Vicksburg is a town full of history--and not just of the Civil War. It also includes a delightful downtown area with old churches, unique architecture, antebellum mansions, the Coca-Cola Museum (where Coke was first bottled in 1894) and Mississippi Blues Trail markers. Not far from the downtown area is the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. We'll have to to back to see some of the things we missed this trip.
The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley RR station is now a transportation museum. It was built in 1907 and is a designated site on the Mississippi Blues Trail. These sites relate to the birth, growth and influence of the Blues throughout the state of Mississippi. This particular marker commemorates the original lyrics of blues artist Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" which traced the route of the Yazoo and MS Valley RR.
On to Vicksburg National Military Park. The statue is Pres. Abraham Lincoln, General Grant and Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War. The statement by Pres. Lincoln says "Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket." President Lincoln wanted to gain control of the Mississippi and divide the South. This campaign became the turning point of the Civil War. There are no statues that I saw of Pres. Jefferson Davis' statement: "Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together...Vicksburg is the key." Two statements. Two Presidents. One outcome.
After a 20 minute film on the Civil War in Vicksburg we purchased a CD and took a 16 mile driving tour of the battleground. These pictures don't even scratch the surface of everything we were able to see.
Shirley House, or "the white house" as it was called by Union troops, is the only surviving wartime structure in the park. It's been restored to its 1863 appearance.
Two pictures are of the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Of the nearly 17,00 Union soldiers buried here, about 13,000 are unknown. It's also the final resting place for veterans of the Spanish-American War, World Ward I and II, and the Korean Conflict. It has been closed to burials since 1961. Many Confederates who died during the siege are buried in Vicksburg's Cedar Hill Cemetery in another location in the park.
When I stand in places such as this I can't help but think of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered 4 1/2 months later at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA, but could just as easily have given it here. I will always be grateful to my 8th grade English teacher for requiring that we memorize this speech. But just in case my memory fails me, I include it as a tribute to all of those who have fallen in defense of freedom--who gave "the last full measure of devotion."
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, for above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
All of the states who participated in the Civil War have built monuments to honor soldiers who gave their lives on the Vicksburg battleground. I've only shown a few of the monuments. It's interesting to note that it took the confederate states much longer to contribute, because the recovery process for them was so much more time consuming than for the Union states.
The Kentucky monument is located on Kentucky Avenue, which runs between the Union and Confederate line on the south loop of the park. It features bronze statues of United States President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis who were both natives of KY. The memorial symbolizes the division within KY during the Civil War as well as the reunification of the state and country afterward.