Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Book News: The Siege of Vicksburg

The six-week siege of Vicksburg was recounted at some length in Ed Bearss's classic trilogy, but subsequent book-length examinations have been either theme-based (see Ballard and Solonick) or organized as an essay anthology (see Woodworth & Grear). However, by the middle of next year we'll finally have the first exhaustive, chronologically-arranged narrative history of the siege in Timothy Smith's The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, May 23-July 4, 1863 (UP of Kansas, June 2021). I knew this was coming, but didn't realize it would be so soon. Nice.

From the description: In The Siege of Vicksburg, Smith "offers the first comprehensive account of the siege that split the Confederacy in two. While the siege is often given a chapter or two in larger campaign studies and portrayed as a foregone conclusion, The Siege of Vicksburg offers a new perspective and thus a fuller understanding of the larger Vicksburg Campaign. Smith takes full advantage of all the resources, both Union and Confederate--from official reports to soldiers' diaries and letters to newspaper accounts--to offer in vivid detail a compelling narrative of the operations. The siege was unlike anything Grant's Army of the Tennessee had attempted to this point and Smith helps the reader understand the complexity of the strategy and tactics, the brilliance of the engineers' work, the grueling nature of the day-by-day participation, and the effect on all involved, from townspeople to the soldiers manning the fortifications."

More: "Smith's detailed command-level analysis extends from army to corps, brigades, and regiments and offers fresh insights on where each side held an advantage. One key advantage was that the Federals had vast confidence in their commander while the Confederates showed no such assurance, whether it was Pemberton inside Vicksburg or Johnston outside. Smith offers an equally appealing and richly drawn look at the combat experiences of the soldiers in the trenches. He also tackles the many controversies surrounding the siege, including detailed accounts and analyses of Johnston's efforts to lift the siege, and answers the questions of why Vicksburg fell and what were the ultimate consequences of Grant's victory."


  1. Hello Drew

    This should be a real gem. It will appear less then 18 months from his book on the assaults. Tim always seems to have something upcoming.

    Don Hallstrom

    1. Hi Don,
      I am equally eager to delve into it. After this one, he will backtrack to fill in other gaps in the campaign so we'll get even more Vicksburg from him in the future.

  2. This looks awesome, and I'm looking forward to the later volumes on the earlier parts of the campaign. Detailed studies of the Mississippi Central and Chickasaw Bayou campaigns are major gaps in the literature.

    I'm continually amazed at how prolific authors like Tim Smith and Earl Hess are.Tim's emphasis upon the human side of war and his extensive sleuthing in archives, alongside Hess's notable thematic approaches, have provided western theatre students a continual stream of must-read volumes.


  3. Hello Drew

    If Tim Smith does address the 5-6 attempts that the Union forces made to get to Vicksburg in future volumes,(Miss. Central RR, Chickasaw Bayou, Digging a Canal, Lake Providence, Yazoo Pass Expedition and Steele's Bayou the series of volumes would provide a thorough look at the important campaign.
    I would be most interested in how he would handle the crossing at Bruinsburg up to the volume on the union assaults. He has already covered Champion Hill in a wonderful book. However, this is an important part of the overall campaign. He as also covered Grierson's Raid in a very well received publication.

    I guess we will have some answers with what he has published next.
    Don Hallstrom


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