Statue to black soldiers going up in park in 2003

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 26, 2002

[11/26/02]A statue depicting two black soldiers and a black civilian at the battle for Milliken’s Bend will be erected in 2003 in the Vicksburg National Military Park to recognize the role of African-Americans during Civil War strife in this region.

The design was approved Monday by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen and will be recommended to Mississippi Department of Archives and History to be placed as the first specific memorial to black people in the 103-year-old park.

The work will be done under the direction of Brookhaven artist Dr. J. Kim Sessums who was selected by a city committee headed by former Mayor Robert Walker.

“This has been a 13-year effort to get a monument in the park that more accurately reflects what took place,” said Walker, who is now a professor of history at Jackson State University.

A ceremony has been scheduled for Dec. 3, 2003, along Union Avenue near Grant Circle at the park where the monument will be placed. It will be dedicated to black soldiers of the 1st and 3rd Mississippi Infantry who on June 7, 1863, defended the outpost at Milliken’s Bend about 15 miles north of Vicksburg on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River.

There, one regiment of whites and three regiments of recently recruited black soldiers repelled a large force of 1,500 Texans. Of the 652 lost at the battle, 566 were from the black regiment and many were taken prisoner and returned to slavery.

The next month, Gen. John Pemberton surrendered the City of Vicksburg to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Records show no black soldiers involved in fighting here, except for the Confederacy. They are not memorialized in the park, but a display in the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg remembers those who served as U.S. Colored Troops, which is how black federal soldiers were known, as well as blacks who wore the Confederate gray.

Newly freed slaves were also hired as workers by the Union Army and many died under cruel conditions essentially as impressed laborers for the North.

“We think that once up, this monument is going to do wonders for our community and for tourism at the Vicksburg National Military Park,” Walker said.

The monument is being funded through a $275,000 grant from a fund appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature for the preservation and creation of African-American heritage sites in the state.

The Vicksburg National Military Park was created by Congress in 1899 to commemorate the 47-day siege of the city.

Last year, park officials helped dedicate the Kentucky monument, the 28th state monument placed there.

In other matters, the city board:

Received bids for work on Washington Street to begin the first week of January.

Submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency for funds to be used for environmental cleanups including the former Ludke Electrical building.

Allocated $2,165 to Main Street for holiday advertising.

Approved the employee driving list.

In a 2-1 vote, approved $60,790 to be allocated to fund E-911. Mayor Laurence Leyens voted against the funding.

Approved the claims docket.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall Annex.