May 19, 2013

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 19

Union assaults on Vicksburg, Miss.


Associated Press

— 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.