The story behind the decades-long break for July 4th celebrations in Vicksburg

Updated: Jul. 4, 2019 at 7:01 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

VICKSBURG, Miss. (WLBT) -One Mississippi city had a decades-long hiatus from celebrating the fourth. But it’s been back on their calendar of events since after World War II.

The sounds of cannons echo through the Vicksburg Military Park. It’s reminder of what took place and ended there 156 years ago.

“47 days of no in and out, running out of food, people living in caves which they dug for safety’s sake,” explained local historian Gordon Cotton.

It was July 4th, 1863 that confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, marking anything but a day for celebration in the city.

“For about 80 years, Vicksburg did not celebrate the fourth," noted Cotton. "People often ask why and it’s because you don’t celebrate pillage and plunder and terrorism and that’s what happened.”

But after World War II, a visit by General Dwight Eisenhower was cause for celebration for the first time in decades.

“He made a speech on the 4th of July," Cotton said. "And it was greatly received. Now, they didn’t completely give up, you might say. They called it the carnival of the Confederacy.”

Those celebrations fizzled out until a boost from the country’s bicentennial. Fast forward to 2019 and the city goes all out to celebrate.

“And it’s just gotten bigger and bigger," said Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Laura Beth Strickland. "And the big celebration is tonight in front of the Depot Museum.”

“I’m full aware that for 80-some years they didn’t celebrate the fourth of July but what I’m honored about is that I’m the mayor today and we really celebrate it and we really understand it and we move forward with the understanding of how important it is to celebrate our nation’s birthday and independence," said Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs. "This is what this is about.”

Copyright 2019 WLBT. All rights reserved.