Friday, May 17, 2024

Booknotes: The Inland Campaign for Vicksburg

New Arrival:

The Inland Campaign for Vicksburg: Five Battles in Seventeen Days, May 1-17, 1863 by Timothy B. Smith (UP of Kansas, 2024).

Michael Ballard's single-volume overview is a great choice for those with a more common interest in the 1862-63 Vicksburg Campaign. On the other hand, others wishing to explore every nook and cranny of the campaign without having to do the research themselves now have a grand trio of options in (1) Edwin Bearss's classic trilogy, (2) Warren Grabau's unique single tome, and (3) Timothy Smith's newly completed five-volume series (seven books if you include his standalone studies of Champion Hill and Grierson's Raid). Residing smack dab in the middle of the five-book run published by University Press of Kansas between 2020 and today is Smith's The Inland Campaign for Vicksburg: Five Battles in Seventeen Days, May 1-17, 1863. Among the majority of readers this is likely the series' most highly anticipated installment.

Beginning with Grant's army pressing inland from Bruinsburg and ending with the rout at Big Black River Bridge, Smith's book covers the ground addressed in Parts V, VI, and VII of Bearss's Volume II. From the description: Smith's work in this volume "sheds much-needed light to this often-misunderstood episode of the Union’s efforts to take Vicksburg. In the entire nine-month-long campaign, there was no more tension and drama than in these seventeen days when Grant’s Army of the Tennessee marched through the wilds of Mississippi, claiming victory after victory, tearing the heart out of the State of Mississippi and the Confederacy. By the end of the swift assault, Grant arrived victorious at the exact place he had worked to gain for months: the high ground east of Vicksburg where he had access to both the city and an open and unchallenged supply route via the Yazoo River to the north. He could finally begin the process of capturing Vicksburg."

Of course, the five battles referenced in the subtitle are Port Gibson, Raymond, First Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River Bridge, all resounding Union victories. Those accounts fill roughly 400 pages of narrative. More from the description: "Civil War historians have long disagreed about how to understand this moment of the Vicksburg Campaign as they analyze Union supply lines, the swiftness of the campaign, and other salient details of Grant’s success. Amid this debate, Tim Smith has written the first standalone investigation of the Inland Campaign, which boasts new insights, keen attention to primary sources, and a broad, clear-eyed look at Grant’s brilliance as he led the Army of the Tennessee toward Vicksburg." Supplementing the text are 22 maps, and orders of battle can be found in the appendix section.

CWBA reviews of the other four volumes in the series are linked below:
• Volume 1 - Early Struggles for Vicksburg: The Mississippi Central Campaign and Chickasaw Bayou, October 25-December 31, 1862 (2022)
• Volume 2 - Bayou Battles for Vicksburg: The Swamp and River Expeditions, January 1 - April 30, 1863 (2023)
• Volume 3 - The Inland Campaign for Vicksburg: Five Battles in Seventeen Days, May 1-17, 1863 (2024)
• Volume 4 - The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863 (2020)
• Volume 5 - The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, May 23-July 4, 1863 (2021)

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