The Battle of Vicksburg or
Siege of Vicksburg was the final significant battle in the Vicksburg Campaign
of the American Civil War. In a series of brilliant maneuvers, Union Major
General Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi
River and drove the Confederate army of Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton
into defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Grant besieged the city, which surrendered six weeks later, yielding command
of the Mississippi River to the Union.
Before the battle, Grant had captured Jackson, Mississippi, and Pemberton
retreated to the west. Attempts to stop the Union advance at Champion Hill
and Big Black River Bridge were unsuccessful. Pemberton knew that the corps
under William T. Sherman was preparing to flank him from the north; he had no
choice but to withdraw or be outflanked. Pemberton burned the bridges over
the Big Black River and took everything edible in his path, animal and plant,
as he retreated to the well-fortified city of Vicksburg.
The Confederates evacuated Haine's Bluff, attacked by Sherman, and Union
steamboats no longer had to run the guns of Vicksburg, now able to dock by
the dozens up the Yazoo River. Grant could now receive supplies more directly
than the previous route around Vicksburg, over the crossing at Grand Gulf,
and back up north.
Over half of Pemberton's army of 17,500 had been lost in the two preceding
battles, and everyone in Vicksburg expected General Joseph E. Johnston, in
overall command of Confederate forces in Mississippi, to relieve the city -
which he never did. Large masses of Union troops were on the march to invest
the city, repairing the burnt bridges over the Big Black River; Grant's
forces were across on May 18. Johnston sent a note to Pemberton, asking him
to sacrifice the city and save his troops, something Pemberton would not do.
(Pemberton, a northerner by birth, was probably influenced by his fear of
public condemnation as a traitor if he abandoned Vicksburg.) Vicksburg
was under siege.
In the twenty days since the river
crossing at Bruinsburg, Mississippi, Grant had marched his troops 180 miles,
inflicting 7,200 casualties at a cost of 4,300 of his own, winning five of
five battles: Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black
River, and not losing a single gun or stand of colors.
As the Union forces approached Vicksburg, Pemberton could put only 18,500
troops in his lines. Grant had over twice that, with more coming.
Grant wanted a quick end and prepared for an immediate assault, performing
only a cursory reconnaissance. His troops prepared a position in front of the
town and on May 19 Sherman's corps conducted a frontal assault against the
Confederate works, marching from the north along Graveyard Road into
murderous fire from Stockade Redan. Many of the Federals found something
under which to hide, sneaking back to Union lines after dark. Grant inflicted
under 200 casualties at a cost of 942. The Confederates, assumed to be
demoralized, had regained their fighting edge.
True to his aggressive nature, Grant planned his next assault, but this time
with greater care; they would first reconnoiter thoroughly and soften up the
rebels with artillery fire. The attack was set for May 22. Grant did not want
a long siege, and this attack was to be by the entire army.
Despite their bloody repulse, Union troops were in high spirits, now well-fed
with provisions they had foraged. On seeing Grant pass by, a soldier
commented, "Hardtack." Soon all Union troops in the vicinity were
yelling, "Hardtack! Hardtack!" The Union served hardtack, beans,
and coffee that night. Everyone expected that Vicksburg would fall the next
Union forces bombarded the city all night, including naval gunfire from the
river, and while causing little property damage, they damaged Confederate
morale. On the morning of May 22, the defenders were bombarded again for four
hours before the Union attacked once more along a three-mile front. Sherman
attacked once again down the Graveyard Road, James B. McPherson in the center
along the Jackson Road, and John A. McClernand on the south along the Baldwin
Ferry Road and astride the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. They broke
through a few times, but were beaten back by the Confederates, who could move
reinforcements easily on their shorter interior lines. McClernand's corps
achieved a small breakthrough at the Railroad Redoubt and requested
reinforcements. Grant ordered a diversionary attack, first by Sherman's
corps, then James B. McPherson's, both bloodily repulsed. McClernand attacked
again, reinforced by one of McPherson's divisions, but with no success. The
day saw over 3,000 Union casualties. Enraged, Grant blamed McClernand for
Grant's optimism grew as realized he had the city invested. With their backs
against the Mississippi and Union gunboats firing from the river, Confederate
soldiers and citizens alike were trapped. Grant's troops dug in and started a
siege. Pemberton was determined to hold his few miles of the Mississippi as
long as possible, hoping for relief from Johnston or elsewhere.
