Monday, July 1, 2013

Vicksburg and Port Hudson - The "other" battles of July 1863

Confederate Cannon and the Mississippi River at Vicksburg
The nation is remembering the Battle of Gettysburg this week, and appropriately so, but seems a bit sad to me that we seem to have forgotten that another major and bloody battles took place at the same time on the bluffs of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson, Louisiana.

These battles were as significant victories for the North as Gettysburg and even a greater disasters for the South. The fall of the Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 - 150 years ago this week - and Port Hudson on July 9, 1863, cut the Confederacy in two and opened the Mississippi River to the supply and warships of the Union.

Port Hudson Battlefield in Louisiana
The opening of the Mississippi was a vital part of the "Anaconda Plan" conceived by Gen. Winfield T. Scott, the aged hero of the War of 1812 and War with Mexico who commanded the U.S. Army at the beginning of the War Between the States. Combined with the blockade of the Southern coastline, the opening of the Mississippi would strangle the Confederacy by cutting off the movement of supplies, munitions, medicines and other necessities of its armies.

By July of 1863, only two great Confederate bastions remained on the river, Vicksburg in Mississippi and Port Hudson in Louisiana. In both places, Confederate armies dug deep into the earth and clung to earthwork fortifications in desperate fights for survival. They had fought desperately and hurled back attack after attack, covering the ground with the blood and blue uniformed bodies of Union soldiers.

Some of the Thousands who Died
At Port Hudson, just a 30 minute drive north of Baton Rouge today, 10,000 Union soldiers were reported killed, wounded or missing, compared to a Confederate loss of 750 in actual combat.

At Vicksburg, Union commanders estimated that they lost 4,835 men killed, wounded or missing. The Confederates estimated that their actual combat losses were 3,202 men killed and wounded.

So much blood was spilled on the bluffs at Port Hudson and Vicksburg that it is difficult to imagine the true cost in human suffering of the two battles. Combined, the two battles left nearly 19,000 men dead, wounded or missing.

I will tell you more about them over coming days, but it seemed appropriate, as the massive commemoration of Gettysburg begins, that we also remember the men of Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

You can read more about the battlefields by visiting:

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