Monday, July 1, 2013

Vicksburg 150

After weeks of immediate siege at the end of a yearlong campaign, the Siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4, 1863. One hundred and fifty years ago Confederate General Pemberton surrendered the city to General Ulysses S. Grant. The capture of Vicksburg was referred to by Abraham Lincoln as “the key” to victory in the south, and regarded as a turning point in the Civil War. Seventeen units of infantry, cavalry, and artillery represented Wisconsin. There were 9,075 Wisconsin troops who fought at Vicksburg.  Sergeant F. J. Groat of the 12th Wisconsin Company B remembered this in the Reedsburg Free Press, September 13, 1900:

“In looking over the history of the 12th regiment concerning the siege of Vicksburg, I find they have not given them due credit while in the siege. We were ordered from Natchez to Grand Gulf landing May 18 and went to Vicksburg by boat landing June 13, being put on the extreme left of the army there. Companies B and G made an advance towards Vicksburg where they threw up breastworks and the captain ordered me to put out two videts one on each side of the road. It was not long before one of them called me saying he saw two men cross our lines thinking they were our men but finding out later they were rebels. About this time eight of our men passed to find how far off the rebel pickets were. There was a full moon that night and they had not gone far before they heard the rebels talking when they got under shelter of a bank. At this time the captain ordered me to get eight more men with picks and shovels having an idea he could advance the line towards Vicksburg thinking there would be no hindrance because the other eight men were ahead of us. We had no gone far before we were stopped and our captain thought they were our men out finding out they were rebels we took to our heels running back down the road the boys throwing away their picks and shovels so they could run faster. The rebels fired on us and all that saved us was a turn in the road but the lieuteutenant who was with us was hit in leg. The rebels followed us till they got in the range of company B and G’s rifles when they filed off to the left of the road forming a line. Col Bryant hearing the shots called out the rest of the regiment and got them ready for battle in case we should call on them but we were enough for them ourselves and didn’t call for them. The rebels began to slacken their fire and when they quit we quit. They got the worst of it for we heard the ambulance carrying off their dead and wounded all night long. The next morning we went back and got our picks and shovels, which we threw away the night before. After the surrender of Vicksburg some of the rebels told me that the two men who went over the hill went to look at our lines and finding a gap told their Colonel who was coming with this men to come up behind us by the way of the gap but were surprise and defeated when they met our captain”.


Today Vicksburg is the home of over 1340 monuments. You can take a tour of this famous battlefield from your favorite chair. We have the guided tour of the park on DVD and audio CD.  Also Tim Isbell’s book “Sentinels of Stone” captures the artful essence of the book. Learn more about Wisconsin’s role during the Vicksburg campaign and siege with the 1914 book “Wisconsin at Vicksburg”.


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