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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

The Siege of Vicksburg

The population of Vicksburg in 1860 was 4,591 of which 1,402 were slaves and only 31 were free blacks. The population of Vicksburg in 2020 was 21,573. 

According to President Abraham Lincoln, Vicksburg held the key to opening the Mississippi River and winning the war. The Union siege of the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg lasted 47 days, from May 18 to July 4, 1863. General Grant’s plan was to hold on until starvation forced the Confederates under General John C. Pemberton to surrender. By June 18, Grant’s army was up to 77,000 men. Pemberton had no more than 30,000, all plagued by illness and malnutrition, and his supply of food and ammunition was strictly limited. 

During the siege, many residents fled the city to avoid the shelling from Union gunboats, mortar scows, and field artillery. Some residents resorted to living in caves that were dug out of hillsides, which provided some protection from the shelling. An account of what it was like to live in Vicksburg during the siege is contained in a book titled My Cave Life in Vicksburg by Mary Loughborough, published in 1864.

Food was so short that the citizens of Vicksburg and the soldiers defending it were soon reduced to eating mule meat and pea bread. Medical supplies were almost nonexistent. Water was so scarce that officers posted guards at wells to make sure none was wasted for purposes of cleanliness. 

Confederate General Pemberton finally surrendered to Union General Grant on July 4, 1863. The terms of surrender stated that the Confederate soldiers were granted parole and had to promise not to take up arms against the United States. In addition to taking the city and capturing a garrison of 29,500 men, Grant’s army seized a huge quantity of military stores. Among the property captured were 172 pieces of artillery, 38,000 artillery projectiles, 58,000 pounds of black powder, 50,000 rifles, and 600,000 rounds of ammunition. These were resources in men and materiel that the South could ill afford to lose.

During the siege, the Union Army suffered a total of 4,835 casualties (killed, wounded, and missing). Confederate casualties were 3,202. The defeat at the 
Battle of Gettysburg combined with the loss of Vicksburg in July of 1863 was a crushing blow for the Confederacy. 

Following the surrender of Vicksburg to General Grant, the city did not officially celebrate Independence Day for another 82 years. On July 4, 1945 with World 
War II coming to a close, Vicksburg citizens, thankful for victory, decided to officially celebrate Independence Day for the first time since the Civil War. They tenaciously held to the past, however, billing the event as “The Carnival of the Confederacy.”

The following information is from the Old CourtHouse Museum:

“During the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, the Daily Citizen newspaper was edited and published at Vicksburg by J. M. Swords during the Civil War. As newsprint became exhausted during the 47-day siege in 1863, Swords printed several issues on wallpaper. Each was a single sheet, four columns wide. The July 2, 1863 edition became famous when conquering Union forces discovered the type still set when the city fell on July 4. The Union troops replaced two-thirds of the last column with other matter already in type, added a note, and printed a new edition. (See below.) At least 30 reprints have been made and there are few genuine originals known to exist.” 

Confederate Note:

“On Dit. – That the great Ulysses – The Yankee Generalissimo, surnamed Grant – has expressed his intention of dining in Vicksburg on Sunday next, and celebrating the 4th of July by a grand dinner and so forth. When asked if he would invite General Joe Johnston to join, he said “No! for fear there will be a row at the table.” Ulysses must get into the city before he dines in it. The way to cook a rabbit is “first to catch the rabbit”, etc.”

Yankee Reply:

“NOTE July 4th, 1863

“Two days bring about great changes. The banner of the Union floats above Vicksburg. General Grant has “Caught the rabbit”; he has dined in Vicksburg and he did bring his dinner with him. The “Citizen” lives to see it. For the last time it appears on “wall-paper.” No more will it eulogize the luxury of mule-meat and fricasseed kitten – urge Southern warriors to such diet never-more. This is the last wall-paper edition, and it, except this note, from the types as we found them. It will be valuable hereafter as a curiosity.”

Vicksburg Civil War Museum

The Vicksburg Civil War Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity that is located in downtown Vicksburg. They are committed to preserving and sharing our history with present and future generations. The museum has beautiful displays of Civil War documents, photographs, weapons, artillery shells, bullets, uniforms, models, artwork, etc. One of the displays featured glass bottles used to catch the tears of those mourning the loss of their loved ones. The museum also has a full-size display of a slave cabin with an adjacent strip of cotton. 

Before touring the museum, visitors are requested to first read the museum’s mission statement:

“The Vicksburg Civil War Museum thoroughly identifies with the institution of preserving history. Our museum is founded upon exactly the opposite idea of slavery. Our foundations are laid, its cornerstone rest upon the great truth of The Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our goal is NOT to EDUCATE YOU. Our aim is to INSPIRE YOU to want TO BECOME MORE EDUCATED.

“We will achieve this mission by challenging fundamental inaccuracies of our interpretations of history versus factual history which includes, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Your personal interpretation of history does not change history.
  2. Your correct or incorrect understanding of history does not change history.
  3. Your being ashamed or filled with pride does not change history.
  4. Your ancestor’s reasons for fighting does not change the reason that the war happened, thus it does not change history.
  5. No matter how elequently you speak, history will always have the last word.



For more information regarding the Vicksburg Civil War Museum, go to their website:

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
4125 NW Willow DR
Kansas City, MO 64116

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