Part 3 of Our Signature Vicksburg Campaign Study
A BGES Civil War Field University Program:
February 20-24, 2018
With Parker Hills, from Vicksburg, MI
Regrouping after the shocking raids on his supply lines, Grant relocated to the Louisiana side of the river across from Vicksburg and plotted his grand strategy. Having been advised to return to Memphis by both his naval component commander, David Dixon Porter and his most trusted subordinate, William T. Sherman–Grant had declined to go back, noting the administration could not stand the adverse publicity in the wake of Fredericksburg, Chickasaw Bayou and Stones River.
The winter months were not idle ones as Grant launched a series of expeditions designed to turn the Confederates out of powerful lines on the bluffs above Vicksburg. Although none succeeded they did condition his army to move when the spring weather arrived. Grant was ordered to cooperate with Major General Nathaniel Banks who was to operate against a new Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson, Louisiana–a move which would make him subordinate to Banks when they joined forces. Grant dutifully moved south on the Louisiana side of the river but created a series of diversions to cause the Confederates to look east at spurious cavalry raids while he moved down the river opposite Grand Gulf. This program is about that operation; then the crossing of the river and the establishment of a beachhead near Port Gibson, Mississippi.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Meet at the Hampton Inn at 6:30 PM to pick up your reading books and enjoy the hospitality hour at the hotel which starts at 5 PM. At 7, we will adjourn to the meeting room for an opening lecture. Parker takes great pride in his PowerPoint presentations and it shows. His lecture will bring you up to date on the campaign thus far tying it into the greater geopolitical considerations and detailing the operations and diversions Grant constructed for this plan. We will enjoy pizza during his lecture.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
8:00 A.M. Today we will do a quick review of the Bayou expeditions at Grant’s Canal. We will then pick up Grant and his encampments near Young’s Point discussing the winter of 1863. We will talk about supplies and show you the remains of the Duckport Canal and travel to a major supply base near Milliken’s Bend where black union soldiers fought long before the storied 54th Massachusetts. While headed to lunch in Tallulah, we will stop at the forgotten grave of one of the great diarists of the period, Kate Stone. Her diary Brokenburn is compelling and has been included on our suggested reading list.
This afternoon we will strike out in the footsteps of Major General John McClernand and his 13th Corps–although Grant disliked the politician, he respected his commitment to the strategic plan and knew he could count on him to do his best (unlike his doubting friend, Sherman). We travel via Pointe Clear, Somerset, Douglas, Wyoming, Franklin and Winter Quarters Plantations before alighting at Choctaw Bayou on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. After discussing the April 27th skirmish there and Sherman’s diversion we will return to Vicksburg for the night. We provide lunch with dinner on your own. A free Happy hour provides the means to enjoy a robust critique of the day.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
8 AM: Today is devoted to an underappreciated element of Grant’s strategic vision. Grierson’s Raid, which was romanticized by John Wayne and William Holden in the epic film Horse Soldiers, was designed to occupy Pemberton’s cavalry and turn the eyes of the Confederate commander away from Grant’s crossing and towards the east. While no one knows exactly where Grierson went we do have some vector points where we can intercept his operations starting with Hazelhurst Station. We can then follow elements of his force to Gallatin and onwards to Thompson’s Plantation where he spent the night as Grant prepared to assault Grand Gulf.
After lunch we will travel to Union Church where a “bluff” worked to perfection and drew Wirt Adams cavalry completely out of its screening and scouting role for the Confederates and Brookhaven. The remainder of the afternoon will trace Grierson to Walls Bridge. Along the way we will pass the site where the legendary Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was killed in a plane crash in 1977. We will return to the hotel in time for Happy hour. We will provide lunch. You’ll have dinner on your own
Friday, February 23, 2018
8 AM: Today we will pick up the Confederate’s response to Grant’s move and will move in the footsteps of Edward Tracy’s Brigade to Hankinson’s Ferry and then on to Grand Gulf. The balance of the morning is spent at Grand Gulf where the Confederates successfully chased away Grant’s initial effort to cross the river. For lunch we will have a stop worthy of dinner. Mr. D’s in Lorman, Mississippi has become a tradition with fresh (never frozen) fried chicken and scores of vegetables and fresh cooked cobbler with ice cream. It is a formula for fat but with feature articles in Southern Living and other culinary magazines it is a “must” stop. Mr. D is the show but the food runs a very competitive second.
