New York: Currier & Ives, 1863. Handcolored lithograph, 12 x 15 inches. Tiny chip in upper left corner (well away from the image). A clean, near fine copy. Item #WRCAM56146
A colorful and dramatic depiction of Admiral David Dixon Porter's Mississippi River Squadron running the Confederate blockade at Vicksburg during the siege of the city by Union forces in 1863, an important strategic victory in taking control of the river. Captions identify Porter's flagship, the U.S.S. Benton, in the right foreground, leading the Lafayette and General Price, which are followed by the Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg, Carondelet, Silver Wave, Forest Queen, Henry Clay, and Tuscumbia. A barrage of cannons fire from both the squadron and the Confederate batteries on the embankments overlooking the river. Union cannonballs are hitting both the batteries and the buildings on the bluffs of Vicksburg further in the background. Clouds of smoke billow from the ships, the burning buildings, and one of the floats of flammable material set out by the Confederates. Initially Grant had asked only for a few gunboats to shield his troops, but Porter persuaded him to use more than half of the Squadron. Six nights later (April 22), they made a similar run past the batteries to give Grant the transports he needed for crossing the river. Grant first tried to attack the Rebels through Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, and had Porter's gunboats eliminate the two forts there so his troops could cross. Despite intense shelling, the upper fort held; Grant called off the assault and moved downstream to Bruinsburg, where he crossed unopposed. Afterwards, Porter's ships remained in place, securing the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, and guaranteeing the success of the siege. Grant was effusive in his praise Porter's actions and for his contribution to the victory, Porter's appointment as acting rear admiral was made permanent. The additional printed caption describes the event thusly: "At half past ten P.M. the boats left their moorings & steamed down the river, the Benton, Admiral Porter, taking the lead - as they approached the point opposite the town, a terrible concentrated fire of the centre, upper and lower batteries, both water and bluff, was directed upon the channel, which here ran within one hundred yards of the shore. At the same moment innumerable floats of turpentine and other combustible materials were set ablaze. In the face of all this fire, the boats made their way with but little loss except the transport Henry Clay, which was set on fire & sunk." The Union victory at Vicksburg was the second major blow to the Confederacy in the spring and summer of 1863. On July 3, Lee's invasion of the North foundered at Gettysburg, and on July 4, the U.S. flag rose over Vicksburg. This print is surprisingly uncommon in the market. CURRIER & IVES: CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ 0058. PETERS, CURRIER & IVES 1180.