Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the Siege of Vicksburg, which was a decisive battle in the Civil War. The facilities are well maintained, and the siege itself is worth studying by anyone with interest in the Civil War as a whole or the western battles in general.
Military historians like to debate which was the more crippling blow to the hopes of the Confederacy, Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg or the surrender of Vicksburg. Given that Vicksburg surrendered on July 4th 1863, the same day that Lee began his retreat from Gettysburg, one can certainly say that it was an Independence Day rarely matched in American history. regardless of which you pick as the more significant, no one will deny that the fall of Vicksburg wasn’t important to the conclusion of the war.
Unlike most Civil War battlefields, however, the one preserved at Vicksburg commemorates a siege rather than a single battle. After being outmaneuvered and outfought by the Union army under Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate general John Pemberton led his forces into the defenses of Vicksburg. two attempts by Grant to storm the place failed in late may, and afterwards, both sides settled in for a siege. Forty days later, out of food and ammunition, Pemberton surrendered. Less than a week later, Port Gibson surrendered as well, granting control of the Mississippi to the Union for the rest of the war.
Because it covers a siege, the Vicksburg National Military Park has a somewhat different feel to it than most other battlefields. For example, rather than a series of tour signs as one might find at Pea Ridge or Wilson’s Creek, there are instead a number of memorials that show where various units were stationed. Many of the states, Union or Confederate, who had troops involved have also raised large monuments dedicated to the memory of the troops who fought and died during the siege. There are occasional event signs that describe attacks and other significant events, but there is no organized tour as one might find at other battlefields.
Despite this lack, the rest of the facilities are much as one would expect. The visitor’s center is well equipped with artifacts of war, a historical movie, and information about the siege. There is also the USS Cairo museum, which allows visitors to explore a union gunboat that has been retrieved from the bottom of the river where it sank. This glimpse into the naval side of the war is a welcome addition to the usual sights and sounds of the battlefield that one would normally expect. As one might expect, with the park located within Vicksburg itself, food and accommodations are located in Vicksburg proper, some within walking distance.
As with most national battlefields, the Vicksburg Visitor’s Center is free to enter and explore, while entrance to the battlefield itself requires the payment of a small fee. Entrance is $8.00 per vehicle, or $4.00 per person for pedestrians and cyclists. There is also a $20.00 Vicksburg Annual Pass. Finally, remember that the $10.00 lifetime Senior Pass that grants lifetime entrance to American citizens (aged 62+) and those with them remains one of the best deals available, especially for families.
Map to Vicksburg National Military Park.