Black history Military park doing its part

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 20, 2011

Outmanned, outgunned and facing a death sentence, black Union soldiers at Milliken’s Bend, La., faced a decision that would have lasting effects on the remainder of the Civil War — to fight or to run.

At the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson, La., black soldiers in what was called the Louisiana Native Guard stormed the fort. With a 75 percent casualty rate, the troops continued to charge wave after wave.

The two battles at the geographic bookends of the Vicksburg campaign — Port Hudson to the south and Mili-ken’s Bend to the north — proved the value of black troops and answered the underlying question — will the black soldier fight?

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Those two battles will be among discussions today and next weekend centering on National Black History Month and the influence of black soldiers on the Civil War. The programs began Saturday and will continue today under the canopy of the USS Cairo. Discussions are set to begin at 1.

Other activities planned are:

• In the park’s visitors’ center, an exhibit honoring Tuskegee Airman Wellington Irving will continue throughout the month. Irving of Belzoni was shot down in 1944 over Germany. His remains are buried at the Vicksburg National Cemetery.

• Markers have been placed near the African-American soldiers memorial near Grant’s Circle. The markers give brief descriptions of black soldiers and their impact on Vicksburg during the war.

• Activities will culminate Saturday with a Black History walk in the park and the adjacent Beulah Cemetery. Discussions are planned near the cemetery to talk about blacks and the war.

Discover the military park. Learn history that sometimes is untold. And, most importantly, get a bit of exercise in one of Vicksburg’s treasures.