Review In Brief: The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862-1863

by Brett Schulte on November 3, 2005 · 1 comment

Civil War Books on the Vicksburg and Port Hudson Campaigns

The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862-1863
by Edward Cunningham

In addition to doing my Back-To-Back Books and taking notes on other books, I’ll also be reading books without taking detailed notes. After reading these books, I hope to give “Reviews In Brief”. My purpose is to give readers an idea of the content and quality of the books reviewed in this way. The next book in this line of short reviews is Edward Cunningham’s The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862-1863.

Anyone who has a decent understanding of the war knows about the Vicksburg Campaign. However, not as many know about a simultaneous Siege happening to the south in Louisiana at Port Hudson. General Nathaniel Banks and his Army of the Gulf (XIX Corps) besieged 6,000-odd men under Confederate Major General Franklin Gardner from May 23-July 9, 1863. After these 48 days, the Confederates surrendered, not because they were defeated, but because Vicksburg had fallen and they now had no hope of a rescue. Cunningham’s book is a good introduction to this topic except for one important detail: maps. There are only two maps. One shows the larger area of operations along the Mississippi River from Cairo, IL to New Orleans. The other shows the siege lines in such a zoomed out map that I had trouble reading everything. This makes for a difficult time while following along. I pulled out my Official Records Atlas several times during my reading. The Order of Battle is slightly above average, with no strengths but with regimental commanders listed. Cunningham has adequate notes and a solid bibliography. The book was originally published in 1963, so that might explain the lack of maps. I enjoyed Cunningham’s delivery. It was smooth and kept me interested throughout. However, he tended to make some grandiose claims from time to time regarding the ability of the Confederates to break the Siege. If you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is a solid introduction to the Campaign, but it is by no means definitive. I would recommend the two-volume The Guns of Port Hudson by David C. Edmonds for that label. The books are not cheap and they’re difficult to find, but judging by the second volume (which I own), they are worth it.

174 pp., 2 maps

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Will Hickox November 4, 2005 at 10:58 am

I read this last year while researching a ancestor who served in the 131st New York. After being exposed to the dubious “popular history” so fashionable in the 1950 and ’60s, I was pleasantly surprised by Cunningham. But you are definitly right, some more detailed maps of the Confederate defences and the siege lines would have been helpful.

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