"Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket," President Abraham Lincoln said. Southerners agreed. "Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together," said Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
As you can tell from these quotes, the battle and control of Vicksburg was very important to the winning of the civil war. The importance of Vicksburg is due mainly to its location. The North needed to control the Mississippi river, they already had control of the river from the north and the south. This was the last big obstacle in the way. Once they had control, the Confederate states of Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas would be cut off from the war and the Union would now have a major supply artery. The city of Vicksburg, Mississippi on a bluff 250 feet high, overlooks the Mississippi River on the Louisiana-Mississippi state border. This made it an ideal spot for defense. The commander at Vicksburg was Lieutenant General John Clifford Pemperton. He obtained supplies and soldiers from Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and the Mississippi Yazoo Delta district.
Before the start of the Civil War, Vicksburg was a very prosperous and sophisticated town. The city was a busy center of trade, the wharves were crowded with boats carrying many kinds of goods and commodities. It was sophisticated enough to have a Shakespeare repertory company, a municipal orchestra and the courthouse was made in Greek revival style. This town was the "Queen of the Bluff" with much culture, education and luxury.
All this was to change with the coming of the war. By early 1862 the peaceful town had become one of the most strategically important spots in the entire Confederacy and would soon be one of the most bitterly fought over.
From the beginning of the war in 1861, to protect their most prized possession, the Confederacy put up battlements at strategic points along the river. Federal forces eventually captured post after post. After fighting their way southward from Illinois and northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Until by late summer of 1862, only Vicksburg and Port Hudson appeared to be major constraints to the Union.
Of the two posts, Vicksburg was by far the strongest and most important. Setting high over looking a bend in the river, protected by artillery and dangerous swamps. So far the city had defied Union efforts to force it into submission.
After the navy attempts failed. Those planning the war strategy felt they had no choice but to use ground forces and General Ulysses S. Grant. From mid October 1862. Grant made several attempts to take Vicksburg.
In order to protect the Mississippi Valley, Confederates established a line of defense, which ran from Columbus, Kentucky, overlooking the Mississippi River through Bowling Green to Cumberland Gap.
It was then realized by both Union and Confederate high commands that if Vicksburg were going to fall, it would be in the hands of a huge combined land and navel effort. A decision was made to construct a line of defense around the city, which would guard the road and railroad access to Vicksburg.
Grant's long campaign to capture Vicksburg on the Mississippi was one of the most important series of connected battles during the Civil War. As long as the Confederacy controlled the great river, it could prevent the Union from bring its full weight to bear against Lee in Virginia. Vicksburg's situation on a bend of the river made it extremely hard to attack. Navel assaults were fruitless, as shown by the fate of the U.S.S Cairo's which was sunk in just a few moments.