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Consequences of the Battle of Vicksburg

This page is about the Battle of Vicksburg (where all references live) during the American Civil War, specifically, on consequences of the battle.

Table of contents
1 Consequences


Immediate consequences

All slaves were of course freed (see Emancipation Proclamation; this was enacted about six months previous).

This was the second of a one-two punch to the Confederacy. July 3 saw the final collapse of the Confederate attempt to invade Pennsylvania at Battle of Gettysburg. July 4 saw the fall of Vickburg, the Stars and Stripes rising over Vicksburg on Independence Day.

To the Confederates, surrendering on Independence Day was a bitter defeat. Union troops behaved well, mixing with Confederates and giving rations to starving soldiers who days before would have been glad to kill them. Speculators who had been hording food for higher prices saw their stores broke open and the contents thrown on the streets for the starving rebels. Several brothers and any number of cousins on opposite sides met.

In his Personal Memoirs, ch. 38, Grant observed,

The men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same cause.

Blood spilled and the Union prize

On a less positive note, Confederate casualties were 2,872; Union were 4,910. Grant had captured his second Confederate army in its entirety (see Fort Donelson). One rebel officer and 708 men of a total of 2,166 officers, 27,230 men, and 115 civilian workers chose to go to Union prison camps to fight no more. The Union also bagged 172 cannon, much ammunition, and close to 60,000 rifles and muskets, many of the small arms superior to the Union's.

But the big prize was the soon-to-be entire Mississippi Valley (see Port Hudson, which fell a July 8, likewise starved out).

Confederate blame

Someone had to get the blame for losing Vicksburg, and it fell square on the cautious Joe Johnston, Jefferson Davis saying of the defeat, "Yes, from a want of provisions inside and a General outside who wouldn't fight" (quoted in James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, pg. 637.) Accusations of cowardice which had dogged him since the Seven Days Campaign continued to follow him as he later defended Georgia from the invasion of Sherman, and after constant retreat, he was sacked in front of Atlanta and later restored to command to oppose Sherman in the Carolinas.

Having fled to North Carolina in 1865, Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut observed, "I am in the regular line of strategic retreat." She also told the story of when Johnston, a crack shot with a rifle, went bird hunting and never fired a shot, as he never had "the perfect shot." Shelby Foote said of Johnston,

Old Joe's talent seemed primarily for retreat; so much so, indeed, that is left to his own devices he might be expected to wind up gingerly defending Key West and complaining that he lacked transportation for a withdrawal to Cuba ...

But Johnston was far outnumbered, and while Johnston was one of few Confederate generals whom Grant respected (he only feared Nathan Bedford Forrest), he was out-generaled.

Final consequences and; Confederacy split in two

President Abraham Lincoln announced, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea." The Confederacy now cut in two; one week after, an unarmed ship arrived in Union-held New Orleans from St. Louis after an uneventful trip down the river.

Grant ordered Sherman and 50,000 troops after Johnston's 31,000, and Johnston tried to lure Sherman into a frontal assault, but Sherman had seen the results of such at Vicksburg. He demurred, and began surrounding the city. Johnston escaped with his army, which was more than Pemberton had done, but all of central Mississippi was now given to the controversial commander Sherman, who would wreak much havoc indeed upon the south, at Meridian, Mississippi, later in Georgia, where his troops burned one-third of Atlanta, and in South Carolina, where they would destroy everything in their path in the waning days of the war, burning two-thirds of Columbia, South Carolina. And the Confederacy was now a divided nation -- picture the United States with Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico in enemy hands.

As usual, the Western theater received less attention than the east. Robert E. Lee had just won his most magnificent victory at the expensive Battle of Chancellorsville against Joseph Hooker, followed by his worst defeat against George Meade at Gettysburg, one day before Vicksburg fell.

Chancellorsville had been the Confederacy's highest point, when they seemed invincible, and Fortune's Wheel now came crashing down after Gettysburg - Vicksburg.