Civil War Attraction: Vicksburg National Military Park
Visit the massive Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi – it covers over 1,700 acres just two miles from Vicksburg – to relive a pivotal Civil War battle. There’s a lot to see: 1,325 historical monuments and markers, 20 miles of reconstructed trenches, two pre-war houses, 144 cannons, a national cemetery and a restored heavy-duty gunboat. In addition, it is magnificent. “Visitors are usually overwhelmed by the park’s unique topography, made up of rolling hills and ravines, and many notice how beautiful each monument is,” says Brendan Wilson, Chief Interpretation, Education and Partnerships by VNMP.
Veterans of the Confederate Campaign and the Union wanted to pay tribute to the more than 37,000 people who died here in 1863 during the three-month battle for control of the Mississippi River. The military park was established in 1899, before the federal government created the national park system in 1916. The states, North and South, have built monuments to fallen troops, and you will see tombstones, obelisks and sculptures designed by some of the prominent artists of the early 20th century.
“The battlefield offers a sense of belonging. With a landscape still marked by trenches and earthworks, it is a silent testament to the courage, strength and sacrifice of soldiers and civilians, ”Wilson says. “
Considering the size of VNMP, the amount of information to absorb about the siege of Vicksburg and the war, and the charms of the city of Vicksburg, it is wise – if you have the time – to spend several days in explore the park and the region. With this three-day plan, you can fully immerse yourself in the Vicksburg experience. (You’ll also find a shortened route below.)
At the VNMP reception center, a 20-minute orientation film provides the context of the siege and features stories from some of the families who fought here. You’ll also find maps and a small museum with replicas of hospital trenches and tents, as well as artifacts such as the stone monument that marked the spot where Union General Ulysses S. Grant and General Confederate John Pemberton discussed the terms of Vicksburg’s surrender.
Armed with this background, embark on the park’s 16-mile driving circuit, which consists of two connected loops – the north and south loops – and will last two hours or more. The tour reaches major stops, but for in-depth seat information, consider hiring a licensed guide, who will also do the driving (outside of Covid). Reserve one (from $ 50 per car) through Visit Vicksburg (601-636-3827).
The 13-mile north loop winds through hills and valleys and passes monuments and other sites, including the Third Louisiana Redan, a fort with replica guns that soldiers used to repel advancing forces. Another must-see is the USS Cairo, a gunboat used in the shallow waters of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers that sank in an 1862 battle. You can walk through the reassembled battleship even when its museum is closed, and see its wide interior beams and gigantic size put into perspective the scale of the tools used by soldiers in combat.
Near the end of the loop, stop by the Second Texas Lunette, a fortification built by the Confederates in 1862, to view the trenches and other defenses used during the siege.
Some visitors develop battlefield fatigue by the time they arrive at the 3 Mile South Loop, but if they continue to persevere they will be rewarded with beautiful views, powerful stories, and the State Monument of the Iowa, where six bronze panels by HH Kitson tell the story of the Vicksburg countryside.