James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
From the Union point of view the three most important strategic points in the South were Richmond, Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Vicksburg ranked second, for its capture would give the United States the control of the Mississippi River and cut the Confederacy asunder. An attempt had been made to take it by the navy, another by the army; both had failed.
Vicksburg, built for the most part upon a bluff two hundred feet above high-water mark of the river, presented a natural stronghold, strengthened by art and unassailable from the front. The problem was to reach the high ground on the east bank of the river so that it might be attacked or besieged from the side or rear. Many devices of artificial channels connecting natural water-courses were tried; apparently, indeed, every experiment was made that engineering skill or military initiative could suggest. Nearly two months were spent in such operations, all of which failed.
It had been a winter of heavy and continuous rains. The river had risen to an unusual height and in places the levees had given way. The whole country was covered with water. Troops could scarcely find dry ground on which to pitch their tents. Malarial fevers, measles and small-pox broke out among the men.1 From newspaper correspondents, from letters which the soldiers wrote to their kinsmen and friends at home, from reports of visitors to the camps, the people of the North came to know in detail of the many attempts and failures, of the exceeding discomfort of the army and of the sickness which prevailed. Having in mind the Grant of Shiloh rather than the Grant of Donelson, they were prone to consider his operations in a fault-finding spirit and to believe the stories of his intemperance