From the beginning of the Civil War the Confederate bastion at Vicksburg thwarted Federal hopes for gaining control of the all-important Mississippi River and cutting the far-flung Confederacy in half. By 1863, despite Federal successes at New Orleans and Memphis, Vicksburg stood defiant, keeping open the flow of badly needed supplies from the Trans-Mississippi West to the major Confederate armies in the East. But that year, an unlikely new Federal heroscruffy, cigar-smoking Ulyssess S. Grantprepared to launch an all out and highly risky campaign to topple the "Confederate Gibraltar." After several often imaginative but unsuccessful attempts to force the Rebels from their Mississippi stronghold, Grant closed in on one of the great prizes of the war. Around Vicksburg, General John C. Pemberton's hard-pressed Confederates held on desperately, expecting relief that never came. This, then, is the story of one of the war's longest and most decisive campaigns, told by one of its foremost authorities."