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 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 12:44 am
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pamc153PA
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Here's one that comes from a conversation I had today with a friend who works as a LBG at Gettysburg (note the irony):

He, when comparing Vicksburg and Gettysburg, found that the significance of the loss of Vicksburg was greater than that of Gettysburg, and that the CW was really to be won in the West. I tend to agree with him.

What about you folks?

Pam



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 01:14 am
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ole
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No question. While Lee was beating out flames on his porch, the kitchen, parlor and bedrooms were being consumed. (The west. Grant actually said something like this in a post-war interview.)

I'm glad your friend said the "significance of the loss," rather than the "loss," of Vicksburg. I don't figure that Vicksburg itself was all that important, but its loss was certainly significant in that, from that point on the boys in blue marched with relative impunity across the entire south. (Leaving Lee on his porch to which there was no longer a house attached.)

Note to our young friends: That last sentence is not to be emulated. It is one of the most convoluted, abstruse sentences I've ever written.

ole



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 08:55 pm
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Captain Crow
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Actually Vicksburg was very important from a logistical point of view.
A look at the rankings of the states west of the Mississippi regarding production of various important agricultural items reveals just how much the South lost when Vicksburg fell.
these figures come from the Preliminary report on the eight census 1860:

Arkansas:
7th in molasses
10th in asses and mules
Louisiana:
1st in cane sugar
1st in cane molasses (7/8 of all U.S. production)
Texas:
1st in working oxen
1st in domestic cattle
1st in sheep
3rd in horses
4th in milk cows
4th in asses and mules
7th in swine
these states also combine to produce more than 50,000,000 bushels of Indian corn, 2,000,000 bushels of wheat, 5,000,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 11,000,000 pounds of butter.
In addition at the time of the aforementioned census only eight states produced salt. Only two were confederate: Texas and Virginia. Texas produced 120,000 bushels of salt annually.
Why was sugar/molasses so important? It was increasingly used as a form of currency. Want to purchase some meat from Florida or Tennessee for the AoNV? That will be one pound of sugar per pound of meat. Through what city/rail link did most of this sugar pass? Vicksburg. Want some Texas beef? Want some salt to preserve the meat regardless of whence it came? Want some rifles/powder/caps/uniforms smuggled from England via Mexico? Good luck without Vicksburg.
Confederate artillery captured during the Vicksburg campaign: 254 cannon(85 heavy siege guns)= more than 11% of all guns cast by the Confederacy for the entire war.
Confederate artillery captured at Gettysburg: 0

And of course there are many direct quotes from Lincoln, Davis, Grant , Sherman, Halleck, and many other prominent figures of the war voicing their almost universal declaration of Vicksburg's essential strategic importance.

Keep in mind as well that I am a huge Gettysburg fan. But after doing much objective study on the subject I must concede that Gettysburg pales in strategic significance compared to Vicksburg. Unfortunately because it is in the western theater it has never gotten the proportionate amount of attention it is due. Nor did it receive the same amount of press coverage rendered Gettysburg at the time of the respective campaigns. I fear this is the common treatment of much of the western theater.



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 11:21 pm
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pamc153PA
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I agree that Gettysburg got more press than Vicksburg, and that that's generally the way the western theater is viewed today. I really liked the list of goods you posted, because it was really a visual support of why Vicksburg was more significant. I'd venture to say that Gettysburg's significance comes mostly on a morale level, for both the Union troops and the people of the North. That's not a bad thing--in fact, was a positive thing for the AoP--but you can't eat it or trade with it. I, too, am a huge Gettysburg fan, but I think Vicksburg was way more significant where it counted, both for the Union and the Confederates.

Everybody must be taking it easy this weekend, because it's been pretty quiet around this board! I'm resisting the urge to say something really controversial just to wake everybody up (sorry, though, can't think of anything at the moment)!:D


Pam

Last edited on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 11:24 pm by pamc153PA



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 12:29 am
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ole
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Is this a catchall term used to describe cured pork in general or is it and accurate term describing what we today know as bacon. If it is the latter, why would ther be so many wagon loads of just bacon?

Suspect it's at least partly a catchall description, but my understanding is that bacon was bacon. (not salt pork, not ham, not smoked chops, not loins) And why so many wagon loads of just bacon? There are at least two reasons I can think of: the soldiers preferred it and it would keep -- scrape off the mold, heat and eat. There might be another possibility: it was flat. I'm guessing that more rations could be issued from a wagonload of carefully stacked bacon than a wagonload of salt pork in barrels. (and maybe not as heavy.)

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 12:51 am
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HankC
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pamc153PA wrote: I agree that Gettysburg got more press...

 

For quite a while, during and then after the war, Gettysburg received just as much press as any other US eastern victory. In fact, it was number of years before it outshone Appomattox.

Chamberlain, for example, was bragging over his place at Appomattox right away; it was late in life before he burnished his role at Gettysburg.

The shift of western generals to the east (Grant, Sheridan, Ord, et al) and the tremendous attrition of Gettysburg vets also diminished the short-term 'ink'.

Eventually, as the significance of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address became more obvious, more and more emphasis, ink and and monuments came Gettysburg's way...

HankC



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 01:26 am
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ole
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Thanks for the list Captain. Now a question: during that census year, how much of that enormous volume crossed the Mississippi and into what was to become the eastern Confederacy without the intercession of ferries, steamboats and seagoing vessels?

What went through Vicksburg went downriver to New Orleans. What went through Memphis went downriver to New Orleans. The traffic from across the river on that piddly railroad to Monroe was not nearly enough provide the supply the eastern Confederacy required.

By May, 1863, even that was cut off by infantry on the western bank of the river. The only real importance Vicksburg had was that it still blocked ships using the Mississippi. It had very little value as a point of transshipment.

