This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Ulysses Grant hurled his Union forces at heavily fortified Vicksburg, Miss., in hopes of a swift conquest of the Mississippi River city. Union artillery began the assault early on May 19, 1863 before troopers stormed through a series of Confederate obstacles of downed trees and other obstructions toward the Confederate lines. But Southern fighters responded with withering fire, driving back the federal forces with heavy loss of life. Grant realized after his forces were repulsed that his reconnaissance had been too hasty, and he ordered more careful study of the terrain around Vicksburg before unleashing another assault on May 22, 1863. This time Union artillery pummeled the city's defenses for several hours before federal infantrymen advanced toward the city. But again, Union forces were pushed back with an estimated 3,000 lives lost. This would mark the escalation of Grant's campaign to besiege Vicksburg and gain control of the wide river below, a key prize as a major trading corridor through the country's heartland.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 26: Fighting for control of the lower Mississippi River.
Union forces acted this week in 1863 in a coordinated onslaught against Confederates holding Port Hudson, La., bidding to dislodge them while Ulysses S. Grant ratcheted up his offensive against the heavily fortified city of Vicksburg, further up the Mississippi River. The Union on May 27, 1863, unleashed assaults on Confederate fortifications at Port Hudson, only to be pushed back. Federal fighters then lapsed into a siege at Port Hudson that would last for several weeks before Union fighters would again try—and fail—with another assault in mid-June. It wouldn't be until early July 1863 when Grant's Union fighters had forced the surrender of the Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, Miss., before Port Hudson would capitulate. The fighting in Louisiana and Mississippi marked a new chapter in the war as Grant sought would assert Union control over the entire Mississippi River through the Deep South to federally held New Orleans.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 2: Union offensive continues on the Mississippi River.
Union forces 150 weeks ago during the Civil War continued raining cannon shot and rifle fire down Confederates ensconced behind defensive works at Port Hudson, La. For 48 days the siege of the enemy garrison at Port Hudson would go on even as Union forces sought to dislodge Confederates defending Vicksburg, Miss. In May and June of 1863, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant mounted the prolonged siege of Vicksburg, a city on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Grant knew that taking control of the Mississippi River's entire lower stretch was a major key to splitting the Confederacy and turning the momentum of war to the Union side. Ultimately Grant would succeed in that operation, eventually forcing the capitulation of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and inducing the surrender of Port Hudson days later. His military achievements along the Mississippi also would serve to catapult Grant to the post of general-in-chief of the Union armies.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 9: Battle of Brandy Station, Va.
While Union forces were besieging points along the lower Mississippi River, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was beginning to look for an opening to strike at the North. On June 9, 1863, Union cavalry corps unleashed a surprise attack on Je.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry forces at Brandy Station near the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The fighting rage for an entire day and marked the largest battle of the war predominantly pitting cavalry against each other. Though the momentum swung repeatedly from one side to the other, Union fighters failed to detect a major infantry camp of Lee's nearby in Culpeper, Va. The fighting at Brandy Station would mark the prelude to Lee's push northward into Pennsylvania that would culminate in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.