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Vicksburg history more than The Siege

I recently read a book about Vicksburg under Union occupation after the Siege.

“Occupied Vicksburg (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)” by Bradley R. Clampitt, paints a very interesting picture of the city during its occupation, touching on various aspects of life under Union troops.

When we, or the visitors to the city who tour the Vicksburg National Military Park, think of Vicksburg’s Civil War history, we do it in terms of the Siege — the clash of troops at the Railroad Redoubt or the shelling of the city by Adm. David Dixon Porter’s brown water fleet and the mortar barges on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River; of people living in caves.

We read about the battles of Port Gibson, Champion Hill and Raymond, which were pivotal confrontations on Grant’s march to Vicksburg.

Then, suddenly, it’s almost like the war ended with Pemberton’s surrender to Grant.

But the occupation, as Clampitt pointed out in several chapters, was a new front in the battle to save the Union.

In many ways, the residents of Vicksburg continued their resistance of the men in blue.

It also points out another interesting fact. Vicksburg may have fallen into Union hands, but just past the city limits and outside the Union lines, rural Warren County was a Confederate hotbed, with guerillas and bands of Confederate cavalry raiding plantations and farms leased to northerners who were trying to turn them into a business. Union supplies found their way into Confederate hands, despite the efforts of the occupation forces to prevent the practice.

And many residents still stayed fiercely loyal to the Cause, even to the point of being exiled from the city to other areas behind Confederate lines for the duration of the Civil War.

When I was growing up, and even in my early adult life, my interest in history turned toward modern, 20th century events. The Civil War held very little interest until I received a copy of the family history from my uncle, found a personal connection — my great-great-grandfather was killed at Shiloh and I visited the Shiloh National Park.

Then I moved here, and revisited the Military Park and the Cairo, and wrote two articles for The Post’s Sesquicentennial magazine on Vicksburg before and after the Siege, and about people living in caves during the Siege.

I’ve found learning about life in the city during the Siege and about the Union and Confederate navies more interesting than the battles and troop movements.

Vicksburg has a very diverse history, and it is something we need to learn more about.

The Siege is important, but it is not all to the history of Vicksburg. Vicksburg’s history is the story of the diverse ethnic and religious groups who came here and settled, about the people who lived in the small communities in the area before and after the Siege. And to appreciate where we are, we need to learn where we’ve been.
John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post.. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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