(Vicksburg, Miss.) - During ceremonies this morning near Vicksburg National Military Park (NMP), the Civil War Trust and key local partners announced the preservation of 11 historic acres at Vicksburg battlefield. Protection of this land will not only increase understanding of the 1863 conflict, but also enhance the reverent, scenic environment of Vicksburg NMP.
"This land is a core piece of the most strategic and decisive campaign of the Civil War," said Bess Averett, executive director of Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign. "We can take pride in the conservation of these 11 acres, a tangible reminder of the bravery and perseverance of those who fought at Vicksburg."
Joining Averett at the news conference were Vicksburg NMP Superintendent Bill Justice, Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer, and John L. Nau, III, Trust Chairman emeritus and Friends of Vicksburg board member.
Protection of this parcel was the result of a $720,000 fundraising campaign undertaken by the Civil War Trust in 2013. Thousands of Trust and Friends of Vicksburg members provided donations for the acquisition, which were matched with grants from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program.
"How wonderful to celebrate a success for the Civil War Trust at Vicksburg battlefield, made possible through critical relationships with local partners like the Friends of Vicksburg and Vicksburg National Military Park," said Nau. "It's always rewarding to see what the conservation community and public-private partnerships can accomplish toward the sacred and essential goal of battlefield preservation."
The site, located near the Railroad Redoubt and adjacent to Interstate 20, had been zoned for commercial development, and was also threatened by highway expansion. Now that it's protected, the land will be part of the story it witnessed during the May 22, 1863 assault by the Union Army of the Tennessee against Vicksburg defenses. Once Gen. Ulysses S. Grant began his 47-day siege of the area, the land served as camping ground for the 22nd and 23rd Iowa Infantry, and the 42nd Ohio Infantry.
"I am grateful that the Trust was able to work with willing sellers and complete fundraising on this parcel quickly," noted Lighthizer. "This land was especially prone to development threats, and now it will instead remain for future generations to learn and reflect on a key Civil War campaign in the West."
The acreage acquired was the result of four land transactions with several members of the Harris family: Donna Carter Harris - 3 acres; James Dreher Harris and John P. Harris - 1 acre; Charles Marsalis, Alice Marsalis Seals and Stacy Eady Martin - 2 acres; and Mary D. Harris - 5 acres. In an effort to return the land more closely to its wartime appearance, the Friends of Vicksburg coordinated the removal of a modern home, with generous support from Fordice Construction Company and the City of Vicksburg.
Ultimately, the land will be transferred to the National Park Service. Vicksburg NMP, established in 1899, currently comprises over 1,800 acres. The federal government recently expanded the authorized boundary of Vicksburg NMP to include the Raymond, Port Gibson and Champion Hill battlefields. The Trust has saved land associated with all of these conflicts -critical to the Vicksburg campaign of 1862-63-including 476 acres at Champion Hill, 623 acres at Port Gibson and 106 acres at Raymond. As the National Park Service begins its centennial celebration in 2016, the Trust will continue to work with integral sites like Vicksburg NMP in the shared mission of conservation and education.
"This wooded parcel provides a vitally important buffer from modern distractions and noise that would have been lost had it been developed," remarked Justice. "These 11 acres will significantly complement the existing park's atmosphere and interpretation, and bolster its standing as a critical site for understanding the events of the Civil War."
In May and June 1863, Gen. Grant's armies converged on Vicksburg, trapping Lt. Gen. John Pemberton's Confederate army. On July 4, Vicksburg surrendered after prolonged siege operations. With the loss of Pemberton's army and this stronghold on the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in half. Grant's successes in the West boosted his reputation, leading ultimately to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies.
The Civil War Trust is America's premier nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 41,000 acres of battlefield land in 21 states, including nearly 3,500 acres in Mississippi.
The Civil War Preservation Trust became the Civil War Trust in January 2011; the Civil War Trust became a division of the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.