In 1863 one single military campaign started the Federal Army on its path toward eventual ultimate victory turning around two years of demoralizing losses and strategic blunders. That battle was not at Gettysburg but in fact a minor incursion into Mississippi by a cavalry force of less than 2,000 Union soldiers. Their leader Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson was given a difficult and dangerous mission by Grant to draw Confederate military attention away from the city of Vicksburg and its crucial port along the Mississippi River on the eve of the planned Union siege in April. The plan to sever telegraph lines and destroy railroad facilities approaching Vicksburg was nearly flawless through meticulous planning, perfect execution, brilliant reconnaissance, and extremely good fortune. Grierson's force was small enough to inflict damage and quickly move on but large enough to pose a threat to homeguard and civilian forces.
Confusing his adversaries by dividing his troops, the Federal Army always seemed to be a step ahead of the rebels. Grierson and his men commandeered supplies critical for the South's war effort destroying munitions, clothing, and transportation systems. In actual battle engagements they outgunned the Confederate Army killing hundreds of rebel troops, capturing hundreds more, and leading hundreds of newly liberated slaves to freedom in Baton Rouge, LA. Dealing a lethal blow to the defense of Vicksburg from which the South would never recover, the effect of this heroic and daring 16-day 600-mile raid was to embolden and energize a demoralized nation hungry for news of victory and a resolution to the war.
This report prepared by David Fletcher