CIVIL WAR — 150 YEARS Military park gearing up to remember

Published 11:27 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Events marking the 150th anniversary of Vicksburg’s pivotal role in the Civil War will get under way in October with re-enactments in Raymond, the site of a May 12, 1863, battle, Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Mike Madell said Tuesday.

Madell and Friends of Raymond president Ben Fatherree addressed the Vicksburg Association of Marketing Professionals Tuesday.

“Next year will be an exciting year for the Vicksburg National Military Park and the whole community,” Madell said.

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Raymond, Champion Hill and Port Gibson were three areas where preliminary battles were fought as Union Gen. U.S. Grant brought 45,000 troops to capture Vicksburg.

One of the challenges the VNMP faces, unlike most military parks, is that Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign stretched from the latter months of 1862 to July 1863, Madell said.

“We can’t have a seven- or eight-month commemoration, so we needed to define a date,” he said.

Planners settled on Memorial Day weekend, May 23 to 27, 2013, both to avoid the heat of Mississippi in July and not conflict with the commemoration of the battle of Gettysburg. Both battles ended on July 4, 1863, with Union victories.

Madell said the park has $522,000 to spend on sesquicentennial events. “We got every penny we asked for,” he said. “In fact, Vicksburg got more money than all the other sites, including Gettysburg.”

The VNMP’s commemoration will be organized into four components:

• Vicksburg heritage events will spotlight downtown attractions, such as Gen. John C. Pemberton’s Headquarters on Crawford Street, the Old Court House Museum and living history presentations.

• A one-year youth leadership academy for 10 to 12 high school students will include studies in resource protection and management and completion of a park-based project.

• “Along the Campaign Trail,” with off-site visits to other battlefields in Raymond, Champion Hill and Port Gibson and “passport” books for both adults and children to acquire stamps from other parks.

• The official commemoration on Memorial Day weekend, featuring candlelight tours of the VNMP, programs on African-Americans and the Civil War exploring the roles of freemen and U.S. Colored troops as well as slaves, engineering and the battlefield and free public concerts. The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra has committed to a concert in the park, Madell said.

In addition to the VNMP, the battlefield at Raymond also will hold sesquicentennial events, set for Oct. 19 and 20, said Fatherree.

Raymond events will include a re-enactment of the storming of the Second Texas Lunette in Vicksburg, the only line of defense that was penetrated by Union troops during the May 1863 battles that preceded the siege. That will include constructing a replica of a genuine Civil War fort, Fatherree said, adding, “We will put on a first-class event.”

About 3,000 re-enactors and 10,000 to 12,000 spectators are expected for the Raymond commemoration, and many of them will patronize Vicksburg hotels, restaurants and shops.

“History is good business today,” Fatherree said. “I think this will be a huge boon to the city of Vicksburg.”