Before the Civil War, Vicksburg was a small Mississippian city with a population less than 5,000. Nicknamed the ?Queen City of the Bluff? it sat atop a bluff over a horseshoe bend in the Mississippi River. It boasted three newspapers, a theatre, and an orchestra. Vicksburg was in the center of the south with several telegraph lines and railroads to major cities. It controlled the Mississippi from its highpoint 300 feet above the river. When the war started John C. Pemberton, a West Point graduate, was given charge of the fort and geographic region. Cannons were brought in and mounted on the fort; entrenchments were created to make Vicksburg impenetrable. A six weeks supply of food was accumulated; the Confederates now began their long wait.
From the beginning, the White House realized that capturing Vicksburg was essential to winning the war. Officer David Farragut had orders to capture the city after capturing the port of New Orleans.
After repairing ships damaged in the Battle of New Orleans he made up river with haste. Farragut was delayed after several of his ships ran aground but captured Baton Rouge without a fight. When he reached Vicksburg, he was surprised that they wouldn?t surrender. With cannons 300 feet above his ships and rumors of 20,000 troops coming, he hastily retreated. Several gunboats stayed below the fort, while the majority of his force retreated to New Orleans. His superiors weren?t satisfied with his performance and he was ordered to try again.
On June 25, 1862 he returned with a fleet of mortar schooners and 3,200 troops. For two days the mortar schooners fired above the cliffs, with small results. Most of his ships couldn?t fire at a high enough angle to reach the fortifications. At 2 AM, 11 ships charged up the Mississippi...