In lieu of a post this week I thought I would share with you some information about the the activities around our July 4th events that we are calling"
Breakfast with the Generals
& Vicksburg Civil War Symposium
July 3rd & 4th
» Tuesday, July 3, 2018 – 7:00 p.m. – Old Courthouse Museum - $15.00
Civil War Symposium: Vicksburg: what did it really mean for the war?
The 4th of July 1863 was momentous in the prosecution of the war, with Lee in retreat, defeated in his second attempt to take the war to northern soil, and Pemberton surrendering Vicksburg to Grant; opening the Mississippi River for the federal war effort from source to mouth and splitting the confederacy in half. Gettysburg got most of the headlines, overshadowing what happened at Vicksburg, as the eastern theater activities always did. The intent to minimize the Vicksburg victory was not intentional but was, nevertheless, the resulting effect. This symposium will examine the question of how important Vicksburg was in the ultimate federal victory over the confederacy.
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Old Courthouse Museum (601) 636-0741 / email@example.com OR the Baer House (601) 883-1525 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Proceeds will benefit the Old Courthouse Museum and the Vicksburg Civil War Round Table.
« Wednesday, July 4, 2018 – 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Baer House Inn - $15.00 adults / $7.50 children under 12
Breakfast With the Generals: Enjoy all you can eat breakfast buffet with Civil War Generals Grant, Pemberton and others. Vicksburg was the key to the south. Come find out why and learn other interesting facts about the siege and surrender of Vicksburg.
Photo opportunities, question & answer session, book signings, children’s crafts.
For more information contact the Baer House Inn: (601) 883-1525 / email@example.com
A portion of proceeds will benefit the Vicksburg Civil War Round Table.
» Wednesday, July 4, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. – Old Courthouse Museum – Free
Reenactment of surrender: Living history event for the entire family. Watch from the majestic courtroom of the Old Courthouse Museum as Generals Grant and Pemberton discuss the terms of the surrender of Vicksburg.
Followed by photo opportunities and question & answer sessions with the Generals on the grounds of the Old Courthouse.
For more information, contact the Old Courthouse Museum (601) 636-0741 / firstname.lastname@example.org OR The Baer House 601) 883-1525 / email@example.com
« Wednesday, July 4, 2018 – 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. – McRaven House – Ticketed Event
Gallivanting with the Generals: Living history with lectures and demonstrations from historians in period costume. Family-friendly event with interactive activities. Confederate soldiers, children’s games and activities. Have fun and learn with Jefferson Davis, General Pemberton, Emma Balfour and others.
For more information contact McRaven Tour Home: (601) 501-1336 / firstname.lastname@example.org
A Castle on a Hill
by Morgan Gates
Let’s take an imaginary drive through Vicksburg, shall we? We’ll start at the Old Courthouse Museum. This iconic landmark is one of the most familiar in Vicksburg. In fact I like to call it Vicksburg’s “Eiffel Tower”. Let’s drive south two blocks on Cherry Street (named for the tree) until it intersects with Clay Street (named for Henry Clay). Here we will turn right and descend the hill two blocks until we reach the intersection of Clay and Walnut Streets (the tree again). To our right is the Old Hotel Vicksburg, completed July 4th 1929, sixty-six years after the end of the Siege and approximately three months before the beginning of the Great Depression. It was the tallest building between Memphis and New Orleans at the time; however, this is not our destination today. Turn left and drive up the hill, and in one block, you will pass between the 1903 Beaux Arts City Hall and the 1894 Romanesque Mississippi River Commission building. Keep going. Oh, we seem to be running out of beautiful buildings--a parking garage, the public library (built in the 1970’s, need I say more), and Central Fire Station. Walnut Street ends at its intersection with Madison Street (named for the president). Stop, we have arrived! What, you say! There is nothing here! Yes there is! Its right in front of you--the big hill!
Rising up over your head is a large hill, covered in Kudzu, topped with a few shabby houses and a very large radio tower. What’s so special about this hill you ask? Ok, here is a clue. Turn right and, about half way down the block, there is a small side street that runs up the hill. You see it, right behind the liquor store? Notice the street sign--it says “Castle Alley”!
There is something undeniably romantic about a castle on a hill. So many beloved tales, both old and new, contain a castle. Castles summon images King Arthur and Knights of old slaying dragons and rescuing princesses. Disney has made untold fortunes in an empire built around a “Magic Castle”. Many epic adventures like “Lord of the Rings” feature castles. Yes, there is something about the castle that captures the imagination and that fascination is not particularly new.
