By Lawrence Weber During the Civil War, the strategic importance of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was readily apparent to both the Union and the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln considered Vicksburg the key to the war in the West and a necessary target for the Union if they hoped to achieve overall victory. “Vicksburg is the key,” wrote Lincoln. “The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and as valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so.” Vicksburg, situated on a high bluff, was the last Confederate military stronghold on the Mississippi River. The location of the city allowed the Confederacy significant mobility along the strategic river, not only regarding troops, but also supply and communications. Southern President Jefferson Davis understood as well as Lincoln the importance of Vicksburg. In a letter dated May 8, 1863, Davis wrote: “If [Lt. Gen. John] Pemberton is able to repulse the enemy in his land attack and to maintain possession of both Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the enemy’s fleet cannot long remain in the River between those points from their inability to get coal and other necessary supplies.” A Move to Cut Union Communications On the morning of May 14, Pemberton was en route to Edward’s Depot just east of Vicksburg, where he was preparing to establish defensive positions, when he received a message from General Joseph Johnston, who ha


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