Cast Iron Tablet Preservation
The park features 594 cast iron tablets and position markers throughout the battlefield. As outdoor exhibits, they are exposed to harsh extremes. Heat, dust, humidity, and airborne contaminants can quickly tarnish the best paint finishes. A solid preventative maintenance program is necessary to preserve the tablets in top condition. The photo at left was taken just before restoration.
A high pressure water spray is used to clean the tablets and remove loose paint. Tablets which have several layers of old paint are sandblasted down to bare metal and coated with a primer.
Red and blue paint are used to distinquish the Confederate and Union position markers. This provides the best contrast, which is extremely important to park visitors when they are viewing troop movements and positions over long distances.
Confederate positions are identified by red tablets, and the Union by blue. The colors are representative of the method used by the United States Armed Forces to depict military units on historical maps. This practice dates to the time of the Revolutionary War, where blue was used for the bluecoats (U.S.) and red for the opposing army, the redcoats (British).
Patience and a steady hand are necessary to paint each individual letter on the park's cast iron tables. Once the paint has cured, the tablets are coated with a clear acrylic polymer which inhibits the harmful effects of sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. This special compound prevents the tablet from quickly cracking and fading under the intense Mississippi heat and humidity.
Last updated: April 14, 2015