James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

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  of the railroad system of the West. The importance of gaining control of it was appreciated at the North from the first; such control being regarded in the East as a military advantage, whilst by the people of the Western States it was deemed indispensable to their existence, as providing an outlet for their products and an artery for their supply. “The free navigation of the Mississippi” were words to conjure with, not only in the Southwest, but everywhere west of the Alleghanies, except in the region directly tributary to the Great Lakes. 1 Lincoln, owing to the geographical situation of his home, had been brought up with this sentiment; in manhood his mind was thoroughly impregnated with it; and throughout the great crisis he never lost sight of its military and commercial significance. The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and the resulting operations had freed the Mississippi north of Vicksburg; the capture of New Orleans had given the Union its mouth. But the Confederates were still in virtual possession of the two hundred miles of river between their two strong fortresses of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, thereby maintaining communication between Louisiana and Texas on the one side and the rest of the Confederacy on the other. Louisiana supplied them with sugar, while the great State of Texas furnished quantities of grain and beef, besides affording, through its contiguity to Mexico, an avenue for munitions of war received from Europe at the Mexican port of Matamoras—a consideration of much weight, since the ports of the Southern States were now pretty effectually sealed by the Federal blockade. Of the two fastnesses, Vicksburg was by far the more important and the desire in the Confederacy to keep it was keen.  42
Note 1. California and Oregon are manifestly excepted from this general statement. [back]