Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, 1863: Grant is ready to follow up the fall of Vicksburg

The reason I believe that Ulysses S. Grant was one of this nation's greatest generals is his strategic vision and understanding of the need for exploiting the momentum of events. A lot of Civil War generals, having just won a great victory like Vicksburg, would have settled down to rest on their laurels and "reorganize" their forces. Not "Sam" Grant; even before the surrender at Vicksburg, Grant and Sherman had set in motion plans to crush the dithering Joseph Johnston's army near Jackson, Mississippi. Here is a message sent to Sherman early on the morning of July 4, 1863, telling him to get ready to move.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE TENN., near Vicksburg, July 4, 1863.

General SHERMAN:

Your note has been received. Propositions have been sent in for the surrender of Vicksburg. Pemberton's reply is momentarily expected. If he does not surrender now, he will be compelled to by his men within two days, no doubt. The orders will be made as you suggest the moment Vicksburg is ours. Ord and Steele have both been notified to move the moment Vicksburg falls, Ord to take ten days' hard bread, salt, coffee, and sugar. I will change this to five in view of the provision train you expect to take. I will let you know the moment Pemberton's answer arrives.

News of Vicksburg's surrender must have come soon after, because Grant next sent this message to Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in the siege lines around Port Hudson:
Near Vicksburg, July 4, 1863.

Major General N. P. BANKS, Comdg. Department of the Gulf:

GENERAL: The garrison of Vicksburg surrendered this morning. Number of prisoners, as given by the officers, is 27,000; field artillery one hundred and twenty-eight pieces, and a large number of siege guns, probably not less than eighty. The other stores will probably not amount to any great deal. I held all my surplus troops out on Big Black River and between there and Haynes' Bluff, intending to assault in a few days. I directed that they be kept in readiness to move on the shortest notice to attack Johnston. The moment the surrender of Vicksburg was agreed upon, the order was given, and troops are now in motion. General Sherman goes in command of this expedition. His force is so large I think it cannot fail. This move will have the effect of keeping Johnston from detaching a portion of his force for the relief of Port Hudson. Although I had the garrison of Vicksburg completely in my power, I gave them the privilege of being paroled at this place, the officers to retain their side-arms and private baggage, and field, staff, and cavalry officers to take with them one horse each. I regard the terms really more favorably than an unconditional surrender. It leaves the transports and troops for immediate use. At the present junction of affairs in the East and on the river above here, this may prove of vast importance.

I hope, general, and from what Admiral Porter tells me, this probably will find you in possession of Port Hudson.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

So it was that Grant was ready to immediately follow up and exploit his win at Vicksburg. Robert E. Lee was probably this nation's greatest battlefield tactician, but for strategic vision and operational command I'll take Ulysses S. Grant every time.

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