Book Review: The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign


by Timothy B Smith

Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2018. Pp. xviii, 254+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.50. ISBN: 0809336669

Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign

Smith, author of The Real Horse Soldiers, Grant Invades Tennessee, and a number of other works on the Civil War, gives us a fresh account of what he argues, quite rightly, was U.S. Grant’s master piece, the Vicksburg Campaign, from the autumn of 1862 through the final operations against the city in the Spring of 1863 and the resulting siege and capture of the Confederate bastion on July 4, 1863.

Smith gives us a command level account. Although there’s enough tactical and organizational matters are not ignored, his concentration is on the evolution of how Grant came to that result, through a process of trial and error, making several false starts, but never repeating the same mistake. We not only see Grant moving armies around, but also his personal experiences during the campaign. In particular we get a look at his remarkable attention to logistics, rather unusual for the times. There’s also a great deal of material on Grant’s inter-actions with subordinates – notably Sherman, McClernand, and McPherson – and superiors, primarily Halleck. And there’s some interesting comment on Grant’s sometimes seemingly unorthodox moves, such as the attempt to dig a canal across the De Soto Peninsula.

The action is fast-paced, with Smith frequently using observations by other officers to illustrate events, not only generals, but lower ranking ones as well, and even some from Fredrick Grant, who at 12 was accompanying his father on campaign, having some interesting adventures, including suffering a wound, about which he wrote in later years.

The Decision was Always My Own, a volume in the Southern Illinois University Press series “World of Ulysses S. Grant”, is an excellent read for anyone who wants to see how Grant evolved as a commander, and how a Civil War army was commanded.


Note: The Decision Was Always My Own is also available in several e-editions

StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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