The following has been excerpted from Annals of Iowa, January, 1902. Iowa State Historical
IOWA AT VICKSBURG AND THE VICKSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
BY COL. J. K. P. THOMPSON.
The National Military Park at Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the outgrowth of "The Vicksburg
National Military Park Association," a corporation organized and existing under and by virtue of
the laws of Mississippi. It was organized October 23, 1895, and incorporated November 22,
1895. The incorporators included both northern and southern gentlemen, but only those who had
served in the Vicksburg campaign.
The officers and directors are as follows:
President, Lieutenant-General Stephen D. Lee, Mississippi.
Vice-President, Hon. W. O. Mitchell, Iowa.
Secretary, Captain W. T. Rigby, Iowa.
Treasurer, Colonel C. C. Floweree, Mississippi.
Colonel J. K. P. Thompson, Iowa; Captain W. W. Stone, Mississippi; Governor W. D.
Hoard, Wisconsin; General A. Hickenlooper, Ohio; Captain E. S. Butts, Mississippi.
Col. J. K. P. Thompson, Iowa. Col. Harry Welesenger, Kentucky.
Gen. Geo. F. McGinnis, Indiana. Capt. J. S. Pilcher, Tennessee.
Col. J. G. Everest, Illinois. Gen. E. W. Petus, Alabama.
Col. Frederick D. Grant, New York. Lieut. Gen. J. B. Gordon, Georgia.
Gen. A. G. Weissert, Wisconsin. Maj. B. N. Harrod, Louisiana.
Gen. John Sanborn, Minnesota. Gen. J. C. Tappan, Arkansas.
Gen. Joseph Stockton, Illinois. Gen. T. N. Waul, Texas.
Col. Lee Rassieur, Missouri. Senator F. M. Cockrell, Missouri.
Gen. John S. Kountz, Ohio. Gen. John P. S. Gobin, Penn.
Capt. E. S. Butts, Mississippi. Gen. John M. Wilson, U. S. A.
Capt. W. W. Stone, Mississippi. Gov. W. D. Hoard, Wisconsin.
Gen. A. Hickenlooper, Ohio. Hon. Wm. Olin, Massachusetts.
Rear Admiral George Brown, U. S. N., (retired).
When the writer was elected commander of the Department of Iowa, Grand Army of the
Republic, in 1895, it was understood that his administration should be signalized by an
unyielding and persistent effort to establish a Military Park at Vicksburg. His compeers were
Capt. J. F. Merry, Capt. W. T. Rigby, Maj. C. L. Davidson, Col. D. J. Palmer, Dr. C. C. Bradley,
Hon. W. H. Norris, and many other distinguished Union soldiers of Iowa.
As a result, a resolution favoring the establishment of the park was introduced by the
Department of Iowa at the National Encampment, G. A. R., at Louisville, September, 1895
which was unanimously adopted, and the park officially launched, with the endorsement of the
National Encampment. At a meeting of the association, November 22, 1895, on motion of Gen.
Lucius Fairchild (a member of the first board of directors, but since deceased), it was decided
that "The proposed park should include the lines of earthworks of the opposing armies, and the
land included within those lines, with such additions as are necessary to include the headquarters
of Generals Grant and Pemberton, such of the water batteries as it may be desirable to designate,
and other historical spots;" and on motion of Col. Thompson, "The executive committee of the
board was instructed to urge upon congress the establishment of a National Military Park on the
grounds outlined by the motion of Gen. Fairchild, and where practicable to secure options on the
lands included within the lines of the proposed park. "Shares of stock were placed at $5.00, and
one hundred shares reported sold and paid for. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, Maj. C. L. Davidson, Col.
