Map of the Siege of Gettysburg drawn in August 1863. (National Archives)
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VICKSBURG, MISS. — Union Maj. Gen. Francis J. Herron arrived with his division on the outskirts of Vicksburg today, completing what is now a nine-division stranglehold around the Confederate stronghold.
At 26 years old, Herron is one of the youngest — if not the youngest — major general serving in the war on either side. His troops have plugged the only remaining hole in the siege around the city.
Union commander Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant says the tide of his long campaign to take Vicksburg and seize control of the Mississippi River has finally turned.
“Our situation is for the first time in the entire western campaign what it should be,” he said.
His growing confidence is felt by his troops as well. “Gen. Grant came along the line last night,” said one Illinois solider. “He sat on the ground and talked with the boys with less reserve than many a little puppy of a lieutenant.”
In Vicksburg, which looks down from its hilltop perch, Confederate troops and civilians alike are fighting hunger as food supplies dwindle even as regular shelling increases from the Union artillery and naval gunboats surrounding the fortress-like city. Many citizens are now living in caves for protection against the bombardment.
The city is believed to have only enough supplies on hand to last another few weeks. “We can hold until early July at the very latest,” said one hollow-eyed Confederate soldier.
Vickburg’s only hope now is that Confederate reinforcements will arrive in time to break the siege, although that appears increasingly unlikely as much of the rebel Army now appears committed to an invasion into the North on the eastern front.