VICKSBURG FACTS: The First Blue and Gray Reunion

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 16, 2023

Did you know that the first Blue and Gray Reunion was held in Vicksburg?

According to The Vicksburg Post on May 4, 1983, Vicksburg was the first place to host a Blue and Gray Reunion in 1890. The Blue and Gray Reunion was a weekend event that encouraged veterans from both Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War to unite. The reunion committee wanted to present an outstanding event with parades and concerts for anyone to enjoy. However, tons of planning and preparation had to be done in order to pull off this major event. 

During the preparation, citizens of Vicksburg and Port Gibson were encouraged to clean and decorate their houses in the appropriate colors and emblems.

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“House-painters were at work yesterday from one end of Washington Street to the other embellishing the town for the Blue and Gray Reunion,” according to The Daily Commercial Herald, May 21, 1890.

Some individuals or businesses would go all out when it came to decorating.

“Tucker, Maxwell & Co. gave Mr. J.S. Dynes, a professional decorator, carte blanche, and as a result have secured the most tasteful combination of the National colors and of portraits of heroes of either side that could be desired,” according to The Daily Commerical Herald.

Some Vickburgers were getting excited about this big event and decided that they would also create plans for the weekend.

“Some of the baseball men of the city are now figuring on a match game of baseball, to take place at the fairgrounds between Greenville and Vickburg nines, during the Blue Gray reunion,” according to The Daily Commerical Herald.

The reunion began on May 27 and ended on May 30 and it was expected to be the greatest event ever witnessed in this country. According to the May 23, 1890, edition of The Fayette Chronicle, “Already delegations from the North have arrived, and there is no doubt the city will be packed.”

Hundreds of people attended the event from all around the country. 

To kickstart the weekend event, the committee had a parade of all the veterans walking the streets of Vicksburg. After the parade, there was an assemblage where everyone received a formal welcome from the Governor, John M. Stone. The people were grateful that the governor accepted his invitation to come to the reunion, since “His military service in the Army of Northern Virginia earned for him the gratitude of the people of the South, and the respect of the soldiers of the opposing armies,” according to the Vicksburg Evening Post on April 16, 1890.

The rest of the weekend was filled with concerts, barbecues in Vicksburg and Port Gibson, balloon ascensions and a visit to the Vicksburg National Cemetery. While everyone visited the graves, the Union graves were decorated with American flags while the Confederate graves were decorated with flowers. During the visit, the committee also held a ceremony to remember the fallen soldiers from both sides of the war.

“No fine surroundings marked this hallowed spot, but a beauty of wildness reigned here,” according to the Vicksburg Post on May 31, 1890.