Build your vocabulary and learn asunder, formidable, bastion, rebuff, neutralize, tactic, expedient, citadel, ration, and untenable in the context of The Siege of Vicksburg Word Power from English Plus Podcast.
The Siege of Vicksburg
The Union strategy in the midst of the Civil War was simple: gain control of the Mississippi River, and the Confederacy will be broken asunder. Severed from its important resources lying west of this great river, Lee’s eastern armies would gradually collapse. There was, however, one formidable obstacle to this plan—Vicksburg. Called the Gibraltar of the Confederacy, Vicksburg, Mississippi, offered the perfect bastion for the defenders. Entrenched on high bluffs overlooking a hairpin turn in the river, the forces at Vicksburg, commanded by the Union-born General John C. Pemberton, could sink any ship attempting to pass and rebuff any assault. The task much needed at the time to neutralize this fortress fell to Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant tried a variety of tactics to unseat the rebel force. The simple expedient of crossing upriver and approaching Vicksburg from the east was defeated by an impassable swamp. Several attempts to sail down the river failed. At one point Grant even tried to dig a new channel in the river to bypass Vicksburg. Eventually he decided to march his armies south on the west bank of the river then to ferry them across below Vicksburg. Once across, he sent General W. T. Sherman east to block any efforts to reinforce the now-endangered citadel. Grant’s huge siege guns began to bombard the isolated city with artillery.
Little by little the army and the civilian population of Vicksburg exhausted their supplies of food and ammunition. Instead of chicken or pork, small amounts of mule meat were rationed to the hungry defenders. Finding his position untenable, Pemberton decided to surrender Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. By laying down his arms on this Union holiday, he hoped to gain more generous terms from Grant. It was eighty-five years before Vicksburg celebrated the Fourth of July.