Book Review: The Vicksburg Campaign: Strategy, Battles and Key Figures


by Kevin Dougherty

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. Pp. viii, 214. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0786497971

Securing the “Father of the Waters”

Prof. Dougherty (Citadel), who has written extensively on the Civil War, including works on Gettysburg and on the Union’s coastal campaigns, here gives us a concise introduction to the military operations that led to the siege and capture of Vicksburg and Union domination of the line of the Mississippi. His object is not so much to give us a narrative account of the campaign, as to look at critical elements, issues, and actors that shaped it. Dougherty opens with a brief introduction.

There then follows two chapter presenting short biographical sketches and evaluations of the principal Union and Confederate actors, military, naval, and political. He follows this with a chapter setting the strategic environment, with an overlook at the course of the war in the theatre through the start of the Union effort to capture Vicksburg..

Dougherty then examines operations against Vicksburg in five chapters. In two chapters, he covers the initial Union efforts against the town and Grant’s assumption of the mission and his several unsuccessful attempts to it. Dougherty then devotes a chapter to Grant’s his riverine movement that finally enabled him to plant an army south of the city. This is followed by a chapter on Grant’s campaign of encirclement, culminating in the Battles of Jackson and Champion’s Hill, and one on the protracted investment of Vicksburg and its ultimate surrender.

Dougherty concludes with a short discussion of the implications of the battle, and in particular its importance to the growth of both Grant and Sherman as commanders. Dougherty, who writes well and concisely, manages to get a surprising amount of detail into what is essentially an overview treatment of the campaign. Many of his conclusions, notably his observations on the performance of John Pemberton, who emerges a rather less inept than is usually thought – are unusual, but insightful.

This is useful reading for even the most well-read student of the campaign.

Note: The Vicksburg Campaign is also available as an ebook, ISBN 978-1-4766-1993-4.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor    

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