The Value of Vicksburg
> With the amount of the river that the Union controlled,I think you're missing a couple of key points.
> it still effectively separated those Confederate states
> to the West from those to the East, and diminish almost
> totally any supplies or other logistics from the West to
> help the East. It is for that reason also, that I say
> that Grant's seige and the supposed importance of
> Vicksburg was an excellent PR issue for the Union.
> What real importance did that city really have? It was
> shown also that ships could slip by, harassed yes, but
> it was possible to slip by.
The first attempt at running the guns was unique because he used a
huge fleet of ironclads that had been instructed to pepper the
hillsides randomly with grapeshot after the first shot was fired.
Fortuitously, the city was throwing a massive ball during the event,
so the defenses had been reduced to a minimum (and who's to say that
the remaining defenders weren't throwing a little party of their
own?). Despite these factors, one of the two non-ironclad ships to
participate was reduced to a burning hulk. The next attempt, with
supply ships, was disastrous enough to convince the Union to supply
McClernand's Corps at Hard Times over a land route through the swamps
of Louisiana. So Vicksburg was still a huge barrier in the flow of
men and material between the two departments, effectively separating
Banks and Grant. Given that a Confederate ironclad fleet was being
built at Yazoo City, the Confederates could have launched a combined-
arms assault on the two federal armies in detail, if given time.
The only thing that was preventing trans-Mississippi supplies from
flowing freely across the river at Vicksburg in 1863 was the fact
that Grant's army was positioned across the railroad at Richmond,
Louisiana. Anything less than an army-sized detachment attempting to
serve this purpose would have been eaten up by either Kirby Smith or
Pemberton or both. If the army had withdrawn from Richmond, the
Confederates would have rebuilt the railroad, and the flow of
supplies and equipment would have resumed. Remember, the Vicksburg
defenses controlled the river at Vicksburg, not the Union Navy.
Additionally, it was simply impossible for the Union Navy to destroy
every pirogue within a 50 mile radius of Vicksburg, or interdict
every mile of the river 24 hours a day. So until Vicksburg fell, the
Confederacy still had an open link to the outside world via
Matamoros. Ripping up the rail line between Vicksburg and Meridian
cut this link permanently.
Almost as important to the Confederate war effort as the trans-
Mississippi was the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta region. Like the
Shenandoah Valley region, this area was, in itself, agriculturally
productive enough to supply an entire army. Produce from the region
flowed by boat over hundreds of tributaries into the Yazoo River,
almost directly into Vicksburg, from whence it could be delivered
anywhere in the Confederacy over the rail system. By removing
Vicksburg and Jackson from the route, the Union would control this
- In a message dated 7/16/02 7:39:01 PM Central Daylight Time,
<< I agree. Sometimes it's the back of the scene contributions from
willing men like Hurlbut that make all the difference in a campaign.
To the best of my knowledge, Hurlbut didn't squawk a bit when Grant
called on him for reinforcements.
>>Seems to me the only time Grant and Hurlbut disagreed was in how Dodge was
handling payment to his operatives. IIRC the situation was handled quickly
and with no obviously hard feelings. Working in tandem was the optimum
situation, but too often egos or personal agendas muddied the water to the
detriment of the objective. Grant's talent was to somehow arrange it so that
his subordinates were his men.