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Vicksburg, 1863 (Vintage Civil War Library) Paperback – April 20, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Among the most visited of Civil War battlefields, Vicksburg here receives a narrative equal to its significance and popular interest. Though Vicksburg was obviously the strategic key to control of the Mississippi River, it was anything but clear how to unlock the place or to keep it locked. The military difficulties its geography presented to both attacker and defender underlie a perceptiveness present throughout Groom’s account: he grasps commanders’ options, senses the sturdiness of their military character, and dramatizes their choices in a way that awakens the inner armchair general in Civil War readers. Nor does Groom neglect the chain connecting the decisions of strategists to the tumultuous experiences of those on the receiving end, from Union and Confederate soldiers to plantation owners and their slaves. The present-tense flow in Groom’s prose enhances vividness, just as it captures the fogginess of war that beset the minds of generals and admirals who conducted the Vicksburg campaigns, of which there were more than half a dozen before Grant’s victory. A superior example of general-interest Civil War history, this is skillful work by Groom, also the author of several military histories and the novel Forrest Gump (1986). --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A fantastic read. . . . A serious cut above previous works on the subject. Reading Vicksburg 1863 is like spending a couple of evenings alone with Groom as he tells you a story dear to his heart. It is intimate, quirky, utterly fascinating and, ultimately, deeply personal. . . . Groom has established himself unquestionably as heir to the late Shelby Foote with this commanding, thoroughly entertaining narrative account.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Brilliantly described. . . . Rarely has the story of such a lengthy and complicated campaign been told with such clarity and grace. . . . Groom’s book is full of such authentically rendered excitement. . . . He proves again that facts skillfully woven can be more moving than the products of the busiest imagination. . . . With Vicksburg, 1863, he has fully arrived as a narrative historian.”
The Washington Post

“Groom’s mastery of plot and storytelling leaves him inordinately well-disposed to piece together the tangled mass of major battles and peashooter skirmishes . . . that made up the Vicksburg campaign. . . . “If Vicksburg seems like a very old story to tell, Groom’s lively account has a frighteningly contemporary sheen.”
The Chicago Tribune
“Unique. . . . Offers fresh insights on the human costs of the war and what it meant to the nation. . . . Groom brings the novelist’s touch to history, personalizing characters . . . in an easily relatable way for the average reader.”
—The Associated Press