C. C. Floweree, Capt. E. S. Butts, and Capt. W. T. Rigby, were appointed a committee charged
with the duty of preparing a bill for the establishment of the park, of presenting the same to
congress, and of obtaining and presenting to congress accurate information as to the cost of the
land included in the bill for the proposed park. Pursuant to these instructions, a survey of the
premises was made, a map prepared, and options on a large part of the land secured. A bill was
prepared and in due time was presented to congress by Gen. Catchings, representing the
Vicksburg district. As a result of several weeks of arduous labor, the committee was enabled to
announce a favorable report of the house committee on military affairs, and the bill was placed
on the calendar, where it was destined to remain, however, for several years.
During the years of 1895, 1896, 1897 and 1898, the friends of the measure were active and
unremitting in their efforts to secure the passage of the bill, the secretary, Capt. Rigby, devoting
most of his time and energy to its accomplishment. To the indefatigable efforts of Capt. J. F.
Merry, formerly of the 21st Iowa, more than to any other person, are we indebted for the
establishment of the park. He was untiring and persistent in his efforts, laying railroads,
congressmen, legislators, and men of affairs, under constant tribute, till it was truthfully said of
him—"What he proposes, that he performs."
In January, 1896, as commander of the Department of Iowa, G. A. R., I issued a circular
letter in which attention was called to the measure, and wherein some of the reasons why Iowa
should take a leading part in the establishment of the park were set forth. I quote here a portion
of the same:
In the reduction of that Gibraltar of the Confederacy, the State of Iowa had so large and
distinguished a part—seventy per cent of her total levy being engaged therein—that it fell with
peculiar fitness to her to take the initiative in this movement. The siege of Vicksburg stands
unique and will be memorable in the annals of war. In the science of grand strategy it marked an
era. The campaign is without parallel, if we except the picturesque scaling of the Swiss
mountains and the descent into Lombardy by the great Napoleon, or his brilliant campaign which
terminated at Ulm, and in the opinion of competent military critics, "in boldness of plan, rapidity
of execution, and brilliancy of results," compares most favorably with those of the great
Corsican. No field of battle ever witnessed greater deeds of valor than those rugged hills.
The capture of this stronghold was big with results, and was second only in importance to
Appomattox itself. It severed the Confederacy in twain, opened the Mississippi to navigation,
and in the forcible language President Lincoln, "The Father of Waters rolled unvexed to the sea."
The loss to the enemy of at least sixty thousand soldiers, one hundred and seventy-two cannon,
and sixty thousand stand of arms, was at that time the largest capture of men and material ever
made in war.
To quote from an admirable general order, addressed by Gen. Gordon to the United
For forty-seven days and nights those blood-stained and storm-crowned heights raged with
incessant conflict, and witnessed by turn the assault upon its heroic and stubborn defenders and
the repulse of the gallant and obstinate attacking party. By day, sheeted flame issued from every
crest of the hills, around this famous citadel of courage, and by night the deadly and destructive
boom lighted the heavens with its lurid and baleful light.
Large numbers of the circulars were distributed, and we trust bore good fruit. During the
winter of 1895-6 the legislatures of the states of Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts,
and Rhode Island, each by joint resolution, endorsed the park bill and asked for its passage by
congress, as did most of the Department Encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic, and
many of the Commanderies of the Loyal Legion, Society of the Tennessee, and the United
Confederate Camps. During the winter of 1896-7 the legislatures of the states of Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, each adopted joint resolutions,
asking for the establishment of the park, and requesting their delegations in congress to labor to
secure the passage of the bill. The Department Encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic
and the National Encampment at Buffalo again approved the bill and named committees to
promote its passage.
In December, 1897, through the courtesy of Capt. Merry, five members of the House
Committee on Military Affairs, Fifty-fifth congress, namely: Hull, Griffith, Belknap, Lentz, and
McDonald, visited Vicksburg with a view to ascertaining facts to enable them to judge of the
feasibility of establishing and maintaining the park. In January, 1898, Gen. Gobin,
Commander-in-Chief, on behalf of the Grand Army of the Republic, Col. Fred. D. Grant, on
behalf of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, and Capt. Rigby, on behalf of the Park
Association, met in Washington and again urged upon Speaker Reed and the House Committee
on Rules the claims of the park bill.
