The 4th of July and its significance with the Civil War tends to focus on the monstrous battle at Gettysburg in 1863, especially here in the East. Over 50,000 casualties certainly makes it hard to ever forget. Yet, the more important battle strategically speaking was not being fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the first few days of July 1863 but rather Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold along the Mississippi River that needed to be taken in order to cut the Confederacy in two. This task fell upon Union commander Grant and his Army of the Tennessee. Beginning in May of that year Grant had managed to cut off the city and began to lay siege. His counterpart, inside Vicksburg was Confederate commander John Pemberton who ironically enough was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had two brothers that fought for the Union. Pemberton felt that Independence Day was his Confederate army’s best option at getting satisfactory surrender terms. Pemberton became a pariah within the Confederacy as a result of his surrender. Being born and raised in Pennsylvania did not help the matter either!
Although Vicksburg’s conclusion is often “trumped” by Gettysburg because they concluded more or less on the same date, Vicksburg was more significant for a number of reasons:
1.) Cut the Confederacy in two.
2.) Gave complete control of the Mississippi River to the Union
3.) Lincoln now had a consistent winner in Grant as a capable commander
With these reasons in mind, one certainly could argue that the war was won by the Union not in the East but rather in the West.