Friends, Civil War Trust announce land donation to VNMP

Published 9:55 am Friday, November 6, 2015

Sitting and standing on land occupied more than 150 years ago by the 22nd and 23rd Iowa Regiments, a small group of visitors took time Thursday to observe a special ceremony announcing the donation of an 11-acre tract of land to the Vicksburg National Military Park by the Civil War Trust.

The property, which is located off North Frontage Road and lies just west of the Iowa Memorial, was purchased by the Civil War Trust and is the first land the Civil War Trust has saved associated with the siege of Vicksburg. It will be officially given to the park in 2016 during the observance of the National Park Service’s centennial.

“The biggest benefit of having this land is the troops that attacked the Railroad Redoubt, after they retreated came back to this place; this was their campsite,” VNMP superintendent Bill Justice said after the program. “The other thing is, this land is sitting by Frontage Road, it’s sitting right by the Interstate. It could just as easily been have been developed. This provides a buffer against development, which is really important.”

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Civil War Trust president John Lighthizer said preserving Civil War battle sites is part of the organization’s program, adding the Trust also works to preserve Revolutionary and the War of 1812 battlefields. “What we’re doing (in Vicksburg) is donating 11 acres of land where America’s history was written,” he said.

“These battlefields define the times that made us what we are,” he said. “Every war tells us about what we are as a country. The War of 1812 and the Civil War answered two questions that were tearing this country apart: slavery and secession — If I don’t like what’s going on can I leave and go home.”

Battlefields, he said, are outside classrooms to teach people about their past, and Vicksburg, he believed, was a more important battle than Gettysburg.

“What we’re preserving here is an important part of one of the most important events in American History,” Lighthizer said. “It is important that we are able to present that story.”

John Nau III, a former chairman of the Civil War Trust and board member of Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign, said the park “clearly is one of my most favorite places. I take every opportunity I can to get back here.”

He called the Civil War Trust the national leader for preserving the Civil War battlefields. Once the 11 acres is added to the park, he said, it will mean 12,000 acres of battlefield parks linked to the Vicksburg campaign and the siege of the city, and hinted at larger plan is in the future.

“We’re working on getting them (the other sites) transferred, acquired and brought into a magnificent park that will become the largest in the Civil War inventory of the National Park Service,” said, adding it will take the work of several preservation groups to accomplish the goal.

“It’s starting right here with this 11 acres,” Nau said.

He said the consolidation of sites connected to the Vicksburg Campaign is important to Warren, Claiborne and Hinds counties where they are located and will draw a special brand of tourist to the state.

“The largest single group of tourism in the United States today is heritage tourism,” he said. “When people come out to visit battlefields old homes, the (Natchez) Trace and the soon to be expanded sites, they will spend on average $183 a day more than recreational tourists. They don’t camp. They stay in hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. They visit gift shops, they want to buy books. Most of these heritage tourists are baby boomers, and we’re going to take our grandchildren. It is an economic engine for these communities as well as an educational tool.”

Lighthizer emphasized the tourism aspect, adding Mississippi has some important and unique history, and one of them is the Vicksburg Campaign. He said the Civil War Trust has spent “millions of dollars, and we’re going to spend millions more to hopefully substantially complete the whole story of the Vicksburg campaign.

“We consider this one of our most important projects in the United States.”

The Civil Wat Trust acquired the property for $720,000, using a combination of $360,000 in private funds and a $360,000 American Battlefield Protection Program Land and Water Protection Fund Grant.

The Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign worked with the Civil War Trust to get private donations and to get the grant. The property includes four parcels of land bordered by North Frontage Road and Old Highway 27.

The Railroad Redoubt was a Confederate fortification built to protect the Southern Railroad of Mississippi, which was a vital entrance to Vicksburg at the time.

Union infantry forces attacked the redoubt, a square fortification on May 22, 1863, and fierce fighting ensued with the Union forces withdrawing with heavy loses as darkness fell. The Union’s failure to capture the redoubt and other fortifications along the Confederate line resulted in the siege of Vicksburg.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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