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