Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg- The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War
Edwin C. Bearss
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It’s a poignant irony in American history that on Independence Day, 1863, not one but two pivotal Civil War battles ended in Union victory, marked the high tide of Confederate military fortune, and ultimately doomed the South’s effort at secession. But on July 4, 1863, after six months of siege, Ulysses Grant’s Union army finally took Vicksburg and the Confederate west.
On the very same day, Robert E. Lee was in Pennsylvania, parrying the threat to Vicksburg with a daring push north to Gettysburg. For two days the battle had raged; on the next, July 4, 1863, Pickett’s Charge was thrown back, a magnificently brave but fruitless assault, and the fate of the Confederacy was sealed, though nearly two more years of bitter fighting remained until the war came to an end.
In Receding Tide, Edwin Cole Bearss draws from his popular Civil War battlefield tours to chronicle these two widely separated but simultaneous clashes and their dramatic conclusion. As the recognized expert on both Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Bearss tells the fascinating story of this single momentous day in our country’s history, offering his readers narratives, maps, illustrations, characteristic wit, dramatic new insights and unerringly intimate knowledge of terrain, tactics, and the colorful personalities of America’s citizen soldiers, Northern and Southern alike.
great interior region is naturally one of the most important in the world.” Second, he noted the importance of free access to the Gulf. “And yet this region has no sea-coast, touches no ocean anywhere. As part of one nation, its people now find, and may forever find, their way to Europe by New York, to South America and Africa by New Orleans, and to Asia by San Francisco. But separate our common country into two nations, as designed by the present rebellion, and every man of this great interior
the four ordnance rifles of Lt. Samuel S. Elder’s Battery E, Fourth U.S. Artillery, which have been hauled to the crest of Bushman Hill. Farnsworth is ordered forward, and his West Virginians and Pennsylvanians charge headlong into the First Texas, which is hunkered down behind stone walls. The Mountaineers and men from the Keystone State don’t fare well, but the two charging battalions of the First Vermont slash through the Confederate line and race into the fields south of the John Slyder and
with what I suppose to be your plan to land below Vicksburg, on south the side of Black River, silencing the Grand Gulf batteries.” The time for that cavalry dash has come. On Wednesday, April 15, Hurlbut sends orders to Gen. William “Sooy” Smith, commanding the Federal base at La Grange, Tennessee, that the cavalry raid is to “start sharply at or before daylight on Friday morning.” Col. Benjamin H. Grierson, a Pennsylvania-born, now Illinois resident, music teacher who hates horses, arrives
him—he is going out to hit them first. The Federals soon see the initiative passing from them, and Hooker, from his headquarters at the Chancellor house far to the rear, orders his troops to withdraw. Hooker now shifts to a defensive strategy in which he plans to let the enemy assail him. The Confederates then move up, and they continue doing something that they would not have done a year before. They have since learned the value of breastworks, and they dig in. The Confederates then use their
McPherson crossed the Big Black at Hankinson’s Ferry Vicksburg could have been approached and besieged by the south side. It is not probable, however, that Pemberton would have permitted a close besiegement. The broken nature of the ground would have enabled him to hold a strong defensible line from the river south of the city to the Big Black, retaining possession of the railroad back to that point. It was my plan, therefore, to get to the railroad east of Vicksburg, and approach from that