USS VICKSBURG


History

The USS VICKSBURG is the 23rd TICONDEROGA class guided missile cruiser and the 4th ship to bear the name.

Vicksburg's Legacy

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The first USS VICKSBURG, a wooden steamer built in 1863 at Mystic, CT, was purchased by the Navy on October 20, 1863, and commissioned at the New York navy Yard on December 2, 1863. As part of her first assignment, VICKSBURG took up station off New Jersey to “detain for inspection” all commercial ships outbound from Staten Island, NY. She also blockaded Wilmington, NC, and regions of the South Carolina coast.

While deployed on patrol and reconnaissance duty off Wilmington, VICKSBURG assisted in the capture of the new, steel-hulled, blockade-running British steamer BAT off the Cape Fear River. On December 26, she assisted in covering the evacuation of troops after the unsuccessful first attack upon Fort Fisher.

With the end of the Civil War in April 1865, VICKSBURG was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on April 29, and sold at auction to C.C. & H. Cable on July 12. She was documented for merchant service on August 7, 1865. Her name last appeared on lists of merchant vessels in the autumn of 1868.

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The second USS VICKSBURG (Gunboat NR11) was laid down in March, 1896 at Bath, ME, by Bath Iron Works, and launched on December 5, 1896. She was placed into commission at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire on October 23, 1887. VICKSBURG stood out of Chesapeake Bay on April 26, 1898 to join Rear Admiral William T. Sampson’s North Atlantic Fleet in blockading the Northern coast of Cuba during the start of the Spanish-American War. During her patrolling, VICKSBURG captured three blockade runners and came under fire from Cuban shore batteries. Returning to Boston, MA in May, 1899, VICKSBURG was decommissioned. Recommissioned for duty during the Philippine Insurrection in May 1900, she remained in the Far East until 1904. Renamed ALEXANDER HAMILTON, she became a Coast Guard training ship in 1922, and was decommissioned and scrapped on March 28, 1946.

Ship ImageUSS CHEYENNE (CL-86) was laid down on October 26, 1942 at Newport News, VA, but exactly one month later she was renamed the USS VICKSBURG (CL-86). A light cruiser, she was launched on December 14, 1943, and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on June 12, 1944. Captain William C. Vose, USN, was her first Commanding Officer. VICKSBURG left Norfolk in August, bound for the Marianas and her baptism of fire—the bombardment of Iwo Jima. Arriving in February, 1945, VICKSBURG’s 6-inch guns opened fire from a range of 12,000 yards, shelling enemy installations on the northern end of the island. VICKSBURG remained off Iwo Jima, providing support for the landings and then headed for Ulithi. On March 18, a Japanese “Betty” made a torpedo attack on the cruiser while the ship was in the middle of a tight emergency turn. The torpedo churned by the bow about 35 yards ahead of the ship and proceeded paralled to the cruiser’s port side. At 0715, a Japanese plane dived toward the USS WASP (CV 18) and scored one bomb hit. VICKSBURG opened fire on the enemy plane and knocked off a wing, scoring a hit.

While supporting strikes against Japanese targets to weaken their defenses to the impending invasion of the Ryukyus, VICKSBURG destroyed eight Japanese planes. Later, while positioned for the bombardment of Okinawa, she fired nearly 2,300 rounds of 6-inch and 5-inch projectiles in only 6 hours. After leaving the Okinawa campaign, VICKSBURG supported the minesweeping operations in the China Sea until June 24th, when she sailed for the Philippines. She remained in Philippine waters until the Japanese capitulation on August 15, 1945. VICKSBURG then joined Task Group 38.2 on August 24th and covered the approaches to Tokyo Bay prior to, and during the formal Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. Three days later, VICKSBURG entered Tokyo Bay, where she stayed until September 20the. Departing with Rear Admiral I.J. Wiltse, USN, Commander, Cruiser Division 10 on board, VICKSBURG headed for Pearl Harbor, HI as part of a Third Fleet task group under the command of Rear Admiral John F. Shafroth, USN. She received two battle stars for her wartime service, and was then placed in the Terminal Island Naval Shipyard in San Francisco in January of 1946 for modernization. After serving as the flagship for Vice Admiral A.E. Montgomery, USN, she was ultimately decommissioned on June 30, 1947 at San Francisco, CA Struck from the Navy list on October 1, 1962, she was sold to the National Metal and Steel Corporation on August 25, 1964, and then scrapped.

