Vicksburg National Military Park

Site of the Battle of Vicksburg

Illinois Monument at Vicksburg National Military ParkThe most impressive of the memorials at Vicksburg National Military Park is the Illinois Monument, which was modeled after the Roman Pantheon. On its walls are 60 bronze tablets which record the names of the 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the Vicksburg campaign. The Shirley House, to the right of the monument, is the only building in the park that survived the siege.

Vicksburg National Military Park encompasses over 1800 acres along sixteen miles of road. There are more than 1300 monuments, tablets, and plaques commemorating individuals and units. In addition, it includes the exhibit and museum of the U.S.S. Cairo gunboat, 3 river batteries, Grant’s canal in Louisiana, and the headquarters of the Confederate Commander, General John Pemberton.

In 2008 the National Parks Conservation Association’s Center for the State of the Parks has released an assessment of resource conditions at Vicksburg National Military Park: the first of ten Civil War park assessments, which will be released over the next twelve months. And the news is not good.

Overall conditions of the park’s known cultural resources rated a score of 67 out of 100, indicating fair conditions. This score includes ratings for the park’s historical structures, cultural landscapes, archaeological sites, and an extensive museum collection.

NPCA’s assessment found that the park is in need of an additional 9.4 full-time employees and roughly $716,000 in funding, which obviously the grant will help with. The park currently has only two full-time cultural resource staff: a historian and a museum curator.

Furthermore, Vicksburg’s interpretive staff consists of only two interpreters, two guides, and one supervisory park ranger – not enough to serve the 700,000 people who visit the park each year. Current staff levels equal 140,000 visitors per ranger per year!

In November 2008, I received an email from Perry Wheeler, who is the Media Relations Coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association. Perry thought I might be interested in the report of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Center for the State of the Parks, as one of the findings is that historical resource studies are needed, including further investigation into the roles of women in Vicksburg.

I am well aware of the hardships the women suffered at Vicksburg, how they escaped their homes and took shelter in caves dug into the hillsides in order to avoid the constant bombardment from gunboats in the Mississippi River during the Siege of Vicksburg. I have written a post about Emma Balfour, who kept a very informative diary during the 47 days that General U.S. Grant held Vicksburg at siege.

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