Monday, January 30, 2012

Vicksburg 1863

I recently finished reading Vicksburg 1863 by Winston Groom and I was absolutely fascinated with this book. When it comes to the Civil War, living in Maryland offers a complex view of the war. Furthermore, I think our view may be somewhat distorted.

If you're dumb, you probably don't read this blog in the first place, but I'll give a short background to help you recall this from American history class. Many people consider Maryland a "Southern" state because it is below the Mason Dixon line. I say, "Whatever...". Maryland's economy is more like a northern economy. The weather is more like a northern state. The terrible drivers are more like a northern state.

Though Maryland was a slave state, she never seceded from the Union during the Civil War, or as they say in the South, 'the War of Northern Aggression'. This secession probably didn't happen because the Federal government is in our backyard in D.C. and many Southern sympathizers, like the Mayor of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Council, were arrested and held in prison until war's end. I wish we could think of a good reason to do that again!

Maryland's most famous battle, if not its only battle, was the Battle of Antietam in Washington County. The state did see some other minor skirmishes, but mostly the state provided the roads which Robert E. Lee, JEB Stuart, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early, and Longstreet used on their way to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, plans which were cut short at Gettysburg.

Living only 40 minutes form Gettysburg, we go up there at least once per year. It really is an interesting battlefield. There you will hear stories about how Gettysburg served as the turning point of the war. Never again did the Rebels try to cross the Potomac River. This may be true, but after reading Vicksburg 1863, I have a different opinion on the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Interestingly, the Battle of Gettysburg occurred during the same weekend that Vicksburg surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant after a long siege. The difference between these two battles is that at Gettysburg, Lee's army was rebuffed and he lost a lot of soldiers and artillery that he could not spare. Vicksburg, on the other hand, saw the surrender of tens of thousands of soldiers AND artillery that were removed from the war. Additionally, capturing Vicksburg finally gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, thus giving the states in the central plains (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota) a way to ship out their goods.

I did not realize that the battle for Vicksburg took so long. The Union attempted to take this town on the bluff for many months, many times by water, from the north, then from the East. Thousands of soldiers on both sides lost their lives. Vicksburg was basically left in ruins after the siege, after which many towns and cities in the South also saw total destruction in the wake of General Sherman and his March to the Sea.

So, if you like history, or are even mildly interested in it, this book is really well written and is a great read. Check it out!


Eric said...

You can't live in Carroll County and not meantion Corbett's Charge which actually took place on the streets of Westminster. A pretty important "skirmish" that helped to secure the Union's victory at Gettysburg.

Eludius said...

Eric, I have commented about Corbett's Charge before. And I agree, it was important in the victory at Gettysburg.

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