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|The 'blood-bought gift' of freedom; surrender at Vicksburg|
(22nd in a series)
In this part of the world in the summer of 1863, all eyes were focused on Vicksburg where the Union army was amassing troops and weapons to capture the most important Confederate city on the Mississippi River.
Not a person living in the Natchez/Vidalia region was unaffected by the Yankee invasion. When the Rebels raised the white flag of surrender at Vicksburg on the morning of July 4, 1863, the Union was already celebrating its victory at Gettysburg that had come a day before, a sure sign that the South's hope of winning the war were fading.
Including all of the minor battles and skirmishes of the Vicksburg campaign -- from Milliken's Bend in Louisiana to Port Gibson in Mississippi -- and including the city of Vicksburg itself, casualties amounted to more than 19,000.
On the Union side, 10,142 casualties were reported, including 1,581 killed, 7,554 wounded and 1,007 missing.
The Confederates suffered 9,091 casualties, including 1,413 killed, 3,878 wounded and 3,800 missing.
Views from inside the lines of the opposing armies at Vicksburg offer a glimpse into what the siege and surrender were like.
The Union victory at Vicksburg made General U.S. Grant, commander of the Army of Tennessee, a hero in the North. Military experts consider Grant's Vicksburg's Campaign as brilliant.
By the time the siege ended, Grant had more than 71,000 men at his disposal. Inside the besieged city, 31,600 Confederates surrendered. Grant said in his memoirs that he confiscated 172 cannon, 60,000 muskets and tons of ammunition.
He recalled the day of surrender:
JULY 4, 1863: "I rode into Vicksburg with the troops, and went to the river to exchange congratulations with the navy upon our joint victory. At that time I found that many of the citizens had been living under ground. The ridges upon which Vicksburg is built, and those back to the Big Black, are composed of a deep yellow clay of great tenacity. Where roads and streets are cut through, perpendicular banks are left and stand as well as if composed of stone. The magazines of the enemy were made by running passage-ways into this clay at places where there were deep cuts. Many citizens secured places of safety for their families by carving out rooms in these embankments. A door-way in these cases would be cut in a high bank, starting from the level of the road or street, and after running in a few feet a room of the size required was carved out of the clay, the dirt being removed by the door-way. In some instances I saw where two rooms were cut out, for a single family, with a door-way in the clay wall separating them. Some of these were carpeted and furnished with considerable elaboration. In these the occupants were fully secure from the shells of the navy, which were dropped into the city night and day without intermission.
"...As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were established along the whole line of parapet, from the river above to the river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy their old camps behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put upon them, except by their own commanders. They were rationed about as our own men, and from our supplies. The men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same cause. When they passed out of the works they had so long and so gallantly defended, between lines of their late antagonists, not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just then in the breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection of their late antagonists."
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