Vicksburg National Military Park Commemorates the Sesquicentennial of the Vicksburg Campaign
Contact: Michael Madell, Superintendent, 601-619-2902
Vicksburg National Military Park will offer several events and programs to mark the Vicksburg Campaign Sesquicentennial, (150th Anniversary), during 2013. President Abraham Lincoln said "Vicksburg is the key". Confederate President Jefferson Davis said "Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together". Both presidents were aware of the strategic importance of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River in 1863. Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates this campaign and its significance as a critical turning point of the Civil War 150 years ago.
The Civil war transformed a nation. Not only was slavery abolished, but citizenship was redefined and the federal union was strengthened. "Vicksburg National Military Park provides visitors with the opportunity to understand, reflect upon and deepen their appreciation of our shared history and the relevance of this period to society today," said Superintendent Michael Madell. Quoting Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Madell continued, "The sesquicentennial of the Civil War is a time to commemorate those who fought and died during this pivotal era in American history. At the same time, it is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the ongoing march for freedom and equality for all people." Vicksburg National Military Park will define the Sesquicentennial commemoration through four programs in 2013.
"Along the Campaign Trail" is a program that will be offered starting in January, 2013. Five park rangers will be hired to conduct outreach programs in communities along the campaign trail at schools, libraries, and civic organizations about the Vicksburg Campaign. These rangers will also get involved with the cultural and natural resources in the campaign area. Programs will also be offered at battlefield sites in Raymond, Champion Hill, Port Gibson and Milliken's Bend. A passport book will be developed encouraging people to follow the campaign trail and collect a passport stamp at each participating site.
A Heritage Fair is planned for Friday, April 5, 2013 through Sunday, April 7, 2013.This event, which recalls the tent shows that traveled the South in the 19th century, will spotlight downtown attractions such as Confederate General John C. Pemberton's Headquarters on Crawford Street, the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, and the Old Court House Museum. Crafts people, musicians, and dancers are being contacted to participate in the heritage fair. Part of the fair will involve a debate and discussion of Civil War topics by actors portraying significant persons involved in the war.
A Youth Leadership Academy is being developed for students, to provide an immersive experience to develop skills in a variety of disciplines related to historic preservation, natural resources management, education, and community leadership. Academy candidates will be young people, ages 16-20, who live or attend school in the Vicksburg-Warren County region. Students will work closely with park rangers who will mentor the students for the program.
Memorial Day weekend in 2013 was selected as the official commemoration of the Vicksburg Campaign. This weekend will hopefully avoid the heat of July when the surrender actually took place, and not conflict with the Gettysburg commemoration. The Gettysburg battle ended July 3, 1863, and Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863.
On Thursday evening, May 23, 2013, a program "Shadows of the Past" will be presented at the Vicksburg National Cemetery. This will be a program highlighting lives of veterans who are buried in the National Cemetery.
A series of open air concerts will take place in front of the Vicksburg National Military Park Visitor Center. Efforts are underway to schedule a US Navy Band concert with a theme revolving around the Civil War on Friday evening, May 24, 2013. On Saturday evening, May 25, 2013, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra has committed to a concert at the park. And then on Sunday evening, May 26, 2013, The Jackson State University Mass Choir will present a choral program. All of these concerts are free to the public.
Soldiers Through the Ages will be presented near the USS Cairo and Vicksburg National Cemetery. A timeline of the military will be presented through static displays and programs on Saturday, May 25, 2013 and Sunday, May 26, 2013.
On Monday, May 27, 2013, Vicksburg National Military Park will work closely with Veterans Groups and the Vicksburg community to assist with the Memorial Day parade as well as the Vicksburg National Cemetery wreath laying ceremony. The 41st US Army Band, Mississippi Army National Guard, has been contacted to participate in this event.
The US Navy played an important role in the Vicksburg Campaign. River gunboats like the USS Cairo were critical to the success of the US Navy. Special Boat Unit 22, part of the Navy's modern river forces, has been invited to establish a static display of a modern gunboat near the USS Cairo and possibly demonstrate the capabilities of their gunboat on the water.
Throughout the Memorial Day weekend, programs will be offered on the Civil War highlighting Civil War engineering and siege tactics. Programs on African-Americans and the Civil War exploring the roles of freeman, U.S. Colored Troops, and enslaved peoples will also be offered. There will also be ranger-led walks and talks during the weekend highlighting significant events during the Vicksburg Campaign.
On Saturday, May 4, 2013, and Sunday, May 5, 2013, Civil War reenactors will be stationed at numerous locations along the siege lines telling stories about the soldiers who fought and died for their respective causes.
During the month of May, 2013, wreaths honoring the soldiers who fought and died during the Vicksburg Campaign will be placed on their respective memorials. There were 28 Northern and Confederate states that were involved in the Vicksburg Campaign. Every day in May a wreath will be placed on a different state memorial and a proclamation will be read.
2013 looks to be a busy year as Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates Vicksburg campaign and its significance as a critical turning point of the Civil War.
For more information on sesquicentennial events, check the park website at:
Did You Know?
Thomas O. Selfridge, captain of the USS Cairo, commanded three boats which sank during the war. Each began with the letter "C"-Cumberland, Cairo, and Conestoga. The coincidence was noted after the Conestoga sank, and Selfridge was assigned to the USS Osage, which survived to the end of the war.