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Vicksburg campaign,in the American Civil War, the fighting (Nov., 1862–July, 1863) for control of the Mississippi River. The Union wanted such control in order to split the Confederacy and to restore free commerce to the politically important Northwest. New Orleans and Memphis fell to Union forces in the spring of 1862, but an attempt to take Vicksburg, Miss., by water failed (May–June). As a result the South still held 200 mi (320 km) of the river between Port Hudson, La., and Vicksburg. Early in Nov., 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. GrantGrant, Ulysses Simpson,
1822–85, commander in chief of the Union army in the Civil War and 18th President (1869–77) of the United States, b. Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was originally named Hiram Ulysses Grant.
..... Click the link for more information. , commanding the Dept. of the Tennessee, planned a converging assault on Vicksburg; Gen. William T. ShermanSherman, William Tecumseh,
1820–91, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Lancaster, Ohio. Sherman is said by many to be the greatest of the Civil War generals.
..... Click the link for more information. led an expedition down the river from Memphis to attack the city from the north, while Grant himself advanced overland from the east. However, Confederate cavalry under Earl Van Dorn and Nathan B. ForrestForrest, Nathan Bedford,
1821–77, Confederate general, b. Bedford co., Tenn. (his birthplace is now in Marshall co.). At the beginning of the Civil War, Forrest, a wealthy citizen of Memphis, organized a cavalry force, which he led at Fort Donelson (Feb.
..... Click the link for more information. cut Grant's line of communications, forcing him to retreat, and Sherman was repulsed in the battle of Chickasaw Bluffs (Dec. 29, 1862). In Jan., 1863, Grant concentrated his army across the river from Vicksburg. He took over the command of John A. McClernandMcClernand, John Alexander,
1812–1900, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Breckinridge co., Ky. He was admitted (1832) to the Illinois bar and sat as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives (1843–51, 1859–61).
..... Click the link for more information. , who had succeeded Sherman. After several unsuccessful experiments to gain an approach to the seemingly impregnable city (Feb.–Mar., 1863), Grant in April began a brilliant movement to take it from the south. To divert the attention of the Confederate commander, John C. PembertonPemberton, John Clifford,
1814–81, Confederate general in the American Civil War, b. Philadelphia. He served in the Seminole and Mexican wars and at various frontier posts. He resigned from the U.S. army in Apr., 1861, and in June became a Confederate brigadier general.
..... Click the link for more information. , Grant left Sherman before the city and ordered a cavalry raid through central Mississippi. On the night of Apr. 16–17, David Dixon PorterPorter, David Dixon,
1813–91, American admiral, b. Chester, Pa.; son of David Porter. He served under his father in the Mexican navy before he was appointed (1829) midshipman in the U.S. navy. He held his first command, the Spitfire, in the Mexican War.
..... Click the link for more information. ran gunboats and transports down the river past Vicksburg, and in the following days Grant marched his army south to meet the fleet and be transported across the river at Bruinsburg (c.30 mi/48 km S of Vicksburg). On May 1, McClernand and James B. McPhersonMacpherson, James,
1736–96, Scottish author. Educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, he spent his early years as a schoolmaster. In later life he held a colonial secretaryship in West Florida (1764–66), and he was a member of Parliament from 1780 until his death.
..... Click the link for more information. defeated the Confederates at Port Gibson, forcing them to abandon their batteries at Grand Gulf, which Grant seized as a base. When Sherman joined him on May 7, 1863, Grant left Grand Gulf, marched northeast, and on May 12 defeated the Confederates at Raymond. At Jackson (May 14), he met Gen. Joseph E. JohnstonJohnston, Joseph Eggleston,
1807–91, Confederate general, b. Prince Edward co., Va., grad. West Point, 1829. He served against the Seminole in Florida and with distinction under Winfield Scott in the Mexican War.
..... Click the link for more information. , Confederate commander in the West, who retreated. Turning west toward Vicksburg, Grant defeated Pemberton in successive battles (May 16, 17) at Champion's Hill and at the bridge over the Big Black River, forcing him back into Vicksburg. After two unsuccessful attempts at storming the city's fortifications, Grant opened siege. With the Union forces between them, Pemberton and Johnston were unable to unite, and after about six weeks of gallant resistance Vicksburg's defenders surrendered on July 4, 1863. The fall of Port Hudson a few days later placed the Mississippi River entirely in Union hands.
See J. D. Milligan, Gunboats Down the Mississippi (1965); A. A. Hoehling, Vicksburg (1969).