Early in the year 1898 the legislature of the state of Tennessee, by joint resolution, endorsed
the bill and asked for its passage by congress. In January, 1899, Capt. Rigby, Hon. W. O.
Mitchell, both of Iowa, representing the Park Association, Col. Everest of Illinois, also a member
of the association and representing the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, Col. N. M.
Hubbard, representing the Department of Iowa, Grand Army of the Republic, again visited
Washington in the interest of the park bill, when, being granted an audience with the speaker,
Col. Hubbard made one of his characteristic arguments, and a powerful plea for its early
consideration. Congressman Henderson (now speaker of the house), Catchings of the Vicksburg
district, Griffin, Belknap, Cousins and Hull (both of Iowa), were active and earnest in their
support. As a result, Capt. Hull, on February 6, 1899, was recognized by the speaker, the bill
called up and promptly and unanimously passed by the house. Four days later it was passed by
the senate, and on February 21,1899, approved by the President.
At the risk of repetition and of being tedious, I have followed the measure, step by step, from
its inception, October, 1895, to the passage of the bill authorizing the establishment of the park,
February 21, 1899, for the purpose of showing with what tenacity of purpose its promoters clung
to it, and what time and means have been expended in the promotion of this work. The bill, as
passed, carried with it an appropriation of $65,000 (which has since been increased to $250,000)
for the purchase of the grounds and improvement of the same. It also provided for the
appointment by the Honorable Secretary of War of a commission to consist of three members.
The commission, as appointed, consists of Lieut. Gen. Stephen D. Lee of Mississippi, Capt. W.
T. Rigby of Iowa, and Col. James G. Everest of Illinois, with Gen. John S. Kountz of Ohio as
secretary and historian, and Capt. Chas. L. Longley of Iowa assistant secretary.
Section 5 of the act establishing the park reads as follows:
That it shall be the duty of the commissioners named in the preceding section, under the
direction of the Secretary of War, to restore the forts and the lines of fortifications, the parallels
and the approaches of the two armies, or so much thereof as may be necessary to the purposes of
this park; to open and contrast and to repair such roads as may be necessary to said purposes, and
to ascertain and mark with historical tablets, or otherwise, as the Secretary of War may
determine, the lines of battle of the troops engaged in the assaults, and the lines held by the
troops during the siege and defense of Vicksburg, the headquarters of Gen. Grant and of Gen.
Pemberton, and other historical points of interest pertaining to the siege and defense of
Vicksburg within the park or its vicinity.
Authority to mount guns was given by a subsequent act of congress.
It is the purpose of the commission, with the approval of the Secretary of War, to restore
substantially the earthworks of the two armies, and to remount all the old guns so far as they can
be procured, in their old places. Forts will be restored to their original size and height, ditches
opened to their former depth, rifle-pits, parallels, approaches, saps and mines reopened, saprollers
constructed, placed and maintained in position—in fact, it is the intention to restore the
theater of operations as nearly as may be to what it was at the close of the siege July 4, 1863.
There are 1232.28 acres within the limits of the park. There will be more than twenty-five miles
of costly and artistically built avenues and drives constructed, the precipitous hills graded, the
ravines spanned with costly masonry and modern steel bridges, thus affording easy access to and
perfect views of what is expected to be the greatest Military Park in the world. There will be an
avenue just in the rear of the line of Confederate earthworks eight miles long, one among the
main line of the Union earthworks through the main body of the park about five miles in length;
one from Union avenue to Gen. Grant's headquarters, and one along the public roads running
through the park or along its boundaries.
