Vicksburg and the Civil War

National Memorial Reunion and Peace Jubilee at Vicksburg, 1917

While the majority of the nation on the east coast was focusing on the Confederate movements surrounding Washington, D.C. and the Battle of Gettysburg was being waged in that small Pennsylvania town, another battle was being waged in the western theatre of the war that would have a major impact on the ability of the Confederacy to maintain momentum toward independence.  At Vicksburg, one day after Lee had lost at Pickett's Charge to one general given little credit for its victory, George W. Meade, another general would have victory in this southern Mississippi town in which credit would be heaped upon, and eventually given so much credit by his commander in the White House, that Abraham Lincoln would rest his hopes on ultimate victory in his hands, Ulysses S. Grant.

Today, Vicksburg is a city of over 20,000 people almost equal distance between New Orleans and Memphis, on the west bank of the Mississippi River.  At the time of the Civil War, Vicksburg was a sleepy, but important port on the river, far from the maddening war centered around Virginia, but no less important to the cause or outcome of the war.  Over forty-seven days in May, June, and July of 1863, it would be involved in a siege that General Grant had proposed the winter before.  Northern troops wanted to break the key to guarding the waters of the Mississippi, but the initial attempt to capture Vicksburg from the north failed.  In April, a new plan would be attempted.  Union ships bypassed the city at night to establish a base to the south, allowing the army to move down the Louisiana side of the river, then cross by ship to the east, reaching the dry ground south of Vicksburg.  But still, the direct attacks would fail.  But General Grant would not be deterred and lay siege to the city and southern troops beginning on the 19th of May with diligent bombardment for six weeks.  On July 4, on that one day after Meade's victory in Gettysburg, General Grant had his victory at Vicksburg when General Pemberton's troops and the city surrendered.  Harper's Weekly print (LOC photo above right) is of Generals Grant and Pemberton discussing the terms of surrender.  After this victory, the North controlled the Mississippi River.  Nineteen thousands troops from both armies would be killed, wounded, or missing in this campaign.  (Photo above) is of the National Memorial and Peace Jubilee held in Vicksburg in October 1917.


Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take the park tour, either self-guided or with a park guide.  There are sixteen park tour sites, including Battery De Golyer (picture below), the Shirley House, which is the only remaining war structure still in the park, Vicksburg National Cemetery, Fort Garrott, and the Great Redoubt.  The tour surrounds the city of Vicksburg and includes views of the Mississippi River and over one thousand monuments dedicated to both Union and Confederate soldiers at the battles and siege.  Also, off the beaten path a bit, and outside the regular stops, are Louisiana Circle, South Fort, Navy Circle, and Grant's Canal (across the Mississippi River).  If you've got time, they're worth a visit, too.  It takes about two hours to complete the self-guided tour.

2.  Don't miss the U.S.S. Cairo Museum.  It's not often you get to see an actual Civil War ship raised from the bottom of a river.  The ship had actually been sunk on December 12, 1862 by a Confederate torpedo in the Yazoo River, not the Mississippi, thirteen miles north of town.

Gun battery at Vicksburg National Military Park
 Union cannons at Battery De Golyer in Vicksburg National Military Park.  There were 22 Union cannons on this siege line in 1863.  (Photo courtesy NPS)

What is There Now

Two Park Museums - At the Clay Street Visitor Center, you can get oriented to the park by viewing the film (eighteen minutes long), talking to a park ranger, and making plans for how you wish to visit Vicksburg National Military Park.  Once on tour, visit the U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum.  The museum is located between tour stops 7 and 8 near the National Cemetery. The visitor center is open daily 9:00 to 5:00.  From June to August, you can also expect Living History demonstrations.

One Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Monuments
- Each of these monuments has a story to tell.  Take some time to look at some of them, whether they're from your home state or not.  Chances are you know somebody who had a relative in the Battle of Vicksburg.  If you get the chance, take a ranger guided talk and ask them about your favorite.

Outside the Park in Vicksburg and the surrounding area - A variety of musems covering topics such as the Antebellum south, Coca-Cola, and the Mississippi River, plus the Civil War.  It's a varied list, including the Biedenham Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia, Jackqueline House African American Museum, Mississippi Arts Center, Southern Cultural Heritage Complex, Vicksburg Battlefield Museum, Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn, Duff Green Mansion, and the McRaven Tour Home, among others.

Lodging and Camping

There is no lodging within the park, but lodging is available in Vicksburg.  Check out your favorite online travel site, such as Expedia, or the Vicksburg Visitors bureau for a lodging or camping option of your choice.

Expedia.com

Vicksburg Links

Vicksburg National Military Park
Visit Vicksburg


Nearby Attractions

Mississippi Tourism
Louisiana Tourism
Natchez National Historic Park
Natchez Trace Parkway
Tupelo National Battlefield
Poverty Point National Monument


Vicksburg Then and Now

The Civil War Siege and Battle of Vicksburg
(Above) Kurz and Allison print showing the 13, 15, and 17th Corps under General Grant in the Siege of Vicksburg.  Courtesy Library of Congress.

Vicksburg Then

Vicksburg Timeline

March 29 to April 30 = Grant's March
April 16 - Passing the batteries of Vicksburg
April 29 - Grand Gulf cannonade.
April 30 to May 1 - The Bruinsburg Crossing.
May 1 - Battle of Port Gibson
May 2 to 11 - The northern army moves into the interior.
May 12 - Battle of Raymond
May 14 - Battle of Jackson.
May 17 - Battle of Big Black River Bridge.
May 18 - Confederate forces fall back to Vicksburg defenses.
May 19 - First Assault.
May 22 - Second Assault, including the assault on the Great Redoubt.
May 26 to July 3 - The Vicksburg Siege.
July 3 - Pemberton displays truce flag and proposes to meet with Grant.  The morning interview does not reach a truce agreement, but later in the day, after exchanging notes, terms of surrender are agreed upon.
July 4 - Pemberton surrenders his troops to General Ulysses S. Grant.  They are granted parole.

Panorama of Vicksburg battlefield, 1910.
 

Vicksburg Now

U.S.S. Cairo Museum, Vicksburg

The Vicksburg National Military Park
- The battlefield surrounds the north and east sections of the town, with the Mississippi River to its west.  There are over 1,330 monuments dedicated to the troops on the park grounds.  You can visit the two museums in the park; one at the park visitor center and the second at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum (pictured above, photo courtesy NPS), which contains the restored Union gunboat that was raised in 1964.  A sixteen mile tour around the park is available for a self-guided or licensed park guide tour (fee).  There are also many free park ranger walks and talks.  See the park visitor center for details of when and where they are being held.

The Town of Vicksburg - There's tons to do in the town of Vicksburg as well, including many museums and historic homes that can be visited.  Check out the many tours, both on land and on water.  There's also casino riverboats, if that's up your alley, too.







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Visitor Statistics

Vicksburg National Military Park
573,838 visitors

#99 Most Visited National Park Unit



Park Size

Vicksburg National Military Park

1,740 acres (Federal)
1,795 acres (Total)

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.



Vicksburg National Military Park Entrance Fees

Seven Day Pass - Vehicle - $8.00

Individual (Pedestrian, Bike, Motorcycle) - $4.00

Vicksburg Annual Pass - Two People - $20.00

Fees subject to change without notice.



Vicksburg Weather

Humid and rainy with common thunderstorms. Hot and humid summer and mild winters.






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