Vicksburg National Cemetery
Vicksburg National Cemetery sits on 116 acres of land in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The cemetery is the final resting place for over 17,000 Civil War Union Soldiers. This number exceeds that of any other national cemetery. The cemetery sits within the Vicksburg National Military Park. This park maintains and preserves the site of the Battle of Vicksburg during the American Civil War. The Battle of Vicksburg lasted about a month from May to June in 1863. The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major military action of the Vicksburg Campaign, which was a set of battles in Mississippi, or the “Western Theater”, of the Civil War. Vicksburg was a Confederate controlled city in the Confederate controlled section of the Mississippi River. Ulysses S. Grant was able to gain control of the river by capturing Vicksburg, which was a major strategic city for the Confederacy as it joined the two halves of the South. Taking control of Vicksburg allowed the Union to slowly suffocate the south and was a major part in their plan.
Backstory and Context
The Vicksburg Campaign was a set of battles during the American Civil War aimed at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The city represented a section of Confederate controlled area of the Mississippi River. The Union Army, under the lead of Ulysses S. Grant, were able to acquire control of the river by capturing Vicksburg. The military engagement consisted of naval and troop maneuvers from December 26, 1862 to July 4, 1863.
Major General Grant, commander of the Union Army of Tennessee, planned an attack on Major General William Sherman, commander of Confederate army. The nature of the plan was for half of Grant’s men would move to the Yazoo River and into Vicksburg from the northeast and Grant would take the rest of the army down the Mississippi Central Railroad. This plan along with five other initiatives by Grant failed. Eventually, Union gunboats and boats transporting soldiers were able to run the batteries at Vicksburg and pair up with Grant’s men who had been marching from Louisiana. Over two days in April, Grant and his army were able to cross the Mississippi River and in a series of diversions they were able to trick the Confederates into not knowing where they were coming in. Once inland, Grant orchestrated his army inland and won five battles in seventeen days. He was able to capture the state capital and take Vicksburg.
It wasn’t uncommon, in battle, for fallen soldiers to be buried near where they died. Often times there was a very basic wooden marker to acknowledge the resting place and if their name was known, that would be carved into the wood. These rudimentary materials don’t usually withstand the test of time, weather and progress and are often lost. This lack of permanent fixture left some of the soldiers unnamed during the efforts of the War Department to create cemetery and mark the graves.
There were other burial sites throughout the town of Vicksburg prior to the creation of the cemetery. To the best of their ability, the U.S. Army attempted to locate these bodies and place them in appropriate cemeteries across the country. Most of them, over 50%, remain unknown as record keeping and grave marking were not very exact in those times. Some states, like North Carolina’s Salisbury National Cemetery have up to 99% of their soldier grave population as unknown. The Vicksburg National Cemetery is no longer open for burial since 1961, unless it was reserved previously and is controlled by the Vicksburg National Military Park.
National Park Service. Vicksburg Cemetery History. 07 June 2016. Accessed 21 September 2017. https://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/historyculture/cemhistory.htm
Find a Grave. Vicksburg National Cemetery. Accessed 18 September 2017. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=63403
Ancestry. Vicksburg National Cemetery. Accessed 19 September 2017. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2314.