The dawn of 1863 brought a new phase of the Union’s Mississippi Valley operations against Vicksburg. For the first four months, Union attempts to reach high and dry ground east of the Mississippi River would be plagued by high water everywhere, and the resulting bayou and river expeditions would test everyone involved, including the defending Confederates.
In Bayou Battles for Vicksburg, the latest volume in his five-volume history of the Vicksburg Campaign of the US Civil War, Timothy B. Smith offers the first book-length examination of Ulysses S. Grant’s winter waterborne attempts to capture the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The accepted strategy up to this point in the war was aligned with the principles of the Swiss theorist Antoine-Henri Jomini, whose work was taught at West Point, where commanders on both sides of the conflict had been educated. But Jomini emphasized secure supply lines and a slow, steady, unified approach to a target such as Vicksburg, and never had much to say about creeks, rivers, and bayous in a subtropical swamp environment. Grant threw out conventional wisdom with a bold, and ultimately successful, plan to avoid a direct approach and rather divide his forces to accomplish multiple goals and to confuse the enemy by cutting levies, flooding whole sections of watersheds, and bypassing strongholds by digging canals far around them.
Bayou Battles for Vicksburg details each of the Union attempts to reach high ground east of the Mississippi River and includes fresh research on the Yazoo Pass and Steele’s Bayou expeditions, Grant’s canal, and the Lake Providence effort. Smith weaves several simultaneous Union initiatives together into a chronological narrative that provides great detail on the Union’s successful final attempt to get to good ground east of the Mississippi.
Timothy B. Smith teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His many books on the Civil War include Early Struggles for Vicksburg: The Mississippi Central Campaign and Chickasaw Bayou, October 25–December 31, 1862; The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, May 23–July 4, 1863; and The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863, all published by Kansas.
"Smith’s clear explanations of the complexities of geography, weather, and overall strategy shed important light on Ulysses Grant’s thoughts, motivations, and actions in the first months of 1863."—Emerging Civil War
"Smith’s descriptions of the militarily relevant topography of the massive Yazoo Delta and the expanse of levee-enclosed low ground opposite Vicksburg are excellent, and his detailed recounting of canal digging and inland waterway operations in those areas is the best of any collective discussion of those events. Smith’s explanations of the difficulties and range of possible results involved in those operations along with why each effort failed are similarly insightful."—Civil War Books and Authors
“Bayou Battles for Vicksburg continues the exhaustive research and clear analysis that marks Timothy Smith’s impressive catalog. This chronicle of battles against man and nature fittingly takes its place in Smith’s masterful multivolume study of the campaign to conquer the Gibraltar of the Mississippi.”—Jonathan M. Steplyk, author of Fighting Means Killing: Civil War Soldiers and the Nature of Combat
List of Maps
List of Illustrations
Prologue: Vicksburg Not by the Book
1. “We Were Out-Generaled Some Way”
2. “Can the Enemy Intend Another Attempt to Approach Vicksburg?”
3. “We Have Disposed of This Tough Little Nut”
4. “The Work of Changing the Channel of the Mississippi”
5. “But Grant Is on Two Other Projects”
6. “The Prospect of Opening the Pass Is Encouraging”
7. “The Yankee Boats Are Here”
8. “The Enemy Press Me on All Sides”
9. “We Intend to Take the Boats”
10. “This Is the Only Move I Now See as Practicable”
11. “They Are About to Execute Some Plan”
12. “Attracting Attention from Grant”
13. “We Land in the Morning”
Epilogue: “But I Was on Dry Ground”
Appendix 1: Union Order of Battle for Arkansas Post, January 11, 1863
Appendix 2: Confederate Order of Battle for Arkansas Post, January 11, 1863
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