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.
The Union siege lines and Confederate defensive
lines were marked during the first decade
of the 20th century by many of the veterans
who had fought at Vicksburg, thus making
Vicksburg National Military Park one of
the most accurately marked military parks
in the world.
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
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.
Vicksburg Battlefield Ghost
Photo sent to us from Jason Hornsby.
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
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
The river was defended by a massive fort
on top of what can only be termed as "a
big ass hill". This steep embankment
was able to withstand the enemy for the
entire duration of the siege, and pose a
huge problem to the Union ships on the waters,
because some of the largest guns in the
Confederate Army were mounted at the top.
The Union Army never shut down this imposing
battery of guns.
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.
Vicksburg Cemetery Battlefield
Ghost Photo sent to us by Gretchen Neeb.
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 luckless tree:
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.
The fourth of July holiday was not celebrated
by most of the citizens of Vicksburg until
World War II, because of the surrender of
the city on July 4.
The works around Vicksburg are now maintained
by the National Park Service as Vicksburg
National Military Park.
Ulysses S. Grant John C. Pemberton
Army of the Tennessee 10,142 Army of Vicksburg
9,091 (30,000 paroled)
The Military Park was established in 1899.Since
that time, many of the states who lost men
and women in battle constructed monuments
to their regiments within the park. None
of them is as striking as the Illinois memorial.
Inside this huge marble structure, every
name of every soldier who served from Illinois
is represented on plaques, or on the walls,
and floors. Fifty steps lead up to the structure,
representing a nation dependant on all of
its parts to reach the goal.
Because of the tremendous numbers of men
who were killed in this battle, transporting
the dead back to their home states was impossible.
Instead, the men were buried together in
a site now declared a national cemetery.
If you survey this field, you see hundreds
of tombstones lined up. Some were tall,
marking men of importance, and others are
but a lump of stone, some without even names.
Union soldiers were laid to rest next to
their Confederate brethren. In this war,
everyone lost, and the pain and tragedy
must have been unbearable for the families
whose sons had gone off to fight to secure
the nation as a whole. The human cost in
all of this was incredible.
U S S Cairo Gunboat and
U. S. S. Cairo (pronounced Care-o), a union
ironclad commanded by Thomas O. Selfridge,
Jr., was named for Cairo, Illinois and commissioned
on January 16, 1862. On December 12, 1862,
in the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, Cairo
struck two underwater torpedoes (today called
mines) sinking in less than 12 minutes with
no loss of life. Preserved by mud and silt,
Cairo sat on the bottom of the Yazoo River
for 102 years. It was raised in 1964, and
later restored. The ironclad is now on display
within Vicksburg National Military Park.
The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad
gunboats named in honor of towns along the
upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These
powerful ironclads were formidable vessels,
each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).
On them rested in large part, Northern hopes
to regain control of the lower Mississippi
River and split the Confederacy in two.
The "city class" gunboats were
designed by Samuel M. Pook and built by
river engineer James B. Eads. Cairo was
constructed at Mound City, Illinois, and
commissioned in January 1862. The Cairo
was destined to see only limited action
in the engagement at Plum Point in May and
in the battle of Memphis in June. Her most
significant action came six months later
when she kept a rendezvous with destiny.
The Cairo's skipper, Lt. Commander Thomas
O. Selfridge, Jr., was rash and ambitious,
a stern disciplinarian, but an aggressive
and promising young officer. On the cold
morning of December 12, 1862, Selfridge
led a small flotilla up the Yazoo River,
north of Vicksburg, to destroy Confederate
batteries and clear the channel of torpedoes
(underwater mines). As the Cairo reached
a point seven miles north of Vicksburg the
flotilla came under fire and Selfridge ordered
the guns to ready. As the gunboat turned
towards shore disaster struck. Cairo was
rocked by two explosions in quick succession
which tore gaping holes in the ship's hull.
Within twelve minutes the ironclad sank
into six (6) fathoms (36 feet) of water
without any loss of life. Cairo became the
first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically
Over the years the gunboat was soon forgotten
and her watery grave was slowly covered
by a shroud of silt and sand. Impacted in
mud, Cairo became a time capsule in which
her priceless artifacts were preserved.
Her whereabouts became a matter of speculation
as members of the crew had died and local
residents were unsure of the location.
