cover image Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy

Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy

Donald L. Miller. Simon & Schuster, $35 (688p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4137-0

In this elegant Civil War history, Miller (Masters of the Air) meticulously details Ulysses S. Grant’s success on the yearlong campaign to take Vicksburg, Miss., “the last obstacle facing Union forces struggling to regain control of the great river of America and split the Confederacy in two.” Miller’s enlightening chronology explains how the campaign established Union dominance on the western front despite Vicksburg’s natural bluffs, which aided the defending Confederate army as it waited desperately for relief that never came. Drawing on military records, personal letters, and diaries, Miller fleshes out the effects of the relentless campaign on the mistake-prone generals on both sides, newly freed slaves impressed into Union service, and the frightened but defiant Vicksburg residents, some of whom left mansions to hide in caves during the siege. Miller reveals that Grant’s perseverance despite several significant setbacks (both military and personal—he struggled with alcoholism) won him an unusual written apology from Abraham Lincoln and a promotion. Miller mistakenly repeats the assertion that rape by military personnel was uncommon during the war, but overall this account is well-researched and well-told, incorporating a variety of perspectives and events without becoming shaggy. Military buffs will delight in Miller’s rendering of Grant’s audacity. (Oct.)