Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on the Siege of Vicksburg, 1863

Ulysses S. Grant to Stephen A. Hurlbut, May 31, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)One of the Union’s top military objectives was to gain control of the Mississippi River, and thereby split the Confederacy in two. General Ulysses S. Grant took up this challenge late in 1862 but was frustrated for several months by the rebel defenses of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In mid-April 1863, Grant undertook a series of naval and infantry maneuvers that moved more than 30,000 troops into Vicksburg’s rear. This directive reflects Grant’s genius for military strategy as well as the fortitude that led Lincoln to believe in 1864 that he had at last found a general who would not let him down.

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. . . Vicksburg is so strong by nature and so well fortified that sufficient force cannot be brought to bear against it to carry it by storm against the present Garrison. It must be taken by a regular siege or by starving out the Garrison. I have all the force necessary for this if my rear was not threatened.

It is now certain that Jo Johnston has already collected a force from twenty to twenty-five thousand strong at Jackson & Canton and is using every effort to increase it to forty thousand. With this he will undoubtedly attack Harris Bluff and compell me to abandon the investment of the City if not reinforced before he can get here. I want your District striped to the very lowest possible standard. You can be in no possible danger for the time it will be necessary to keep their troops away. All points in West Tennessee North of the Memphis & Charleston road, if necessary, can be abandoned entirely. West Kentucky may be reduced to a small Garrison at Paducah and Columbus.

If you have not already brought forward the troops to Memphis to send me bring Smith’s, formerly Denver’s, Division. Add to this all other force you can possibly spare. Send two regiments of Cavalry also. If you have not received the Cavalry last ordered from Helena divert them to this place instead of sending two other regiments. No boat will be permitted to leave Memphis going North until transportation is fully provided for all the troops coming this way. The Quartermaster in charge of transportation and Col. W.S. Hillyer are specially instructed to see that this direction is fully enforced.

The entire rebel force heretofore against me are completely at my mercy. I do not want to see them escape by being reinforced from elsewhere. I hope before this reaches you troops will be already on the way from your command.

Gen. Dodge can spare enough from his force to Garrison Lagrange & Grand Junction.

Very respectfully
U. S. Grant
     Maj: Gen.