Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Seige of Vicksburg
Wanted to revisit our visit to Vicksburg to relate some of the amazing and shocking stories which was the Siege of Vicksburg of 1863. The residents of Vicksburg withheld the assault of Grant and his artillery for over forty days, living in caves dug from the hills overlooking the Mississippi River. In these caves, they slept, ate, and carried on their lives as best they could, even holding regular church services. Even after the tens of thousands of artillery shells fell on their city and laid it largely to ruins, only twenty civilians were counted as casualties by the time Gen.Pemberton was forced to surrender the city. The natural defenses of Vicksburg were formidable and allowed Pemberton and his troops to repulse Grants repeated attacks and attempts to storm the city and effectively create a stalemate and force Grant to lay siege. Pemberton, his troops and the civilians tragically were cut off from reinforcements and supplies and were literally starving and relegated to eating dogs, mules and even shoe leather to survive. Disease spread in some part due to Grant refusing to retrieve and bury his own dead soldiers. Despite far fewer casualties, Pemberton was forced to negotiate terms, refusing unconditional surrender and instead achieving parole for his troops, many of whom returned to fight again in other theaters and battles. The arrogant drunkard Grant moved into the city on July 4th and occupied it with Federal troops and one of his first orders resupplied his stores of alcohol to quench his habit. His troops terrorized the haggard civilians with many reported and unprosecuted rapes and even murders. Homes in and around Vicksburg were ransacked and pillaged. This twisted compassion for their alleged fellow citizens and truly their brothers and sisters, a sad foretelling of the martial law and carpetbagging which would follow two long years after. Many works have been written about the Siege of Vicksburg and this was in no way meant to capture the entire story but the impression made on me after viewing the displays and artifacts of the Old Court House Museum was one of a stark tragedy, of the brave residents and defenders of Vicksburg and, the repulsive manner in which the victors waged their war and occupation.