In our recent series on Fortress Vicksburg, we discussed how the City of Vicksburg has been called a fortress, but it was not a castle! The rich planters of the Antebellum south knew well the romance of the age of chivalry and in many cases identified with the “Cavalier” attitude of these days gone by. They even built houses that they felt were modernized (in there day) versions of palaces. Sturdy brick homes were given the even more permanent look of stone masonry by skilled artisans who applied coats of stucco for a “faux” stone appearance.
There was however one actual castle in Vicksburg. Sometime about 1840, banker Thomas E. Robins built a replica of a medieval castle on a high hill, just south of what would have been the southern city limits (mid-town today). He imported hexagonal bricks from England especially for this purpose. It had four towers and was even surrounded by a moat. It changed hands in 1852, and again in 1859, and was owned by a lawyer named Burwell, who had recently moved to Vicksburg from Virginia.
The Castle survived the siege, but not the occupation. After the city fell, it became a Union stronghold on the river. Grant’s battle-hardened troops were too valuable to be left sitting in garrison duty, so they were peeled off and sent on to other hotspots. A much smaller garrison of less experienced soldiers were left to guard the city. The old siege trenches were filled in and the defensive line around the city was shortened to only five miles. To strengthen the line, several batteries of “heavy artillery” were emplaced on the landward approaches to the city. The castle occupied a high hill in an ideal position to anchor this southern approach to Vicksburg. Though the home resembled a military fortress, it was in fact, not a suitable military strong point in 1863-4. It was torn down and replaced by earthen revetments mounting heavy siege guns.
The hill on which the castle set has undergone many transformations in the over 150 years that have passed since its demise. It is still known locally as “Castle Hill” but the only real reminder that Vicksburg’s most unique home once topped this promontory is that little green street sign behind the liquor store!
The Long Road to Vicksburg
By Morgan Gates
The Vicksburg National Military Park is a huge beautiful monument to the most complex campaign of the Civil War. It encompasses one thousand eight hundred and fifty acres the tour road is 16 miles long and along the way are over 1500 markers that run the gamut from modest to magnificent! But it only tells the end of the story! Before Grant could assault and besiege the city, he had to get to it, and that was no mean feat. Involving (warning run-on sentence ahead) building a supply road through many miles of swamp, a daring night run past the batteries on the bluffs, a major and ultimately unsuccessful naval bombardment of Confederate batteries 25 air miles south of Vicksburg, a fortuitous piece of information from a run away slave, the largest amphibious landing prior to WWII, five major battles fought and won in what could only be described as a 19th Century Blitzkrieg while crossing a huge army through almost 200 miles of enemy territory and the capture and destruction of only the second southern state capital to fall during the war (whew). All of this occurred far from the manicured grounds and artistic masterpieces of the VNMP. I occasionally am called upon to guide true Civil War buffs as they retrace Grant's spring break road trip. I just completed one this weekend with three gentlemen from Seattle.
The day starts early 8 a.m. is best, I usually meet them at their hotel I like to bring maps and charts, and I begin by explaining the enormous task confronted by Grant and the previous efforts that had already failed. Then we hit the road; our next stop is the ghost town of Grand Gulf, there is not much left an old long abandoned store, an old church that has been all but reclaimed by the forest and the land. It was once a thriving town of 80 blocks and a thousand people, up to 20 steamboats a week once docked there. But yellow fever and a massive tornado devastated the city, and then the Mississippi came to town washing away fifty blocks. Only a handful of people were left when the Union Navy burned it in 1862. The Confederates built two forts there to guard Vicksburg’s underbelly Fort Wade and Fort Coburn. The Confederate bastions successfully resisted the Navy’s best and forced Grant to move South and cross at Bruinsburg. Bruinsburg was once a thriving community as well as Andrew Jackson once owned a store there. Period references refer to substantial brick homes in the neighborhood, but alas it no longer exists. Our next stop is the Shaifer House on the Port Gibson battlefield it is not much different than it was in 1863 and the land is nearly untouched. The maps come out, and we hear, in our mind, the echoes of the guns of that long ago battle in the middle of a pastoral wilderness. We pass through Port Gibson, The City to Beautiful to Burn, a quick stop to snap a photo of the Presbyterian Church with its gold-plated finger pointing toward heaven. We follow the Old Port Gibson Road northeast, this road was known as the Natchez Trace in Mississippi’s territorial days, following Grant’s push toward the railroad. Grant is taking a mighty gamble with this maneuver, foraging his sustenance from the land with only scant supply lines essentially disobeying his orders to dig in at Grand Gulf and send aid to General Banks near Port Hudson. Grant follows his gut instincts, and they do not let him down. Lunch on the road at H. D. Gibbs Grocery in the little town of Learned, Google Maps doesn’t know where this place is. Then on to Raymond Battlefield where a Confederate Brigade goes against one of Grant’s corps and lives to tell the story because of a meteorological phenomenon. Champion Hill is next That Hill of Death Whose Guns Rang the death Knell for Richmond! Finally Battle of Big Black River Bridge that last barrier between Grant and his ultimate destiny. While not quite as exhausting as Grant’s March it is quite a whirlwind tour, wear your sneakers, not flipflops and long pants, not shorts. Bring the SUV, not the sports car. Bring plenty of water and come see us sometime.
