Celebrating Independence Day

Bill Seratt

June 28

For 81 years after the July 4, 1863, surrender of Vicksburg the city did not celebrate Independence Day.  The surrender of Vicksburg by Confederate General John C. Pemberton to Union General Ulysses S. Grant was not a cause for celebration for the fallen city.  The 47-day siege of the city had left the citizens exhausted and humiliated.  During the siege, the city was bombarded every day.  By the end, the starving population of the city had been reduced to eating mules, dogs, cats and even rats.  The horrors of the siege are documented in the diaries kept by citizens of the city such as Mary Loughborough whose diary was later published as My Cave Life in Vicksburg.  In her diary, she wrote:  

“A young girl, becoming weary in the confinement of the cave, hastily ran to the house in the interval that elapsed between the slowly falling shells.  On returning, an explosion sounded near her – one wild scream, and she ran into her mother’s presence, sinking like a wounded dove, the life blood flowing over the light summer dress in crimson ripples from a death-wound in her side, caused by the shell fragment.”

It was not until after World War II in 1945 that Vicksburg joined the rest of the nation in the celebration of Independence Day.  The patriotic fervor after the war and a visit by General Dwight D. Eisenhower set the stage for a return to celebrating the birth of our nation.

Today Independence Day is celebrated in Vicksburg in a big way.  The days leading up to the Fourth of July are packed with events for the whole family.   On the evening of July 4th music by the Freedom Band will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Levee Street Depot followed by a fabulous fireworks extravaganza over the river at 9:00 p.m.

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The Vicksburg National Military Park will celebrate Independence Day with Living History programs that include cannon firing demonstrations each day July 1st – 4th at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 p.m. at Tour Road Stop 1.  The Confederate Encampment will be at the Louisiana Monument (Tour Stop 11). Admission to the park is $15 per vehicle.  Call 601-636-0583 or visit www.nps.gov/vick for more information.

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The bed and breakfast inns of Vicksburg are hosting some exciting events for the Fourth of July holiday. Cedar Grove Mansion is hosting an all-day barbecue on Saturday July 1st. You can have breakfast on July 4th at the Baer-Williams House with Generals Grant and Pemberton.  A wonderful opportunity to relive history. Reservations are required.  The Baer House is located at 1117 Grove Street. For more information call 270-559-6943. Blues, Brews & BBQ will begin at 12:00 noon until 7:00 pm at the McNutt House, 815 First East Street. Admission is adults $10, teens $5 and pre-teens free. Food and drink not included. Proceeds go to furthering restoration work on the McNutt House (circa 1826). For more information call 601-529-2695.

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Don't forget to end the night at LD's Kitchen for lives blues music after the City of Vicksburg Independence Day Concert and Fireworks Show. Celebrate America’s Birthday in Vicksburg:  The Key to the South. Visit our calendar for more events going on this holiday weekend.