Celebration Thursday for Mississippi monument

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 8, 2009

The 100th anniversary of the Mississippi monument at the Vicksburg National Military Park will be observed Thursday morning with a wreath-laying ceremony.

Park officials — including acting superintendent Patty Wissinger, former superintendent Bill Nichols, chief operations officer Rick Martin and historian Terry Winschel — will be on hand. The public is invited.

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The 100th anniversary of the Vicksburg National Military Park’s Mississippi monument will be observed at 10 a.m. Thursday. Visitors who wish to attend the ceremony will be admitted to the park at no charge. From the entrance booth, proceed along Union Avenue to Pemberton Avenue and turn left. At the top of the hill, turn left again at Confederate Avenue and continue south about one-half mile to the monument.

The monument was dedicated in 1909, said Winschel, though all parts of it were not completed until its bronze panels were delivered and installed three years later.

Towering 76 feet, the structure is composed largely of North Carolina granite, with attached bronze panels depicting Vicksburg battlefield and siege scenes. At the front is a representation of Clio, the Greek muse of history.

In the century since its dedication, the Mississippi monument has seen deterioration followed by restoration efforts spearheaded by school children, Winschel said.

It was hit by lightning in 1951 and over time was damaged by vandals and worn by weather.

“By the 1990s, we were very greatly concerned that we would lose the panels themselves,” he said.

The National Park Service commissioned an independent assessment of the monument’s condition, and the U.S. General Accounting Office study declared it “poor.” Problems noted were deterioration, corrosion and cracks in the bronze, misalignment of panels and pieces of bronze broken off.

Winschel said the subsequent restoration effort was sparked by a group of Madison elementary school students and their teacher. The students raised $5,000 by collecting and selling aluminum cans. The state contributed another $250,000 and then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott secured a federal appropriation of more than $1 million to complete the work.

“The kids got the ball rolling,” Winschel said. “This year the monument turns 100 years of age, and it’s important to remember the contributions and sacrifices of the Mississippi soldiers who fought in the war, and in fact all who fought for the ideals held dear by all Americans.”

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Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com