For anyone who might’ve forgotten, the siege of Vicksburg was grinding along 155 years ago today.
We spent a little time in mid-May commemorating the campaign for Vicksburg and the initial attacks on the city. And all good Civil War buffs know that the city surrendered on July 4, 1863.
In between, Federals besieged the city. And a lot of folks tends to just lump that together as a single, monolithic event—“the siege of Vicksburg”—without considering what that actually entailed, particularly on a day-to-day level.
For Federals and Confederates alike, that often entailed boredom.
Consider today’s diary entry by Lt. William Drennan, a Confederate ordinance officer in Featherston’s Brigade:
Another day as like the past twenty one as one day could be like another.
Monotony does not convey all that the sameness of these days imposes on one. There is a tension of the nerves—an extreme anxiety like you many have experienced for a few moments—and that you have felt that you had to endure it long that it would craze you. I fear a spell of some nervous fever as soon as the excitement is over—and it certainly will be over soon.
Drennan’s is actually one of the best accounts of the Vicksburg campaign and siege. It started out as a letter to his wife, but he was unable to get it in the mail before the siege lines cut the city off, and so it became a running chronicle of his time in Vicksburg.
My friend, Matt Atkinson, transcribed, edited, and annotated Drennan’s letter and published it in 2009 as Lieutenant Drennan’s Letter: A Confederate Officer’s Account of the Battle of Champion Hill and the Siege of Vicksburg. You can now find Drennan’s full letter online here, although I recommend Matt’s hard-to-find hard copy if you can find it because his annotations are excellent.
As the siege continues to unfold, you can follow along with Drennan day by day.