Role of Slaves During the Siege of Vicksburg

            As Stokesbury describes the slow, gradual starvation and isolation of Vicksburg, we tend to think of different images as to what life was like inside the walls of Vicksburg. Stokesbury touches on a couple different aspects of civilian life when he talks about people fleeing the city, the poor infrastructure, and the struggle for food. However, Stokesbury leaves out some pretty interesting information about the roles of African American slaves during the brutal siege of Vicksburg.

            Often times, the group that often is overlooked in histories of the Vicksburg siege are the African American slaves who endured the 47 days of fighting alongside their masters. Mary Loughborough, a slave owner at the time, talks about the courage of some slaves in her diary when she writes that slaves had “more courage than is usually attributed to negroes.” She also wrote that her slave, George, slept at the entrance to her cave with a pistol, and told her that anyone attempting to enter “would have to go over his body first,” (Loughborough). In addition, funeral home records note that six slaves were buried during the siege, proving the siege was just as deadly for slaves as it was for the Confederates.

Another responsibility the slaves had was rebuilding and building Confederate fortifications on the front lines. One slave named Abraham, along with several other slaves, were digging a countermine to find the Union tunnel being dug under them when a Union mine was set off and exploded. Seven of the slaves were killed in the blast, but Abraham was thrown into the Union lines and survived, eventually becoming on the staff of General James B. McPherson as a cook (http://mississippiconfederates.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/civilians-during-the-siege-of-vicksburg/).

The role of African American slaves in Vicksburg often gets overlooked in the battles and sieges itself, but could the absence of slaves changed the outcome of the siege of Vicksburg?

Picture of Abraham, the slave,                                                                                                                                                                                          Picture of a slave protecting a family

Picture of Abraham, the slave.A slave protecting a family outside their cave.

 

By: Michael Thompson

Works consulted:

Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of the Civil War. New York: Harper, 2011. Print.

“Civilians During the Battle of Vicksburg.” www.civilwar.org.Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

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