Siege anniversary to be marked throughout year

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

National Park Service Historian Emeritus Ed Bearss, who will direct a symposium here next summer as part of the yearlong commemoration of the siege, speaks Saturday during a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[11/03/02]A seminar Friday and Saturday will kick off a yearlong commemoration by the Vicksburg National Military Park of the 140th anniversary of the Campaign for Vicksburg that will include bus tours and a symposium led by historian Ed Bearss.

In 1862 and 1863 during the War Between the States, Union forces launched a series of attempts to take Vicksburg and sever Louisiana and Texas from the rest of the Confederacy and win control of the Mississippi River. Among the earliest attempts were an ill-fated attack on Fortress Vicksburg by Gen. William T. Sherman at Chickasaw Bayou and a failed attempt to cut through Mississippi River levees to reach waterways in the Delta and attack Vicksburg through “the back door,” called the Bayou Campaign.

In the spring of 1863, Gen. U.S. Grant launched the final and ultimately successful campaign that involved marching his blue-clad troops down the Louisiana bank of the Mississippi from Millikin’s Bend to Hard Times Landing. From there, Grant and his troops crossed to Bruinsburg and fought battles at Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill and the Big Black River before laying siege to Vicksburg.

Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, commander of the Confederate forces in Vicksburg, surrendered his troops and the city to Grant on July 4, 1863.

At the weekend’s seminar, a group of speakers will discuss military leadership, touching on the qualities shown by Grant, Pemberton, Gen. Joseph Johnston, Sherman and Adm. David Dixon Porter.

The next event in the series will be Dec. 14-15 and mark the 140th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad gunboat that was sunk on the Yazoo River Dec. 12, 1862. The anniversary will be marked by a Naval encampment at the Cairo site in the park. Final details of the programs and demonstrations will be announced later.

On Feb. 22 there will be a daylong bus tour to visit sites in the Lower Delta involved in the Bayou Expedition.

On March 22 and April 26, similar bus tours will cover the Campaign for Vicksburg in Louisiana from Milliken’s Bend to Hard Times Landing including the last remaining portion of the canal Grant tried to dig to bypass Vicksburg.

The sites in Mississippi will be the subject of bus tours planned May 3 and May 17. Preliminary plans are to visit such sites as Grand Gulf, Raymond and Champion Hill.

May 19 will bring a program at Graveyard Road in the park and May 22 will bring programs at the Railroad Redoubt, 2nd Texas Lunette, Jackson Road, Great Redoubt and Graveyard Road.

All of the bus tours and local programs will feature speakers familiar with the activities that took place at each.

Then on June 28-29, siege programs and an encampment are planned.

The series of programs will end with an overall campaign symposium to discuss the lessons learned from the campaign and siege but the exact date, which will be around July 4, has not been set because of uncertainties in the Bearss’ schedule.

Bearss was the Vicksburg Military Park’s historian from 1955 to 1958 and served as the southeastern region research historian for the National Park Service from 1958 to 1966 during which time he was instrumental in the USS Cairo recovery efforts. Bearss lives in Arlington, Va., and leads tours in Vicksburg about twice a year.