Ed Bearss’ “The Vicksburg Campaign III – Unvexed to the Sea”

I just finished this volume, which brings the three volume set to an end. The final sections rounded out the naval actions during the seige, and the negotiations for surrender and the final disposition of the troops.

After the dynamic marches and battles of the second book, the third book seems to move at a slower pace, and with a little less focus as the action shifts from the army at Vicksburg to the relief army, the covering force, the race to reinforce Grant, and the final result of the Confederate failure at all of these.  There is a hint of ‘might have been’ when discussing the relief army – certainly Joe Johnson was derelict in not putting any pressure on Grant during those weeks when the Confederate forces in the area outnumbered his army.

Would it have worked? Probably not, but stranger things have happened in war. Could it have saved the city? Almost certainly not. Once the contact with the Navy at Snyder’s Bluff was established, the fall of the city was assured. The only question was when, and at what cost.  The fact that nobody in the CSA ever specified just what the strategy should be – hold to the death at all costs or evacuate the city if threatened helped to provide the fatal divergence between Pemberton and Joe Johnston’s strategy.  EIther strategy might have worked, but having half the army working at cross purposes with itself can never work.

The books themselves are well written and researched, justifying their position as the standard work on the campaign. Bearss’ writing style is clear and concise, possibly a little dryer here than in his published tour texts, but this is fitting. An excellent book and set of books.


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