Book Review: Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy by Donald L. Miller

Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign That Broke the ConfederacyVicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy by Donald L. Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donald L. Miller’s book is a mid-level look at the events from Grants first arrival at Cairo, Illinois, in 1861, up through the capture of Vicksburg in 1863. Miller covers the planning and thought behind the push to recapture the entire Mississippi river valley, focusing more on plans, logistics, and political intent than on the soldier’s eye view of the conflict; there’s still some of this, but those looking for pages of “a day in the life” of the soldiers on the line, they need to look elsewhere.

Two aspects of Miller’s work are a refreshing change. First, far too often, the impact of the Navy’s contribution to the western theater is overlooked. The input of Farragut and Porter are well covered here. At the beginning of the book, there’s even a section dedicated to the Cairo naval yard, as well as the planning for, and the construction of, the City Class ironclads, the “Pook Turtles”. I don’t know that I’ve encountered that anywhere else, outside of a dedicated title on the Civil War navies.

Second, Miller goes into far greater detail into the many consequences that resulted from the Union army’s policy of giving refuge to runaway slaves. We see the initial resistance of the Union army commanders to taking on the burden of feeding and clothing ex-slave refugees, all the way up through both the army and navy openly welcoming the refugees into the services. It’s a far more convoluted process than that sentence summarizes, and the book was worth reading if only for that new-to-me information.

Vicksburg is well written, covers lots of new grounds, and shines light on different aspects of a well-known military campaign, showing the reader that it takes a lot more than an army in the field to win a campaign.

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply