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VICKSBURG, MISS. — After two failed assaults in recent weeks, Union Major Gen. Ulysses S. Grant has decided to lay siege to the fortress-like hilltop city that stands in control of the Mississippi River.
Those two failed attacks, on May 19 and 22, cost his forces dearly, with more than 4,000 casualties. Confederate losses are estimated at less than 600 killed or wounded. Some 30,000 rebel troops are believed to be inside Vicksburg.
Grant says he is now “determined upon a regular siege — to 'out-camp the enemy,' as it were, and to incur no more losses,” according to sources close to the commander of the Army of the Tennessee.
Union troops are now digging a 12-mile line of trenches around the city’s well-fortified defensive perimeter.
The siege comes after a months-long campaign by Grant and his men to take the control of the strategic city.
“Vicksburg is the key!” President Lincoln recently told some of his top commanders. “The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. ... We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg."
Taking control of the lower Mississippi River, the lifeblood of supply and transportation for the Confederacy, would effectively split the South in two.
The city is a crucial link in the supply line feeding Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the east. Sources say Lee is preparing an invasion into Union territory that could threaten the capital of Washington, D.C.
Indeed, Confederate States President Jefferson Davis describes Vicksburg as the nailhead that holds “the South's two halves together."
Not for very much longer, if Grant has anything to do with it.
Union leaders say they are confident the rebel forces inside Vicksburg will soon run out of food and other supplies.