By studying contemporary documents and maps,
Edwin C. Bearss, Historian at Vicksburg
National Military Park, was able to plot
the approximate site of the wreck. With
the help of a pocket compass and iron bar
probes, Bearss and two companions, Don Jacks
and Warren Grabau, set out to discover the
grave of the Cairo in 1956. The three searchers
were reasonably convinced they had found
the Cairo, but three years lapsed before
divers brought up armored port covers to
positively confirm the find. A heavy accumulation
of silt, swift current, and the ever-muddy
river deterred the divers as they explored
the gunboat. Local enthusiasm and interest
began to grow in 1960 with the recovery
of the pilothouse, an 8-inch smoothbore
cannon, its white oak carriage and other
artifacts well preserved by the Yazoo mud.
With financial support from the State of
Mississippi, the Warren County Board of
Supervisors and funds raised locally, efforts
to salvage the gunboat began in earnest.
Hopes of lifting the ironclad and her cargo
of artifacts intact were crushed in October
of 1964 when the three inch cables being
used to lift the Cairo cut deeply into its
wooden hull. It then became a question of
saving as much of the vessel as possible.
A decision was made to cut the Cairo into
three sections. By the end of December the
battered remains were put on barges and
towed to Vicksburg. In the summer of 1965
the barges carrying the Cairo were towed
to Ingalls Shipyard on the Gulf Coast in
Pascagula, Mississippi. There the armor
was removed, cleaned and stored. The two
engines were taken apart, cleaned and reassembled.
Sections of the hull were braced internally
and a sprinkler system was operated continually
to keep the white oak structural timbers
from warping and checking.
In 1972, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation
authorizing the National Park Service to
accept title to the Cairo and restore the
gunboat for display in Vicksburg National
Military Park. Delays in funding the project
halted progress until June of 1977, when
the vessel was transported to the park and
partially reconstructed on a concrete foundation
near the Vicksburg National Cemetery.
The recovery of artifacts from the Cairo
revealed a treasure trove of weapons, munitions,
naval stores and personal gear of the sailors
who served on board. The gunboat and its
artifacts can now be seen along the tour
road at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum.
Vicksburg is one of the most authentically
haunted, historical towns that still exists
in America today.
Next to Gettysburg Battlefield Pensylvanian,
Vicksburg Is thought to be the next most
haunted. Sounds of Cannon Fire or aften
heard rumbling through thr hills and ecohing
of the monuments. some have reported the
sounds of ghost moaning and gasping for
their last breaths.
Vicksburg National Cemetery lies on ground
once manned by the extreme right
General William T. Sherman's XV Army Corps.
Embracing 116 acres, the cemetery
the final resting place for 17,000 Union
soldiers -- a number unmatched by any
national cemetery. Many say they have trp[ortrd
seeing many union soldiers ghost wlking
around the cemetery.
The cemetery was established in 1866, with
the first burials in 1867. Soldiers
here had originally been interred at scattered
locations in Arkansas, Louisiana,
Mississippi during the campaign and siege
of Vicksburg. Record keeping was
haphazard under wartime conditions - grave
locations were frequently lost.
Rows of gravestones from the Civil War in
the National Military Park
Operating Hours & Seasons
Open daily, except December 25 (Federal
Beginning in 2007, the Visitor Center and
U. S. S. Cairo Museum will be closed New
Years Day and Thanksgiving Day.
Visitor Center: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
Cairo Museum: October to March: 8:30 a.m.
to 5:00 p.m. April to September: 9:30 a.m.
to 6:00 p.m.
Commercial vehicles, 1-6 passenger capacity
$25.00 - Day
Commercial vehicles, 7-25 passenger capacity
$40.00 - Day
Commercial vehicles, Over 25 passenger capacity
$100.00 - Day
Daily Admission, non-commercial bus passenger
$4.00 - Day
Daily Admission, per vehicle
$8.00 - 7 Days
Golden Age Passport
The Golden Age (lifetime) passport is for
U.S. Citizens 62 years of age or older.
It entitles the bearer and those in the
vehicle with him/her to admission to all
federal fee areas, such as National Parks
with entrance fees. It does not affect concession
expenses or cooperating association bookstores.
Must be purchased in person with identification.
National Parks Pass
$50.00 - Annual
The National Parks Pass extends passport
coverage to all National Park fee areas,
for one year from the date of purchase.
It does not affect camping fees, concession
facilities, user fees, such as guided tours
or cooperating association bookstores.
Vicksburg Annual (park) Pass:
$20.00 - Annual
The Vicksburg annual park pass is valid
only at Vicksburg National Military Park
for one year from the date of purchase.
It does not offer discounts for the cooperating
Vicksburg National Military Park
3201 Clay Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi 39183
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