A few months ago during a historiography class we debated academic vs. “popular” historians. Many academic historians look with great antipathy upon “popular” historians and their books. I have always held the opinion that there is plenty of room for both. Case in point Vicksburg 1863 by Winston Groom. This book is a well written easily read account of the Vicksburg campaign and then some. Groom does a fairly good job of placing the campaign in the overall context of the war and interweaves the human interest side of the campaign and the military side well. Brief bios of the major player are provided when they are introduced and in the closing chapter we are treated to a “what happened to” section.
Groom is not a historian so while one gets a good story of the campaign this book is not a meaty military history. There are no footnotes (or index which can be frustrating) so researching a quote or conclusion is impossible. Though to Groom’s credit when addressing a controversial topic such as Grant’s drinking, he does provide some information where he got his information (in the form of “Charles Dana wrote…” or some similar fashion). If you are looking for in-depth military history you might not want to look here, but if you are looking for general background information on the campaign it is an excellent read. A great “starter” book if you will.