Vicksburg, MS, being located right on the Mississippi River, with it’s many hilltops that over look the Great Mississippi River, played a very important roll in the Civil War. President Lincoln knew it was the key to winning the south. There were many battles that were fought here. Many strategies plotted here. Many soldiers lost their lives here. The National Military Park, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a great National Park that is located right in town.
It’s an easy park to explore with a loop road that you drive with many stops along the way with lots of memorials, signage and canons, canons, and more canons. Below is one of several beautiful structures commemorating the many soldiers that died in the siege in Vicksburg. Overlooking some of the battlefields you can really get the feel for the closeness of the battles that were fought here. The park does a great job of showing you just how close these fights were by marking the battle lines with colored signage right down to what regiment was on that line. (blue signs for Union and red for Confederate.) These red and blue markers of canon and soldier locations can be clearly seen as you look across a section of rolling landscape, thus greatly putting the battles that took place here all into perspective. This was fought hand to hand, canon to canon. Walking the path that these soldiers walked you can feel the somberness of the entire area.
The USS Cairo Gunboat is located on the loop road. From the NPS website: The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannons). On them rested in large part, Northern hopes to regain control of the lower Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
The USS Cairo was commissioned in January 1862 and consequently sunk to it’s watery grave in December 12, 1862, from an electrically detonated “torpedo” (what was actually a floating mine), where it sat for over 100 years.
Now raised and salvaged, you can explore the ship from the upper decks, go inside and see the inner workings and there is a museum that you can explore the various artifacts that were recovered.
Also on the loop road is the Vicksburg National Cemetery that embraces 116 acres, and holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, a number unmatched by any other national cemetery. 75% of the Civil War dead were not known and therefore the markers on the graves are just numbers.
Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign originally buried behind Confederate lines, have now been re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery (Cedar Hill Cemetery), in an area called “Soldiers’ Rest.” Approximately 5,000 Confederates have been re-interred there, of which 1,600 are identified.
In the Visitor’s Center there is a ledger that you can look up information on various soldiers and pin point where they are buried.
If you find yourself out in the Vicksburg, Mississippi area, which you more than likely will be at one time or another as I-20 runs right through it, I suggest you take a couple extra days and explore this very historical area. (the park pass is good for 7 days.) We learned a lot just from the one day of exploring that we did and we didn’t even touch upon the history of the town itself nor the historical buildings and houses in town that were used as headquarters and such during the Civil War. These remarkable buildings are still standing and in use today and you can easily tour them and delve deeper into the Civil War and the role that Vicksburg, Mississippi played.
We may just have to come back for another look around this area.