12. Siege of Vicksburg. 1863
In May, 1863, Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant approached the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, an important rail and river junction which controlled access to the Mississippi. Despite outnumbering the Confederate defenders by about two to one, Grant’s probing of the formidable defenses led to his decision to capture the city by siege. The Confederate fortifications included rifle and cannon pits, redoubts, artillery placed so as to generate wide fields of fire, mortars and heavy guns, raised fortresses, and interconnecting trenches. The railroads leading into the city were well protected, allowing the Confederates to resupply both food and ammunition.
Grant probed the defenses in late May, accomplishing little other than casualties, before opening siege operations. Union troops dug trenches, moving them steadily closer to the Confederate positions during the month of June. Confederate troops underwent nightly heavy bombardment from Grant’s artillery and from naval gunships in the Mississippi River. The Navy alone fired well over twenty thousand shells into Vicksburg’s defenses and the city itself over the course of the siege. By the end of the month of June, about ten thousand of Vicksburg’s defenders – more than half – were unfit for duty due to sickness.