I hope that you have a very happy Fourth of July!
What a day to celebrate! If you been here before, you may know that I’m from the South and have an interest in history, so here’s a little southern historical tale for you.
Did you know that an entire southern town didn’t celebrate Independence Day, even in my lifetime? If you lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi, oh, say, 38 or more years ago, you would still have to go to work on Independence Day, you would still walk down your driveway when you arrived home and find mail in your mailbox, and you likely wouldn’t anticipate a local fireworks display that evening.
By now, this might seem like a tale for sure, but it’s not a fictional one.
You see, this lack of enthusiasm wasn’t because Vicksburg had a problem with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. No, they just had harsh memories to deal with, and each 4th of July was a painful reminder.
As you probably already know, Vicksburg played an important role in the Civil War. So much that President Abraham Lincoln believed that whoever held “the key” to the city would be victorious in controlling the Mississippi River, which was a vital waterway for both the North and the South . As a result, the Union’s General Ulysses S. Grant was a man on a mission, beginning in the spring of 1862, when he set out to clear a trail to Vicksburg.
Long story short, it took more than a year for Grant and his troops to reach the doorsteps of their Vicksburg destination. Familiar with victory and defeat, their campaign took another unwelcomed turn after two attempts to crash Confederate Army lines failed. But the brave in blue arched around the scenic city that stood hedged within river and bluffs, settling in for a siege, as they starved the people of Vicksburg out. Forty-seven long days later, their plan was successful.
Confederate Army General John Pemberton strategically surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant, on July 4, 1863. The hope was that by surrendering on Independence Day, the Union would have mercy on them. Apparently, that is just what happened. The southern army was paroled rather than taken captive, and the Union shared their food with the starving folks of Vicksburg.
Like leaven in dough, accounts of great suffering were passed from one generation to the next. So from that infamous day forward, Vicksburg did not celebrate Independence Day until the Allies won WW II. However, as the years passed, the celebrating fizzled out and didn’t revive again until our nation’s Bicentennial in 1976. The folks of Vicksburg got their celebration on once again. And now, if anyone unwittingly were to walk down their driveway to check their mail on the 4th of July, well, they would find their mailbox empty, which might serve as a reminder that they better hurry and fire-up the BBQ, because the fireworks extravaganza on the Mighty Mississippi begins at sundown.