The siege of Vicksburg was the last major battle of the Vicksburg Campaign during the American Civil War. Through a series of maneuvers, Union Major General Ulysses S Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Lieutenant General John C Pemberton into defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Grant made two assaults on May 19th and 22nd, but these were repulsed with heavy casualties. Grant then laid siege to the fortifications from May 25 to July 4, 1863. Eventually, the fort surrendered, and this gave command of the Mississippi River to the Union. The Confederate Surrender at Vicksburg is considered by some historians to be almost as significant as Gettysburg in terms of being the turning point of the Civil War.
On July 3rd, Pemberton sent a note to Grant, who had at first demanded unconditional surrender. Gant reconsidered, not wanting to feed 30,000 hungry Confederates in Union prison camps, and offered to parole all prisoners. The Confederates were destitute and starving, and morale was abysmal amongst them, so Grant expected they would not fight again and would carry news of the crushing defeat back to the rest of the Confederacy.
The surrender was formalized by an old oak tree. According to Grant’s memoirs, it wasn’t long before the tee had been cut up and taken as trophies and souvenirs. The surrender was finalized on the 4th of July. Pemberton chose that day in hopes that the Union would offer more sympathetic terms.
Although the campaign continued with some minor actions, the fortress had fallen and when Port Hudson surrendered on July 9, the Mississippi was entirely in Union hands, and the Confederacy had been split in two. President Lincoln announced, ÒThe Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”