Historical tablets, markers and monuments of the Confederate organizations engaged in the
defense will be placed on the line of the first named points, and those of the Federals along
The reasons why this famous battlefield should be converted into a great Military Park are
various and potent. It was the first really great and determining victory achieved by the Union
forces, and was second only in importance to Appomattox itself. It severed the Confederacy in
twain, opened up the Mississippi—the great artery of commerce to navigation, inspired new
hope in the north and corresponding gloom in the south, and brought the first great relief to
President Lincoln and the loyal millions of the north. The loss to the enemy was at that time
unparalleled in the annals of war. Gen. Grant, in his official report, says:
The results of the campaign were: The defeat of the enemy in five battles outside of
Vicksburg; the occupation of Jackson, the capital of the state of Mississippi, and the capture of
Vicksburg and its garrison and munitions of war; a loss to the enemy of 37,000 prisoners, among
whom were fifteen general officers; at least 10,000 killed and wounded, among the killed,
Generals Tracy, Tilghman, and Green, and hundreds, and perhaps thousands of stragglers who
can never be collected and reorganized. Arms and munitions of war for an army of 60,000 men
have fallen into our hands.
But Gen. Grant was evidently generous to his enemy, for Gen. Badeau, in his "Military
History of Gen. Grant," on page 398, Vol. I, states the total loss to have been 60,000. When it is
remembered that three Confederate divisions did not report, viz.: Baldwin's, Vaughn's, and
Dockery's, and that the losses in Loring's division, which was cut off at Champion's Hill and
wandered about for several days and nights before joining Johnson at Jackson, and whose losses
were necessarily large, are not given, the discrepancy in the report is easily accounted for.
We doubt if the hardships endured in this campaign, and the exceeding mental and physical
strain that was placed upon all, are fully realized by the present generation; drawing two days'
rations, which were destined to last many weeks; marching day and night; bivouacking at night
in the rain; water many inches deep; sleeping upon rails, boards, logs, or anything or anywhere
that would afford any kind of protection from the drenching rain and water covered earth. The
fatigue and strain upon the troops thus for more than ninety days, was almost unprecedented.
Gen. Hovey says:
The strain upon my forces was extreme. For more than forty days they were under constant
fire, casualties happening daily in the midst of their camps. Men were killed and wounded in
their beds, at the tables, and in the rifle-pits.
Col. G. W. Clark, of the 34th Iowa, says:
One-half of my men who were able for duty were on duty all the time. Not infrequently I was
compelled, in order to fill the details, to send men who had just been relieved, thus keeping the
same men out in the ditches for forty-eight hours without rest.
L. D. Ingersoll wrote:
Out of fifty-six days in those two months the "effective force" of the 4th Cavalry was in the
Col. Grierson says:
We marched over 600 miles in less than sixteen days (forty miles per day). The last
twenty-eight hours we marched seventy-six miles, and had four engagements with the enemy.
During this time the men and horses were without food or rest,
Gen. Grant says:.
Since leaving Milliken's Bend they (the troops) have marched as much by night as by day,
through mud and rain, without tents or much other baggage, and on irregular rations.
And on page 35 says-
Privations have been endured by men and officers as have rarely been paralleled in any
The strain upon the Confederate forces was even greater than that on the Federal. Gen.
Stephen D. Lee says in his report:
The enemy had also from fifteen to thirty pieces of artillery in front of my lines, which kept
up a heavy fire during both day and night. There was no relief whatever to our men who were
confined for forty-seven days in their narrow trenches without any opportunity of moving about,
as there was during the day a perfect rain of minie balls.
There must have been a perfect rain of cannon balls also if we are to believe the report of
Gen. John C. Moore, C. S. A.:
Some idea may be formed of the artillery fire to which we were exposed when I state that a
small party sent out for that purpose collected some 2,000 shells near and in the rear of the
trenches occupied by our brigade. This was soon after the siege began, and it was but a portion of
those that failed to explode. Only those who have tried it can tell the effect produced on men by
keeping them forty-seven days and nights in narrow ditches, exposed to the scorching heat
during the day, and often the chilly air and dews of night.
Gen. Louis Hebert says:
Forty-eight days and nights spent in trenches, exposed to the burning sun during the day and
the chilly air of night, subject to a murderous storm of balls, shells, and war missiles of all kinds,
cramped up in pits and holes not large enough to allow them to stretch their limbs; laboring day
and night; fed on reduced rations of the poorest kind of food.
