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Contact: Rick P. Martin, Chief of Operations, 601-619-2905
Contact: Terrence Winschel, 601-619-2908
By Paul Bryant
[10/29/06] As a small crowd slowly gathered at the foot of the Illinois Memorial Saturday morning, the 33rd Illinois Regimental Band marched to their seats, the sound of drum beats bouncing off hills surrounding Union Avenue.
Nearby, a man in a Union soldier's uniform shouted, “Ready, fire!” as the loud booms of cannon artillery rang out.
Inside the Vicksburg National Military Park, about 55 people sat on the steps of the Roman Pantheon replica honoring more than 36,000 Illinois soldiers who fought in the Vicksburg Campaign.
Much of the 45-minute ceremony detailed the history of the Illinois Memorial - how it was financed, why it was built and its national significance.
On Oct. 26, 1906, thousands turned out to dedicate the 62-foot-tall structure, six months after the first stone was set by Italian craftsmen and artisans. Civil War veterans rode into town via the Illinois Central Railroad to celebrate the memorial, and hundreds lined the streets to watch a parade march along Grove Street to Union Avenue in the park.
More than $190,000 - 20 percent of Illinois' budget in 1904 - was appropriated to build the monument, the largest in the park. It memorializes 36,325 Illinois soldiers, or 20 percent of the troops in the Vicksburg campaign, according to park historian Terry Winschel.
Saturday, the 33rd Illinois Regimental Band played the same musical selections performed for the original dedication 100 years ago, such as “We are Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground,” “Dixie,” “America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
A wreath was layed inside the memorial by park superintendent Monika Mayr, and a poem read during the original dedication was repeated.
The rededication was the beginning of weekend-long events at the park to mark the structure's 100th anniversary, including a concert by the 33rd Illinois Regimental Band at the Old Court House Museum on Cherry Street.
There, about 45 people, some of whom also attended the rededication ceremony earlier in the day, listened to Civil War-era numbers.
Glenda Sharkey of McComb traveled here with her sisters to tour the museum and listen to the band.
“There is so much here,” she said. “It's amazing to see all this. We've been in the museum for two hours.”
Looking for a shady spot on the museum lawn to take in the music, Sharkey said she decided to make the trip after reading about the concert.
“We came over this morning, and have been (at the museum) since about 12:30. You don't get to hear this type of music at all.”
An Illinois native, Marjorie Newmann attended the rededication and the Old Court House concert.
“We live in Vicksburg now, but we came here from Wood River, Illinois, many years ago. This has been nice today.”
Another visitor to Saturday's concert, Miriam Spare, ate lunch in downtown Vicksburg before taking in the event.
“I'm from California, and I came here to visit my brother and his wife,” she said. “We ate lunch at Anchuca. This has been a beautiful day.”
Members of the 33rd Illinois Regimental Band took breaks during the concert to explain Civil War-era bands' importance to Union and Confederate troops and to describe what - and how - soldiers ate on the battlefield, which drew laughter from some in the crowd.
Thirteen men and women from Illinois make up the band, which has been performing the past 10 years.