While passing through Mississippi back in 1987, I took the opportunity to spend a day visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park there. I’ve long been a student of the Civil War and its impact on our country. I knew a fair amount about the Siege of Vicksburg and its importance in the War; and was excited at this, my first opportunity to visit an actual Civil War site.
It wasn’t what I expected. In those days before the internet, getting detailed information and images for places of interest was not easy or straightforward – especially when driving across the country on a more or less random vacation journey. So, I was a bit taken aback by what I saw there: a long trail looping around both sides of the siege tench that surrounded the hilltop that is the heart of Vicksburg. Every few feet along that trail is a historical marker – some small, some large: telling where and when particular military units and individuals were at that spot during the siege, and any actions of note that occurred there.
It has the feel of a huge cemetery, which is what it is: a monument to all those who bravely fought and died on both sides in a bloody and prolonged battle that was a major event in a war that has been over and done with for more than 150 years. Over 1400 monuments, memorials and commemorative plaques can be found in the park.
Many of the Civil War battlefields I’ve been to in the years since have a similar feel, such as Gettysburg, but none of those I’ve seen provide a detailed and profound narrative that comes close to what I found at Vicksburg.