VNMP to recognize 155th anniversary of Vicksburg’s surrender

Published 6:56 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

The Vicksburg National Military Park will observe the 155th anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg with a series of programs and demonstrations beginning Saturday through July 4.

Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Union Gen. Ulysses Grant July 4, 1863, after a 47-day siege.

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All exhibits and programs are free, but regular park admission fees will apply.

The program also marks the return of the black powder program at the park, which has been absent for about two years.

“Being the 155th anniversary, we do want to have as many commemoration events as possible,” said Scott Babinowich, park interpretive director. “In planning the event, we really did want to focus around the black powder program to make that the cornerstone of this summer, including here at July 4.”

Three programs, the 1st Mississippi Cavalry at the Great Redoubt, Doug the Camel Returns and Conversations of Home at the Shirley House, will be Saturday, although the Shirley House will remain open through July 4 on a limited basis.

“We’ve been in talks with a lot of these living history groups,” Babinowich said. “The 1st Mississippi Cavalry approached us about coming out here; it’s kind of a unique thing to have a cavalry group, but also a group that is associated with (Gen.) Joe Johnston’s army of relief (for Vicksburg).

“It’s not necessarily the first thing when you talk about Vicksburg. You always focus on Pemberton and Grant, and a little bit about Joe Johnston. That’s going to give an opportunity to bring some light and understanding to Joe Johnston’s role and the whole idea of the siege.”

Babinowich said the Texas Camel Corps, which will be at the old superintendent’s quarters from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is a popular program with the community and the staff. The living history program helps tell the story of Old Douglas, one of the camels the Army kept from an experiment in the 1850s by then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who had camels imported as an experiment to see if they would serve better than horses in the southwest, where the U.S. Army was engaged in wars with American Indian tribes.

Old Douglas served with the 43rd Mississippi, carrying its band instruments. He was killed by a Union sharpshooter during the siege, and was eaten by the troops, who were low on food. He is remembered by a headstone among the Confederate dead in the Soldier’s Rest section of Cedar Hill Cemetery.

The camels, Babinowich said, are unique, “And not really the first thing people expect to see when they think about living history and the Civil War, but it’s a fascinating part of the story.”

Conversations at the Shirley House will be also be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The park will hold cannon demonstrations July 1-4 at Battery deGoyler. The cannon crew from the living history program at the park and the crew from the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park will be firing the guns at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and re-enactors will be present during the day to talk about life as a soldier during the Civil War.

A park ranger will be at the 3rd Louisiana Redan to allow visitors to hear the sound waves and percussion waves from the cannons.

The gun crew from Kennesaw Mountain fired their gun at the park last year.

“They had such a great time and we enjoyed them here, that we made sure that we included them as well, so they’ll be bringing their own gun and we will have the two cannons set up at Battery deGoyler, just to give a little more emphasis to replicating what the field was like so people can really understand about the human side; they can put themselves in the shoes of those soldiers.”

The surrender program will be held at 4 p.m. July 3 and 4, and discuss the surrender and its legacy.

“We want to remind visitors to be prepared for the hot humid weather and remember to have water, sunscreen, and hats,” Babinowich said.

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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