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Cannon demonstration at VNMP part of 155th anniversary of Vicksburg’s surrender

The hills and hollows of the Vicksburg National Military Park echoed with the sounds of artillery Monday, as gun crews from the park and the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park fired cannons for park visitors as part of the 155th anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg.

The artillery demonstrations will also be held Tuesday and Wednesday.

“As we put these programs (for the anniversary) together, we’re not here honoring one side or the other,” said Scott Babinowich, park interpretive director. “We’re here to remember the Americans in totality; of their sacrifice and what they fought for, and collectively how it changed our nation.

“The Civil War is something that transcends time, and a lot of things happening in our culture and society can be traced to what happened on battlefields like this. It’s a great honor for us at the Park Service to be able to do this and be able expose people to a little bit more of the reality of what might have happened here.”

The guns fired during the demonstration represented an artillery section with the park’s volunteers firing a 12-pound brass Napoleon cannon and the crew from Kennesaw Mountain firing that park’s 3-inch ordnance rifle cannon.

Members of the park’s gun crew said they were trained to fire the cannon as a living history display for about a month and a half ago.

“It’s been great; a lot of fun,” said park volunteer Jennifer Danley, a member of the gun crew. “It’s humbling to be able to fire the cannon.”

Thomas Dabney, another volunteer, said participating in the gun crew was right for him.

“I have a love of history and a love of guns, so this is the perfect match,” he said.

Babinowich said the park rotates the volunteers who are interested in firing the guns through the gun crews. He said the crews first fired the gun on Memorial Day.

Amanda Corman, a ranger at Kennesaw Mountain, said a 10-member crew came to fire their gun for the surrender anniversary. The crew was in Vicksburg last year to fire one of the park’s brass Napoleons.

She said the Kennesaw Mountain crew ranges in experience from “30-plus years to the first year. So we have a large variety of experience and dedication to this crew.”

Kennesaw’s 3-inch rifle, she said, had several differences from Vicksburg’s cannon.

“It’s made out of different material; it’s made out of wrought iron,” Corman said. “It’s smaller in weight — it has less weight than the Napoleon — and it’s rifled. It (the round) also goes a further distance and it has more accuracy.”

The gun demonstrations are part of a larger series of programs held during the July 4 period as part of the anniversary of the surrender. Saturday, the 1st Mississippi Cavalry and the Texas Camel Corps presented living history displays and the Shirley House was opened to visitors.

Babinowich said the demonstration and the weekend programs have received a good response.

“It’s been real neat to see how many people have been coming out,” he said. “A lot of locals, a lot of people traveling through; a very diverse crowd this year.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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