Scenes from Vicksburg (postscript)

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After my two and a half days in Vicksburg, I’m safely ensconced back home in the heart of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. But wow, what a time I had. I had a few extra shots I wanted to share that didn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the collection, so I thought I’d add a quick postscript.

I also wanted to offer a huge thank-you to the American Battlefield Trust for inviting Emerging Civil War to partner with them on this fantastic Facebook LIVE excursion—with a particular shout out to the Trust’s education manager, Kris White. The Trust has been a fantastic partner to work with, and we’re so glad we’re able to help support their important preservation work. (Thanks, too, to the Trust’s Connor Townsend for all her great camera work, directing, and social media management!)

I also want to offer a big thank-you to Vicksburg National Military Park. I was honestly stunned by how many people who followed along on the Facebook broadcasts said things like, “I didn’t know that much about Vicksburg.” It’s every bit as important as Gettysburg and worth just as much close study. I also saw a lot of people say, “I’ve never been there, but I want to go now that I’ve seen this.” I assure you, it’s an impressive park that will not disappoint. If you make the trip to Vicksburg, you will not be disappointed!

Vicksburg front sign

Vicksburg Superintendent

Historian extraordinaire Parker Hills, Vicksburg NMP Superintendent Bill Justice, Vicksburg NMP Superintendent Scott Babinowich, and the Trust’s Kris White plan out the action for our Thursday shoot. Scott spent all day with us, and he really impressed me with his enthusiasm, knowledge, and smooth, polished delivery.

Cairo Bell

The ship’s bell from the USS Cairo, recovered with the ship and cleaned up, now sits on display in the Cairo museum. The artifacts on display there tell a fascinating story about the ship’s life, loss, and recovery. Our thanks to NPS Historian Ray Hamel for sharing that story with us!

Vicksburg Illinois Monument

If there’s a temple anywhere on any battlefield, it’s the Illinois Memorial near the Shirley House. It’s a highly symbolic structure: the 47 steps to get inside, for instance, represent the number of days of the siege. Lincoln, Grant, McClernand, and Logan (whose division attacked along this avenue) all had Illinois connections, and the state had more men participate in the siege than any other state. The gold eagle is NOT “Old Abe” of the 8th Wisconsin, BTW–wrong state.

Breckinridge Bust

My wife is a collateral ancestor of Confederate general John Breckinridge, so I had to stop at his monument to pay my respects.

Kentucky Monument panorama

I really love the concept of the Kentucky monument, which has a plaza-like feel between the lines, where Kentuckians of both sides squared off against each other during the battle. However, the central figures–Lincoln and Davis, both Kentucky born–have freakish proportions and look especially awkward and un-life-like. The sculptor originally wanted them shaking hands to replicate the figures in the state seal who are shaking hands (and the seal is inscribed at their feet), but Lincoln and Davis never actually met, so a handshake, no matter how much artistic license one might excuse, would’ve been too historically inaccurate.


Scenes from Vicksburg, Day 3 (part two)

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For most of the day on Thursday, we concentrated on sites in Vicksburg National Military Park. Here’s a little promo Kris shot. And here’s an introductory piece we did about artillery, featuring Parker Hills and the artillery display outside the park’s visitor center.

From there, we went to one of the most recognizable spots on the battlefield: the Shirley House and the Illinois monument, near the 3rd Louisiana Redan. We shot a video in front of the Shirley House–which Federal soldiers called “the white house”–and one in the redan itself, then we went down the road a piece to the Stockade Redan to talk about the action that took place there, too.

Shirley House historians

Historians Tim Smith Kris White, Scott Babinowich, and Parker Hills, with the Trusts social media guru Connor Townsend in front of the Shirley House

Shirley House rose

The Shirley House is the only wartime structure along the line that still stands. (see the link below for more info)

Illinois Monument-Scott

Scott Babinowich, Vicksburg National Battlefield’s Chief of Interpretation, explains the symbolic nature of the Illinois State Monument. (see link below for more info)

Orion Howe Dash of Courage

14-year-old drummerboy Orion Howe earned the Medal of Honor for actions in front of the Stockade Redan, relaying information to Gen. Sherman.


Click here for more information on the Shirley House, including a look at one of Vicksburg’s most iconic images.

Click here for more information on the Illinois State Monument

Click here for more information on Orion Howe.

Click here for more information on the Stockade Redan.

