National Military Park Vicksburg

by | Oct 16, 2019

Our trip to Vicksburg, MS included a visit to the National Military Park Vicksburg also known as the Vicksburg Civil War Battlefield. I’ve always been interested in Civil War History for a number of reasons. It’s hard to grasp the scale of the war in this day and age as to the events that lead to so much destruction and loss of life. We hear the saying in so many ways, but philosopher George Santayana stated: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” My objective on this trip was to learn more about this period, its places and the people it affected. My videos and blogs are intended to share the sites as they exist today. I’ll leave the opinions to those with far more knowledge about the events of this time and hope you’ll enjoy sharing in my adventure.

The Importance of Vicksburg

At the time of the Civil War, Vicksburg was a major commercial shipping port and railroad hub. Jefferson Davis share that Vicksburg was a key component that held the South’s two halves together. Both the Confederate and the Union Armies knew this to be a fact.

Vicksburg exists on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and the lands east. Confederate leadership created a riverfront battery and surrounding fort consisting of 170 cannons and over 18,000 soldiers. Abraham Lincoln knew Vicksburg as a key location for the Confederate Army and charged his General Ulysses Grant to attack and capture the city. Grant assembles an army of 45,000 soldiers and began the assault in May of 1863.

The Vicksburg Battlefield

We started our visit at the Visitors Center watching a well-produced video of the Park and battle that ensued. The center also had a number of displays explaining the events of the Vicksburg campaign. Touring the site, you can see monument after monument dedicated to the Union forces that fought in the Vicksburg campaign. Driving throughout the battlefield I was able to see gun placements, deep scars in the earth where trenches and soldiers lived, fought and died. Standing today over these tranquil large hills and overlooking the landscape it was difficult to image that the overall campaign that lasted over 43 days and took many thousands of Union and Confederate lives. While the Union was not able to overtake Vicksburg, surrounded, cut off from all supplies, and suffering from disease and little food, the Confederate Army surrendered Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.

The USS Cairo Gunboat

Working our way around the park and near the end we found the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum. On site is the partially reconstructed USS Cairo Gunboat, one of seven river ironclads operated by the Union Navy. The gunboat reached the Vicksburg in 1862 and the aggressive defenses of Vicksburg. The USS Cairo was struck by canon fire that left a catastrophic whole in the wooden bow causing it to sink in twelve minutes. The gun boat was forgotten and rested in the deep Mississippi River covered in silt and mud until discovered in 1964. We are now able to walk through the gunboat, see its construction and weapons. The museum next door contain a treasure trove of weapons, personal property and so much more to give a glimpse at how the sailors lived on the ship.

The National Cemetery

The last area viewed was the National Cemetery located at the north end of the park. Here you see a chilling reminder of the spoils of war and the resting place of over 17,000 Union soldiers covering 116 acres of the park. Confederate soldiers who died in the campaign were buried in the Vicksburg City Cemetery.

A trip to Vicksburg would not be complete without a visit to the National Military Park Vicksburg. See the video below as we experienced the park.

Additional information:

National Military Park Vicksburg – https://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm

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