Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

The artillery salvo thun­dered across the land­scape. The pandemo­nium reverberated through the ravines before fading eerily in the distance. The outburst was quickly followed by another, then another. It was reminiscent of an earlier day, many years before, when soldiers uni­formed in blue and gray skir­mished upon these heights and engaged in mortal combat amidst roaring guns and flar­ing musketry. For forty-seven days in 1863 the struggle had raged unabated – and then suddenly there was silence.

On this pleasant spring day in 1906, veterans of the North and the South were once again gathered on these heights, not in combat, but in peaceful ceremony and sharing a uni­fied purpose. It was on this day that Pennsylvania’s Civil War monument was dedicated, one of the first of such memo­rials unveiled in Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Thou­sands of Pennsylvanians and Mississippians, including hundreds of veterans, at­tended the celebration. The veterans, many aged and in­firm, returned to the field of combat to recall the days of their service and to pay tribute to comrades who had perished there.

During the siege of Vicks­burg, the Keystone State had been represented by the 45th, 50th, 51st, and 100th infantry regiments, and Durell’s Inde­pendent Battery D, Light Artil­lery. The soldiers of these commands had entered service from every walk of life and in short order became veterans who tasted the bitterness of battle on many bloodied fields. Proudly emblazoned on their battle standards had been names of landmark Civil War confrontations, including Kernstown, Winchester, Sec­ond Bull Run, South Moun­tain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. These Penn­sylvania officers and soldiers were reliable soldiers who, during the summer of 1863, were hastily dispatched to reinforce the Army of the Tennessee then besieging Vicksburg.

The Pennsylvanians were part of the Ninth Army Corps commanded by a fellow Key­stone Stater, Maj. Gen. John Grubb Parke. General Parke’s men arrived on transports in mid-June and disembarked along the Yazoo River at Sny­der’s Bluff. They quickly marched inland and en­trenched, occupying a line overlooking Skillikalia Bayou, northeast of Vicksburg. Gen­eral Parke established his headquarters at Milldale. A member of the 45th Pennsylva­nia wrote of the unit’s danger­ous assignment.

Our business there was to help protect Grant’s rear while he besieged Vicksburg. That is, while Grant with a line of battle 15 miles long was investing Vicks­burg, we were part of another line under [Maj. Gen. William T.] Sherman facing the other way­-facing [Confederate Gen.] Joe Johnston, who with a constantly increasing army was watching for a favorable opportunity to jump on Grant’s back, so to speak, and if possible, break the bull-dog grip he had on [Confederate Lt. Gen. John C.] Pemberton’s army shut up in Vicksburg.

To help accomplish their task, the men of the Ninth Corps began digging trenches, building breastworks, and felling trees to strengthen their position. Within a few days, several miles of entrenchments and field works were con­structed, the approaches to which were covered by a dense abatis of fallen trees. General Sherman’s position was re­ferred to as the “Exterior Line” and covered the Mechanics­burg Corridor, the ridge sepa­rating the watersheds of the Big Black and Yazoo rivers. Many believed that Joe Johns­ton and his Army of Relief, centered in Jackson, about forty miles east of Vicksburg, would march on Vicksburg via the Mechanicsburg Corridor and attempt to raise the siege. But the Union line was formi­dable and Johnston never seriously threatened to break through it and rescue the beleaguered Confederate garri­son at Vicksburg.

The days passed unevent­fully for the Pennsylvanians who remained in position at Skillikalia Bayou throughout the month of June. Pvt. Eugene Beauge of Tioga County recalled, “Johnston didn’t molest us, it is true, and we had no battles to fight during the siege, but if the boys had their choice most of them would have dropped their axes, picks and shovels and shouldered a musket.” Their turn soon came.

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, the gallant defenders of Vicks­burg surrendered. “We had scarcely got done cheering over the victory,” Beauge re­membered, “when orders came to ‘pack up and get ready to move.'” Sherman’s com­mand, which included the Ninth Corps, was ordered to march immediately against Johnston and drive him from central Mississippi. The Penn­sylvanians took up the line of march and crossed the Big Black River at Birdsong’s Ferry. Pursuing the Confederates to Jackson, Sherman Jay siege to the city. “No attempt was made to storm the enemy’s works or bring on a general engagement,” one Pennsylva­nian recounted. Skirmish lines with proper support and most of the fighting on our side as far as we could see. Which was a mighty good thing for us. Had an assault been made there would be a different story to tell and some of us probably wouldn’t be here to tell it.”

