Was the idea of recapturing Vicksburg ever entertained by the Confederacy? Would it have been possible at any point?

General JJ

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Jan 24, 2019
Never seen this idea discussed before... After Vicksburg fell, did the Confederate government, or any of it's generals even entertain the idea of retaking the city?

And another query, would it even be within the realm of possibility? Or was the Confederacy so pressed in other areas, or the garrison of the city so strong that is just wasn't possible... in other words, what were the biggest obstacles they would face if it was attempted?
 

alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
in other words, what were the biggest obstacles they would face if it was attempted?
Everything @ucvrelics wrote above, but in order to retake and then hold Vicksburg, Confederates would have had to recapture and hold the Snyder’s Bluff complex north of the city, then Warrenton and Grand Gulf to the south - a good 40 miles worth of geography.

But what would that get them? Strategically, the Confederates would then need to recapture Port Hudson as well, otherwise they would only control a small slice of the river.

So, in the end, retaking Vicksburg would involve more than marching up to the city’s back door and attacking. Four other heavily fortified bastions would have had to have been confronted and retaken - all while under the mouths of superior Union artillery (army and navy), neatly embrasured and sighted from behind massive works, or on gunboats - to even make Vicksburg worth holding.

None of that even takes into consideration the enormous logistics that would be involved in such a massive offensive.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
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Never seen this idea discussed before... After Vicksburg fell, did the Confederate government, or any of it's generals even entertain the idea of retaking the city?

And another query, would it even be within the realm of possibility? Or was the Confederacy so pressed in other areas, or the garrison of the city so strong that is just wasn't possible... in other words, what were the biggest obstacles they would face if it was attempted?
Biggest obstacle: control of the river. Vicksburg surrendered to Grant because it was besieged and could not be resupplied. Without control of the river, Confederates could not repeat the feat
 

Rhea Cole

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I think that the timeline speaks volumes. Vicksburg fell on July 4th, which was the end date of the Tullahoma Campaign that resulted in the loss of Middle Tennessee. On that date in nowhere Pennsylvania, Lee had permanently lost the initiative. The Chickamauga-Chattanooga-Knoxville Campaign permanently cut the direct connection to Lee's supply line from the West. The winter of 1864 was a nightmarish 100 year event. No militarily significant movement was possible. In the spring of 1864, the existing Confederate armies were on the defensive, fighting for their very existence. Not only did the Confederacy not have a mobile force capable of mounting an attack on Vicksburg, threatening the city would have been a strategic diversion of assets that the CSA could not have afforded.
 

jackt62

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Why? If there was any thought to retaking a captured position, it would have made more sense for the Confederate government to seek to retake its strongholds on the Mississippi/Tennessee/Cumberland Rivers (Island 10, Ft. Donelson) after their fall in 1862. I'm not advocating that; it wasn't realistic given the resources and command structure of the Confederacy. But in a theoretical way, re-establishing a secure Kentucky-Tennessee line that was anchored around the critical pivot point where those 3 rivers and the Ohio River converge (somewhere between Paducah and Columbus), was crucial to the defense of the Confederate heartland. Retaking Vicksburg on the other hand (assuming it were ever feasible which it wasn't), would have simply ended up becoming an endangered and beleaguered position of no longer strategic value, given federal supremacy of the Mississippi Delta region.
 

Dave DuBrucq

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Never seen this idea discussed before... After Vicksburg fell, did the Confederate government, or any of it's generals even entertain the idea of retaking the city?

And another query, would it even be within the realm of possibility? Or was the Confederacy so pressed in other areas, or the garrison of the city so strong that is just wasn't possible... in other words, what were the biggest obstacles they would face if it was attempted?
I have never seen any discussion nor have I seen any documentation that would support a Confederate plan to recapture Vicksburg. The Confederacy suffered a dual defeat with Lee's ANV being mauled at Gettysburg and forced to escape back to Virginia and Pemberton's Surrender of Vicksburg to Grant on the fourth of July. After these military disasters, it was to be extremely difficult for the Confederacy to launch a successful major assault anywhere for the remainder of the war.
 

ucvrelics

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Grant didn't like it in 1861 but until he was in command of the entire US Army he had no choice. He always said "We will have to fight the South down till the last man" Andersonville was the end result.
1607471345494.png
 

Carronade

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Grant didn't like it in 1861 but until he was in command of the entire US Army he had no choice. He always said "We will have to fight the South down till the last man" Andersonville was the end result.
View attachment 383856

This shows a good appreciation by Grant of the relationship between military and civilian authority.

As it turned out, the President and national command authorities determined that, regardless of the status of the southern states, the laws and customs of civilized warfare should be observed; but that was not a decision for a brigadier general.

We might contrast Grant's good judgement with people like Fremont or Hunter who did consider themselves entitled to make significant policy decisions on behalf of the United States.
 
Joined
Dec 5, 2020
I’m sure it was on the Confederate wishlist, but I don’t believe a workable plan could have been devised. The lack of a navy doomed Vicksburg to begin with, and ensured it would have remained in Union hands.

The Union did prepared Vicksburg for possible assaults however, destroying most of their siege works so they would not be available for Confederate use and building a tighter defense line around the city to hold it with a small garrison force.
 

