Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Small Towns in a Big War

Was there any precedent for the Siege of Vicksburg?

Not in the Civil War. Never had so many men been positioned in such a strong place, and never had such a large army come to besiege it. Grant received reinforcements continually during the siege, bringing the total of his army to around 70,000, while Pemberton had about 32,000 men inside a city designed and built for a population of 6,000. For a precedent, one had to look back to the Napoleonic Wars, and even in them, there had never been such a large defending force. All this naturally begs the question: Why do most histories of the war give such large treatment to the Battle of Gettysburg and such small shrift to Vicksburg?

The answer is that the newspapers did it, even at the time. The New York Times gave Vicksburg (which it perennially spelled with an “h” at the end) front-page treatment until Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland. Once that happened, events in Vicksburg were usually handled on page eight of the Times, with front pages devoted to Lee’s invasion.


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