"The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."-Abraham Lincoln
On this day, July 4th, 1863, 157 years ago, a Union Army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi and its Confederate defenders. The city of Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River after the fall of New Orleans, Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee in the first half of 1862. Five days later, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks XIX Corps captured Port Hudson, Louisiana.  Banks’ capture of Port Hudson was notable as it was the first major victory won by a command that included African American soldiers. These victories, coupled with the momentous Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Shown here are two unique artifacts from the siege of Vicksburg. These two pieces of wallpaper are in fact newspapers published within the city during the siege. When Union armies occupied Southern strongholds across the South, often their first stop was to the offices of the town newspaper of record, not to smash the type, but to publish a new edition informing citizens that they were part of the United States once again, and that secessionist nonsense was ceasing immediately. When Union troops arrived at the offices of Vicksburg’s Daily Citizen, the publisher, J. M. Swords, long fled, could be seen to have been using wallpaper to get out a July 4 edition, his supply of newsprint exhausted in mid-June. So the Union troops in good humor reset a full column with news that this was the last paper of besieged hardship for the town and exhorted readers to save what would surely become a collectors’ item. The paper indeed did that, reprinted at least thirty times as a commemorative facsimile, an artifact and great rarity of the Civil War and printing at the Mercantile in its “first” edition.
Topographical View of the Battle of the Siege of Vicksburg, by Alfred Mathews, a gifted artist of landscape views and American town plans in the mid- 1800s. Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library
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