Monday, May 6, 2019

Booknotes: The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863

New Arrival:
The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863 edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear (SIU Press, 2019).

The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863 is the sixth release from SIUP's Civil War Campaigns in the West series (formerly the Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series), and it is the second of five planned Vicksburg Campaign volumes. You can read the full list of future titles here.

From the description: "After a series of victories through Mississippi early in the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had reached the critical point in its campaign to capture Vicksburg. Taking the city on the hill would allow the Union to control the Mississippi River and would divide the Confederacy in half. Confederate morale was low, and a Union victory in the war appeared close before the start of Grant’s assault against General John C. Pemberton’s Army of Mississippi.

But due to difficult terrain, strong defenses, and uncoordinated movements, the quick triumph Grant desired was unattainable. On the afternoon of May 19, with little rest, preparation, or reconnaissance, Union forces charged the Confederate lines only to be repulsed. A respite between the assaults allowed both sides to reinforce their positions. Early on May 22 the Union artillery sought to soften the stronghold’s defenses before the general attack, but despite the Union forces’ preparation, the fighting proved even more disorganized and vicious. Again Grant failed to move Pemberton. Not wanting to risk more soldiers in a third attack, Grant conceded to the necessity of laying siege. Confederate morale climbed as the Southerners realized they had held their ground against an overwhelming force.

The book has five essays from four contributors. Authored by Parker Hills, the first two chapters are general overviews of the May 19 and May 22 attacks. Steven Woodworth's essay more closely examines the May 22 fighting at the Railroad Redoubt from the Union perspective, while Brandon Franke's following chapter recounts those same events from the opposing side's point of view (that of Waul's Texas Legion). Finally, Charles Grear looks at the varied reactions of the Midwestern home front to Grant's campaign.

"Peppered with first-hand observations and bolstered by an impressive depth of research, this anthology is an invitingly written account and comprehensive assessment. By zeroing in on the two assaults, the contributors offer essential clarity and understanding of these important events within the larger scope of the Civil War’s Vicksburg Campaign."

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