LEST WE FORGET: William ‘Bill’ Sims Foundation hosting ceremony at Vicksburg National Cemetery

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Descendants of a U.S. Colored Troop from Vicksburg will gather at the Vicksburg National Cemetery at noon on Saturday for a special event honoring their fallen ancestor and other Black people interred there, and members of the public are invited to attend.

William “Bill” Sims was a member of the U.S. Colored Troops and fought at the Battle of Milliken’s Bend during the Siege of Vicksburg. He fought with the USCT from 1863 to 1865 and died in 1930 as the owner of approximately 100 acres in Warren County’s Freetown community.

His descendants still live in Vicksburg and the surrounding area and founded the William “Bill” Sims Foundation in 2001 as a way to honor their ancestor, whom they term an “original freedom fighter,” and promote the preservation of USCT history in Vicksburg.

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The descendants of William ‘Bill’ Sims are proud of this opportunity to show honor and give thanks to these Freedom Fighters,” said Sims’ great-granddaughter, Thelma Sims Dukes. “We deeply appreciate the National Park and National Cemetery’s invitation for us to serve as a consulting party to this multi-phased project, beginning with the disinterment of these USCTs.

“We understand this disinterment is a necessary step in the restoration of the multi-phased project of the National Cemetery,” Dukes added. “In addition, it serves the foundation’s goal of instilling and promoting pride in family and community.”

One hundred and eighty thousand Colored Troops fought in the Army, and another 20,000 fought in the Navy. Of those documented troops who served, an estimated 40,000 died.

During the Civil War, 15 soldiers of the USCT, three soldiers from other army units, and eight sailors of the Union Navy —  a total of 26 Black people — earned the newly instituted Medal of Honor. Lying in the National Cemetery in Vicksburg are 17,000 Union soldiers. Of these, 5,500 are Black soldiers interred there since the 1860s. 

Saturday’s ceremony, titled “Lest We Forget,” will feature a group rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem, an honor bell ceremony, and an African drums performance and will conclude with the offering of a libation.

Former Vicksburg Mayor Robert M. Walker will serve as a guest speaker at the event, and Vicksburg National Military Park officials and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. will also offer comments.