At 7 o'clock in the morning of May 15, 1863, as he rode by the first brigade, third division, of the Army of the Tennessee, bivouacked near Jackson, Mississippi, General Grant said to the officer in charge:
"Colonel, we shall fight the battle for Vicksburg to-day."
He was addressing Colonel John B. Sanborn of St. Paul, Minnesota.
In an address to a meeting of the American History Department of the Minnesota Historical Society in October 1879, Sanborn, who was promoted to Brigadier General by President Lincoln, described the campaigns leading to the occupation of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. His memoir is unlike the panoramic accounts of that battle by James M. McPherson, Shelby Foote and other historians. It is ground level history, told by a field officer. At times a reader may become adrift in the thicket of Sanborn's narrative, but suddenly an anecdotal nugget appears, such as:
"One evening in July [1863, after the fall of Vicksburg], conversation had lulled a little among the friends and smokers, and General Sherman, in his quick, pointed way, spoke up and said, 'Grant, I should like to have you point out to me some author or work on the art of war, or some instance in history, that will justify the movement you made against Vicksburg. You took one of the main armies of your government, upon which it depended for its existence in time of war, and moved it away from all base of supplies, and trusted to the results of battle to open a new base. I should like to have you point out authority or precedent for such a movement.' Grant answered, without any hesitation. 'It is because there is no authority or precedent for it that it was successful. If I had moved according to the rules laid down in the books, Pemberton would have known exactly what my intentions were, and would then have moved his whole army against me at once, and I should have been defeated, but as it was, he was unable to tell what was intended, and we made a perfect success of it.'"
After his military service, Sanborn returned to St. Paul and practiced law with his nephew, Walter H. Sanborn, who later served on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1892 to 1928. The General's son, John B. Sanborn, Jr., served as a state and federal district court judge and on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1932 to his death in 1964. If the Sanborn family is famous for its jurists, it must always be recalled: First, there was the General.
General Sanborn's reminiscences of the Vicksburg campaigns are posted here. An album of photographs, portraits, etchings and drawings of the Vicksburg campaign concludes this article.