Early Struggles for Vicksburg

The Mississippi Central Campaign and Chickasaw Bayou, October 25-December 31, 1862

Timothy B. Smith

In Early Struggles for Vicksburg, Tim Smith covers the first phase of the Vicksburg campaign (October 1862–July 1863), involving perhaps the most wide-ranging and complex series of efforts seen in the entire campaign. The operations that took place from late October to the end of December 1862 covered six states, consisted of four intertwined minicampaigns, and saw the involvement of everything from cavalry raids to naval operations in addition to pitched land battles in Ulysses S. Grant’s first attempts to reach Vicksburg.

This fall–winter campaign that marked the first of the major efforts to reach Vicksburg was the epitome of the by-the-book concepts of military theory of the day. But the first major Union attempts to capture Vicksburg late in 1862 were also disjointed, unorganized, and spread out across a wide spectrum. The Confederates were thus able to parry each threat, although Grant, in his newly assumed position as commander of the Department of the Tennessee, learned from his mistakes and revised his methods in later operations, leading eventually to the fall of Vicksburg. It was war done the way academics would want it done, but Grant figured out quickly that the books did not always have the answers, and he adapted his approach thereafter. 

Smith comprehensively weaves the Mississippi Central, Chickasaw Bayou, Van Dorn Raid, and Forrest Raid operations into a chronological narrative while illustrating the combination of various branches and services such as army movements, naval operations, and cavalry raids. Early Struggles for Vicksburg is accordingly the first comprehensive academic book ever to examine the Mississippi Central/Chickasaw Bayou campaign and is built upon hundreds of soldier-level sources. Massive in research and scope, this book covers everything from the top politicians and generals down to the individual soldiers, as well as civilians and slaves making their way to freedom, while providing analysis of contemporary military theory to explain why the operations took the form they did.

About the Author

Timothy B. Smith teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His many books include, most recently, The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863; Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson; Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation; and Shiloh: Conquer or Perish, all published by Kansas.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series