How to Spend a Day at the Vicksburg National Military Park - Visit Vicksburg


How to Spend a Day at the Vicksburg National Military Park

The Siege of Vicksburg was a major turning point in the Civil War that sometimes goes unsung in history books. After a 47-day war of attrition between General Pemberton’s stalwart Confederates and General Grant’s indefatigable Union soldiers, Vicksburg had no choice but surrender, and the Union gained control of the Mississippi.

Forty years later, a group of veterans came together in the spirit of reconciliation to preserve the battlefield where their brothers in arms fell, erecting an awe-inspiring number of memorials and monuments to honor each state’s sacrifices. Today, visitors from around the globe come to Vicksburg to walk in their footsteps.

With so much to see, where do you start? We’re here with a few tips for how to make the most of your day at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Visitor Center

Begin your day at the Visitor Center, where park rangers are ready to set you up for a breathtaking day. Grab a park brochure and map before you start your journey, and don’t miss “Here Brothers Fought,” a 20-minute short film that introduces you to the harrowing events of the Vicksburg campaign.

You’ll drive through the park to experience its many sights and sites, through 22 designated stops and as many others as you please. You can go at your own pace, using your park brochure or your phone to discover fascinating facts about each location. To make the experience even more memorable, be sure to download The Vicksburg Battle App®. This GPS-enabled touring application provides the perfect Civil War sightseeing partner for your exploration of one of the more remarkable campaigns of the American Civil War. The app will guide you to all the historic spots on this Civil War battlefield — from Port Gibson to the Siege of Vicksburg. Discover audio accounts of soldiers from the battle, photos, orders of battle, chronologies, key facts, and more—all within 1.5- to 2-hour guided tours.

The most immersive option is to arrange for a licensed park tour guide. Individuals, families, and groups can tour the park with a knowledgeable guide, available to provide deep insights, answer questions, and help you get the most of your visit. Just reserve ahead of time with the Visitor Center and meet your guide there at the arranged time.

Illinois Memorial and Shirley House (Stop #5)

After driving through the main entrance arch and down a wooded road, your view suddenly opens up to a jaw-dropping battlefield landscape, its hills undulating beneath a distant, grand rotunda. That rotunda is the Illinois Memorial, styled after the Roman Pantheon to be “a temple of fame” worthy of the 74 infantry, 20 artillery, and 22 cavalry units Illinois sent to Vicksburg.

Next door is the Creole cottage-style Shirley House, or White House as it was called when Union soldiers used it for an observation post. Built in 1837 and later bought by Judge James Shirley, the house miraculously survived the siege. Confederates nearly destroyed the home (the Shirleys actually supported the Union) but a lucky—or unlucky—bullet stopped a soldier from burning it down. The house remains to this day, the only surviving wartime structure on park grounds.

Mississippi African American Monument (Stop #8)

Honoring the 1st and 3rd Mississippi Infantry Regiments, this bronze sculpture is the largest tribute to honor African American soldiers on any of the National Park Service’s Civil War battlefields. After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the Union army began training African American soldiers in camps along the Mississippi River, including Milliken’s Bend. When Confederates tried to seize Milliken’s Bend, the Black regiments valiantly held them off, marking a major turning point for how Black soldiers were viewed and respected in the wartime effort.

In the sculpture, a Black soldier in uniform and a civilian farm laborer help a wounded Black soldier off the battlefield. One man looks forward into the hopeful future; one looks ahead at the present realities; and one looks behind, to never forget the past.

USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum

Pronounced CAY-roh for the city in Illinois, this authentic ironclad gunboat is a one-of-a-kind sight. The boat was salvaged from the bottom of the Yazoo River just over a hundred years after it was sunk in 1862. In all that time, the gunboat was forgotten and left to settle in the mud-silt bottom of the river, leaving only scattered tales and speculations about its whereabouts.

Today, you can board this magnificent specimen for yourself, which still retains its original armor, cannons, pilothouse, and steam engines. You won’t see anything quite like it anywhere else.

The Art of Commemoration 

These stops only scratch the surface of what you’ll see and learn about during a day at the Vicksburg National Military Park. Whether you hire a guide to whisk you away on an immersive tour or bring the family for a whole day of self-guided sightseeing, this incredible park is unmatched in its splendor. Learn more about how you can make the most of your trip to the site of the Vicksburg siege by further exploring 

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