The Capture of Vicksburg

The Capture of Vicksburg: July 4th 1863

For many July 4th is a day that to celebrate our nation’s independence. For many more, it is a day to reunite with friends and family to explicitly exercise the freedoms won at that time. For others still, it will be a day to remember the retreat of General Lee and his southern troops from the battle of Gettysburg. It will be the 150th anniversary of that retreat and many people recognize the Battle of Gettysburg as the most symbolic battle from the entire Civil War—if not, as the most important. It is indeed a great date to remember in our nation’s history.

But let us not forget the capture of Vicksburg. July fourth is the 150th anniversary of that accomplishment as well. July 4, 1863 was an important day indeed and the capture of Vicksburg should be remembered as an equally important event to that at Gettysburg. Previously, General Grant maneuvered his Union troops into a position of power against the Confederates led by Pemberton in Western Mississippi. They surrounded Pemberton’s troops, fortified in the city of Vicksburg, by land to the East.  At the same time naval maneuvers tested the city’s Mississippi River battery. It was a massive undertaking to be sure, but success in capturing Vicksburg would guarantee control of the Mississippi River as well as a firm upper hand in the Western theatre of the war.

From mid-May until July 4th, the period in which the city was surrounded, Grant and his army attempted two large-scale assaults on its defenses (May 19 and May 22). Both assaults were thwarted; the city remained in Confederate control. Morale began to sink and the importance of securing a victory was weighing heavily on Grant’s mind. The tactic he authorized next was certainly a stroke of creativity, only made possible by his experiences in Galena and the support of the 45th Illinois “Lead Mine Regiment.”

The Union forces were able to access several mines that ventured near the Confederate defenses. By using lead mining techniques, the mines were extended and collapsed. This weakened the Confederate defenses and the Union forces were able to take an upper hand with the battle. Their siege progressed throughout June and Pemberton officially capitulated on July 4th.  Because of this success the Union was able to take full control of the Mississippi and dominate the war’s Western Theatre. From there, Grant and his men moved Eastward and  continued on their path to secure victory for the North.

These Northwest Illinois miners were the first Union troops to enter the city and raised their Union flag above the courthouse of the besieged city. This flag is on display in the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum and is one of the many treasures of the collection. Its place in Galena history is insurmountably important, and none of it would have been possible without the advance knowledge of spelunking and mining held by the Illinois 45th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a.k.a. The Lead Mine Regiment of Galena, Illinois.

These Northwest Illinois miners were the first Union troops to enter the city and raised there Union flag above the courthouse of the besieged city. This flag is on display in the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum and is one of the many treasures of the collection. Its place in Galena history is insurmountably important, and none of it would have been possible without the advance knowledge of spelunking and mining held by the Illinois 45th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a.k.a. The Lead Mine Regiment of Galena, Illinois.

These events should not be forgotten and deserve wider recognition  on the national scene. This Fourth of July, let us remember the 150th anniversary of the courageously creative actions of Galena’s Civil War heroes. In addition to our nine meritous generals, we must also remember the importance of the troops— the footmen who sacrificed much and risked their own well-beings for the preservation of the Union. The United States of America would not have been the same without them.