We need to do better telling our history

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, July 4, 2018

This past weekend impressed me on the importance of history to our city and our economy.

Part of that impression came as I visited the Vicksburg National Military Park Saturday and Monday to cover the living history events as part of the park’s commemoration of the 155th anniversary of the siege of Vicksburg — the program at the Shirley House, the displays by the Texas Camel Corps and the 1st Mississippi Cavalry and the live fire cannon demonstration.

The park’s parking lot was full and there was a line to enter and tour the park. The visitors I followed drove slow, occasionally pulling off the tour road to study the monuments and the markers explaining an event that occurred on that particular spot 155 years ago.

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The park programs were supplemented by the Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable’s two commemorative programs that brought 17 re-enactors who portrayed Civil War generals from both sides.

My first visit to the park was in 1977, when my wife and I came to Vicksburg on vacation. At that time, the Cairo’s wooden frame was still being soaked in preparation for reconstruction and renovation. Its museum, one of my favorite places in the park, was not yet built. We did like other tourists did then and do now, we stayed in Vicksburg a couple of days and left. At the time, the only other attractions in Vicksburg were historic homes and the Mississippi River model at the Waterways Experiment Station. We saw neither.

Things are different now. The Cairo Museum is open and a link has been estabished between the Military Park and the sites of the battles of Grand Gulf, Raymond and Champion Hill to give visitors an opportunity to understand the overall events that led to the Siege of Vicksburg and its ultimate surrender by Gen. John C. Pemberton.

There are other attractions in the city like the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi Museum and Interpretive center with the MV Mississippi, the Jacqueline House Museum, the historic walking trails through the city, and the city’s downtown district with its shops.

And we need to do a better job telling people abou them.

This is not a swipe at the organizations tasked with promoting our city. They are doing a good job getting the word out, but there has to be more.

Corey Rickrode, president of the Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable, said the Vicksburg Historical Advisory Council was started “because there is significant history in this town. It is time we start promoting it and promoting tourism, which is the background of our town.”

He’s right.

We as a community have to do better. We need to put together what Gen. Grant used to take Vicksburg — and battle plan. We need to make our story stand out.

By writing this column I’m sure I’ll become the punching bag for the agencies that promote the city, but our history and our story is what make us attractive to visitors. We need to do a better job telling it.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

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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