|Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg|
Many assume Gettysburg was the "turning point" of the War Between the States because it prevented Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia from descending on Washington, D.C., and ending the war in a single battle. This is a reasonable argument, but in truth, while the Army of Northern Virginia was beaten at Gettysburg and forced to end its invasion of the North, it left the battlefield still a seasoned and highly effective fighting force. The Union still held the North and the Confederacy still held Virginia after Gettysburg.
|Confederate Cannon overlooks the Mississippi River|
|Where the two armies fought within feet of each other.|
On the previous day, Gen. Pemberton had polled his subordinate generals for their opinions on whether his army could break out through Grant's encircling forces. The almost unanimous conclusion was that the men were too worn down from more than 45 days in the trenches to be able to make such an attempt without the army suffering inconceivable losses. See In the Trenches at Vicksburg on July 2, 1863.
|Confederate Cannon at Fort Hill|
Facing the inevitable and deciding to save as many lives - soldier and civilian - as possible, the Confederate general sat down 150 years ago today and wrote to his adversary, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant:
GENERAL: I have the honor to propose to you an armistice for ______ hours, with a view to arranging terms for a capitulation of Vicksburg. To this end, if agreeable to you, I will appoint three commissioners to meet a like number, to be named by yourself, at such place and hour to-day as you may find convenient.
I make this proposition to save further effusion of blood, which must otherwise be shed to a frightful extent, feeling myself fulling able to maintain my position for a yet indefinite period. - Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, CSA (July 3, 1863).
|U.S. Navy Monument at Vicksburg|
...The useless effusion of blood you propose stopping by this course can be ended at any time you choose, by an unconditional surrender of the city and garrison. Men who have shown so much endurance and courage as those now in Vicksburg will always challenge the respect of an adversary, and I can assure you will be treated with all the respect due prisoners of war. - Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, USA (July 3, 1863).
|View from Stockade Redan across to the Union Lines|
As silence fell across the battlefield at Vicksburg, the Union commander met with his top generals and then wrote the following letter to Gen. Pemberton:
|Vicksburg National Cemetery|
"Unconditional Surrender" Grant's decision to end his demand for the unconditional surrender of Vicksburg brought the battle to an end. Late in the night, Pemberton responded to his offer:
|Crater where tunneling Federals blew up a Confederate fort|
At 10 a.m. to-morrow I propose to evacuate the works in and around Vicksburg, and to surrender the city and garrison under my command, by marching out with my colors and arms, stacking them in front of my present lines, after which you will take possession. Officers to retain their side-arms and personal property, and the rights and property of citizens to be respected. - Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, CSA (July 3, 1863).
Grant would not respond until the next morning, but the fate of Vicksburg had been decided by the late night of July 3, 1863. The surrender would take place the next day.
I will post about the surrender of Vicksburg tomorrow. Please remember that you can read more about the Battle of Vicksburg anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/vicksburg1.