“A masterful telling of the pivotal Civil War siege and battle.”
New York Post
“Illuminating. . . . Groom can help any reader understand and appreciate that when North met South in combat the issues weren’t one-dimensional and the outcome wasn’t a foregone conclusion.”
The Vicksburg Post
“A galvanizing and harrowing account. . . . Relying on southern sensibilities, historical scrupulousness and a novelist’s feel for a good yarn, Groom plunges into this cauldron with a presentation that gives full vent to the cost in human lives and the enormous stakes for both sides.”
The New Jersey Star-Ledger
“Groom’s command of the military facts, and his extraordinary mixture of vignettes big and small, brings this distant, chaotic, and shockingly violent episode to life.”
The Weekly Standard
“With [Vicksburg, 1863] Groom attains the stratospheric narrative heights heretofore enjoyed by such popular-history masters as Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote and James M. McPherson. His pacing is so good, his attention to detail so riveting, and his flair for action writing so pitch-perfect that the reader is utterly absorbed and inexorably swept along. . . . There have been many books about Vicksburg, but none better than this.”
Mobile Press-Register (Alabama)
“Civil-war buffs will be most interested in Winston Groom’s contribution to the contentious debate on whether General Joseph Johnston, the Confederate commander in the West, could and should have done more to relieve the defender of Vicksburg, General John Pemberton. Others will be struck more by the archaic nature of the Vicksburg campaign. The tactics of the besiegers and the sufferings of the besieged bring to mind medieval, or even Roman, times rather than mid-19th-century America.”
The Economist
“Winston Groom bids fair to assume the mantle of the late Shelby Foote as a most eloquent and moving storyteller of the Civil War. His prose is unbeatable . . . while his pen portraits of individuals are crisp and incisive. The feel and smell and hardship of soldiers and civilians alike in a siege are all here in Vicksburg, 1863.”
—William C. Davis, author of Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America
“An exciting, balanced account of what may have been the most decisive campaign of the Civil War. . . . It is all there—bravery and cowardice, competence and folly, fear and endurance, all with the constant, imponderable undertow of dumb luck, good and bad.”
—Stephen Fox, author of Wolf of the Deep
“[Groom] has delivered another tour de force. . . . Beautifully written, he places us in the minds and hearts of the citizens and soldiers who lived the battles and endured the hardships of war in the besieged city. This is a must read!”
—Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Civil War Library
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307276775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307276773
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James W. Durney VINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Shelby Foote never claimed to be a historian and always referred to himself as a "story teller", Winston Groom falls into this category. This is not a serious history with many footnotes on each page. The book will not illuminate the thinking of Pemberton, nor analyze the military tactics of Grant. This is a good telling of the story of the North's campaigns to capture Vicksburg. This is not just Grant's campaign of 1863 but also all of the efforts to break the Confederacy's grip on the Mississippi River and split the South in two.
The book gives us a good foundation talking about how important the Mississippi River is to 19th century America and the founding of Vicksburg. While our attention is never taken from the city, the outside world is never forgotten. Richmond's wishes, directives and interference are never far from the surface and play a major role in the developing campaign. Events in Virginia, New Orleans and Port Hudson keep the war in perspective. The interaction between Pemberton, Johnston and Davis are given a proper place but is not over estimated. Grant's problems with Halleck, McClernand, the press and Washington play a role in the planning and pace of operations. Politics is almost as important as military operations in this book. This is correct as Vicksburg is of major interest to both presidents.
Are their problems? Yes, there are a number of problems with the story as the author chooses to tell it. First and foremost is the question of Grant's drinking. The author accepts as true incidents discredited by a number of current historians but well accepted at one time. The book has a number of statements about military operations that some historian's question. Again, most of these were generally accepted and still are by some historians.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I have just completed reading Vicksburg, 1863 and was appalled and astounded by the number of errors found in the book. The first, and perhaps the foremost, dealt with the John Brown raid. John Brown was tried in a Virginia court (The Civil War, A Narrative Volume 1, Shelby Foote page 32) for treason against Virginia, not by the United States government. Second item, it is stated that Leonidas Polk became a major general when, in fact, he was a lieutenant general (Generals in Gray, Ezra J. Warner, pages 242-243) when he died. He was killed (Generals in Gray, Ezra J. Warner, pages 242-243) by a cannonball (disemboweled?) at Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia, not at the Battle of Atlanta. Item three, N.B. Forrest’s escape from Fort Donelson. It is stated that they waded all night through swamp water when they actually spend the night on the Charlotte Road (Nathan Bedford Forrest, In Search of the Enigma, Eddy W. Davison and Daniel Foxx, pages 57-58) and the only time they got wet was in crossing icy Lick Creek which was found to be saddle-skirt deep. Item four, the Death of W.H.L. Wallace. It is indicated that he was killed at the Hornet’s Nest. He was mortally wounded, not directly killed, and died at Savannah, Tennessee on April 10, 1862 (Generals in Blue, Ezra J. Warner, pages 536-537), three days after the battle ended. Item five, Lew Wallace in the Tennessee River swamps (there are those swamps again). His division spent the day on roads, not in swamps (Shiloh, Larry J. Daniel, pages 256-261). The only swamp mentioned was at the Owl Creek bridge, but it has a corduroyed road through it. Item six, Butler’s women’s order. The order was precipitated by a woman dumping the contents of a chamber pot on Fleet Captain David Farragut’s head (Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. McPherson, pages 551-552).Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A talented Southern storyteller gives his version of the Vicksburg campaign. This book should serve to inform, or remind, readers of the importance of the six-month effort by the North to take the city that controlled shipping on the Mississippi River.

Winston Groom provides his take on almost everything that occurred from the present day vantage point of one who at heart wishes the South might have somehow acted in a way that did not lead to its ultimate abject defeat. He seems to think the North provoked the war (I know the South fired the first shots); he does not see why the hard war of General Sherman was necessary (I do); or why North and South could not simply come to a political compromise when the war turned bad for the South (I think because of the evil of slavery combined with a refusal by Southern leadership to accept the primacy of the federal union).

To me a most interesting and telling fact is contained in a minor foot note on page 155: After the Civil War, the city of Vicksburg did not officially celebrate The Fourth of July until 1945.

While I do not agree with all of Mr. Groom's political and social observations, I do think his book is entertaining and well written. The vivid descriptions of the numerous land battles and naval engagements make for compelling reading, while the many generals and admirals are brought to life.

Mr. Groom's book should help serve to refocus attention to the major and hard fought Union victory of July 4, 1863 at Vicksburg from the still headline battle of the same time, Gettysburg. While the few bloody days at Gettysburg remain the subject of enormous public attention, Vicksburg is the campaign (and Grant the general) that determined the Civil War's military outcome.
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