Tom Hughes

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The Confederates did the only thing they could do, and that was to irritate and antagonize the Union army. They did this by using guerilla warfare - attacking and retreating to disrupt their army's operation in Vicksburg and surrounding area.
Once Vicksburg fell, the war shifted eastward...and we know the end of the story.
 
Joined
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Location
Southwest Mississippi
After Vicksburg fell, did the Confederate government, or any of it's generals even entertain the idea of retaking the city?

And another query, would it even be within the realm of possibility?
As others have said, it was never a strategic CSA possibility.
The Confederacy simply lacked the resources to even think about retaking Vicksburg.

The Confederates did the only thing they could do, and that was to irritate and antagonize the Union army. They did this by using guerilla warfare - attacking and retreating to disrupt their army's operation in Vicksburg and surrounding area.
Once Vicksburg fell, the war shifted eastward...and we know the end of the story.

And the fact they were even able to do that was amazing.

However, at the time Grant was very concerned about the possibility that an attempt to retake Vicksburg was plausible.
Therefore, he sent Sherman back to Jackson a few days after Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg on July 4th,1863.
( Johnston had been regrouping his assets there all along)

Sherman encountered some serious opposition 40 miles East of Vicksburg at Jackson, Mississippi.

The first "battle" of Jackson (prior to Vicksburg) lasted only a few hours before General Joe Johnston immediately retreated north to Canton, Mississippi.

July 1863 was a bit different.
Johnston actually made a stand.

Thus forcing Sherman to go into siege mode.
Sherman's siege of Jackson, MS lasted about one week.
But the CS Army escaped to fight another year.

I recently read a great book by a former CWT member and Local historian about the siege of Jackson.

His book is discussed on this thread:
 
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Joined
Sep 17, 2011
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mo
Not sure what would have been the point. What gave it value was it being a fortress, the heavy guns to control the river. Why it couldn't be abandoned. If at some point they retook it, did they have more guns to turn it into a fortress again?

Would think they be starting to be scarce........think how many they had allready lost at Fort Jackson and Philip, Island No 10, Donelson and Henry, Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, Port Hudson...
 

Dave DuBrucq

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You make a very good point. The loss of heavy artillery would have been a major factor. The desertion rate in the Confederate Army increased significantly after Vicksburg and Gettysburg. While the North experienced desertions as well, they were able to absorb the losses having a much larger manpower pool Some of the Federal desertions were by opportunistic bounty jumpers, but rates were surprisingly close; 9 to 12 % on the Federal side and 10 to 15% on the Confederate side. These two factors, loss of large guns and declining manpower, taken together made any attempt to recapture Vicksburg by the CSA nearly impossible.
 
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mo
Its the part of the Pemberton-JJ argument oft overlooked.

The Union objective was the elimination of Vicksburg as a fortress......if Pemberton had moved to JJ it would entail the abandonment of what gave Vicksburg its value as a fortress. The Union would disabled/destroyed the guns.......so if a combined JJ/Pemberton later checked Grant forcing him to retreat back to Holly Springs or Vicksburg.....they would had allready lost when they abandoned the guns and works that had gave Vicksburg its value as a fortress.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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Its the part of the Pemberton-JJ argument oft overlooked.

The Union objective was the elimination of Vicksburg as a fortress......if Pemberton had moved to JJ it would entail the abandonment of what gave Vicksburg its value as a fortress. The Union would disabled/destroyed the guns.......so if a combined JJ/Pemberton later checked Grant forcing him to retreat back to Holly Springs or Vicksburg.....they would had allready lost when they abandoned the guns and works that had gave Vicksburg its value as a fortress.
The Pemberton /Joe Johnston angle (to me anyway) has always been one of the most interesting aspects of the Confederate defense of Vicksburg.

I've aways kind of felt sorry for Pemberton.
He was was being given conflicting orders almost daily from his commanding officer ( Johnston) and also direct orders from President Davis. The fact he was a Northerner put him at a disadvantage from the start with almost everyone.

But, there are countless threads about that fact on these forums.

Grant achieved his objective, and that's all that really all that mattered in the Union's master plan.
Following Vicksburg, Pemberton eventually accepted a demotion to lieutenant colonel, thus proving his devotion to the CSA cause.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Everything @ucvrelics wrote above, but in order to retake and then hold Vicksburg, Confederates would have had to recapture and hold the Snyder’s Bluff complex north of the city, then Warrenton and Grand Gulf to the south - a good 40 miles worth of geography.

But what would that get them? Strategically, the Confederates would then need to recapture Port Hudson as well, otherwise they would only control a small slice of the river.

So, in the end, retaking Vicksburg would involve more than marching up to the city’s back door and attacking. Four other heavily fortified bastions would have had to have been confronted and retaken - all while under the mouths of superior Union artillery (army and navy), neatly embrasured and sighted from behind massive works, or on gunboats - to even make Vicksburg worth holding.

None of that even takes into consideration the enormous logistics that would be involved in such a massive offensive.
Would not the issue be did the Confederates have the force and ordinance to recapture the city ? What force did Grant leave in the city ? Considering what it took for Grant to take the city and the time it took this while be a interesting question ,the facts would answer that inquiry. If it had been attempted who would be in command of this force and where would these forces come from ?
 
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