During this season of late May in 1863, the Union army was successfully staging final operations to secure the free flow of shipping along the entire Mississippi River, driving a wedge into the Confederacy.
With Pemberton’s Confederate troops drawn into strong fortifications in Vicksburg, Grant attempts twice (19th and 22nd) to break through the defenses – each attack unsuccessful. He will then set up siege operations. There is no hope of outside assistance, and facing starvation, Pemberton will surrender the strongest citadel along the river on July 4th.
Additionally, at another Confederate river position at Port Hudson, General Nathaniel Banks’ troops will likewise attempt and fail in two assaults (on May 27 and June 14). And likewise, Rebel General Franklin Gardner will hold out until July 9 – surrendering in the wake of the fall of Vicksburg.
David Dixon Porter and Farragut also had these positions sealed off by water. The Vicksburg batteries fought valiantly on the 22nd of May in particular, inflicting heavy damages upon Union vessels. In the days after the Battle of Gettysburg, word arrived at Washington of the fall of Vicksburg, causing Lincoln to exclaim, “Thank God, the Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” But, to quote from McPhearson’s War on the Waters, “The Mississippi now did flow unvexed to the sea—except for Confederate guerrillas, who continued to be very vexatious indeed.” (p.169)