Sufficient has been said, I think, to establish the fact of the extreme hardships of the
campaign and of the privations endured.
Now, let us look for a moment upon the percentage of loss, which in many of the
engagements will compare favorably with those of the most sanguinary European battles, either
in ancient or modern times. Gen. Dodge, of the U. S. army, in his "Caesar," gives a table of
casualties in some ancient battles, citing twelve engagements in which there were engaged from
5,000 to 50,000 by the offensive party, in which the average percentage of loss is given at 27+
per cent. At Waterloo the French lost 21+ per cent, and in the famous charge of the Light
Brigade at Balaklava the loss was but 67+ per cent, and this was but a cavalry dash of a few
The 17th Iowa at Champion's Hill lost in killed and wounded 25 per cent of the number
engaged (report of Col. Hillis). Col. Holden Putnam, 93d Illinois, states the strength of his
brigade to have been 1,700 men, and his loss at Champion's Hill 510, 3O per cent. Col. E. S.
Sampson, 5th Iowa, reports his loss to have been 27 per cent. Gen. McGinnis reports his loss at
Champion's Hill to have been, in the 11th Indiana 36 per cent, 24th Indiana 40 per cent, and an
average per cent of the whole infantry force engaged, 26.20 per cent.
The 21st Iowa lost 113 in killed, wounded and missing in the assault on the Confederate
works May 22, 1863. I am unable to determine satisfactorily the number engaged, but assuming
it to be the same as the 22d Iowa, to-wit: 200, its loss would be 56+ per cent. Lieut. Cooley of
Company D of the same regiment, in a recent letter states: "When we left for Jackson we had for
duty about 160 men. Company D left Vicksburg with 12 men and during the siege of Jackson
was reduced to 6 men."
Sergeant E. B. Snedigar, of the same company in a recent letter says: "In the record kept by
Capt. Boardman I find 'our regiment lost fully one-half in killed and wounded on the 22d of
Geo. Crooke, adjutant of the regiment, says in his "History of the Twenty-first Iowa," on
page 112, "The regiment numbered for effective service less than 200 men and officers, and
arrived at Jackson mustering only 158 men for duty."
In a letter received recently from Wm. Fobes, a private in Company D, he states that he was
the only private soldier in the company reporting for duty at that time.
Lieut. Col. Harvey Graham, of the 22d Iowa, says in a communication addressed to Maj.
Gen. McClernand, Sept. 1, 1863, that the strength of his regiment in the assault upon the
Confederate works May 22, 1863, was 200. The loss of the regiment was 164 or 82 per cent, far
exceeding the loss of the Light Brigade made famous by Lord Tennyson.
A useless and criminal loss occurred at Jackson, Miss, July 12,1863, in the brigade
commanded by Col. I. C. Pugh, of the 41st Illinois, through the incompetency and criminal
negligence of Gen. Lauman. The brigade went into action with 880 officers and men and lost 465
or 53 per cent. Thus the estimate placed upon his ability by C. A. Dana was verified.
The 3d Iowa lost on that day 47 per cent of those engaged.
Col. Waul, of the Texas Legion, reports a loss of more than one-third of his command.. Maj.
Gen. John H. Forney a loss in his division of 24 per cent. Gen. S. M. Barton says the loss in his
brigade at Champion's Hill was over 42 per cent.
The troops marched from 12 to 28 miles per day; the 5th Iowa, 16 miles for six consecutive
days; Gen. Ewing's brigade, 85 miles in three days—28 miles per day. Gen. Bowen says that
"Gen. Tracy's brigade marched 100 miles, fought for twelve hours an army of five times their
number, and all in the space of five days."
When it is remembered that these men carried not only their weapons and probably an
average of forty rounds of cartridges, their rations, such as they had, knapsacks, and in fact
furnished the transportation as well as the fighting machines for the army, it will readily be seen
to what extreme fatigue they were exposed, and to what a trial their endurance was subjected.
