Vicksburg marks anniversary of Civil War siege

By Emily Wagster Pettus

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 23 2013 12:28 p.m. MDT

At Walnut Hills restaurant, for example, one room has a framed collage of Confederate military officers, labeled "Heroes." On Wednesday, a racially mixed group of co-workers sat near the collage but never glanced at it as they dined on country fried steak, squash casserole and other rib-sticking fare.

Tourists have been filling the beds, and sitting down around dinner tables, for the past four months at Anchuca, a white-columned antebellum home where Joseph Emory Davis, older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, once lived. Sandra Hollingsworth, Anchuca's general manager, said the Civil War sesquicentennial is a boon for business.

"We're usually busy on weekends, but we've been full during the week, too," Hollingsworth said. "We have lots of international people who stay with us."

At the Vicksburg National Military Park on Wednesday, vehicles had license plates from New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California and other states.

Dr. Ash Baruah, a retired surgeon from Wirral, England, toured the park with his wife, Jill, and their niece, Indira Dutta of Charlotte, N.C. During their six-week vacation in the U.S., the Baruahs have seen Civil War battlefields in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including Gettysburg.

"It's very difficult to visualize the horror of the thing that happened here," Baruah said as he looked over the Vicksburg hills where the two sides exchanged musket and cannon fire.

During the siege, some Vicksburg residents hid in caves, people starved and disease was rampant among civilians and troops. The victory at Vicksburg helped Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant rise to become commander of all Union forces the following year.

John Boudreaux, of Collierville, Tenn., said he has been fascinated with Civil War history for more than 50 years. Wearing a Confederate military-style hat, the 63-year-old Boudreaux said he agrees with Vicksburg officials' decision to hold most of the sesquicentennial events in May rather than July. He toured the park Wednesday, the 150th anniversary of a battle that killed more than 3,000 Union soldiers and fewer than 500 Confederate troops.

"Today is a lot more significant than the surrender, because it set the tone for the siege," said Boudreaux, a commercial pilot and retired U.S. Air Force major. "One of the things they learned on the 22nd of May is that Vicksburg was going to be a tough nut to crack."

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Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report from Des Moines, Iowa.

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Civil War anniversary events in Vicksburg: http://bit.ly/16QcFvi

Vicksburg National Military Park: http://1.usa.gov/10U95bu

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