No visit to Vicksburg would be complete without a tour of the Civil War battlefield. That 1863 battle had such an impact on the city of Vicksburg you can still see the effects of it today. President Lincoln called Vicksburg "the key" to winning the war and sent General Grant to clear the Mississippi of
Confederate resistance. We had toured the battlefield many years ago but we were in a hurry to get home then and didn't really take the time to understand everything we saw - so it deserved a second look!
We began our visit in the small visitor's center where we saw....
.....exhibits on the life of soldiers and officers in the field......
.......and exhibits on the lives of the citizens of Vicksburg who left their homes and waited out the bombardment, and siege, in caves they dug into the hillsides.
When Grant's direct attacks on the city failed, he began a formal siege. He set up artillery batteries to hammer the Confederate fortifications from the land side while gunboats blasted the city from the river. Massive trenches were dug by both sides of the conflict and they remain today.
The Shirley House is the only surviving wartime structure in the park. During the siege it served as headquarters for the 45th Illinois Infantry. The owners refused to leave and took refuge in the basement.
This battlefield, like all the other ones we have visited, has it's share of war memorials and cannons. But, perhaps, the nicest one we've ever seen in the Illinois Monument built near the Shirley House.
However, the most impressive sight in the park is the miles of trenches that were hand dug by thousands of men in an attempt to avoid being hit by enemy sharpshooters.
Many of the trenches were within hailing distance of the enemy.
Union troops dug a tunnel beneath this road to avoid crossing a ridge where they would be exposed to Confederate fire. It was said they "fought with a gun in one hand and a shovel in the other."
The important Navel contribution was not forgotten either. This monument is flanked on each side by the important commanders of the gunboats that pressed Vicksburg from the water.
Also, along the 16 mile tour, is the first vessel ever sunk by a mine. On December 12, 1862, the Union ironclad gunboat Cairo, along with several other vessels had tried to destroy Confederate batteries when, suddenly, two quick explosions tore holes in the Cairo's bottom. It sunk in minutes.
In the 1960s the boat's remains, and many of the crew's personal gear, were salvaged from the bottom of the river.
Unlike most of the other states, Missouri has a monument to men who fought on both sides of the war since it's citizenry were divided in their beliefs.
Finally, after 46 long days of siege, Confederate General Pemberton met with General Grant to discuss terms of surrender. On July 4, 1863 Vicksburg was officially surrendered.