The Union Assaults at Vicksburg

Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863

Timothy B. Smith

It was the third week of May 1863, and after seven months and six attempts, Ulysses S. Grant was finally at the doorstep of Vicksburg. What followed was a series of attacks and maneuvers against the last major section of the Mississippi River controlled by the Confederacy—and one of the most important operations of the Civil War. Grant intended to end the campaign quickly by assault, but the stalwart defense of Vicksburg’s garrison changed his plans. The Union Assaults at Vicksburg is the first comprehensive account of this quick attempt to capture Vicksburg, which proved critical to the Union’s ultimate success and Grants eventual solidification as one of the most significant military commanders in American history.

Establishing a day-to-day—;and occasionally minute-to-minute—;timeline for this crucial week, military historian Timothy B. Smith invites readers to follow the Vicksburg assaults as they unfold. His finely detailed account reaches from the offices of statesmen and politicians to the field of battle, with exacting analysis and insight that ranges from the highest level of planning and command to the combat experience of the common soldier. As closely observed and vividly described as each assault is, Smith’s book also puts the sum of these battles into the larger context of the Vicksburg campaign, as well as the entire war. His deeply informed, in-depth work thus provides the first full view of a key but little-studied turning point in the fortunes of the Union army in the West, Ulysses S. Grant, and the United States of America.

“Tim Smith has done it again. His book on U. S. Grant’s first attack on Vicksburg is another tour de force. There is no other historian who knows Civil War battles better than Smith, especially the conflict at Vicksburg. Civil War scholars and buffs are in for yet another excellent Timothy B. Smith battle account and can only await further books on this key battle.”

—John F. Marszalek, Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and executive director and managing editor, Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, Mississippi State University

“Tim Smith has written an excellent and highly objective work about Grant’s controversial assaults on Vicksburg’s fortifications—assaults that the general himself said he ‘always regretted.’ In this detailed work, Dr. Smith discusses both Union and Confederate leaders, their strategies, and their tactics. The book features a synopsis of events preceding the Vicksburg Campaign, covers the campaign, chronicles the assaults, and concludes with firsthand accounts from the noncombatants in Vicksburg. In short, this valuable work provides something for everyone.”

—Brig. Gen. (Ret.) J. Parker Hills, coauthor of Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg—The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War

See all reviews...

About the Author

Timothy B. Smith teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His many books include, most recently, Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson as well as Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation and Shiloh: Conquer or Perish, all published by the University Press of Kansas.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series