The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

July 4, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign: The Surrender of Vicksburg

1st National Confederate flag. Accession number: 2004.3.1 (Museum Division collection)

1st National Confederate flag. Accession number: 2004.3.1 (Museum Division collection)

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

General John Pemberton’s army in Vicksburg was worn down from Grant’s forty-seven day siege. Thousands of his soldiers were suffering from illness, wounds, and malnutrition; and supplies were dangerously low. Realizing that no relief would be coming from General Joseph Johnston and that he could negotiate better terms of surrender on Independence Day, Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg on July 4.

Pictured above is a 1st National Confederate flag taken by Samuel Loring Percival Ayres, second assistant engineer of the USS Pensacola, at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. The flag was made by H. Cassidy, a prominent flag maker in New Orleans, and is 8 ½ feet long. Cassidy often made Confederate flags from old US flags, and he probably employed that technique with this flag.

Source: “Vicksburg Surrender,” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/surrender.htm.