Guided tour brings VNMP history to life

Published 6:52 pm Saturday, August 18, 2018

As a native Mississippian, I knew a little about Mississippi history, the Civil War and Vicksburg’s role in it.

After a recent tour through the Vicksburg National Military Park by guide Robert Terry, I understand just how little I knew.

What an interesting, eye-opening experience to go through the park with someone of Terry’s knowledge and expertise. The intricacies of the military campaign here are fascinating. To be able to see the park and hear the interpretation of the military strategy and battles from someone who is as passionate about our city’s history as Terry is, was such a treat.

We should be so thankful for the people in the late 1890s — many of them former soldiers on both sides of the conflict — who had the forethought to make certain that hallowed ground and its history were preserved for generations to come. We have a responsibility to keep it and maintain it in a fashion that would make them proud.

Vicksburg means so much to so many — those who are natives here and those who came to Vicksburg because of careers, but fell in love with the community and made the decision to stay here.

Terry comes from an old and prominent Vicksburg family. His father, J. Stanford Terry Jr., was a Vicksburg attorney and World War II war hero. Stanford Terry was the recipient of the Silver Star for Outstanding Bravery, two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart.

Perhaps his father’s military service is what sparked Terry’s interest in Vicksburg’s Civil War history. He lived in Colorado for more than 20 years, but made his way back home.

His sister, Marilyn Dent Terry, who also lived and ran a business in Colorado for about 30 years and returned to Vicksburg, was one of the first people I met after coming to work here.

Terry’s mother, Mary Frances Dent Terry, was born in the old Vicksburg Infirmary, which was operated by her grandfather, Dr. B.B. Martin Sr. She was the first Republican woman to be elected and serve in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Many here will remember her from the Delta Point Restaurant, which the family owned and operated. It overlooked the Mississippi River on the site occupied today by Ameristar.

Going through the park with a licensed guide makes all the difference in the world. My cousin and her husband, who live in the Dallas area, have been making frequent trips through Vicksburg for the last year, taking their youngest child to Auburn University, where she has just begun her sophomore year.

On one of their trips, they took a guided tour through the park. Their guide was former Vicksburg Mayor Joe Loviza. They raved about that experience.

Becoming a guide isn’t easy. It requires passing a written examination that is three hours in length and passing a practical exam by giving park personnel or a senior licensed battlefield guide a tour through the park. Many who attempt it don’t make the cut.

If you think you know Mississippi history and the history of Vicksburg, I encourage you to go through the park with one of the licensed tour guides. You may be surprised by what all you learn.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com.