"…Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”
-- President Abraham Lincoln
When the Civil War started, traffic along the Mississippi River ceased. The nation’s most vital transportation artery was severed.
President Lincoln recognized that the Union would not win the war until they controlled Vicksburg. The city’s strategic position high above the river made it the gateway to the northern stretches of the Mississippi.
The fighting began on March 29, 1863. Over the next three months, more than 100,000 Union and Confederate troops clashed at Port Gibson, Jackson, Raymond, Champion Hill, and Big Black River.
On July 4, 1863, Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered to Major General Ulysses S. Grant, giving the Union full control over the river.
A year before the siege, the federal ironclad ship USS Cairo hit a mine and sank in the Yazoo River, just north of Vicksburg. Recovered a century later, this fully restored Civil War-era ship can be toured at Vicksburg National Military Park.
A 16-mile auto tour takes you past 15 key sites related to the Battle of Vicksburg. You can also honor 18,000 fallen soldiers, including more than 17,000 Civil War veterans, in the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Many of the remains were relocated from other battlefields, their identities lost to time.