For you history buffs, May 18th 2017 marks the 154th anniversary of the
beginning of the Battle
Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863. The park, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Delta, Louisiana, also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. Reconstructed forts and trenches evoke memories of the 47-day siege that ended in the surrender of the city. Victory here and at Port Hudson gave the United States control of the Mississippi River.
The Park is one of the most heavily monumented parks in the world with 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, a 12.5-mile walking trail, two antebellum homes, 144 emplaced cannons, restored gunboat USS Cairo (sunk on December 12, 1862, on the Yazoo River, recovered successfully in 1964), and the Grant's Canal site, where the Union army attempted to build a canal to let their ships bypass Confederate artillery fire. The Cairo, also known as the "Hardluck Ironclad," was the first U.S. ship in history to be sunk by a torpedo/mine. It was raised in 1964.
The national military park was established on February 21, 1899, to commemorate the siege and defense of Vicksburg. The park sprawls over 1,800 acres of land. The park and cemetery were transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service (NPS) on August 10, 1933. Of the park's 1,736.47 acres (not including the cemetery), 1,729.63 acres are federally owned.
In the late 1950s, a portion of the park was transferred to the city as a local park in exchange for closing local roads running through the remainder of the park. It also allowed for the construction of Interstate 20. The monuments in land transferred to the city are still maintained by the NPS.
As with all historic areas administered by the NPS, the park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Over a million visitors visit the park every year.
Vicksburg National Military Park was the last of the first five National Military Parks established by the Congress of the United States during the last quarter of the 19th century.
The state of Missouri contributed 27 Union units and 15 Confederate units to the Vicksburg campaign.
The Illinois State Memorial, dedicated in 1906, has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged.
USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum, located in the park, provides a close look at the historic Civil War Ironclad. In fact, we have a separate section on this museum.
The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon). On them rested in large part, Northern hopes to regain control of the lower Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
Preserved by mud and silt, the USS Cairo sat on the bottom of the Yazoo River for 102 years before being raised, restored, and placed on display.
At the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi River was the single most important economic feature of the continent - the very lifeblood of America. Upon the secession of the southern states, Confederate forces closed the river to navigation, which threatened to strangle northern commercial interests.
President Abraham Lincoln told his civilian and military leaders, "See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket...We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg." Lincoln assured his listeners that "I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and as valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so."
It was imperative for the administration in Washington to regain control of the lower Mississippi River, thereby opening that important avenue of commerce, and enabling the rich agricultural produce of the Northwest to reach world markets.
It would also split the South in two, sever a vital Confederate supply line, achieve a major objective of the Anaconda Plan, and effectively seal the doom of Richmond. In the spring of 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant launched his Union Army of the Tennessee on a campaign to pocket Vicksburg and provide Mr. Lincoln with the key to victory.
Following the failure of the May 22 assault, Grant realized Vicksburg could not be taken by force, and decided to lay siege to the city. Slowly his army established a line of works around the beleaguered city and cut off all supplies and communications from the outside world. Commencing May 26, Union forces constructed thirteen approaches along their front aimed at different points along the Confederate defense line. Their objective was to dig up to the Confederate works, then tunnel underneath them, plant charges of black powder, and destroy the fortifications. Union troops would then be able to surge through the breaches and gain entrance to Vicksburg.
Throughout the month of June, Union troops expanded their approaches slowly toward the Confederate defenses. Protected by the fire of sharpshooters and artillery, Grant's fatigue parties neared their objectives by late June. On June 25, along the Jackson Road, a mine was detonated beneath the Third Louisiana Redan, and Federal soldiers swarmed into the crater attempting to exploit the breach in the city's defenses.
The struggle raged for 26 hours during which clubbed muskets and bayonets were freely used, as the Confederates fought with grim determination to deny their enemy access to Vicksburg. The troops in blue were finally driven back at the point of bayonet and the breach sealed. On July 1, a second mine was detonated but not followed by an infantry assault.
Throughout June the gallant, but weary, defenders of Vicksburg suffered from reduced rations, exposure to the elements, and constant bombardment of enemy guns. Reduced in number by sickness and battle casualties, the garrison of Vicksburg was spread dangerously thin. Soldiers and citizens alike began to despair that help would ever come. At Jackson and Canton, General Johnston gathered a relief force, which finally took up the line of march toward Vicksburg on July 1. But by then it was too late, as time had run out for the fortress on the Mississippi River.
On the hot afternoon of July 3, 1863, a cavalcade of horsemen in gray rode out from the city along the Jackson Road. Soon white flags appeared on the city's defenses as General Pemberton rode beyond the works to meet with his adversary - General Grant. The two officers dismounted between the lines, not far from the Third Louisiana Redan, and sat in the shade of a stunted oak tree to discuss surrender terms. Unable to reach an agreement, the two men returned to their respective headquarters. Telling Pemberton he would have his final terms by 10 p.m., Grant was true to his word, and his final amended terms were forwarded to Pemberton that night. Instead of an unconditional surrender of the city and garrison, Grant offered parole to the valiant defenders of Vicksburg. Pemberton and his generals agreed that these were the best terms that could be had, and in the quiet of his headquarters on Crawford Street, the decision was made to surrender the city.
At 10 a.m., on July 4, white flags were again displayed from the Confederate works, and the brave men in gray marched out of their entrenchments, stacked their arms, removed their accouterments, and furled their flags. The victorious Union army now marched in and took possession the city.
The fall of Vicksburg, coupled with the defeat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the battle of Gettysburg fought over July 1-3, 1863, marked the turning point of the Civil War.
October - March: 8 am to 5 pm
April - September: 8 am to 7 pm
Visitor Center (Clay Street):
8 am to 5 pm
U.S.S. Cairo Exhibit and Museum:
October - March: 8:30 am to 5 pm
April - September: 9:30 am to 6 pm
Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day
Vicksburg National Military Park
3201 Clay Street