By an act of the General Assembly of the State of Iowa, approved March 29, 1900, the
governor was authorized to appoint a commission "To ascertain and exactly determine the
positions of the Iowa troops in the campaign and siege of Vicksburg." Under the provisions of
this act the governor appointed a commission, of which the writer was elected chairman. The
commission visited Vicksburg in November, 1900 and duly located the several positions of the
Iowa Commissioners from the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri
and Mississippi, have also visited the park and located the positions of their troops.
Commissioners from the states of Texas, Tennessee and Illinois will perform their work at an
early date. It is expected that commissions will be authorized and appointed from every state
which had troops in Grant's, Pemberton's and Johnston's armies. The State of Iowa was the
second state to locate positions, having been preceded a few days by Massachusetts.
The following statement shows the Union military organizations in the Vicksburg campaign:
Illinois-Infantry, 52; Cavalry, 10; Artillery, 15 total 77
Indiana-Infantry, 24; Cavalry, 2; Artillery, 2; total 28
Iowa-Infantry, 28; Cavalry, 2; Artillery, 2; total 32
Kentucky-Infantry, 3; Pioneers, 1; total 4
Michigan-Infantry, 7; Artillery, 2; total 9
Minnesota-Infantry, 3, Artillery, 1; total 4
Missouri-Infantry, 17; Cavalry, 3; Artillery, 7; total 27
New Hampshire-Infantry 3
New York-Infantry, 3; Artillery, 1; total 4
Ohio-Infantry, 26; Cavalry, 1; Artillery, 11; total 38
Pennsylvania-Infantry, 4; Artillery, 1; total 5
Rhode Island-Infantry 1
Regulars-Infantry, 2; Artillery, 1; total 3
West Virginia-Infantry 1
Wisconsin-Infantry, 13; Cavalry, 1; Artillery, 3; total 17
This makes an aggregate of 192 regiments or parts of regiments of infantry, 19 regiments
of cavalry, and 46 batteries of artillery—257 organizations, not including eight regiments of
Negroes in process of enlistment.
The Confederate strength under Gen. Pemberton at Vicksburg was as follows:
Alabama—Infantry, 9; Artillery, 3; total 12
Arkansas—Infantry, 5; Cavalry, 1; Artillery, 2; total 8
Georgia—Infantry, 10; Artillery. 1; total 11
Louisiana—Infantry, 7; Artillery, 18; total 25
Missouri—Infantry, 5; Cavalry, 2; Artillery, 5; total 12
Mississippi—Infantry, 13; Artillery, 9; total 22
Tennessee-Infantry, 7; Cavalry, 1; Artillery, 8; total 16
Texas—Infantry, 3; Cavalry, 1; Artillery, 1; total 5
This including "City Guards," and "Partisan Rangers," credited to Mississippi, and, in the
total, three companies "paroled" as `'Signal Corps," with no state named, makes an aggregate of
62 regiments or parts of regiments of infantry, 5 of cavalry, and 49 batteries of artillery—116
organizations. At the same time Gen. Johnston appears to have had with him 85 regiments or
parts of regiments of infantry, 3 of cavalry, and 14 batteries of artillery—102 organizations.
The following compilation of "Classified Casualties" in Iowa troops during the siege of
Vicksburg and connected with the campaign from November, 1862, to the beginning of the siege
proper, and after the close of the same, July 4, 1863, to the evacuation of Jackson, Miss., July 18,
1863, was furnished me by Adj. Gen. Melvin H. Byers, and is the work of Major T. F. Stephens,
that most efficient, painstaking and obliging record clerk of the Iowa adjutant general's office. It
is made from the written record of each regiment participating and will be found, I think,
substantially correct. It differs, however, in several particulars from the table furnished by the
United States Park Commission. This is notably true in the 21st, 23d, and 24th Infantry. It will
thus be seen that Iowa lost 422 killed and 44 missing (who were doubtless among the killed), 151
captured, and 1,816 wounded, a total of 2,433.