We will then travel to Bruinsburg via Rodney where BGES enjoys exclusive access to this critically strategic point. We will show you how the river has shifted and take you to sites not otherwise available to the public. At Windsor Plantation Ruins (one of the iconic ruins of American landscape and a place where Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift filmed Raintree County, we will lay out Grant’s plans in the roadbed of the Rodney Road behind Bethel Church. It is then back to Vicksburg for another Happy Hour. We provide lunch.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Start our final day at 0800 with Baldwin’s Confederate Brigade to the pending fight at Port Gibson. We’ve a number of stops looking at the Confederates’ defenses along Redbone Ridge, Redbone Church, Hankinson’s, Buena Vista, Grindstone Ford and the old trace towards Port Gibson. We will self cater our lunch.
After lunch we will travel the old roads to the Shaifer House and fight the battle of Port Gibson. In doing so we will examine the axis of operations along the Rodney and Plantation Roads. It is February and the vegetation will be down allowing us to see many view sheds not otherwise open. As the Confederates fall back defeated we will visit Earl Van Dorn’s grave in Wintergreen Cemetery. Our program will end with a trip to the banks of the Little Bayou Pierre where Grant has now achieved his objective of getting on the same side of the river as his enemy and how he has now uncovered Grand Gulf as a logistics base for the coming campaign.
We will return to the hotel where we will then gather and go to Rowdy’s for another BGES tradition–our final night at this modest Catfish joint. We have been coming for nearly 20 years. Following an evening of fellowship we will say “later” and look forward to greeting many of you again for Part 4.
Parker Hills is the nation’s leading historian on the Vicksburg Campaign and a scholar of some note on the Gettysburg Campaign. He has a well earned reputation for the highest standards of preparation on tours and the exceptional educational value of his content. Being with Hills is like taking a senior military service school course in which you will surely leave with far more knowledge than when you arrived. Parker is a graduate of the US Army War College and he is in high demand from businesses and military organizations that want his leadership training. Hills is the founder of BattleFocus and is a retired officer who served on both active duty as a battery commander in Korea, and as an aide to General of the Army Omar Bradley. He was the Director of Public Affairs for the Mississippi National Guard and he founded the Regional Counter Drug Training Academy in Meridian, Mississippi. Parker is the co-author of Receding Tide, Vicksburg and Gettysburg, The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War. Parker has also published the Vicksburg Campaign Driving Guide and The Art of Commemoration–a book that reveals the symbolism and beauty of the commemorative memorialization at the Vicksburg Park. He is also the driving force for preservation in the state of Mississippi and largely through his efforts the Raymond Battlefield Park exists. He is in high demand and his programs cost a little more; but, you will quickly see that they are well worth it.
We are negotiating with the Hampton Inn on Clay Street Vicksburg and will set aside a block of rooms there at a special rate. We will make a separate announcement when the block is set up and open for reservations.
The closest servicing airport is Jackson (JAN). You can get much better airfare flying into New Orleans (MSY) and driving the 150 miles to the program. There is no public or hired transportation between Vicksburg and Jackson–thus you will need a rental car. This is a program where driving is a great option. There is a pickup service called Gopher Girls which will pick you up at the Jackson Airport and take you to Vicksburg for $75. Call Jim at (601)415-1160.
Key Publications and Recommended Reading
You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. We recommend the following books to enhance your preparation for this tour. Amazon.com has a program to support non profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site one half of one percent of your purchase price is provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.
- Edwin C. Bearss: Vicksburg is the Key This volume is out of print and can be had on the secondary market for prices up to and above $75
- Edwin C. Bearss and J. Parker Hills: Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg, The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War — Available from BGES when you register.
- Steven E. Woodworth, editor, J. Parker Hills, contributor: The Vicksburg Campaign, March 29-May 18, 1863. Available on Amazon Smile
- Kate Stone: Brokenburn. Available on Amazon Smile or Abebooks.
Register for this program online using our secure Sutler’s Tent ecommerce site: Register for Vicksburg Part 3.
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Download a printable itinerary and registration form.