Park’s 2001 projects to include Mississippi Monument, Cairo

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2001

[02/08/01] This year looks to be a busy one for the Vicksburg National Military Park with work continuing on restoration of the Mississippi Monument and construction of a better shed-like enclosure for the USS Cairo.

Park officials have been working for years trying to restore the bronze plaques and the stonework of the memorial to the Confederate soldiers from Mississippi who took part in the Civil War Campaign for Vicksburg.

Deterioration was due in part to the metal panels being made of foundry scrap instead of the high quality metal the state had specified nearly a century ago. The drive to raise the money was begun with a donation from a group of elementary students.

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The first steps were taken in April when employees of Daedalus Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., removed the plaques and sent them to their workshops.

Bill Nichols, superintendent of the park created by Congress in 1899, said work may begin on the Mississippi Monument as soon as Monday or Tuesday.

“They are going to clean the granite and remove the stains, remove the old pointing and repoint it,” Nichols said.

In the process, workers will repair damage caused by lightning strikes over the years and install lightning protectors.

The next problem will be timing of that work and the arrival of the bronzes. The metal work will probably be finished in April or May and the stonework probably won’t be completed until August or September.

“They will have to be stored somewhere, we just don’t know if it will be there or here,” Nichols said.

He said the final costs will be $232,000 for the bronzes and $374,000 for the stonework for a total of $606,000.

The Cairo project has been another longstanding one. Almost from the time the Civil War ironclad went on display in the 1970s, park service people have been concerned about deterioration of what remains of the original wood and metal from the boat. One of the options floated during discussions was construction of a temperature and humidity controlled building, but that was scrapped because of expense.

Chosen as an alternative was additional chemical treatment for the ancient wood and an improved canopy that will not attract roosting birds, that will cover more ground and will extend closer to the ground. This would afford more protection.

Nichols said Malouf Construction of Madison will probably meet with park officials in a preconstruction conference late this month to set a beginning date for work.

Nichols said work could begin in about six weeks, first on removal of the present canopy and then erection of the new one.

The cost of the project is $2,966,200.

Also on tap for the park is a 2-year-old project to erect a monument to the Federal and Confederate troops from Kentucky who participated in the Campaign for Vicksburg. Ground was broken for the monument on the park’s south loop in October.

Nichols said park people should meet with people from Muldoon Memorials, the Louisville, Ky., company doing the stonework, sometime during the week of Feb. 19 to start the plans for the footings and foundations.

Four Winds Studio of Gettysburg, Pa., is working on the bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Both presidents were born in Kentucky.

The dedication is planned later this year.

The final event planned, Nichols said, is a rededication of the Texas Monument on the park’s south loop planned for May 4.

He said the Texas Legislature set aside $40,000 to gild letters so they can be seen, repoint the stonework and clean the stonework and bronze statue.

“It was finished last year,” Nichols said. But a delegation from Texas was planning to come to Mississippi May 5 to dedicate a monument or marker for Texas troops who fought in the Battle of Raymond during the Campaign for Vicksburg, so they decided to come to the Vicksburg park the day before to rededicate the local monument.

The park’s tour roads follow Union and Confederate lines from one of the more crucial battles in the Civil War. Vicksburg was a stronghold of the South, falling to siege on July 4, 1863.