Congress established Vicksburg National Military Park on February 21, 1899, “to commemorate the campaign and siege and defense of Vicksburg, and to preserve the history of the battles and operations of the siege and defense on the ground where they were fought and were carried on …”
On September 17, 1990, Congress further directed the Secretary of the Interior to “interpret the campaign and siege of Vicksburg from April 1862 to July 4, 1863, and the history of Vicksburg under Union occupation during the Civil War and Reconstruction.”
In July 1862, Congress enacted legislation initiating the establishment of National Cemeteries, “for the burial of deceased soldiers and sailors.” The Vicksburg National Cemetery was established in 1866 by authority of this act.
Through the preservation and interpretation of its cultural and natural resources, Vicksburg National Military Park employees and partners provide opportunities for people to connect with this piece of history, thereby enhancing their knowledge and personal experiences.
- Vicksburg’s topography features unique steep ridges and ravines, loess terrain, and 200-foot-high bluffs, located on an oxbow of the Mississippi River. Although the river’s course has changed, many attributes of the land and of the overall Vicksburg campaign landscape persist today. The Vicksburg area has been a long-time focus for settlement and point from which the river could be controlled.
- Control of the Mississippi River, which supported and enhanced commerce throughout the nation and facilitated transport of essential military supplies, was a strategic objective of the Northern and Southern armies, and defined both the Western Campaign of the Civil War and the trans-Mississippi campaigns of the Civil War. Simultaneous Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July 1863 marked a decisive turning point in the Civil War.
- The crossroads of river, rail, and highway at Vicksburg, combined with imposing defenses and a critical strategic objective, produced one of the most complex and protracted engagements of the Civil War, and involved joint operations between the army and navy; overland and over-water troop movements; and tactics of diversion, siege, and defense.
- The accomplishments of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Vicksburg Campaign proved their resolve and ability to effectively fight, which was followed by in an ensuing surge of enlistment of blacks in the Vicksburg army, and a growing respect for their bravery in combat.
- Following the siege of Vicksburg, the Union garrison that remained used Vicksburg as a base of operations for raids, expeditions, commerce, and communications that continued to assist Northern operations for the remainder of the war.
- The monuments at Vicksburg comprise one of the largest collections of significant commemorative military art in the United States, and, indeed, one of the most extensive collections of such art in the world. Representing the states involved, the monuments and memorials, with their varied symbolism, commemorate the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg. New monuments continue to be added, including the recent memorial to black soldiers—the park’s first monument to the U.S. Colored Troops.
- The preserved remains of the USS Cairo comprise the only surviving city-class gunboat constructed using the most advanced technology of the Civil War era, including steam propulsion, ironclad armor, and shallow-draft design. This technology changed the strategy and tactics of naval warfare on western rivers and was essential to the Union fleet and the effort to secure control of the Mississippi River.
- Vicksburg’s society was transformed by war, enduring changes that ranged from deprivation and destruction of a prosperous community to liberation of formerly enslaved people.
- Reconstruction efforts at Vicksburg following the war reflected changes occurring in regional and national politics, economies, and society. Vicksburg became a microcosm of these changes and their consequences.
- Vicksburg National Cemetery honors service men and women of several wars by properly caring for their remains. It contains more Union Civil War soldiers than any other cemetery in the country, and includes the graves of many U.S. colored troops and unknown soldiers. The cemetery provides opportunities for personal connections with those who died during events that have shaped our present-day nation.
- Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the first five National Military Parks established through the steadfast efforts of Union and Confederate veterans who experienced war first hand on its grounds. It exists as a memorial to those soldiers and sailors and perpetuates remembrance of their history for the benefit of present and future generations, both nationally and internationally.
- Vicksburg National Military Park, with its cultural and natural resources, today plays a vital role in our nation’s heritage and provides a place of peace, reflection, enjoyment, and community engagement.