"Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war; this war talks spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides... there isn't going to be any war. Not going to be any war? Why, honey, of course there's gonna be a war. If either of you boys says "war" just once again, I'll go in the house and slam the door. But Scarlett..."
I am sure those who have seen old movies got the hint as to what I am referring to! It is none other than the epic movie Gone With the Wind. I mean do I need to mention here that this movie was made on the backdrop of American Civil War. American civil war was a monumental landmark in American history. Well, thanks to the 11 Southern Slave states. If it would not have been for these states, who seceded from the United States, there would not have been American civil war and consequently no Gone with the Wind! Nevertheless, reverting back to those volatile times of American civil war, which started in 1861 and ended in 1865, the siege of Vicksburg was one of the last assaults by the Union army on the Confederate Army. Vicksburg, a beautiful city in Warren County, on the banks of Mississippi was the spot of the grand finale of the 2 year effort by the Union Army to gain control over the areas around the river.
It all started with Vicksburg being the center and the conjoining point for separating the so-called 2 halves of the war - the East and the West. The 'Gibraltar of the West' as Vicksburg was called, became the spot for the final showdown between Gen. Ulysses Grant and Lt. Gen John Pemberton, leading the Union and the Confederate Armies respectively. The place was also known as 'Gibraltar of the Confederacy'. The Confederate army was at a loss prior to this battle to stop the Union army at Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge. Grant, to top it all had already won battles at Port Gibson and Raymond, finally to capture the capital of Mississippi state, Jackson. The main face-off in this league of civil war started on May 18 and it lasted till July 4. All in all, the significance of the battle lies in the fact that this proved to be a turning point in the American civil war.
Vicksburg: May 18 - July 4
Initially Grant tried to break the strong Confederate forte, on May 19 and 22, 1863. The attack done later could gain some success but what Grant got back was a huge number of casualties. Similarly, Johnston, one of the commanders of the Confederate Army asked Pemberton to evacuate the city, resulting in saving of his army. Pemberton, however, was of the opinion that it would be an extremely tough task to withdraw safely. Instead then, Johnston staged a preemptive attack on Grant for taking a load off Pemberton. Unfortunately for the Confederate Army, it resulted in a flop show. Meanwhile Grant besieged Pemberton's forces and the task was almost as good as over. Both the sides were locked in a heavy tiff of artillery and bombing attacks, trying to get the better of each other.
But there was a small problem, as Grant could not afford to lose track of Pemberton's forces who were charging from the rear direction. Hence, he stationed a division in the vicinity of the Big Black River Bridge and another one far off, to act as cover. The XI Corps commanded by Maj Gen. G Parke, by then had been transferred to Grant's command on June 10. This was like a special task force which was entitled the task to hold Johnston back who was gathering forces at Canton. Eventually, though to relieve Pemberton, Johnston marched ahead, reaching the Big Black River on 1st July. But he made a mistake of potentially delaying a tough encounter with the XI Corps. By then it was late for the Vicksburg Garrison. Johnston then again fell back to Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. The Battle of Vicksburg finally ended on July 4, when Pemberton surrendered, after 6 weeks. Civilians and soldiers were left with no food supplies. In addition to this, they were bombarded constantly. Finally, Pemberton had to give up in such circumstances, once he asked for Armistice.
One of the most important facts about this battle is the defeat of the Confederates and huge casualties for both the armies. Rather, this phase was the phase in American history where there was maximum bloodshed.
At first, Grant wanted an unconditional surrender. Later he changed his decision and put forth a proposal to parole all prisoners. July 4th was considered as the Independence day and the fortress city fell. It also brought about a split in the Confederacy and the Mississippi river was firmly in the hands of the Union after Port Hudson siege on July 9.
Being an engrossing and exhilarating battle, though leading to the Union's victory, it claimed thousands of lives. Keeping this in mind, one assumes that what Martin Luther King Jr. had said about war was true - "War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow".