Was Union Victory at Vicksburg THE END of US Civil War?

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CLuckJD

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July 4th brought an end of what had been among the bloodiest confrontations fought by this nation’s war on itself. On Independence Day back in 1863, head confederate John Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant after a long siege to keep the port city open for Deep South expatriate use. Many cite this event as momentous, since it came after slow defeat but led to swift retreat by rebels the same day when Union forces got control of rebels’ last stronghold. Vicksburg’s location along Miss Lou made it a vital nail head that held confederates together by serving as their supply and transportation hub. Beside a big morale boost for Union troops, victory at Vicksburg won first-time GOP good ole boy Abe widespread favor that virtually guaranteed reelection by a landslide. Indeed, when war first began, he waved one hand at a map and said, “Vicksburg is key” and failure to take it meant “hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all states in the far south.”

Thus, Union victory at Vicksburg is last major battle fought and gets credit for what brought fast end to US civil war within less than 2 years. Some historians believe it was de facto defeat of rebels who began deserting by unprecedented high numbers. So, can it show that even die-hard denialists know when they have no hope whatsoever and give up a fight with some slight dignity of bowing out in grace to save forever lost face? Or, prove the exact opposite, given 2 more years of struggle?
 

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Carronade

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Certainly Vicksburg was a serious blow, but even Lincoln thought the secessionists had a chance as late as the summer of 1864 when he wrote:

"This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward."

Of course prospects improved over the next few months with events like the captures of Atlanta and Mobile Bay.

I would put Lincoln's re-election in November 1864 as the moment when the southerners should have realized that it was time to end the struggle.
 

CLuckJD

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I would put Lincoln's re-election in November 1864 as the moment when the southerners should have realized that it was time to end the struggle
If so, why did they go to war immediately after Lincoln's 1st election victory? Wasn't he also the very threat rebels perceived all along? And why did Abe contemplate defeat for a 2nd campaign so late in the game? What did he mean by "(His successor) will have secured election on such ground that he cannot possibly save (the Union) afterward"? Abe's name didn't even appear on rebel state ballots, so what "grounds" would any successor have been elected on to preclude saving the Union afterward?
 
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unionblue

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If so, why did they go to war immediately after Lincoln's 1st election victory? Wasn't he also the very threat rebels perceived all along?

Arrogance.

The slaveholding South went to war after Lincoln's election because they perceived the Union as weak. A less than 16,000 man army, scattered amongst the country, with 2/3rds of that army west of the Mississippi. A handful of federal Marshals and a part-time attorney-general, the federal government simply did not have the reach or the manpower to be much of a threat. The only daily contact the federal government had with the average citizen of the day was with the US Post Office. Lincoln's election was a means to an end, an excuse to set into motion the desire to have full control over their own vision of what they wanted in a nation.

And why did Abe contemplate defeat for a 2nd campaign so late in the game?

Nearly four years of the most bloody war in American History and the people of the North were getting tired of seeing the long lists of dead and wounded with no end in sight. Without victories, without real results on the battlefield, if the Confederacy could have continued a stalemate with more bloodshed, there was a very good chance of Lincoln losing reelection and a "peace" candidate being elected in his place.

What did he mean by "(His successor) will have secured election on such ground that he cannot possibly save (the Union) afterward"?

A negotiated settlement that would have led to Confederate recognition as a sovereign nation. Lincoln stood firm in that the war had to conclude with reunion and the Emancipation Proclamation intact. A "successor" would forego these conditions in order to bring about immediate peace and stop the bloodshed. There was a tremendous temptation to do such a compromise.


Abe's name didn't even appear on rebel state ballots, so what "grounds" would any successor have been elected on to preclude saving the Union afterward?
Did you know that some in the Republican Party were so afraid of Lincoln and a Republican administration being reelected, they changed the Party's name to the Union party or some such? That they even suggested to Lincoln NOT to hold elections in the middle of a civil war?

We have to understand the strain the nation was under at the time of the 1864 election, how death had visited almost every household in the North, that fighting for an idea of Union, not just territory or loot, was a hard concept to keep enduring, death after death, loss after loss. It was a close thing, until the victories started to roll in for the Union.

Might I suggest you check out the following book at your local library?

The Union War, by Gary W. Gallagher.

It would be well worth your while and answer a lot of your questions above a lot better than I can.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

Carronade

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If so, why did they go to war immediately after Lincoln's 1st election victory? Wasn't he also the very threat rebels perceived all along? And why did Abe contemplate defeat for a 2nd campaign so late in the game? What did he mean by "(His successor) will have secured election on such ground that he cannot possibly save (the Union) afterward"? Abe's name didn't even appear on rebel state ballots, so what "grounds" would any successor have been elected on to preclude saving the Union afterward?
To say the least, the situations in 1860-61 and 1864 were a bit different.....In 1860, the secessionists believed, rightly or wrongly, that:

1. The rise of an anti-slavery party and the election of its candidate, Lincoln, to the presidency represented an intolerable threat to their way of life.

2. That they could succeed in breaking away and establishing a new nation. That the United States government might not oppose them, or might not effectively oppose them. And if it did come to war, they felt they could win. They only needed to hold their own territory, and there was much of the "One Southerner can whip ten Yankees" feeling.

There has been a great deal of discussion on these topics here, much of it insightful and informative, so I won't rehash the arguments, but I encourage you to explore the forums.

In the beginning, many people on both sides anticipated a short, victorious war (as have many nations throughout history); but it soon became clear that either the achievement or the suppression of southern independence would mean a long, costly, destructive struggle. Lincoln in 1864 knew that there was a strain of dismay in the North over the cost of the war and particularly the campaigns then ongoing such as Grant's Overland campaign and Sherman's slow advance on Atlanta, both of which seemed to be generating massive casualties for minimal progress. The Democratic Party platform called for ending the war (although their candidate, McClellan, disagreed), and at that point Lincoln apparently thought they were likely to prevail.

On the Confederate side, their main hope had become that if they stuck it out long enough, the northern people would tire of the war and the cost and let them go, and in mid-1864 that was not impossible. In hindsight, it's easy to say they should have given up earlier; but it wasn't until Lincoln was re-elected that it became clear the Union was determined to see it through to the end.
 

jackt62

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The confederate defeat at Vicksburg (and Port Hudson) qualified as a decisive victory for the Union for 2 main reasons:
1. It was one of the few times during the war when an enemy army was vanquished, in this case by its total surrender.
2. It accomplished a major Union war aim by opening the Mississippi River to federal control, and thereby cutting off the trans-Mississippi confederate states.
That being said, it did not represent, however, the end of the war. There was still opportunity for the south to keep its struggle going in the hope that the northern population would tire and eventually let the south go its own way. This almost happened in the summer of 1864, when both Grant and Sherman were bogged down in their respective fronts, and Lincoln despaired of being reelected. Had McClellan and the Democrats won the presidential election that November, chances were very good that a negotiated peace settlement would result in southern independence.
 

archieclement

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To say the least, the situations in 1860-61 and 1864 were a bit different.....In 1860, the secessionists believed, rightly or wrongly, that:

1. The rise of an anti-slavery party and the election of its candidate, Lincoln, to the presidency represented an intolerable threat to their way of life.

2. That they could succeed in breaking away and establishing a new nation. That the United States government might not oppose them, or might not effectively oppose them. And if it did come to war, they felt they could win. They only needed to hold their own territory, and there was much of the "One Southerner can whip ten Yankees" feeling.

There has been a great deal of discussion on these topics here, much of it insightful and informative, so I won't rehash the arguments, but I encourage you to explore the forums.

In the beginning, many people on both sides anticipated a short, victorious war (as have many nations throughout history); but it soon became clear that either the achievement or the suppression of southern independence would mean a long, costly, destructive struggle. Lincoln in 1864 knew that there was a strain of dismay in the North over the cost of the war and particularly the campaigns then ongoing such as Grant's Overland campaign and Sherman's slow advance on Atlanta, both of which seemed to be generating massive casualties for minimal progress. The Democratic Party platform called for ending the war (although their candidate, McClellan, disagreed), and at that point Lincoln apparently thought they were likely to prevail.

On the Confederate side, their main hope had become that if they stuck it out long enough, the northern people would tire of the war and the cost and let them go, and in mid-1864 that was not impossible. In hindsight, it's easy to say they should have given up earlier; but it wasn't until Lincoln was re-elected that it became clear the Union was determined to see it through to the end.
Indeed the ACW has always seemed the beginning of American fickleness for war, where casualties became more important then the outcome to portions of the civilians, even when its clear we have the strength/numbers to win if we simply stay the course.
 

uaskme

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If so, why did they go to war immediately after Lincoln's 1st election victory? Wasn't he also the very threat rebels perceived all along? And why did Abe contemplate defeat for a 2nd campaign so late in the game? What did he mean by "(His successor) will have secured election on such ground that he cannot possibly save (the Union) afterward"? Abe's name didn't even appear on rebel state ballots, so what "grounds" would any successor have been elected on to preclude saving the Union afterward?[/QU

Republicans were a Anti-Southern, pro North, Economic Party. So, the Lower South say no reason to stay in the Union.

