Vicksburg After the Siege: Part I
By Morgan Gates
And they all lived happily ever after… THE END! Every fairy tale ended that way remember? Or perhaps you don’t, it seems fairy tales are becoming things of the past as well. Oh well that’s a different story. But you get the picture, all stories, be they fairy tales, books, or movies necessarily come to an end. Some end well others not so well, but inevitably the story ends. But real life … not so much! Life goes on, changed perhaps, seen through the eyes of others perhaps, but still it goes on. When I am giving a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park I pretty much wrap it up with the surrender on July 4th 1863, but of course Vicksburg’s story goes on as well. The war was not over, there were not quite two more years of conflict left before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House and of course there would be men under arms in the South for months thereafter. So, I thought I would just briefly discuss a few things that happened in and around Vicksburg after the Siege ended but while the War was still going on. Some of these I may expand upon in later Blog articles:
No Show Joe: We know of course that Joseph E. Johnson had been ordered to Jackson in mid-May to command the “Army of the Relief” and raise the siege of Vicksburg and yet he found reason after reason to delay his march until it was too late. When he finally reached to the line of the Big Black River (15 miles east of Vicksburg) he discovered that Grant was ready for him (big surprise) and had heavily fortified his rear. He probed this formidable “Exterior Line” in vain as Pemberton surrendered his beleaguered army and the city. Then Grant turned to his “Pit Bull” William T. Sherman and said “sic ‘em” and he crossed the Big Black with his own army of maneuver in hot pursuit. Johnson raced back to Jackson he delayed Sherman by poisoning the water sources with animal carcasses, just as the Union had done to Vicksburg’s defenders. Johnston made it to Jackson and slammed the door shut, and that city was briefly besieged, but Johnson was not a man who would hold his ground at all costs. He and his army sliped across the Pearl River in the middle of the night and left Mississippi and Jackson burned for a second time. For more on this little known event, read Jim Woodrick’s
The Civil War Siege of Jackson https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781626197299 .
Grant on Ice: The surrender of Vicksburg was of course a long sought goal of the Union and on the surface Grant was the man of the hour. But for the next four months he would not be fighting but doing garrison duty in the captured city. He would watch as much of his valiant army was siphoned off to other parts of the war. Here we must remember that while we know Grant as a great hero today, at the time he was not well liked by many of his peers, many of whom considered him a “stumbling little drunk”! Grant also had political enemies, especially John McClernand whom he had relieved of command during the siege.
Grant had been relieved of his command by his superior General Henry Halleck after the Battle of Shiloh (only fifteen months in the past) and he had disobeyed Halleck’s orders when he pushed inland from Grand Gulf on his way to Vicksburg. There must have been more than a little doubt about his future in his mind when he lay down at night during this time. Did he turn once more to his alleged and much debated drinking? We know that on a visit to New Orleans during this period Grant had another incident with a falling horse, that would leave him badly bruised and in great pain for a period of time. Then he received the message from the War Department, to report to Cairo Illinois to meet with a representative of the department. We know today that this will be good news, but what did Grant think? Oh shit! Or about time!
That looks like about enough for one entry, so we will continue this line of thought in our next installment………