Not only is this place important to Mississippi history, but American and even world history, and it’s a place thousands and thousands of people visit every year.
The place we are talking about doesn’t look like much of anything important would have ever happened here.
There are lots more elaborate monuments erected to memorialize much lesser events around the world.
But here under the shade of a tree not far from the entrance of the Vicksburg national Military Park is where General Pemberton, of the Confederacy, surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant of the Union on July 4th, 1863 - ending the siege of Vicksburg, effectively losing the Civil War for the South, although the war went on for nearly two more years.
So this is the place the United States was reunited in a sense. And the United States went on to become the strongest nation in the world, something neither country, North or South, would have ever been on their own.
Not that everybody was delighted by the surrender, especially the people in Vicksburg.
For 47 days, the city had been bombarded day and night by cannon fire. When it was over there wasn’t a pane of window glass in the city that was not broken. Homes destroyed, deaths of many soldiers, North and South and many civilians, black and white.
As a consequence, Vicksburg didn’t celebrate the 4th of July for over a century after the Civil War.
Many times the Vicksburg Post Office didn’t even close on the 4th.
Things began to change around the time of the Bicentennial year, 1976. Since then, Vicksburg usually has as much or more going on the 4th of July as anybody.
Take this weekend for example. Talk about fireworks, there will be cannon firing demonstrations at the Military Park hourly all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, except at noon.
And then downtown Sunday evening, the National Park’s Jazz Band from New Orleans will put on a free concert at the riverfront at Catfish Row.
It’s the most American holiday there is.
And what happened at Vicksburg in 1863 helped knit this country back together so we would be celebrating it together all these decades later.
Regular admission charges apply at the Vicksburg park this weekend but the concert, downtown Sunday evening at 6, is free.
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