Richard Collins Rigg at the Siege of Vicksburg

Siege of Vicksburg

Siege of Vicksburg

Vicksburg, Warren, Mississippi
May 1863

On May 19th, 1863, Grant arrived in Vicksburg and tried to take it by assault. He was repulsed and made a second attempt on May 22. After this attempt failed, Grant decided to take the city by siege and built trench lines extending 15 miles long sealing off the city.

The commanding general for the Confederates was John C. Pemberton, with about 30,000 men. Grant was reinforced until he had about 75,000. They starved and bombarded the place into submission. The Federals would bombard every day and no one could get in or out of the city, no supplies of any kind. One rebel soldier said that a cat could not have crept out of Vicksburg without being discovered.   The guard was very tight, no food, medicine, etc. It was very tough on the soldiers, but also on the citizens.

Citizens during the Siege of Vicksburg

Citizens during the Siege of Vicksburg

To escape the bombardment, the citizens would dig caves and live in the bluffs around town. Some of these caves were elaborate enough to have 2 or 3 rooms.   They would eat cats, dogs, and resorted to rats at the end of the siege. They had rat meat at the market for sale. If the citizens lived like this, it is a safe assumption that the soldiers did too, possibly a little better.

Vicksburg became a desolate place, no ammunition, food, water, clothes. All along the Confederates were hoping that another army under the command of Joe Johnston would be able to come and attack Grant and rescue Vicksburg. But with Grant’s large numbers, he was able to hold off Johnston and continue the siege. As it became apparent that Johnston could not attack, Confederate hopes sagged and the men of Pemberton’s army wanted to surrender.

Pemberton was finally convinced to surrender by a group of 4 or 5 officers representing the whole army who told him of the feeling and condition of the men — sick, hungry, discouraged, didn’t think that they could hold out any longer. They physically couldn’t fight any more. They had no supplies or ammunition. They actually threw rocks at times at the Union soldiers.

The military importance of Vicksburg is that it was the last Confederate stronghold along the Mississippi River. When it fell, the Union now had control of the entire Mississippi River, dividing the Confederacy into two halves. The surrender took place on July 4th. The Union troops marched into the city and raised the flag over the courthouse and then imparted food and medicine to the citizens and Confederate soldiers.

To be a Prisoner Of War at this time was very unhealthy to say the least. They were often underfed. They were “pigs in a pen” — overcrowded, no sanitation (very little), very little clean water or medical attention. Often poor shelter, just outside in the heat and sun. Men figured that if they went to a POW camp that they would die. Libby Prison in New York was the most notorious Northern prison.

1600 Confederate soldiers buried at Cedar Hill during Siege of Vicksburg

1,600 Confederate soldiers buried at Cedar Hill during Siege of Vicksburg

Richard C. Rigg captured at Vicksburg

Richard C. Rigg captured at Vicksburg

It wasn’t that they didn’t care about the men, but they didn’t have the knowledge about sanitation, etc. and they didn’t have the time and supplies. It was more a matter of supply and demand rather than cruelty. If you got sick, too bad. You had more chance of dying from disease in prison camp than from out on the field. Early in the war soldiers were exchanged “on parole,” but later on as the South started taking black soldiers as prisoners, they refused to exchange them. They wanted to either kill them or send them back as slaves. So the parole program broke down for a time.

Listed on Roll of Prisoners of War, Meridian, Mississippi, May 11, 1865
captured – R. C. Rigg, Private, Co. E., 1 Regt. Missouri Cavalry, 4 Jul 1863

Richard Rigg, a confederate, was released on parole from Vicksburg and then fought the rest of the war until Lee surrendered.




Information compiled by Jill Rigg Johnson

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