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Grant at Vicksburg

The General and the Siege

Michael B. Ballard

Publication Year: 2013

On May 22, 1863, after two failed attempts to take the city of Vicksburg by assault, Major General Ulysses S. Grant declared in a letter to the commander of the Union fleet on the Mississippi River that “the nature of the ground about Vicksburg is such that it can only be taken by a siege.” The 47-day siege of Vicksburg orchestrated by Grant resulted in the eventual surrender of the city and fulfilled a major strategic goal for the Union: command of the Mississippi River for the remainder of the war. In this revealing volume, Michael B. Ballard offers the first in-depth exploration of Grant’s thoughts and actions during this critical operation, providing a never-before-seen portrait of the general in the midst of one of his most notable achievements.

After an overview of Grant’s early Civil War career from his first battle through the early stages of the attacks on Vicksburg, Ballard describes in detail how Grant conducted the siege, examining his military decisions, placement of troops, strategy and tactics, engineering objectives, and relationships with other officers.  Grant’s worried obsession with a perceived danger of a rear attack by Joseph Johnston’s Confederate army, Ballard shows, affected his decision making, and shows how threats of Confederate action occupied more of Grant’s time than did the siege itself.  

In addition, Ballard soundly dispels a false story about Grant’s alleged drinking binge early in the siege that has been taken as truthful by many historians, examines how racism in Grant’s army impacted the lives of freed black people and slaves in the Vicksburg area, and explores Grant’s strained relationship with John McClernand, a politically appointed general from Illinois. The book concludes with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the expulsion of Johnston and his army from the region, and demonstrates the impact of the siege on the outcome on the short and long-terms of Grant’s military career.

By analyzing Grant’s personality during the siege and how he dealt with myriad issues as both a general and an administrator, Grant at Vicksburg offers a revealing rendering of the legendary general. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. C-ii

Title Page

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p. iii-iii


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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

Grant at Vicksburg: The General and the Siege grew out of an original plan to publish a single volume on the siege of Vicksburg. Amazingly, no scholars or any other writers have published a study solely on the siege. However, having written two chapters on the siege in my book Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi, I decided I was not ready to take the plunge into a full-length examination of that epochal military operation....

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1. Long Road to Vicksburg

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pp. 1-21

On May 22, 1863, at 8:30 p.m., Major General Ulysses S. Grant sat in his tent headquarters at Vicksburg and wrote the following message to Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, commanding the Union fleet on the Mississippi River: “I had sent you a dispatch stating that the assault at 10 a.m. was not successful, although not an entire failure. Our troops ...

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2. A Regular Siege and Paranoia

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pp. 22-42

When Grant notified Porter that the 10 a.m. assault had failed, Grant had to admit that his only doable option was a regular siege. He needed Porter’s gunboats and mortars to put additional pressure on the Confederates. Sherman had told Grant when they arrived outside Vicksburg on May 18 that the campaign had been a success, even though Vicksburg had not yet fallen. The goal of the campaign, however, had been to take...

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3. River of Lies

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pp. 43-63

On June 6, Grant readied himself for the inspection trip up the Yazoo River to Satartia. He asked Dana if he would like to come along, and Dana agreed to go. Grant addressed his plan to McClernand, but copies went to Sherman and McPherson. Dana sent a message about the trip to Secretary of War Stanton, and in the message, Dana noted that the boat carrying him and Grant was just departing. Dana’s message was dated...

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4. Rampant Racism

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pp. 64-85

Though Grant maintained his obsession with the Mechanicsburg Corridor, he could not ignore other problems. On the Louisiana side of the Mississippi, Confederate Lieutenant General Kirby Smith ordered Major General Richard Taylor to attack two of Grant’s bases, Young’s Point and Milliken’s Bend. Smith had in mind disruption of Grant’s supply...

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5. Congressman and Coterie

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pp. 86-106

The backgrounds and personalities of Ulysses S. Grant and John A. McClernand guaranteed personal conflict. Both had undeniable allegiance to the Union, yet their demeanors and approaches to the conduct of war could not have been more different. Grant, the West Pointer, embraced the club of West Point graduates, most of whom considered themselves superior to civilian officers necessitated by civil war. Grant the quiet, ...

Gallery of Illustrations

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pp. G1-G14

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6. Closely Hemmed In

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pp. 107-126

On June 8, Grant updated Halleck on siege operations: “Vicksburg is closely invested. I have a spare force of about thirty thousand (30,000) with which to repel anything from the rear. This includes all I have ordered from west Tennessee. Johnston is concentrating a force at Canton, and now has a portion of it west of Black River. My troops have been north as far as Sartartia, and on the ridge back to that point there is no force...

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7. Big Black, Black Powder, Brush Fires

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pp. 127-145

Grant notified Sherman on June 22 that the enemy was crossing the Big Black, and it appeared Johnston intended to attack along Bear Creek. He told Sherman that Parke had already begun marching four brigades and cavalry to meet the threat. Parke’s assignment would be to hold the Rebels as close to Big Black River as possible “until their position is clearly defined when we can draw all our forces from Snyders Bluff and...

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8. Surrender, Clutter, Impact

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pp. 146-174

The July 3 message from John Pemberton to Grant was concise and to the point. “I have the honor to propose to you an armistice . . . with a view to arranging terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg—To this end if agreeable to you, I will appoint three commissioners, to meet a like number to be named by yourself, at such place and hour to day as you may find convenient—I make this proposition to save the further effusion of ...

Bibliographic Notes

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pp. 175-178


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pp. 179-192


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pp. 193-196

Author Biography

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p. 197-197

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780809332410
E-ISBN-10: 0809332418
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809332403
Print-ISBN-10: 080933240X

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 27
Publication Year: 2013