Vicksburg National Military Park to Hold Observance of Mississippi Secession and "First Guns in the West"
Contact: Tim Kavanaugh, 601-636-0583
On Saturday, January 8, 2011, Vicksburg National Military Park, in partnership with the Old Courthouse Museum will host an observance of the Mississippi Secession and firing on the "A. O. Tyler" in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of these epic events in our state's and nation's history.
The State of Mississippi adopted the Ordinance of Secession and seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861, the second Southern state to do so, after South Carolina. On the same day, South Carolina’s cannon fired from Morris Island in Charleston Harbor at the steamship "Star of the West", which was carrying food and supplies for the United States garrison in Fort Sumter. Just four days later, on January 13, 1861, Mississippi artillery fired upon the riverboat "A.O. Tyler" from Fort Hill, as she steamed south on the Mississippi River. The Civil War, a struggle that would claim over 625,000 American lives during the next four years, had begun. This was two months before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and three months prior to the attack upon and surrender of Fort Sumter, the "official" start of this deadly conflict.
The observance will be in two parts, on the morning and in the afternoon of January 8th: At 10:00 am, on the east portico of the Old Courthouse, we shall read the Mississippi Ordinance of Secession, and the Mississippi Causes of Secession, "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union" - a list of grievances against the Federal Government referred to as Mississippi's Declaration of Independence.
Following the readings, The "Stars and Stripes" will be lowered from the flagstaff on the Old Courthouse roof and be replaced with the "Bonnie Blue Flag" of the newly independent Mississippi, to the accompaniment of an artillery salute from a riverside battery of cannon. Directly after the changing of the flag, the public is invited to come to the upstairs courtroom to hear an introduction to the Civil War Sesquicentennial by Tim Kavanaugh, Supervisory Park Ranger for Interpretation at Vicksburg National Military Park, and a special program on the attitude of Vicksburg toward secession, and its effects on the city by historian Jeff Giambrone. Giambrone is a native of Bolton, Mississippi, and grew up near the Champion Hill Battlefield. He has a B.A. in history from Mississippi State University and a M.A. in history from Mississippi College. He worked as an historian at the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi, from 1996 - 2005, and has authored several books on Vicksburg and the Civil War.
At 2:00 pm, the artillery battery will be emplaced on Fort Hill in the park, and will reenact the "first guns in the west" - the firing on the riverboat "A.O. Tyler". The public is invited to attend this demonstration and an interpretive program describing the actual event and the facts surrounding it.
In addition to the partnership with the Old Courthouse Museum staff, the park will be assisted in this observance by Civil War artillery reenactors from Stanford's Battery, McGuffy's Battery and the Washington Artillery, as well as the park's Living History volunteers.
The American Civil War is still a controversial subject after 150 years. We begin our observance of its Sesquicentennial by reading the original documents and reenacting the actual events that took place here. The sight of our National Colors being taken down is a provocative and disturbing site to us today; how much more so for those who witnessed it then, and could only contemplate and speculate what this bold act of defiance would bring upon them, their families, their city and their state? Join us as we begin our four year journey through the Sesquicentennial observance to learn more and gain a deeper appreciation for the causes and effects of the most traumatic event to ever befall our nation, that forever changed us as a people and a country, and whose issues continue to affect us to the present day.
Admission to the events at the Old Courthouse and at Fort Hill are free of charge. The regular admission fee of $8.00 per vehicle will apply to the rest of the park, including the Visitor Center and USS Cairo and Museum. For information, please call the park at 601-636-0583.