Why You Need To Add These Vicksburg Cemeteries To Your Travel Itinerary

Vicksburg, Mississippi is one of the most historical places to visit in the South. Among the many places to take in the history and culture are the beautiful Vicksburg cemeteries, which memorialize veterans and preserve the past in a garden-like environment.

When in Vicksburg here are a couple of interesting and historically significant cemeteries to visit for a picnic or an afternoon stroll.

Vicksburg National Cemetery

Vicksburg National Cemetary is itself a national monument. The US War Department established it as a relocation site for the scattered federal soldiers buried around the south during the Civil War era. As such it preserves a period in history. The Union laid siege on Vicksburg in 1863. In 1933 the Department of the Interior National Parks Service took over Vicksburg National Cemetery.

Many known soldiers’ identities became a mystery by the time they relocated to Vicksburg National Cemetery. During the war, they kept poor records of their dead and the marked wooden graves became worn over the years. Identified soldiers received new headstones with their names engraved. The unidentified soldiers received numbered markers. The cemetery closed to new burials in 1961 with the exception of those who reserved space prior to the closure.

VIcksburg Cemetery

Cedar Hill Cemetery

Vicksburg’s other cemetery Cedar Hill is not a national park. Rather it’s a fully functioning cemetery that continues to take up new residents. However, it remains a historical site, as well. Approximately 5,000 confederate soldiers have their graves there, in a section of the cemetery called Soldiers rest. This is another excellent place to go for a sense of history and an afternoon stroll through the park.

Vicksburg Union Cemetery

Soldiers Rest

Vicksburg was a major hospital center during the Civil War. So soldiers from several states met their end there due to injury or disease. Unlike the National Cemetery which relocated fallen union soldiers, what’s now known as Soldiers’ Rest began with a local undertaker tasked during the war with burying Southern soldiers. He carried out his charge throughout the Vicksburg siege and kept meticulous notes about the soldiers he buried. Those records disappeared after the siege. Historians recovered a portion of the records approximately 100 years later.

Of the 5,000 buried Confederates, we now know the name rank, company, unit, and date of death for 1,600 Confederate soldiers. Political efforts lead to proper headstones made for these fallen soldiers. The site was updated again in 1998 following a second list which identified 75 more soldiers. You can go see the recovered document at the Vicksburg Old Courthouse Museum and visit these graves personally from 7:00 am to dusk.

Douglas the Camel

Douglas the Camel

Soldiers rest is also the burial site for Douglas the Camel. He was an actual camel. Douglas may have been the result of Jefferson Davis’ camel experiment in the 1850s. He wanted to see if camels would fare better in the Southwest than horses, which had difficulty with long journeys. The camel was a gift to Colonel W.H. Moore of the 43rd Mississipi Infantry. He was shot by a Union sharpshooter while attempting to graze in no man’s land. According to his tombstone, he was then eaten by his own regiment, who were starving from the siege.

Vicksburg City Cemetery

A Picnic in the Park

Before public parks, the cemetery was a common gathering place for people to eat with departed loved ones and be social with each other. It made sense because graveyards were designed like gardens during the rural cemetery movement, which provided a more suitable place for public gathering than austere church yeards. During an age when death was ever-present, cemeteries were a natural meeting place. However, the trend was not without detractors and there was fervent debate over proper conduct until the 1920’s when the trend subsided.

Soldiers Rest

More public parks had been constructed by then and death tolls were much lower due to medical advancements. Now, although there are still some events held in cemeteries across the country, it is not common, even prohibited in some locations to picnic on these final resting places. However, you can enjoy a picnic at the cemeteries of Vicksburg, provided you refrain from littering.

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