Letter: Don’t forget Vicksburg
‘July 4, 1863, was a memorable day for the Union,” Edward Jean Smith wrote in his masterful biography of Ulysses S. Grant. On that day, after a siege of 47 days, John C. Pemberton surrendered his army at Vicksburg, giving the Union complete control of the Mississippi for its entire length and causing Lincoln to say, “The Father of Waters flows unvexed to the sea.”
As much as I enjoyed Mike Pride’s dispatches from Gettysburg (Monitor front page, July 2-3), I was equally disappointed to see no mention of Vicksburg in the Monitor on July 4. I was prepared for the omission, since Gettysburg drives so much else about the Civil War from the memory of most Americans.
Students of the conflict, however, might be justified in considering the taking of the river city as significant as the repulse of the Confederates in Pennsylvania.
As Chancellorsville was Lee’s greatest success, Vicksburg’s was Grant’s. It followed the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and the victory at Shiloh. It led to a promotion to major general and freed him to go to Chattanooga, where another victory opened the route to Atlanta and caused Lincoln to appoint Grant to a rank held previously only by Washington.
Let’s broaden our historical knowledge and think of these two great battles not only as the reason for the most celebratory Independence Day since 1776, but as names that should be linked as naturally as Franklin and Eleanor, Mantle and Maris, and Laurel and Hardy.
ROBERT S. PINGREE