Operations Against Vicksburg, Mississippi

Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi by William R. Pywell, 1864.

Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi by William R. Pywell, 1864.

The Operations Against Vicksburg was a series of maneuvers and battles in the Western Theater of the Civil War that occurred between December 1862 and January 1863. It was directed against Vicksburg, Mississippi, a fortress city that dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River. This campaign is divided into two phases by historians: Operations Against Vicksburg (December 1862-January, 1863) and Grant’s Operations Against Vicksburg (March-July 1863), which consisted of several important naval operations, troop maneuvers, failed initiatives, and eleven distinct battles from December 26, 1862, to July 4, 1863. Commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant, he initially planned a two-pronged approach. Half of his army, under Major General William T. Sherman, would advance to the Yazoo River and attempt to reach Vicksburg from the northeast. At the same time, Grant took the remainder of the army down the Mississippi Central Railroad. However, both of these initiatives failed, and Grant turned to waterborne expeditions on the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg, which also failed. In the end, a combination of naval and overland assaults would gain control of Vicksburg and the Mississippi River. These events are widely considered the turning point of the Civil War, and Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign is considered one of the masterpieces of American military history.

Battle of Chickasaw Bayou (December 26-29, 1862) – Also called the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs and  Battle of Walnut Hills, this skirmish took place in Warren County, Mississippi under Union Commander Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton  On December 26th, General Sherman led three Union divisions to approach the Vicksburg defenses from the northeast. Sherman and his troops disembarked at Johnson’s Plantation on the Yazoo River, while a fourth division landed farther upstream on the 27th. That same day, the four divisions of Union troops pushed their lines forward through the swamps toward Walnut Hills, which were strongly defended. On the 28th, several futile attempts were made to get around these defenses.

On December 29th, Sherman ordered a frontal assault, which was repulsed with heavy casualties. Sherman then withdrew. This Confederate victory frustrated Grant’s attempts to take Vicksburg by direct approach. Estimated casualties were 1,776 Union and 207 Confederate.

General Sherman then suggested a combined land and naval movement against the Arkansas Post 50 miles up the Arkansas River from its confluence with the Mississippi River, a base from which Confederate gunboats were attacking Union shipping. The Battle of Arkansas Post occurred on January 9-11, 1863, resulting in a Union Victory.

In the meantime, General Ulysses S. Grant spent the rest of the winter constructing alternative waterways so that troops could be positioned within striking distance of Vicksburg, without requiring a direct approach on the Mississippi River under  Confederate guns. Termed “Grant’s Bayou Operations,” these initiatives, including canals, dikes, and small dams was unsuccessful, and Grant turned his attention to other maneuvers.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

Also See:

Jackson to Vicksburg – Civil War Sites

Western Theater of the Civil War

Civil War Trans-Mississippi & Pacific Coast Theaters

Eastern Theater of the Civil War