A new problem confronted the Confederates. The dead and wounded of Grant's
army lay in the heat of Mississippi summer, the odor of the deceased men and
horses fouling the air, the wounded crying for medical help and water. Grant
first refused a request of truce, thinking it a show of weakness. Finally he
relented, and the Confederates held their fire while the Union recovered the
wounded and dead, soldiers from both sides mingling and trading as if no
hostilities existed for the moment.
In an effort to cut Grant's supply line, the Confederates attacked Milliken's
Bend up the Mississippi on June 7. This was mainly defended by untrained
black troops, who fought bravely with inferior weaponry and finally fought
off the rebels with help from gunboats, although at horrible cost; the
defenders lost 652 to the Confederate 185. The loss at Milliken's Bend left
the rebels with no hope for relief but from the cautious Johnston. Opinion
within Vicksburg passed from "Johnston is coming!" to "Where
All through June, the Union dug lines parallel to and approaching the rebel
lines. Soldiers could not poke their heads up above their works for fear of
snipers. It was a sport for Union troops to poke a hat above the works on a
rod, betting on how many rebel bullets would pierce it in a given time. Union
troops set off explosions below Confederate lines, such as the attacks
against the 3rd Louisiana Redan on June 25 and July 1. But these attacks were
unsuccessful. The Confederates always healed the breaches, but were pulling
Pemberton was boxed in with lots of inedible munitions and little food. The
poor diet was showing on the Confederate soldiers. By the end of June, half
were out sick or hospitalized. Scurvy, malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, and
other diseases cut their ranks. At least one city resident had to stay up at
night to keep starving soldiers out of his vegetable garden. The constant
shelling did not bother him as much as the loss of his food. As the siege
wore on, fewer and fewer horses, mules, and dogs were seen wandering about
Vicksburg. Shoe leather became a last resort of sustenance for many adults.
As the bombing continued, suitable housing in Vicksburg was reduced to a
minimum. A ridge, located between the main town and the rebel defense line,
provided a diverse citizenry with lodging for the duration. Whether houses
were structurally sound or not, it was deemed safer to occupy these dugouts.
People did their best to make them comfortable, with rugs, furniture, and
pictures. They tried to time their movements and foraging with the rhythm of
the cannonade, sometimes unsuccessfully. Since the fighting line was fairly
close, soldiers made their way rearward to visit family and friends, a boost
Surrender and aftermath
Joseph E. Johnston, the only possibility for a Confederate rescue, felt his
force at Jackson was too small to attack Grant's huge army. While Johnston's
force was growing (at cost to the rest of the hard-pressed Confederacy),
Grant's was growing faster, supplied via the now-open Yazoo River. Johnston,
lacking in supplies, stated, "I consider saving Vicksburg
hopeless." The Confederate government felt otherwise, asking the cautious
Johnston to attack, requests he resisted. Robert E. Lee had remarked that the
Mississippi climate in June would be sufficient to defeat the Union attack
and he resisted calls to ride to the city's rescue from the Eastern Theater;
his Army of Northern Virginia instead invaded the North in the Gettysburg
Campaign with the partial objective of relieving pressure on Vicksburg.
Finally on July 1, Johnston's relief column began cautiously advancing due
west toward Union lines. On July 3 he was ready for his attack, but on July
4, Independence Day, the Union guns were oddly quiet.
On July 3, Pemberton sent a note to Grant, who, as at Fort Donelson, first
demanded unconditional surrender. But Grant reconsidered, not wanting to feed
30,000 hungry Confederates in Union prison camps, and offered to parole all
prisoners. Considering their destitute state, dejected and starving, he never
expected them to fight again; he hoped they would carry home the stigma of
defeat to the rest of the Confederacy. In any event, it would have occupied
his army and taken months to ship that many troops north.
Surrender was formalized by an old oak tree, "made historical by the
event." In his Personal Memoirs, Grant described the fate of this
It was but a short time before the last vestige of its body, root and limb
had disappeared, the fragments taken as trophies. Since then the same tree
has furnished as many cords of wood, in the shape of trophies, as the
Although there was more action to come in the Vicksburg Campaign, the
fortress city had fallen and, with the capture of Port Hudson on July 8, the
Mississippi River was firmly in Union hands and the Confederacy split in two.
