Military park holds a special place

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2017

couple weeks ago, I finally found the time to tour one of my favorite places in Vicksburg.

As a kid, my family would come to Vicksburg to visit my aunt who lived on Porters Chapel Road and while we were here, a trip to the Vicksburg National Military Park was always on the schedule.

I would beg my parents an hour after we arrived at my aunt’s home to jump in the car and drive to the park. For some reason, which I still don’t fully understand today, I was fascinated with the park and its history. My mom was jokingly convinced her 6-year old first born fought in the Civil War in a previous life. She might be right.

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My folks still have the Super 8 home movies of my brother and I running up to the monument of Confederate Brigadier Gen. Lloyd Tilgham clutching the reins of his wild-eyed horse and sword held out high.

We, of course, would tour the Old Courthouse and go to Cedar Grove to see the cannonball that was lodged, as well as McRaven House, but the military park was the place for me.

It had been years since I’d been back to drive through the park.

After briefly walking through the visitor’s center, I drove underneath the arch and felt as though I had been immediately transported to 1970 and my heart skipped a beat with excitement and anticipation.

Climbing the steps of the Illinois monument and walking into its rotunda and seeing all the names engraved on the plaques brought back a flood of memories. During one visit as a youth, my mom tracked down a Sigler on one of the plaques. The Union surgeon is a distant relative and that brought the Civil War even closer to my heart.

Some people may find that strange how such an attraction to monuments could have an impact, but to me, the military park is much more than statues and cannons and a tribute to those who fought there. To me, the military park is hallowed ground and represents so much of what our United States was and the positive transition that took place in the decades and generations after the War Between the States.

I’m certain I didn’t feel that way as a 6-year old running among the cannons and monuments, but I do remember thinking that on this ground, men were fighting one another and dying. I pictured brother fighting brother in Union and Gray and that impacted me for the rest of my life.

As a teenager, I devoured the books of Shelby Foote, Bruce Catton and James McPhearson. I had committed myself to wanting to become a history teacher or Civil War professor, but sports journalism got in the way and I became a sports writer instead. That didn’t keep me from majoring in history at Delta State University and minoring in journalism, however, and I believe the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Civil War will always be a part of my life.

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at