Review: Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom

Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom

Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264251

Shelby Foote never claimed to be a historian and always referred to himself as a “story teller”, Winston Groom falls into this category.  This is not a serious history with many footnotes on each page.  The book will not illuminate the thinking of Pemberton, nor analyze the military tactics of Grant.  This is a good telling of the story of the North’s campaigns to capture Vicksburg.  This is not just Grant’s campaign of 1863 but also all of the efforts to break the Confederacy’s grip on the Mississippi River and split the South in two.

The book gives us a good foundation talking about how important the Mississippi River is to 19th century America and the founding of Vicksburg.  While our attention is never taken from the city, the outside world is never forgotten.  Richmond’s wishes, directives and interference are never far from the surface and play a major role in the developing campaign.  Events in Virginia, New Orleans and Port Hudson keep the war in perspective.  The interaction between Pemberton, Johnston and Davis are given a proper place but is not over estimated.  Grant’s problems with Halleck, McClernand, the press and Washington play a role in the planning and pace of operations.  Politics is almost as important as military operations in this book.  This is correct as Vicksburg is of major interest to both presidents.

Are their problems?  Yes, there are a number of problems with the story as the author chooses to tell it.  First and foremost is the question of Grant’s drinking.  The author accepts as true incidents discredited by a number of current historians but well accepted at one time.  The book has a number of statements about military operations that some historian’s question.  Again, most of these were generally accepted and still are by some historians.  None of these problems is major nor will they cause real misunderstanding.

The author is from the South and his ancestors fought for the Confederacy.  I have not found his Civil War stories to be part of the Lost Cause tradition.  Nor have I found him to be excessively favorable to one side or the other.  This is a well-told story of a complex military campaign that resulted in the capture of the “Gibraltar of the West”.  While not a great book, it is a good one and pulls together in one-volume a completed history of Vicksburg.

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One response to “Review: Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom”

  1. kay cornelius Avatar
    kay cornelius

    I am always amazed to find that the work of Jim and rebecca Drake of Raymond, MS is overlooked by authors writing about CW MS. In addition to websites for the battle of raymond and champion hill, Becky’s edited diaries and letters are for sale at the Vicksburg National Cemetry

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