After an overview of Grant’s early Civil War career from his first battle through the early stages of the attacks on Vicksburg, Ballard describes in detail how Grant conducted the siege, examining his military decisions, placement of troops, strategy and tactics, engineering objectives, and relationships with other officers.Grant’s worried obsession with a perceived danger of a rear attack by Joseph Johnston’s Confederate army, Ballard shows, affected his decision making, and shows how threats of Confederate action occupied more of Grant’s time than did the siege itself.
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In addition, Ballard soundly dispels a false story about Grant’s alleged drinking binge early in the siege that has been taken as truthful by many historians, examines how racism in Grant’s army impacted the lives of freed black people and slaves in the Vicksburg area, and explores Grant’s strained relationship with John McClernand, a politically appointed general from Illinois. The book concludes with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the expulsion of Johnston and his army from the region, and demonstrates the impact of the siege on the outcome on the short and long-terms of Grant’s military career.
By analyzing Grant’s personality during the siege and how he dealt with myriad issues as both a general and an administrator, Grant at Vicksburg offers a revealing rendering of the legendary general.