Built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at
Pascagoula, MS, USS VICKSBURG's keel was laid on May 30, 1990 and she was
launched on September 7, 1991. USS VICKSBURG was sponsored by Tricia Lott,
wife of the Honorable Trent Lott, United States Senator, Mississippi. On October
12, 1991, Mrs. Lott christened CG 69 as "VICKSBURG". The ship was
commissioned on November 14, 1992.
On her six month maiden deployment to the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas as
a part of the USS SARATOGA joint task group, USS VICKSBURG operated as
"redcrown" cruiser, an airspace deconfliction and command and
control platform, in support of United Nations operations "Deny
Flight", "sharp Guard" and "Provide Promise" off the
coast of Montenegro. In May 1994, USS VICKSBURG participated, as part of the
USS SARATOGA (CV 60) Battle Group, in the major annual spring NATO exercise
"Dynamic Impact 94", a conventional major NATO exercise for
maritime, amphibious, land based air and ground forces in the central and
western Mediterranean area. The exercise was being held in the Western
USS VICKSBURG was on station in the Florida Straits in August 1994 for
Operation Able Vigil. While deployed, USS VICKSBURG was tasked with providing
support to the interdicting and transporting Cuban migrants in the Florida
Straits to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and assisting the U.S.
Coast Guard which had the primary responsibility for Operation Able Vigil.
As a precautionary measure, in September 1996, USS VICKSBURG was one of 13
Navy ships homeported at Naval Station Mayport, and sent to sea to avoid
The USS VICKSBURG left its homeport on April 29, 1997 for a six-month
overseas deployment with the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) Battle Group (CVBG)
to relieve the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) CVBG, which had been operating
in the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The USS
JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) Battle Group deployed in support of Operation
Deliberate Guard and Operation Southern Watch. As part of that battle group,
USS VICKSBURG took part, in July, in the 6th Fleet exercise Invitex involving
12 nations, and from September 23-October 7, in NATO'S Exercise Dynamic Mix.
That exercise placed JOHN F. KENNEDY Battle Group units on opposing sides and
was designed to increase task force and unit readiness as forces implemented
NATO strategy and doctrine.
In 1998, USS VICKSBURG experienced significant problems with AEGIS Baseline
6.1 and CEC 2.0 integration, which forced re-scheduling its deployments and
caused a major rework of these computer programs.
USS VICKSBURG took part in U.S. Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) '99 in the
Western Baltic Sea in mid-1999. The exercise included 53 ships, submarines
and aircraft from European allies and Partnership for Peace (PfP) nations Poland,
Germany, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Sweden,
Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and the United States.
In the fall of 1999, USS VICKSBURG, participated solely in the modernized
phase of the 40th annual UNITAS deployment to South America. During that
deployment, it served as Flagship for the Commander, South Atlantic Force,
U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Commander, Destroyer Squadron Six. The 40th UNITAS
was a three-week exercise was hosted by Brazil and included 23 ships from six
countries, including the host, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay,
Portugal and Spain.
USS VICKSBURG took part in September 2000 in Underway No. 10", one in a
series of tests leading to the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC)
Operation Evaluation (OPEVAL) scheduled for Spring 2001. The CEC system
provides the capability to cooperatively engage targets by a warship using
data from other CEC-equipped ships, aircraft, and land-based sensors, even in
an electronic-jamming environment. It also provides a common, consistent and
highly accurate air picture, allowing battle group defenses to act as one
seamless system. The test, off Wallops Island, VA, simulated missile firings
from some of the Navy's most technically advanced ships against unmanned
From February 9, 2001, to March 2, 2001, USS VICKSBURG took part in a
technical evaluation (TECHEVAL) to test whether the Cooperative Engagement
Capability (CEC) was on track to a successful Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL)
in April and May of 2001. The TECHEVAL was conducted in two phases, the first
off the coast of Puerto Rico and the second off Wallops Island, Va. The tests
included live missile firings and tracking exercises from some of the Navy's
most technically advanced ships.
As part of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) Carrier Battle Group (CVBG),
and in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, USS VICKSBURG
set sail in support of defense and humanitarian efforts off the coast of New
USS VICKSBURG, as part of the JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) Battle Group (CVBG)
participated in Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 02-1, with Phase I of the
exercise running from January 19 through 26, 2002, and Phase II running from
USS VICKSBURG deployed as part of the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY Battlegroup, which
relieved on March 8, 2002, the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) Carrier Battle
Group, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. USS VICKSBURG was tasked
with helping protect the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) from threats in the sky,
on the surface, or underwater.