Focused on Mississippi: 4th of July in Vicksburg

Focused on Mississippi

VICKSBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – We are a nation with two birthdays. Coincidentally, both came on the 4th of July. In 1776, when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and again on July 4, 1863, when the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg in the Civil War was surrendered to the Union.

There are still some of the places leading up to that surrender, not only in the Vicksburg Park, but along the back roads of southwest Mississippi. 

A lot of the battlefield where the main siege of Vicksburg took place is preserved in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The park came into being 30 years after the Civil War ended when Congress was petitioned to preserve the main battlefield where the Siege of Vicksburg had taken place.

But there are bits and pieces of the rest of the trail from where Union General Grant landed his army at Bruinsburg west of Port Gibson. His army was encamped around Vicksburg for 47 days without allowing anyone in or out, effectively starving the city into surrender.

And for those 47 days, cannons shelled the city from the land side on the east and the river side on the west. 

Confederate General Pemberton realized the situation inside Vicksburg was hopeless. So he arranged to surrender the city to General Grant on the 4th of July, hoping to get some sort of advantageous terms in return for picking the national holiday as the day to give the city to the Union army. It didn’t work. It was unconditional surrender.

The Confederate Army that had been trapped inside the city along with the civilians was allowed to stack their arms and go home, if they agreed not to join in with anymore hostilities against the Union. And I’m sure some of them probably lived up to that.

The exact site where the surrender took place is sort of out of the way, between the lines of the Union and the Confederates and not too far from the entrance to the Vicksburg Park.

The size of the marker doesn’t equate to the significance of the event. Scholars may debate whether the South could have hung on and won the war had Vicksburg not fallen, but there’s no doubt it couldn’t after it fell.

And this is the spot where our nation got it’s rebirth on that other 4th of July in 1863 on a side road in the Vicksburg National Military Park. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Vicksburg Park is partially open. Tourists can get in and drive the loop through the park. However, the Visitors Center, the restrooms and the Cairo Museum are still closed.

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