On May 22, 1863, Union troops commanded by General John M. Thayer stormed up this hill toward the Confederate fort at the top. Slowed by the steep terrain and pushed back by heavy enemy fire, Thayer's men were forced to withdraw. On May 30, the soldiers took up picks and shovels and began a sapping (trenching) operation to approach the fort on the hill.
Thayer's approach stretched out from here toward the hill, and then turned to meet a ridgeline running up the right side of the slope. Sappers dug their way along the ridge to the fort, and then began digging a mine under the wall. They planned to pack the mine with black powder and destroy the Confederate fort. The siege of Vicksburg ended before the approach was complete.
Tools of the Trade Sapping tools included items made from local materials, designed to protect soldiers as they dug trenches.
Top right: A sap roller was moved along at the head of an advancing trench to protect the digging crew from enemy fire.
Middle right: Gabions, open-ended baskets filled with dirt, shored up trench walls.
Tightly bound bundles of brushwood called fascines stabilized the sides of a trench. Placed across the open top of a trench, they provided protection from musket
Bottom right: The tunnel at the bottom of the stairs to your left provided safe passage under the exposed ridge and protected Union soldiers from sharpshooters in the Confederate fort. The tunnel was reinforced with brick after the war.
Bottom left: Soldiers digging an approach trench use a large sap roller for protection from enemy fire.