A guided tour is the best way to visit Vicksburg National Military Park’s historic battlefield, the USS Cairo Gunboat & Museum, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery.
This post is the fifth installment of a 6-part Mississippi Road Trip series. The first segment entitled How My Books Landed in the de Grummond Collection at USM details the backstory of my drive from Central Florida to Hattiesburg. On the second leg of my journey I traveled to Historical Natchez, Mississippi, where I toured 4 of this city’s grand antebellum homes. Part 3 is the story of my drive on the Mississippi Backroads Between Natchez and Vicksburg where I visited a ghost town, walked the cinematic Windsor Ruins, and ate the worlds’s best fried chicken. Then I learned How to Spend 36 Hours in Vicksburg, Mississippi. And finally, I visited highlights from several Civil Rights and Literary Driving Tours in Jackson, Mississippi.
Table of Contents
- 1 Vicksburg National Military Park
- 2 The Siege of Vicksburg: A Brief History
- 3 Vicksburg NMP Union Avenue Gallery
- 4 The U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat & Museum
- 5 The U.S.S. Cairo: A Brief History
- 6 U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat & Museum Gallery
- 7 Vicksburg National Cemetery
- 8 Vicksburg National Cemetery Gallery
- 9 Ways to Tour Vicksburg NMP
- 10 The Best Way to Visit Vicksburg NMP
- 11 Map It!
- 12 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 13 Pin this Post!
- 14 A Southern Mississippi Road Trip Series
- 15 Helpful Links
Vicksburg National Military Park
Although Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a great destination for music, dining, shopping, and even gambling, let there be no doubt that Vicksburg National Military Park is the city’s most prominent attraction.
As well it should be.
It should come as no surprise that, as an amateur history buff and an obsessive collector of National Parks Passport stamps, Vicksburg NMP had been on my bucket list for years. I always assumed that when I finally made it to the park I would collect a unigrid (NPS official brochure and map) at the Visitor Center and do a self-guided tour like I always do. Little did I know that when it finally happened, as a guest of Visit Vicksburg, I would be accompanied by a personal licensed tour guide and chauffeur.
Word on the street had it that as tour guides go, David Maggio was the best of the best, and my experience soon proved the accuracy of his reputation. After breakfast, I met David at the Vicksburg NMP Visitor Center to begin the park tour. So that I could give him my undivided attention and have freedom for photo ops, David climbed behind the wheel of my Mountaineer, and we proceeded through the Vicksburg Memorial Arch and onto Union Avenue.
To fully immerse oneself in a visit to a historical site, it is always best to have a basic understanding of what happened there. Upon my request, David was kind enough to contribute two brief histories to this article. This is a good thing on two accounts. It prevents me from including historical inaccuracies in the text, and it gives our readers a taste of David’s guided tours.
The Siege of Vicksburg: A Brief History
by David Maggio
The most memorable highlights of our drive along Union Avenue were David’s detailed tour of the Illinois Memorial, seeing the adjacent battlefield now cleared of trees and brush for historical accuracy, and hearing David tell the story of Thayer’s Approach on location at the tunnel while facing the Confederate fortifications above.
Vicksburg NMP Union Avenue Gallery
The U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat & Museum
The U.S.S. Cairo was an unexpected highlight of our park tour. Somehow the sight of this gunboat resurrected from the river just blew me away. Historical sites and memorials are great, but nothing compares to tangible artifacts, especially when they are the size of this leviathan. Of course, having David along to share the details of the ironclad’s design and and the story of its demise brought the experience to life.
The U.S.S. Cairo: A Brief History
by David Maggio
U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat & Museum Gallery
Vicksburg National Cemetery
Most of the National Park System Civil War battlefields I have visited have associated cemeteries. The Vicksburg National Cemetery holds the remains of 17,000 Union soldiers, and two Confederate soldiers who were mistakenly buried there in the 1860s. 75% of the soldiers buried in the cemetery are unknown and their graves are marked by square numbered granite markers. Unlike other national cemeteries, no space is available for future burials
Vicksburg National Cemetery Gallery
Ways to Tour Vicksburg NMP
The basic entrance fee to Vicksburg NMP is $12 per vehicle, and the pass is valid for seven days. Additional fee information may be accessed at this link.
According to the NPS Vicksburg NMP website, there are several options for touring the park:
- a self-guided tour using the Official Park Brochure and Map (free with park entrance fee)
- a cell phone driving tour using numbers provided at tour stops (free with park entrance fee)
- a QR code mobile app for scanning at waysides throughout the park (free with park entrance fee)
- the Civil War Trust Vicksburg Battlefield App® Guide (free download from the App Store and Google Play)
- a guidebook entitled “A Self-Guided Tour of the Battlefield” ($4.95)
- two audio tour CDs available for purchase at the Visitor Center bookstore ($11.95 & $29.95)
- and then there is the best way . . . .
The Best Way to Visit Vicksburg NMP
Hiring your own personal tour guide is the BEST way to visit Vicksburg NMP hands down!
- The licensed Vicksburg Battlefield guides are experts in their field, having passed multiple written and oral exams on every topic pertaining to the Vicksburg campaign.
- Each guide is different, bringing their own perspectives, specialties, and personalities to craft a unique tour for their clients.
- They are your personal chauffeurs, driving your car through the park, leaving you distraction-free to enjoy your guided tour and hands-free for photo ops.
- Guides are flexible, allowing you to decide which park locations to visit and how much time you spend at each location.
- Hiring a tour guide from Vicksburg Battlefield Guides is extremely affordable! A 2-hour guided tour is only $40 for up to 6 passengers in one vehicle. You may add additional hours to your tour for only $20 per hour.
We Would Love to Hear From You
Jerry and I enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share stories and tips from their visits to National Parks. Have you ever visited Vicksburg National Military Park? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!