Thursday, November 29, 2012



Marilyn reviews THE BELEAGURED CITY: THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN by Shelby Foote (Modern Library, 1995)

In The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign I discovered a hidden fact. The capture of Vicksburg, the Gibraltar of the Confederate West during the American Civil War, was not an easily one. Seven failed attempts were made by General Ulysses Grant to conquer the city before the prize was won. Each failed attempt just made General Grant revise his plans to conquer. Shelby Foote’s narrative style opens The Beleaguered City with "Haste made waste and Ulysses S. Grant knew it, but in this case the haste was unavoidable -- unavoidable, that is, unless he was willing to take the risk of having another general win the prize he was after..."

In the pages of The Beleaguered City awaited another surprise for me: Grant's campaign started in Memphis, Tennessee. On January 17, 1963, General Grant left Memphis to join some of his Army of The Tennessee troops already headed to Vicksburg. He needed troops and supplies for the contest against Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton, Commander at Vicksburg. General Grant would send requests to Memphis where one of his main bases was located.

I have wanted to read a short book by Shelby Foote for some time and was the delighted to find that this book came from The Civil War: A Narrative vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian. My interest in Shelby Foote came from seeing him on the PBS series The Civil War by Ken Burns and from knowing he is a Memphian. The book made the siege of Vicksburg real because the Generals' lives, strategies, campaigns, defeats, and the failures of fellow soldiers were written so you would feel like you were there.

For a very interesting read about the General who would not give up, open the pages of The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign where you’ll also find President Abraham Lincoln's congratulatory letter on the last page.

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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