Also Chickamauga was a Big Battle, September of 63. On the 4th of July 63, The Federals were in Middle Tennessee. No major battle with AOC, and the AOT until September.
 

rebracer

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Union victory at Vicksburg is last major battle fought

it was de facto defeat of rebels who began deserting by unprecedented high numbers.

...where are these two statements coming from, especially the first one?

In addition the majority of the men who were surrendered at Vicksburg went on to continue fighting after parole, they did not desert.
 

James N.

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July 4th brought an end of what had been among the bloodiest confrontations fought by this nation’s war on itself. On Independence Day back in 1863, head confederate John Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant after a long siege to keep the port city open for Deep South expatriate use. Many cite this event as momentous, since it came after slow defeat but led to swift retreat by rebels the same day when Union forces got control of rebels’ last stronghold. Vicksburg’s location along Miss Lou made it a vital nail head that held confederates together by serving as their supply and transportation hub. Beside a big morale boost for Union troops, victory at Vicksburg won first-time GOP good ole boy Abe widespread favor that virtually guaranteed reelection by a landslide. Indeed, when war first began, he waved one hand at a map and said, “Vicksburg is key” and failure to take it meant “hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all states in the far south.”

Thus, Union victory at Vicksburg is last major battle fought and gets credit for what brought fast end to US civil war within less than 2 years. Some historians believe it was de facto defeat of rebels who began deserting by unprecedented high numbers. So, can it show that even die-hard denialists know when they have no hope whatsoever and give up a fight with some slight dignity of bowing out in grace to save forever lost face? Or, prove the exact opposite, given 2 more years of struggle?
The twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg are rightly seen as the turning point of the war - HOWEVER

That was not at all evident at the time and although perceptive witnesses both North and South highly suspected things would turn out that way, they were not in themselves reasons for either side to assume that to be the case. This has been much discussed here in the forums, but to keep it short, Gettysburg was hoped by Southerners to be only a temporary setback, and while Vicksburg was more of a problem, the hope existed that a Union reversal of the sort that happened at Chickamauga in September might somehow make things right again.
 

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@CLuckJD a very interesting and thought provoking post! However, I do disagree with your quote:
"Thus, Union victory at Vicksburg is last major battle fought and gets credit for what brought fast end to US civil war within less than 2 years."
The Overland Campaign, May through June, through Northern Virginia was a very costly series of battles for the Army of Northern Virginia and Army of the Potomac. Not to get into the total casualties of both sides, but I believe the total number from Overland Campaign battles exceeded those of Gettysburg and the siege of Vicksburg.
Looking forward to more of you posts!
Regards
David
 

CLuckJD

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I was told once when the CS never made a serious attempt to retake New Orleans or later reopen the Mississippi or retake any lost territory it was clear the CS would not win.
Undoubtedly true. But would you agree that CS realization that it could not win its fight also might be best explanation for no efforts to regain lost ground?
 

unionblue

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Undoubtedly true. But would you agree that CS realization that it could not win its fight also might be best explanation for no efforts to regain lost ground?
Depends on what you consider the Confederacy was trying to "win."

From day 1 of the war, the Confederacy lost ground and continued to do so until the end of the war, but was the loss or gain of territory it's primary goal?
The twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg are rightly seen as the turning point of the war - HOWEVER

That was not at all evident at the time and although perceptive witnesses both North and South highly suspected things would turn out that way, they were not in themselves reasons for either side to assume that to be the case. This has been much discussed here in the forums, but to keep it short, Gettysburg was hoped by Southerners to be only a temporary setback, and while Vicksburg was more of a problem, the hope existed that a Union reversal of the sort that happened at Chickamauga in September might somehow make things right again.
The victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg did put the Confederacy on the road to defeat. They ended any real possibility of foreign intervention. The Union growing tied of the war was the only real opportunity for an independent Confederacy.
I think the above two post by our fellow forum members is pretty much on the mark.

Gaining territory was not the primary goal, independence was and it was realized early on the foreign recognition would only come with Confederate victories on the battlefield wearing down Northern morale and support, hence the continued efforts at "bloodletting" by Confederate forces.

Look at the Revolution of 1776. Washington didn't have to win, he had to survive until England was worn down after seven years and England having other problems throughout the world (along with France recognition).

Unionblue
 

johan_steele

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Undoubtedly true. But would you agree that CS realization that it could not win its fight also might be best explanation for no efforts to regain lost ground?
I don’t think the political leadership of the CS knew what to do. They started a war thinking it would be an easy victory. When it turned into an actual war they had no idea how to deal with it. Wars are won by the least incompetent.
 
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As others have said here, I would say in hindsight Vicksburg along with Gettysburg represents the beginning of the end, but I'd argue there was still a foreseeable path to a CS victory through most of '64.
 
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