Scenes from Vicksburg, Day 3 (part one)

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I’ve been in Vicksburg for the American Battlefield Trust and Emerging Civil War to commemorate the 155th anniversary of the Vicksburg campaign. We actually started Thursday’s adventures with a holdover from Wednesday: a Facebook LIVE shoot from Grand Gulf. Water in the Mississippi was so high that it came up to the historic riverbank, so we got to stand along the water’s edge just where we would have in April of 1863. Parker Hills filled us in on the action.

Grand Gulf along the riverbandk

With the high water of the Mississippi just behind them, Kris White and Parker Hills explain to our Facebook audience just how point-blank Federal gunships came to the shoreline during the battle of Grand Gulf on April 29, 1863. Connor Townsend is behind the camera.

Grand Gulf Military Park

Grand Gulf Military Monument Park preserves the sites of the former Confederate Forts Cobun and Wade. The park also features a number of historic buildings.

Grand Gulf Museum

The museum at Grand Gulf Military Monument Park features a really cool and eclectic collection of stuff. (see the link below for more info)

Grand Gulf House on Stilts

You know you live right along the Mississippi River when….

Click here for more information about the Grand Gulf Military Monument Park, including a virtual tour.

Scenes from Vicksburg, Day Two (part 4)

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We capped off the day with a visit to Champion Hill on the 155th anniversary of the battle. Kris White and Connor Townsend and I were joined once again by Parker Hills and by the guy who wrote the book on the battle, Tim Smith. I admit, I was in full “Civil War Nerd” mode to be out on the field, on the anniversary, with some of the world’s greatest experts on the battle. It was awesome.

We started at the Crossroads and then made our way up to the top of the hill. Because of connectivity issues, we shot the segment in two parts (one and two).

Champion Hill historians

Historians Tim Smith, Kris White, and Parker Hills, and the Trust’s social media guru, Connor Townsend

Champion Hill anniversary

Someone decked out the Crossroads for the 155th anniversary of the battle.

Champion Hill-Historic Plaque

The plaque on the historical marker at Champion Hill had been stolen once upon a time, and apparently, the thief, feeling guilty, sent the plaque back from Florida!

Champion Hill-Bowens Counterattack

Another of the markers at Champion Hill tells the story of Bowen’s Confederate counterattack through the area–fierce but unsupported and so, ultimately, unsuccessful.

Champion Hill-Hill of Death

At the very top of Champion Hill, a sign marks the peak of the “hill of death.” Much of the top of the hill has been stripped away, though, because of a gravel-mining operation early in the 20th century. “There are parts of Champion Hill scattered all across the county now,” Parker Hills suggested.

Scenes from Vicksburg, Day 2 (part three)

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We followed the route of Grant’s supply train from the Mississippi up toward the modern Raymond battlefield. One of the myth’s of the campaign is that Grant lived off the land, a la Sherman’s later March to the Sea, but in fact, he had a well-protected supply line.

At Raymond, we did a two-part Facebook LIVE (parts one and two) so that we could visit the two ends of the battlefield, which is maintained by a great Friends of Raymond Battlefield group. Historian Parker Hills is a former president of the group.


Parker Hills lays out the battle for Kris White, while the Trust’s social media guru, Connor Townsend, broadcast’s the program.


The Confederate artillery position has a reconstructed Whitworth cannon and two Napoleons. The Whitworth had a range of six miles, although no artillerists could actually see that far.

Raymond-Whitworth back

Whitworths were breech-loading pieces, so Parker opened up the breech to offer us a look inside.

Raymond-Whitworth front

Whitworths had hexagonal rifling to allow for greater accuracy over its longer range. This piece was loaded with “birdshot”–filled with birds nests!


The Federal position at Raymond is marked by a line of 22 cannon (Ruggles’ battery at Shiloh, by contrast, has only 14). Spaced 12 yards apart, they would have normally been deployed with 15 yards between them, but space limitations required improvisation.



Scenes from Vicksburg, Day 2 (part two)

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When I got out of the car at the Windsor ruins, I was awed by what I saw: the skeletonal remains of an opulent plantation house accidentally destroyed by fire after the war.

We decided to do a quick, impromptu Facebook LIVE shoot from the site of ruins because we all just thought they were so cool.

Windsor Ruins 01

Twenty-three columns remain standing, each 45 feet tall. Wrought iron balcony fencing still connects columns along the former front of the building, and each column is topped by additional ornamental ironwork.

Windsor Ruins-sketch

This sketch of the former plantation house shows how palatial it was.

Windsor Ruins 02

There’s no truth to the rumor that Sherman and his men burned the house (a la the ’64 March to the Sea). It burned after the war when a guest, after lighting a cigarette, threw his match in a wastepaper basket in the kitchen.

Click here for more info on the Windsor ruins.