In 1862, powerful Confederate guns along Vicksburg's high bluffs kept the Mississippi River closed to Federal shipping. Union leaders decided the army should take the city by land to gain control of the river. But General Thomas Williams had a different idea—dig a canal across the foot of De Soto Point to bypass the batteries altogether.
In the June heat, Union soldiers labored alongside more than 1,200 formerly enslaved people to carve the 1.5 mile canal. Sunstroke, exhaustion, malaria, and dysentery plagued workers. Hundreds lost their lives. After just one month, Williams halted the project.
In January 1863, General Ulysses Grant took up the project once again. His plans were also hindered by widespread illness among the troops—and rising river waters that flooded Union camps. By March, Grant abandoned this dream of avoiding Vicksburg.
More to Explore
There's a whole national park out there! Grant's Canal is one of several locations in Vicksburg National Military Park. The green on the map protects and preserves the siege and defense lines where Union and Confederate forces faced off in 1863. Follow I-20 east to the main entrance on Clay Street.
You can see ...
- Visitor Center exhibits, bookstore, and orientation film
- 16-mile tour road
- Battlefield overlooks
- U.S.S. Cairo Museum and restored ironclad gunboat
- Vicksburg National Cemetery
- Pemberton's Headquarters