About the Cruiser’s Name: The Siege of Vicksburg:

Ship ImageBetween Cairo IL and the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi river meanders over a course of more than a thousand miles long. During the Civil War, control of this stretch of the river was of vital importance to the Federal Government. Command of that waterway would allow uninterrupted passage of Union troops and supplies into the South. It would also have the desired effect of isolating the states of Texas and Arkansas and most of Louisiana, comprising nearly half the land area of the Confederacy and a region upon which the South depended heavily for supplies and recruits.

From the beginning of the war in 1861, the Confederates, to protect this vital lifeline, erected fortifications at strategic points along the river. Federal forces, however, fighting their way southward from Illinois and northward from the Gulf of Mexico, captured post after post, until by late summer of 1862 only Vicksburg and Port Hudson posed major obstacles to Union domination of the Mississippi. Of the two posts, Vicksburg was the strongest and most important. It sat on a high bluff overlooking a bend in the river, protected by artillery batteries along the riverfront and by a maze of swamps and bayous to the north and south. President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg " the key" and believed that "the war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket". So far the city had defied Union efforts to force it into submission.

In October 1862, Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commander of the Department of the Tennessee and charged with clearing the Mississippi of Confederate resistance. That same month, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, a West Point graduate and a Pennsylvanian by birth, assumed command of the roughly 50,000 widely scattered Confederate troops defending the Mississippi. His orders were to keep the river open. Vicksburg became the focus of military operations of both generals.

On March 31, 1863, Grant moved his army south from its encampments at Milliken's Bend, 20 miles northwest of Vicksburg. By April 28, the Northerners were established at hard Times on the Mississippi above Grand Gulf. On the 29th, RADM David D. Porter's gunboats bombarded the Confederate forts at Grand Gulf to prepare the way for a crossing, but the attack was repulsed. Undaunted, Grant marched a little further south and, on April 30, crossed unopposed at Bruinsburg.

Striking rapidly eastward to secure the bridgehead. The Northerners met elements of Pemberton's Confederate forces near Port Gibson on May 1. The Southerners fought a gallant holding action, but they were overwhelmed and fell back toward Vicksburg. After meeting and defeating a small Confederate force near Raymond on May 12, Grant's troops captured Jackson, the state capitol, on may 14, scattering Southern defenders.

Turning his army westward, Grant moved along the line of the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. At Champion Hill on May 16, and at Big Black River Bridge on May 17, his soldiers attacked and overwhelmed Pemberton's disorganized Confederates, driving them back into the Vicksburg fortifications. By May 18, advanced units of the Federal army were approaching the bristling Confederate defenses.

Believing that the battles of Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge had broken Confederate morale, Grant immediately scheduled an assault on the Vicksburg lines. The first attack took place on May 19. It failed. A second attack, launched on the morning of May 22, was also repulsed.Realizing that it was useless to expend further lives in attempts to take the city by storm, Grant reluctantly began formal siege operations. Batteries of artillery were established to hammer the confederate fortifications from land, while Admiral Porter's gunboats cut off communications and blasted the city from the river. By the end of June, with little hope of relief and no chance to break out of the Federal cordon, Pemberton knew that it was only a matter of time before he must "capitulate upon the best attainable terms." On the afternoon of July 3, he met with Grant to discuss terms for the surrender of Vicksburg.

Grant demanded unconditional surrender; Pemberton refused. The meeting broke up. During the afternoon, the Federal commander modified his demands and agreed to let the Confederates sign paroles not to fight again until exchanged. In addition, officers could retain side arms and a mount. Pemberton accepted these terms, and at 10 a.m. on July 4, 1863 Vicksburg was officially surrendered.