Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on the Siege of Vicksburg, 1863

A primary source by Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant to Stephen A. Hurlbut, May 31, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)One of the Union’s top military objectives was to gain control of the Mississippi River, and thereby split the Confederacy in two. General Ulysses S. Grant took up this challenge late in 1862 but was frustrated for several months by the rebel defenses of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In mid-April 1863, Grant undertook a series of naval and infantry maneuvers that moved more than 30,000 troops into Vicksburg’s rear. This directive reflects Grant’s genius for military strategy as well as the fortitude that led Lincoln to believe in 1864 that he had at last found a general who would not let him down.

A full transcript is available.


. . . Vicksburg is so strong by nature and so well fortified that sufficient force cannot be brought to bear against it to carry it by storm against the present Garrison. It must be taken by a regular siege or by starving out the Garrison. I have all the force necessary for this if my rear was not threatened.

It is now certain that Jo Johnston has already collected a force from twenty to twenty-five thousand strong at Jackson & Canton and is using every effort to increase it to forty thousand. With this he will undoubtedly attack Harris Bluff and compell me to abandon the investment of the City if not reinforced before he can get here. I want your District striped to the very lowest possible standard. You can be in no possible danger for the time it will be necessary to keep their troops away. All points in West Tennessee North of the Memphis & Charleston road, if necessary, can be abandoned entirely. West Kentucky may be reduced to a small Garrison at Paducah and Columbus.

If you have not already brought forward the troops to Memphis to send me bring Smith’s, formerly Denver’s, Division. Add to this all other force you can possibly spare. Send two regiments of Cavalry also. If you have not received the Cavalry last ordered from Helena divert them to this place instead of sending two other regiments. No boat will be permitted to leave Memphis going North until transportation is fully provided for all the troops coming this way. The Quartermaster in charge of transportation and Col. W.S. Hillyer are specially instructed to see that this direction is fully enforced.

The entire rebel force heretofore against me are completely at my mercy. I do not want to see them escape by being reinforced from elsewhere. I hope before this reaches you troops will be already on the way from your command.

Gen. Dodge can spare enough from his force to Garrison Lagrange & Grand Junction.

Very respectfully
U. S. Grant
     Maj: Gen.

Questions for Discussion

You are seeing this page because you are not currently logged into our website. If you would like to access this page and you are not logged in, please login or register for a account, and then visit the link that brought you to this notice. Thanks!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments