On July 4, 1863 the Union's General Ulysses S. Grant took Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate redoubt on the Mississippi River, effectively splitting the Confederacy into two.

Grant's victory, which came one day after Gettysburg, was a major turn in the Civil War and established Grant as the North's  top general.

Today, Vicksburg is fighting a different attack - not by the Yankees, but by the Mississippi River, which has cut a swath of destruction from Illinois down to Mississippi and Louisiana before mercifully emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week at this time, we wrote about Memphis, Tennessee, which was mainly spared. President Barack Obama came to the city and offered his solidarity and federal assistance to the flood victims.

Mississippi and Louisiana are now fighting the floods that have topped the previous record of 1937. In parts of the Mississippi, the sight is reminiscent of a disaster movie, with volunteers including prison inmates monitoring the flood walls for cracks and leaks that could present a major problem if they get wider.

In Louisiana even more heart-wrenching events are taking place. The authorities are being effectively asked to decide who will be spared and who will be stricken. To avoid extensive flood damage to New Orleans and to the state capital of Baton Rouge, the Army Corps of Engineers is opening up levees, thus diverting the raging waters from the more populous cities but inundating some of the smaller towns at a rate of 150,000 cubic feet per second. The residents of these communities will be forced to evacuate and then rebuild from scratch when they return to what remains of their communities.