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Cannons to sound at famous battery

Published 11:30 am Thursday, July 3, 2014

The thunderous roar of cannon fire will rumble forth again from Battery DeGolyer this weekend in a commemoration of the surrender of Vicksburg.

The battery made up of 22 guns— Tour Stop 1 inside Vicksburg National Military Park — fired thousands of rounds into Confederate fortifications during the 47-day siege in 1863.

“It is the heaviest concentration of cannons along the Union lines,” VNMP seasonal ranger Brandi Oswald said during a recent program on the battery.

On Friday and Saturday, the park’s cannon detachment and a group of re-enactors will fire the park’s replica 12-pound Napoleon cannon every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the battery.

Firing 14 shots over the course of the day pales in comparisons to the average of two shots an hour during the course of the siege from just a small portion of the battery.

The 8th Battery of the Light Michigan Artillery, commanded by Capt. Samuel Degolyer for whom the battery is named, fired 2,409 rounds from two 12-pounder Howitzers and four James rifles over the course of the siege. That’s more than two shots an hour for the duration of 47 days.

Shelling was just as heavy across the entire front of Union artillery.

“Our artillery has been at work all day — the different batteries firing by turns. The rebels have fired very little today,” Iowa soldier John Quincy Adams Campbell wrote in his diary.

The constant artillery barrage played a major role in the union victory, Oswald said. Two direct attacks by Union forces in late May 1863 failed.

“The Confederate fortifications were just too strong,” she said.

DeGoyler, who is a native of Hudson, Mich., had fought at First Manassas before where he was captured and imprisoned in Richmond. After escaping Confederate prison, he rejoined the army. He was mortally wounded on May 28, 1863, though he didn’t die until August, Oswald said.

When Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton surrender to Grant, on July 4, 1863, he also surrender approximately 12 percent of the entirety of the Confederacy’s artillery, Oswald said.

“There is a scarcity of the bronze and iron to cast the guns,” she said.

In addition to the Curt Fields, who portrays Grant, will be at Battery DeGolyer on Friday, and at the battery and the Shirley House on Saturday. The Shirley House will be open on Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to Vicksburg National Military Park is $8 per noncommercial vehicle. Annual passes to the park are $20.