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1863 July 4: Siege of Vicksburg Ends in Union Victory

July 4, 2013

This article is from the July 11, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.  We usually publish items on the date they were originally published, but the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg were so important that they should be acknowledged on their 150th anniversaries.

Major General Ulysses S. Grant had been shelling the city of Vicksburg since the middle of May, and the Confederates held out for more than 40 days.  The Confederate surrender following the siege at Vicksburg, when combined with General Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, is considered the turning point of the War.  The fall of the fortress city, that had dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River, cut off communication with Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department for the remainder of the War.  When the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson surrendered on July 9, the entire Mississippi River was finally in Union hands and the Confederacy split in two, leading President Abraham Lincoln to declare, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

Neither The Prescott Journal nor The Polk County Press for July 4, 1863, are available on microfilm, and it is unlikely that they would have had much news yet on that date anyway.  More details on the fall of Vicksburg will be posted over the next two weeks as more news becomes available in the local newspapers.  The following headlines are from the July 11, 1863, Polk County Press, and the news items to the right appeared in both The Press and The Prescott Journal of that same date.

Vicksburg Great Victory
The News.
It speaks for itself—Glory to God!


 WASHINGTON, July 7, 1863.
 To the Governor of Minn., St. Paul:
      Vicksburg surrendered to the United
 States’ forces on the Fourth of July, and
 Gen. Grant is now in possession.
Secretary of War.
 MILWAUKEE, July 7—5 P. M.
 A special dispatch from Cairo, this
 afternoon says:
      The garrison at Vicksburg was com-
 posed of three divisions, under Steven-
 son, Smith and Forney, numbering 24,-
 000 men, now in our hands—surrender
 ed at 10 o’clock, on the 4th of July.—
 A telegram to the Governors of the dif-
 ferent States from Secretary Stanton con-
 firms the information.

The following is Grant’s communiqué to General Nathaniel P. Banks, who was laying siege to Port Hudson, announcing the surrender of Vicksburg.  Two items of note for upcoming posts, Grant plans to attack Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, and the surrendered troops were immediately paroled rather than sent to prison camps.  It is from The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 24, Part III–Correspondence, page 470-71; available in the UWRF Archives (E 464 .U6).

Near Vicksburg, July
4, 1863.

Maj. Gen. N. P. BANKS, Comdg. Department of the Gulf:

GENERAL: The garrison of Vicksburg surrendered this morning.  Number of prisoners, as given by the officers, is 27,000; field artillery, one hundred and twenty-eight pieces, and a large number of siege guns, probably not less than eighty.  The other stores will probably not amount to any great deal. I held all my surplus troops out on Big Black River and between there and Haynes’ Bluff, intending to assault in a few days.  I directed that they be kept in readiness to move on the shortest notice to attack Johnston.  The moment the surrender of Vicksburg was agreed upon, the order was given, and troops are now in motion.  General Sherman [William T. Sherman] goes in command of this expedition. His force is so large I think it cannot fail. This move will have the effect of keeping Johnston from detaching a portion of his force for the relief of Port Hudson.  Although I had the garrison of Vicksburg completely in my power, I gave them the privilege of being paroled at this place, the officers to retain their side-arms and private baggage, and field, staff, and cavalry officers to take with them one horse each.  I regard the terms really more favorably than an unconditional surrender.  It leaves the transports and troops for immediate use.  At the present junction of affairs in the East and on the river above here, this may prove of vast importance.

I hope, general, and from what Admiral Porter [David D. Porter] tells me, this probably will find you in possession of Port Hudson.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


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