It is one of the more remarkable campaigns of the American Civil War. For many a hard fought month, Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee had been trying to wrest away the strategic Confederate river fortress of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Previous, direct attempts to take this important town high above the Mississippi River were blocked by deft rebel counter moves and some of the most pernicious terrain in the entire Western theater.
In late April 1863, Grant undertook a new and bold campaign against Vicksburg and the Confederate defenders under John Pemberton. After conducting a surprise landing below Vicksburg at Bruinsburg, Mississippi, Grant’s forces moved rapidly inland, pushing back the threat posed by Joseph E. Johnston’s forces near Jackson. Once his rear was clear, Grant again turned his sights on Vicksburg.
Union victories at Champion Hill and Big Black Bridge weakened Pemberton’s forces, leaving the Confederate chief with no alternative but to retreat to Vicksburg's defenses. The Federals assailed the Rebel stronghold on May 19 and 22, but were repulsed with such great loss that Grant determined to lay siege to the city to avoid further loss of life. Soldiers and civilians alike endured the privations of siege warfare for 47 days before the surrender of Pemberton’s forces on July 4, 1863. With the Mississippi River now firmly in Union hands, the Confederacy's fate was all but sealed.
Note: Casualty figures include the 29,491 officers and men and surrendered by Pemberton.