Tuesday, Jul 9, 2013
Vicksburg National Military Park concluded its ongoing observances and commemorations of the sesquicentennial of the campaign and siege of Vicksburg last week with a series of special programs that began on July 2nd and continued through July 7th.
Activities began with a special ranger program presented on the evening of July 2nd that detailed the status of both the Union and Confederate armies on that day 150 years ago and the factors that lead to General Pemberton's decision to surrender his army and the City of Vicksburg.
On July 3rd, following a tradition dating back to the American Revolution, the park partnered with the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign to create a Grande Illumination honoring the 19,233 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who became casualties during the campaign for Vicksburg.
Holding such a commemoration was deemed to be one of the greatest honors a community could render to those who sacrificed so much for their country. Throughout the Civil War there were many stories of “illuminations,” including one relating the largest recorded in Washington, D.C., only five days after the end of the war.
Park staff, friends group members, and more than 400 volunteers placed luminaries at the major state memorials, representing the soldiers and sailors who were killed, wounded, or went missing – one luminary for each soldier who was a casualty.
Also on July 3rd, the park featured Civil War re-enactors depicting Generals Grant, Pemberton and their staff officers at the exact location in the park (now known as the "Surrender Interview Site") where these men met to discuss the terms of surrender in 1863. While the re-enactors provided a living historical vignette of the event, a narrative on the nature of the talks and surrender terms was presented by park staff.
From July 4th through July 7th, park staff, re-enactors, and volunteers offered several interpretive events representing the actual surrender of the city of Vicksburg. At 10:00 am, the Stars and Stripes were hoisted over the Old Courthouse Museum while cannon roared out a salute over the old channel of the Mississippi River, just as it happened on July 4, 1863.
Hourly artillery programs at Battery DeGolyer inside the park commemorated the last firings of the guns at Vicksburg, when Union General Grant ordered the firing of a 36-gun salute, one shot for each state, North and South, before marching his troops into the city. Simultaneously, volunteer re-enactors from the 19th Louisiana Infantry, manning the living history fortifications by the park visitor center, stacked their weapons and colors, representing the Confederate garrison of Vicksburg awaiting its parole by Union forces.