning at 10 a.m., the Union army
attacked in lines three miles wide. Far from
demoralized by the bombardment, the
soldiers in the Confederate fortifications
opened on the oncoming Federal infantry
with musket and cannon fire. The fighting
became hand to hand in a few places as the
Federals tried to break through the Southern
lines, but for the most part Grant's men never
even got close to the main Confederate
works.  When the smoke cleared, more than
3,000 Union soldiers lay dead or wounded
while Southern casualties were estimated at
fewer than 500.

The fight for Vicksburg now turned into a
brutal, ongoing siege. Union troops inched
closer to the Confederate lines by digging
zigzag approach trenches and pushing their
positions closer and closer. Mines were dug
under Confederate forts and one, the 3rd
Louisiana Redan, was destroyed in a major
explosion on June 25th. Southern officers,
however, had heard the sound of the digging
beneath their feet and had anticipated the
blast. When Union troops stormed into the
crater, they found Confederate troops waiting
for them in a new position just to the rear of
the destroyed fort.

Another explosion followed on July 1st, but in
the end it was starvation and not Union
attacks that brought the siege to an end. With
his soldiers and the civilians of Vicksburg
reduced to eating mules, rats and even
boiled shoe leather, Pemberton surrendered
to Grant on July 4, 1863.

The victory ended Confederate control of the
Mississippi as the last remaining strong-
holds surrendered after learning of the fall of
Vicksburg. A short time later President
Abraham Lincoln penned wrote the immortal
words, "The Father of Waters again goes
unvexed to the sea."

Vicksburg became an important Union
bastion after the surrender and remained so
through the end of the war. It thrives today as
a commercial and tourism destination.

To learn more about the historic Mississippi
city, please follow the links below:
Siege Gun at Vicksburg
One of the most devastating
sieges in history took place in
the hills and ravines around
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Artillery Display at Vicksburg
An array of Civil War cannon
on display outside the Visitor
Center at Vicksburg National
Military Park demonstrate the
various pieces used during
the siege.
Old Courthouse in Vicksburg
The historic Old Courthouse
in Vicksburg predates the
Civil War and was a major
landmark during the battle
and siege. Now a museum, it
houses a fascinating variety
of displays and artifacts.
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Copyright 2011, 2012 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: July 3, 2013
Civil War Sites in the South