With the amazing fall weather we’ve been having this month, you might be getting fall fever, ready to head outdoors and see the world. If so, now is a great time to head over to Vicksburg for a day trip in the Vicksburg Military Park. You may remember that I took such a trip during a Spring Fever I had earlier in the year, but now you can pick up an even better guide and one you can carry around with you as you drive, bike, or walk. For only $4.00 you can have Parker Hills’ excellent Art of Commemoration, recently published and available on the Visit Vicksburg webpage and at the Military Park’s visitor center.
This book, printed on high-quality glossy paper, is not just stylish, it is substantive, chock full of photos, brief biographies of military leaders and also of the sculptors and park leaders who brought the park to the artistic landscape it is today. The glossary of architectural and art terms would make Thomas Rossell proud, and detail photos help show exactly what various classical terms mean. Hills also gives insight into the politics of many of the states’ monuments and the roles some of them played in the military operations around Vicksburg.
According to Visit Vicksburg:
“The purpose of this work is to enhance viewer appreciation of the commemorative memorials in the Vicksburg National Military Park by pointing out details in the art and architecture, and by providing interpretive information,” said the guide’s author, Parker Hills, Brig. Gen. (Retired).
The 100-page guide was made possible by a grant from the National Park Service’s Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative.
“This is a great example of community cooperation, where the Vicksburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau worked with the Park Service on a project that enhanced both organizations’ missions,” said Bill Seratt, CVB executive director.
And from the Introduction to Art of Commemoration by Parker Hills:
Soon after Vicksburg National Military Park was established in 1899, the nation’s leading architects and sculptors were commissioned to honor the soldiers that had fought in the campaign. The park’s earliest state memorial was dedicated in 1903, and over 95 percent of the monuments that followed were erected prior to 1917. An aging Civil War veteran who hastened to Vicksburg to see the resulting works was so impressed that he aptly described Vicksburg National Military Park as “the art park of the world.” The work of commemoration has continued sporadically since 1917, and today, over 1,370 monuments, tablets and markers dot the park landscape.
In touring the park it is helpful to know that the ancient Roman writer, architect, and engineer, Vitruvius, insisted that there were two points in all matters: the thing signified, and that which gave it is significance. The thing signified at Vicksburg–the spirit of the park–is the valor of the soldiers and sailors who struggled as participants in the Vicksburg campaign. The memorials and markers, through their information, art and architect, signify, or honor, these combatants. The bronze, stone, and iron works were created to help preserve the spirit of duty, honor and country, and hopefully, this spirit will be experienced by the viewer.
Even if you can’t get over to the Park this month or this year, send in your $4 and get this book. You’ll learn from it, and it will be a great addition to your Mississippi architecture library.