Constituting Witnessing History, LLC’s “First Army Corps,” approximately 30 participants were on hand on September 10-12, 2015 for: Battle for Fortress Vicksburg!
Headquartered at the new, spacious Hampton Inn at Vicksburg, the tour began on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River just South of Vicksburg and then proceed to Grand Gulf where we examined the efforts of General U.S. Grant to “run” his freshwater fleet past the Confederate batteries on April 29, 1863. We visited the site of Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg – accomplished between April 29 and May 1, 1863 – and then followed Grant’s attacks against the Confederate forces at Port Gibson. After lunch in the gorgeous town of Port Gibson, we proceeded to historic Raymond, where Confederate forces desperately tried to hold back Grant’s advance on May 12, 1863. From Raymond we proceeded to Champion Hill, the site of the last major engagement, fought on May 16, before General John C. Pemberton’s Confederate forces fought a rear guard action at the Big Black River and then retired to the defenses of Vicksburg.
On September 12 we toured the Siege lines of Vicksburg. For 47 days – from May 18 to July 4, 1863 – Grant’s forces besieged Pemberton’s rag-tag army in the earthworks by encircling the city. We went to the sites where Grant launched attacks on May 19 and May 22, and again on June 25. Pemberton’s men holding fortifications bearing the names Stockade Redan, the Great Redoubt, Railroad Redoubt, The Third Louisiana Redan, and the Second Texas Lunette withstood attack after attack. We saw where on May 19 more Medals of Honor were awarded than any other day in American military history, and, where six days later, Grant directed the mining of the Confederate works and the detonation of a charge that destroyed the Third Louisiana Redan causing Pemberton to send the First Missouri Brigade to close the breach. Nine days later, Vicksburg was surrendered, and we visited the site where Grant and Pemberton met to discuss the terms.
With the great Mississippi River always within view, we saw how the Union freshwater Navy made the critical difference in the campaign. We visited the remnants of the U.S.S. Cairo, a city-class gunboat sunk in the mouth of the Yazoo River after striking a Confederate torpedo.
We enjoyed wonderful lunches at fabulous venues in Port Gibson and Vicksburg. Our headquarters hotel was directly across the street from the entrance to the Vicksburg National Military Park. It was a fantastic time in an area known for its terrific food.