Monday, January 27, 2020

Booknotes: The Union Assaults at Vicksburg

New Arrival:
The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863 by Timothy B. Smith (UP of Kansas, 2020).

The failed Union attacks on the Vicksburg fortifications on May 19 and 22 are of a scale and significance worthy of standalone study. The twin battles marked a dramatic inflection point in Grant's operation against Vicksburg, transforming it from an almost breathtaking campaign of movement to a static siege while also resulting in the removal of a major figure in the Army of the Tennessee's high command. The most in-depth tactical treatment of these events has long resided in the relevant chapters of Ed Bearss's campaign trilogy, and the essay anthology The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863 from editors Steven Woodworth and Charles Grear represents the most recent scholarly study. Now we have in Timothy Smith's The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863 what promises to be the new standard history of this phase of the campaign.

From the description: "Establishing a day-to-day—;and occasionally minute-to-minute—;timeline for this crucial week, military historian Timothy B. Smith invites readers to follow the Vicksburg assaults as they unfold. His finely detailed account reaches from the offices of statesmen and politicians to the field of battle, with exacting analysis and insight that ranges from the highest level of planning and command to the combat experience of the common soldier. As closely observed and vividly described as each assault is, Smith’s book also puts the sum of these battles into the larger context of the Vicksburg campaign, as well as the entire war."

The six-day period covered by the book is addressed over nearly 400 pages of narrative and supported by 15 original maps. Content emphasis is overwhelmingly placed on the latter part of the week, so readers should expect only a cursory look at the May 17 Battle of Big Black River Bridge, the Confederate mini-catastrophe that left the direct road to Vicksburg wide open. The subject matter covered combined with the fact that Smith never disappoints make this one a must-read (for me, anyway).

1 comment:

  1. Drew: Looking forward to your review. I believe that Tim covered Big Black River in more detail in an essay in one of the SIU volumes.


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