Illinois in Mississippi

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originally posted on Metroblogging Chicago

For Christmas Erica and I went down to Vicksburg, Mississippi to visit her family. I was glad to be getting out of slashing-winds-off-the-lake Chicago for a week in the balmy south. Of course, a cold front blew across the south minutes (literally) after our plane landed so it was in the 30�s and overcast the whole time we were there (until the afternoon we were leaving, when it was sunny and 50�. Shake-fist-at-Southern-sky.)

No trip to Vicksburg would be complete with a trip to the Vicksburg Military Park. In the summer of 1863 one of the decisive battles of the Civil War was fought for control of Vicksburg and in turn the Mississippi River. The land the battle was fought on became a cemetery for the 17,000 Union casualties and, in 1899, a national park. The legislation creating the park allowed any State that had troops in the battle to erect monuments in honor of those troops. Many States took advantage of this and the park is one of the most monumented battlefields in the world (1,324!).

Chicago Mercantile Battery. Capt. Patrick H. White. 10th Div., 13th Corps. In the assault, May 22, 1863, one gun of the battery was dragged by hand, with the assistance of enlisted men of Benton's and Burbridge's Brigades to a position within a few yards of the Confederate Lunette on the Baldwin's Ferry Road, and served against that work for serveral hours. Casualities: Champion's Hill May 13 wounded 3

Many of the monuments are this size. This one is the first monument you encounter as you drive through the gates of the park and the words "Chicago Mercantile" fairly leapt out at me. The Chicago Mercantile Battery was an artillery unit organizied by a group of prominent Chicago merchants.

Illinois Monument Detail

In addition to the dozens of monuments to individual units from Illinois, there's a prominent monument in honor of all 36,325 Illinois soldiers who fought in the battle.

Illinois Monument

The monument is modeled after the Roman Pantheon and has 47 steps, one of each day of the Siege of Vicksburg. Erica tells me that it's often used for local high school choir, band, etc. photos. It amused me to think of generations of Vicksburg students with a steathly "Illinois" hiding in the back of their class photos.