Park’s telling walks begin on Saturday|[05/14/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interpretive guided tours beginning Saturday will give visitors to the Vicksburg National Military Park the opportunity to stand in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers on the 145th anniversary of some of the bloodiest skirmishes of the 47-day siege of the city.

“We’ll be taking people out to the actual site of these attacks and walking them through the assaults instead of just providing some information at the visitors’ center,” said Tim Kavanaugh, chief of interpretation.

On the heels of five straight Union victories en route to Vicksburg, the first of two initial attempts to take the city took place on May 19. Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman to strike near the graveyard entrance to Vicksburg, northeast of the city. The attempt failed miserably, said Kavanaugh, resulting in about 950 Union casualties compared to roughly 70 Confederate casualties.

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Undeterred, Grant thrust his entire army against the city’s heavily fortified defenses three days later, in what Kavanaugh called the best coordinated attack in American military history at that time.

If you goSATURDAY10 a.m. – Assault against 3rd Louisiana Redan at tour stop 2 in the Vicksburg National Military Park2 p.m. – Assault against Stockade Redan at tour stop 5SUNDAY10 a.m. – Assault against 2nd Texas Lunette at the visitors center2 p.m. – Assault against Railroad Redoubt at tour stop 13MONDAY2 p.m. – Assault against Stockade Redan at tour stop 5THURSDAY MAY 2210 a.m. – Assault against Stockade Redan at tour stop 5″It was the first military assault in history that was timed to go off according to synchronized watches, at exactly 10 a.m., along a three-mile-long front,” he said.

That will be precisely the time the final tour will take place on Thursday, May 22.

“Just as the bayonets were fixed, the troops were marching and the cannons opened up, the interpretive tour will begin – 145-years ago to the minute,” said Kavanaugh.

Although the Union troops came closer to capturing Vicksburg on the second attempt, they ultimately failed. Casualties were even higher on the second day of fighting, with the Union suffering about 3,200 and the Confederates an estimated 500. Grant reluctantly resorted to holding the city under siege, eventually eroding Confederate supplies and spirits to the point of surrender on July 4, 1863.

“The action on the 19th and 22nd was the bloodiest of the entire Vicksburg campaign aside from fighting at Champion Hill,” which occurred just east of Vicksburg on May 16 and included about 6,300 combined casualties in the daylong Union victory, said Kavanaugh.

“Some of the most incredible acts of valor during the siege took place on those days. This is a chance to walk in the shoes of both the attackers and defenders and honor their sacrifices.”

The interpretive tours are free with paid admission to the VNMP, and those who wish to participate should meet at the tour stop designated for each tour at the scheduled time.