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Confederate Logistics at Vicksburg: A Failure to Balance Momentum, Endurance, and Protection

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Confederate-held Vicksburg fell to the Union after a forty-seven day siege on July 4, 1863 due to Lieutenant General John C. Pembertons failure to maintain options. Pembertons decisions in late 1862 and early 1863 diminished the capability of his force. In May 1863, when Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant crossed the Mississippi River, Pembertons army could not transition from a static defensive posture to a more mobile form. Pembertons mistakes centered around his emphasis on terrain rather than the enemy, as well as his failure to adapt as the conditions changed. In these blunders, he ceded control of tempo and the momentum to the enemy. Rather than setting conditions to seize the initiative in the event of a Federal crossing of the Mississippi River, Pemberton chose to disperse his forces to the periphery of his department and hold his territory in its entirety. He sacrificed his ability to mobilize, mass, and maneuver and in return gained a thin line of protection around the boundary of his department. This form of defense taxed his logistics assets, caused supply shortages in food and ammunition, and destroyed his rail and roads all prior to the start of Grants attack. By the time the Union offensive did come, Pemberton had neither the option to attack nor flee.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Humanities and History

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