Monday, July 6, 2020

Booknotes: Vicksburg Besieged

New Arrival:
Vicksburg Besieged edited by Steven E. Woodworth & Charles D. Grear (SIU Press, 2020).

This is the third of five planned Vicksburg volumes in SIU Press's Civil War Campaigns in the West series, the first two being 2013's The Vicksburg Campaign, March 29–May 18, 1863 and 2019's The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863. As the title suggests, Vicksburg Besieged picks up where the failure of Grant's May 19 and May 22 attacks left off and covers a variety of topics related to the six-week siege of the Hill City.

Contributors to the book's eight essays are Charles Grear, Andrew Bledsoe, co-writers Scott Stabler & Martin Hershock, Jonathan Steplyk, Steven Woodworth, Justin Solonick, John Gaines, and Richard Holloway. The formal table of contents can be accessed through the bold-face title link above (go to the 'Look Inside' feature), but the topics addressed in the book are summarized in the publisher's description as follows:
"Ranging in scope from military to social history, the contributors’ invitingly written essays examine the role of Grant’s staff, the critical contributions of African American troops to the Union Army of the Tennessee, both sides’ use of sharpshooters and soldiers’ opinions about them, unusual nighttime activities between the Union siege lines and Confederate defensive positions, the use of West Point siege theory and the ingenuity of Midwestern soldiers in mining tunnels under the city’s defenses, the horrific experiences of civilians trapped in Vicksburg, the failure of Louisiana soldiers’ defense at the subsequent siege of Jackson, and the effect of the campaign on Confederate soldiers from the Trans-Mississippi region.

The contributors explore how the Confederate Army of Mississippi and residents of Vicksburg faced food and supply shortages as well as constant danger from Union cannons and sharpshooters. Rebel troops under the leadership of General John C. Pemberton sought to stave off the Union soldiers, and though their morale plummeted, the besieged soldiers held their ground until starvation set in. Their surrender meant that Grant’s forces succeeded in splitting in half the Confederate States of America."
As I've mentioned before, I like this series as finally doing for the western theater something like what UNC Press's Military Campaigns of the Civil War did for the East. I always look forward to what's next. As for what's coming in the future and in what order, I'm not certain. Just going from the original list of planned titles, the Forts Henry and Donelson volume was skipped over (hopefully temporarily) in favor of this one, and the 1862 Kentucky Campaign (the original #9) is up next. After that, the series is scheduled to return to the Vicksburg Campaign with the tentatively titled Vicksburg: To Chickasaw Bayou.


  1. I still don't understand why Stones River was not on the original list. Unlike Vicksburg and Atlanta, there isn't a ton of material that has been - or is being - published on the subject.

  2. Hi Drew
    Vicksburg certainly seems to be getting a lot of interest.
    I really enjoy this series. I guess they are about half way through or so. I hope they can complete all the scheduled titles. Like John, I'm not sure why Stones River was left off, seems unusual.
    Don H.

    1. My only real complaint about the series is how it continues to marginalize military cartography, a feature that was a highlight of the old UNC Press series.


When commenting, PLEASE SIGN YOUR NAME. In order to maintain civil discourse and ease moderating duties anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments containing outside promotions and/or product links will also be deleted. Thank you.