A riveting history of the battle that permanently turned the tide of the Civil War.
While Gettysburg is better known, Winston Groom makes clear in this engrossing narrative that Vicksburg was the more important battle from a strategic point of view. Re-creating the epic campaign that culminated at Vicksburg, Groom details the arduous struggle by the Union to gain control of the Mississippi River valley and to divide the Confederacy in two. He takes us back to 1861, when Lincoln chooses Ulysses S. Grant--seen at the time as a mediocre general with a drinking problem--to lead the Union army south from Illinois.
We follow Grant and his troops as they fight one campaign after another, including the famous engagements at Forts Henry and Donelson and the bloodbath at Shiloh, until, after almost a year, they close in on Vicksburg. We witness Grant's seven long months of battle against the determined Confederate army, and the many failed Union attempts to take Vicksburg, during which thousands of soldiers on both sides would be buried and, ultimately, the fate of the Confederacy would be sealed. As Groom recounts this landmark confrontation, he brings the participants to life. We see Grant in all his grim determination, the feistiness of William Tecumseh Sherman, and the pride and intransigence of Confederate leaders from Jefferson Davis and General Joseph E. Johnston to General John C. Pemberton, the Philadelphia-born Rebel who commanded at Vicksburg and took the blame for losing.
A first-rate work of military history and an essential contribution to our understanding of the Civil War.
Groom's approach to the Civil War follows the examples of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote. It features learning lightly worn presented in a narrative format that engages even though the outcome is known. Groom's conclusion that the Confederacy was best advised to seek terms after Vicksburg's fall sealed the rebels' fate is reasonable. But it is eclipsed by his compelling depiction of two improvised armies, each fighting, in James McPherson's words, "for cause and comrades." Both had to learn the craft of war, and blood was the price of ignorance. Personalities like William Tecumseh Sherman and John Pemberton, the Confederate general from Pennsylvania, vie for place with Benjamin Grierson's dramatic cavalry raid through Mississippi and the death grapple of Union and Confederate Missourians at Vicksburg. Grant, however, remains the central figure. His approach was a combination of improvisations. If something failed, like the costly attack on Chickasaw Bluffs, he tried something else until he finally put in place the siege that decided the Civil War. Groom presents grand events from a human perspective, introducing a spectrum of colorful characters. Maps. (Apr. 9) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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April 06, 2009
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