Son of a Gun!
By Morgan Gates
Son of a gun, I’m famous -Well not quite, but I did have a role in a movie a couple of days ago. I was contacted by a fellow who was making a small independent movie titled “Son of a Gun” based on a Civil War era story. He wanted me to portray Pemberton surrendering Vicksburg. It was a short no lines bit part, which mainly involved me staring intently at the actor depicting grant before stiffly accepting a proffered handshake. I'm told it would be a flashback scene remembered by one of the main characters. In final edit, It will probably last about 20 -30 seconds, but hey, I was in a movie! Son of a Gun!
You son of a gun! – Have you ever wondered about some of the commonly used phrases that have become part of the English language, but on closer examination make no sense at all? In some cases, the actual origin of the phrase has been clouded and almost lost in the mist of time. Son of a gun is one of these that are old enough that the exact origin is unknown. Some believe that it is a variant of the even older, and more self-explanatory “son of a b_ _ ch” but most of those who delve deeply into the more arcane mysteries of the English language have a bit more refined story. The best case for the origin of this phrase was the unofficial but often tolerated practice of women coming aboard 18th Century British warships while they were in port. Nick Slope writing for BBC History recounts this account of a British sailor of the day:
With the women came drink and what with the drink and the women the ship's discipline came to a stop. The men and women drank and quarreled between the guns. The decks were allowed to become dirty. Drunken women were continually coming up to insult the officers, or to lodge some complaint. Sometimes the women ran aloft to wave their petticoats to the flagship'.
Any child born of such an encounter would have had a very questionable paternal bloodline, needless to say, and became known as simply “A son of a gun”!
A Real Son of a Gun? Back now to our normal period of time, The Civil War. An interesting story (the one the movie is based on) was related in 1874 by one Dr. LeGrand G. Capers of Vicksburg writing for the American Medical Weekly. Allegedly during the Battle of Raymond, May 12th, 1863, which was part of the Vicksburg Campaign, a Minie Ball struck a young lady who was watching the battle unfold from the porch of her nearby home. The bullet lodged in her reproductive organ. The wound was not fatal as the round was nearly spent by the time it reached her, but by incredible coincident, the projectile had passed through the left testicle of a young Confederate soldier first. Dr. Capers an army surgeon treated both patients who recovered nicely. Dr. Capers was called on again by the young woman sometime later as she discovered that she was pregnant! Dr. Capers delivered a healthy baby that was allegedly the result of a long distance artificial insemination via Minie Ball! Dr. Capers introduced the couple who married and had several more children via the normal method! So, was this and actual case of a literal “son of a gun”? Sadly, no for the report was just a joke! Despite the suspect name of LeGrand Caper (i.e., “the grand caper”), Doctor Caper was real, but the story was related to him by another, and he submitted it as a farce. Perhaps a child did arise from the meeting of a young soldier and an and innocent lass, but it was of a decidedly normal process and the yarn concocted to preserve a young girl's honor. For in Dr. Capers on words "an accident may happen in even the most well-regulated families."
Oh, by the way if you don’t catch “Son of a Gun” in your local theater you can see an reenactment of the surrender of Vicksburg at our Breakfast with the Generals on July 4th, 2018 at the Baer House Inn 1117 Grove Street and the Old Courthouse Museum 1008 Cherry Street – More information soon
It's too soon to say when and where the movie will be shown, but as I find out more, I'll share it here. See you next time You Old Son of a Gun! Note it's scheduled for release early 2019 and will be shown in the Vicksburg Port Gibson area