Thursday, July 4, 2013

The 150th Anniversary of the Fall of Vicksburg

(A partial rewriting of a post from July 3, 2011).

Today is July 4, Independence Day for the United States. 

I first found this story out on Ken Burn's classic TV mini series on the United States Civil War.  (As I write, keep in mind that I am a native of New York State.)

Vicksburg, Mississippi, in a former Confederate state, has an online listing of community events.  Listed in here, along with the Farmers Market, Faith Fest and the Old Court House Flea Market, is the "Red, White and Blue" Fourth of July weekend, and the 4th of July fireworks.  Nothing special, here.  Nothing different than what thousands of other cities and towns in the United States offer in celebrating our nation's Independence Day.

Or is it different?

Several generations of citizens of Vicksburg, Mississippi didn't know what a hometown 4th of July celebration was like-because they didn't have one. Stores remained open.  People went about their business.  And stories were told, dark stories, about the Siege of Vicksburg and its surrender to the Union Army on July 4, 1863.  It is said that General Pemberton, the commanding general of the Confederate States of America forces at Vicksburg, chose to surrender Vicksburg to the Union army on Independence Day as he thought they would get more favorable terms of surrender.

After that surrender, Vicksburg did not celebrate Independence Day until 1945.

Even in 1997, they still had a problem with it.

We must try to understand why Vicksburg  felt that way.   Vicksburg is located on the Mississippi River, one of the most important waterways in our nation.  It was just as important, if not more so, in the 1860's.  It was vital for the Federals to take control of the Mississippi in order to win the war.

Vicksburg stood in the way.  So, it was put under siege by Union forces commanded by General Grant and starved into submission.  As a young girl growing up in the Bronx, I remember drawings in a textbook showing how the residents ended up taking refuge in caves dug into hillsides, and what they used for food as the siege progressed. Rats would have been a gourmet treat.

Towards the end, they were printing their newspaper on wallpaper because they had run out of paper.

For Vicksburg, July 4th didn't stand for our country's birthday but rather was symbolic of what its fellow citizens did to it back in 1863.  I can only think that its citizens going overseas and fighting World War II side by side with the descendents of its former enemies of 80 years before, to fight a strong evil threatening to overtake the world, is what finally started to heal those wounds. 

As William Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is Hell".  Especially for civilians caught in the crossfire.

In another twist of history, the same Union General Sherman, the day after Vicksburg's surrender, started practicing for what would become his infamous "March to the Sea" by marching through Central Mississippi and burning Jackson.

The descendents of those people still remember, too.

Indeed, the wounds of the Civil War are still there, right underneath our collective skin, both North and South, not fully healed.  This was true when I first wrote about Vicksburg in 2011, and is still true today.  The wounds may not fully heal even in my lifetime.

Tomorrow, back to my regular blogging schedule.

If you are in the United States, have a wonderful Independence Day.


  1. I love hearing about history. I wouldn't mind hearing about the Gettysburg address if you're inclined to write something on it! :)

  2. wow...well written. It is very difficult to overcome the aftermaths of a war, especially a civil war. The post was realistic and informative too. Good Job..expecting more scribblings from your side...

  3. This philosophy explains how many folks don't visit (or like) Germany, Poland, or Austria...

  4. Great article. I did not know that about Vicksburg. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I'm Canadian so I only have a very rudimentary knowledge of Civil war history in the U.S. I do live here hubby is a U.S. Marine. I think there are a lot of wounds in this country that have yet to heal (race/gender/class etc) and while we may not see them do so in our lifetimes...each step brings us closer. Happy 4th!!!-Soraya

  6. I actually knew very little on this subject (thank you for enlightening me!) As they say, you learn something new every day!

  7. I've noticed that about the wounds being right under the skin in some parts of the country. Here in Nebraska, the Civil War is barely on our radar--I mean, as far as being affected by it today--but when I went to college in Arkansas, I was surprised at how it still crops up in peoples' feelings and emotions.

  8. War IS hell. Hell is not forgiving past mistakes and not letting old wounds heal. Maybe the next generation will be able to let the past go. I hope so. So sad.

  9. Interesting article. Ancestral energy can be so powerful. At least, they have begun the healing process.


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