For Richard Armitage fans, ” The Siege” brings to mind the 2006 audio recording based on the Robin Hood characters or the last two episodes of the series, “Something to Die For,” in which the outlaws and Guy are besieged in Nottingham Castle with little or no chance of victory or escape.
Here, ” The Siege” refers to the American War Between the States and means the Siege of Vicksburg, which ended in the surrender of the city to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of Tennessee 150 years ago today on July 4, 1863. The fall of Vicksburg was the turning point of the War. Of Vicksburg, Abraham Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key. The War can never come to a close until the key is in our pocket.” Confederate President Jefferson Davis referred to Vicksburg as “the lynch pin that holds our two halves together.”
The Battle of Gettysburg ended the day before in the east, with a rout of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on July 3, by the Army of the Potomac under General George Mead.
Gettysburg gets most of the attention because with 50,000 casualties, it boasts the the highest butcher’s bill of any battle fought in the War Between the States and because it marked the first defeat for Robert E. Lee since he assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Battle decimated Lee’s command structure and already attrited troops. Mead’s failure to re-engage Lee, letting him slip back into Virginia to fight another day, is viewed as a major failure of command. The war in the east raged on for another two years.
Vicksburg, on the other hand, was strategically essential for both sides. Control of Vicksburg meant control of the lower Mississippi valley, attendant advantages to shipping goods and men to other parts of the south and west and had the effective of cutting off Texas, Alabama and Louisiana from the rest of the South, and from the war.
It would be 81 years until Vicksburg again celebrated The Fourth of July.