Perhaps its real value was in that of its symbolism. St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans were firmly in Union hands; only Vicksurg remained before demonstrably splitting the already-split Confederacy. (The southern and northern citizen was not likely looking at Vicksburg in that way; it looked like the great victory it was -- although for different reasons, Grant and Sherman were doubtlessly pleased.)

Just a thought.

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:37 pm
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TimK
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I'm backtracking here, and possibly have this in the wrong place, and if so, I'm sorry.

Reading the post concerning Petersburg, somebody wrote (I'm too lazy at the moment to find out who) that maybe it isn't that exciting because at that point it was basically over except for waiting for the inevitable. My thought as I read that was that as of July 4, 1863, with the taking of Vicksburg and the Confederate loss at Gettysburg, the outcome was inevitable. Even though there were still battles to come such as the Wilderness and Spotsyvania, is there anybody out there that can paint a scenario that there could possibly be a different outcome to the CW?



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:50 pm
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izzy
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I have this vague recollection that the importance of openning the Mississippi River was to help out the shipping needs of states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Wasn't a Mississippi River "running unvexed to the sea" politically important to Lincoln?



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:54 pm
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TimK-

  Going forward from July of 1863- there is one scenario I can give you.

  Imagine that General McClellan won the presidential election of 1864. Lincoln himself earlier in that year expected to lose the election. It could well have happened if General Sherman had not made his march and captured Atlanta.

  If McClellan had won, there could well have been a different outcome to the war. After Mr. Lincoln was re-elected, there could only have been one outcome.



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:06 pm
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ArtorBart
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My guess is "bacons" refers to "sides of bacon," rather than individualized "rations" of the meat. I'd also guess you get two sides per hog.

The CSA lost an army at Vicksburg, too. Sure, they got some soldiers back later after parole/exchange/etc. transpired, but I'm not aware of the numbers and the actual loss of manpower.

After Vicksburg, Grant's junior partner Rosecrans is even freer to concentrate on Bragg in east Tennessee.

ArtorBart



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:38 pm
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ole
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I have this vague recollection that the importance of openning the Mississippi River was to help out the shipping needs of states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Wasn't a Mississippi River "running unvexed to the sea" politically important to Lincoln?
In the two years that the Mississippi was closed, Midwest farmers shipped their grain east over railroads. RRs were more expensive than barges, so the farmers groused accordingly. (There may well have been some gouging in there as well.)

Barge shipping is still less expensive than railroads, as you can see if you've ever watched traffic on the Ohio, Missouri, or the Mississippi and its feeders, but "running unvexed" remains more important politically than strategically.

(One more hit on the dead horse:) "Because we can" has as much weight on the homefront as "because we must." Take Sherman's March, for example. Although cutting the flow of supplies to Lee at Petersburg was a "must," it was equally a spirit-raising demonstration of "can." Vicksburg was more a "can" than a "must."

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:49 pm
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izzy
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Ole- Now you have me wondering why Grant bothered sticking around Vicksburg rather than going after Bragg.



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 05:18 pm
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izzy
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Good point. 



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 07:50 pm
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Bama-

  In early 1862, Mr. Lincoln had a conversation with Commander David Dixon Porter in which he explained the importance of controlling Vicksburg. (I don't have the original source at hand, but here is the conversation).

  " Here is the Red River, which will supply the Confederacy with cattle and corn to feed their armies. There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousand. From Vicksburg these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy.

  Valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be even more so. We may take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can still defy us from Vicksburg. It means hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all the states of the far south, and a cotton country where they can raise the staple without interference."

  The defeat at Gettysburg was very painful to the southern cause, but I believe that the losses of New Orleans and Vicksburg together were much more decisive.



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 07:53 pm
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pamc153PA
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It's interesting that so far we've made a point for symbolic value for BOTH Vicksburg and Gettysburg. There's also been a good point made, and expanded upon, that politically and economically Vicksburg was significant. So. . .

What WAS Gettysburg's significance, other than morale and symbolism? Out of the two, one coming on the heels of the other, Gettysburg far outranks Vicksburg in popular cultural reknown (haven't seen any movie in the works entitled simply Vicksburg have you?). Obviously, as the first real must-win victory for the Union army, and a reminder to Lee that maybe his men weren't as unstoppable as he thought, there's a sort of romantic view of that battle. But really, is there more to it?

Opinions, please!

Pam



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 08:43 pm
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The comparison and significance of Vicksburg and Gettysburg has almost always been intriguing to me. While I do tend to lean toward the fall of Vicksburg as being more significant for the Confederacy than its loss at Gettysburg, it's a tenuous bent for me. The twin losses came within hours of each other. So over the course of the war, how do we really know which was the most significant battle? If Lee had won at G-burg, for example, would the loss at Vicksburg still have ended the war any quicker than it did? I don't know. If Lee wins at Gettysburg, the political implications multiply for both sides, I think. McPherson, for one, suggests that while the Confederacy might not have won the war with a victory at G-burg, the Union certainly could have lost the war with a defeat there.

What I am prepared to guess is that the the victory at Gettysburg was the turning point of the war for the Army of the Potomac (as opposed to the Union Army, which is what I think you meant to say, Pam), and certainly, that was significant.

The Union victory at G-burg clearly added to Lincoln's political capital, for sure (maybe even his his politcal capitol as well :P)

About a year ago Joe said he's seen it argued that the Union victory at Forts Henry and Donelson were the real turning point in the war. I laughed at him then. But after reading a bit more about Grant, and thus the western theater, I'm not so sure Joe isn't correct. (double negative there, which means I'm trying to say that Joe was correct). Of course, saying that underlines the significance of the western theater.

Interesting stuff.



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