President Abraham Lincoln considered the capture of Vicksburg one of the Union's highest priorities. He sent a formidable army under General Ulysses S. Grant to do the job. Grant was able to force the Confederate army of Lt. General John C. Pemberton into the confines of Vicksburg. Practically surrounded by Grant's forces, the city was entirely cut off from the outside world.
After a siege that lasted 47 days, General Grant accomplished his objective. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to him on the 4th of July, 1863.
Siege and capture of Vicksburg
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Even more disturbing was the constant danger of being blown to bits by the 16,000 artillery rounds General Grant's forces would shoot into the fortress during the seven weeks of the siege.
Vicksburg becomes a city of caves
Civilians quickly realized that their homes, and even their basements, offered little protection from the shells that rained down on the city day and night. So, they (or more accurately, their slaves) started digging caves into the sides of hills. Vicksburg became virtually an underground city, to the point that the watching Union soldiers surrounding the place gave it the nickname "Prairie Dog Village."
Caves were normally built with their mouths facing away from the Mississippi River, since two-thirds of the incoming shells were fired by naval gunboats on the river. The shelters ranged in size from single-family spaces to giant caverns that could accommodate up to 200 people. Usually several families would share a cave, making for crowded conditions with little