Marker near City Front remembers CSS Arkansas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Re-enactors with the Confederate States Marine Corps Company C fire salutes during a ceremony to dedicate the CSS Arkansas marker Saturday on Levee Street.[07/21/02]Temperatures soared Saturday but that did not stop spectators from coming out to watch the dedication of a marker to the CSS Arkansas. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

{0721/02]”We had 120 little flags to hand out, and we ran out before the ceremony started, so we know that more than 120 people were here,” said Lamar Roberts, organizer of the dedication ceremony.

Spectators and participants from around the state gathered near City Front to watch the ceremony in the 96-degree heat.

“Most of the people here are not locals,” Roberts said.

Johnny and Donna Smith drove from Meridian to watch the ceremony.

“We came to honor our Confederate heritage,” said Johnny Smith. ” The brave men who did what they did.”

The dedication began at 2 p.m. with the presentation of the United States and the Mississippi flags by the Mississippi Guard. The Confederate flag was presented by Company C, Confederate Marine Corps.

Mayor Lawrence Leyens welcomed the participants and he proclaimed the day as CSS Arkansas day in the city.

A historic account of the CSS Arkansas was given by John Echols, past-commander general of the Mississippi Order of the Stars and Bars and past-commander of the Mississippi Division of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

The ceremony concluded with Miss Vicksburg Marla Beth Brooks laying a wreath in front of the marker and Civil War re-enactors firing a salute with rifles and cannons.

The retiring of the colors was done by the Confederate Marine Corps.

“We had 13 Sons of Confederate Veterans camps from all around the state represented here,” Roberts said.

The Civil War re-enactors came from Liberty, Leland, Jackson, Indianola, Meridian, Monroe and Tallulah.

“It is time we started to remember Confederate ships,” said Roberts, the owner and operator of the Gray and Blue Naval Museum in downtown Vicksburg. “The Navy has been overlooked.”

The CSS Arkansas marker is the second for a Civil War vessel to be placed at the City Front on Levee Street. The Arkansas marker stands next to the marker for the Steamship Sultana, which was dedicated April 27 of this year.

The Sultana was being used to return former prisoners of war to the North in April 1865 when an explosion near Memphis sank the boat, killing 1,700 to 1,800.

The vessel had begun its journey in Vicksburg.

Echols said he feels it is appropriate for the Arkansas to be honored in Vicksburg. Vicksburg was the last port the ironclad visited. The ironclad received severe damage after an encounter with the Essex.

The Arkansas was burned by its first officer, Lt. Henry K. Stevens, so that it would not be seized by Union troops. The burning came one day after the ironclad left Vicksburg, headed south to Baton Rouge.

The Arkansas was built in 1862 at the Confederate States Navy Yard in Yazoo City and then was sent to Vicksburg.

It was only 25 days later that it was burned.