The siege of Jackson was short-lived and ended on Friday, July 17, when Union forces took possession of the capital city. General Johnston had evacuated Jackson the night before. The Pennsylva­nians remained in the Jackson area for one week tearing out railroad tracks. Private Beauge recounted that, “A good way to dispose of the ties and rails at the same time, after tearing up the track, was to pile up the ties, set them afire, then lay the rails crosswise on top; the rails in this way, when red hot, bending and warping them­selves out of shape while the ties went up in smoke.” He also noted, “Another way was to take a rail, red hot in the middle, and bend it around a tree.” Rails destroyed in this fashion were often called “Sherman’s neckties.”

Their mission accom­plished, the soldiers of Sher­man’s Expeditionary Army returned to Vicksburg to rest. On Friday, July 31, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) issued Special Order Number 207, which read in part, “Ma­jor General Parke will cause the different regiments and batteries of his command to inscribe upon their banners and guidons ‘Vicksburg’ and ‘Jackson.'” With these laurels added to their battle stand­ards, the Pennsylvanians left Mississippi for other fields of service.

Forty years after the Siege of Vicksburg, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania authorized the creation of the Vicksburg Battlefield Commis­sion of Pennsylvania and ap­propriated fifteen thousand dollars for the construction of a suitable monument at the Mississippi battlefield. Gov. Samuel W. Pennypacker ap­pointed Gen. Samuel K. Sch­wenk as chairman, Col. Austin Curtin, treasurer, Capt. James L. McFeesters, commissioner, and John M. Mishler, secre­tary. On Monday, March 14, 1904, the four members of the commission and representatives of the Committees of Commands Engaged met with Governor Pennypacker in Harrisburg for final instruc­tions before departing for Vicksburg. After conferring with the governor, the com­missioners met in the parlor of the Lochiel Hotel in Harris­burg and decided to erect one monument for the five Penn­sylvania commands which had participated in the Vicksburg campaign. They left that eve­ning for Chattanooga, Tennes­see, where they spent two days examining monuments erected by various states and organizations in Chickamauga and at the Chattanooga Na­tional Military Park. “We saw many handsome monuments,” General Schwenk reported, “but comparatively few really show any great artistic merit, either in design or execution …. We carefully studied the details of a number of them, and while our observa­tions may not have given us any fixed ideas of what we want, we hope to utilize the lesson for the benefit of the Commonwealth.”

The commissioners arrived in Vicksburg on Friday, March 18, and remained three days. Vicksburg’s newspaper, the Herald, reported the delegation was a “fine looking, well pre­served, agreeable, and alto­gether interesting party of men.” Capt. William T. Rigby and Gen. Stephen D. Lee of the Vicksburg National Mili­tary Park Commission guided Schwenk and his party through the entire park. Rigby later took his distinguished guests to Milldale where some of the rifle-pits and entrench­ments constructed by Pennsyl­vania commands during the siege were “fairly well preserved.”

During their stay, the Penn­sylvania representatives se­lected a site for the Keystone State’s monument and ac­quired a two and a half acre tract in a “prominent, high, isolated position opposite General Grant’s Headquar­ters” at a cost to the Common­wealth of eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents. The United States Government agreed to build a street measuring twenty-five feet wide, diverg­ing from, and returning to, Grant Avenue to circle the site where the monument was to be located. The street was to be named “Pennsylvania Avenue.”

On the evening of Saturday, March 19, the Pennsylvanians hosted a campfire at the Car­roll Hotel which was attended by a “good sprinkling” of Confederate veterans. “One of the pleasantest of the veterans campfires or gatherings which has ever taken place at The Carroll, was that last night when Gen. Schwenk and his comrades from the Keystone state gathered in the ladies’ parlors of The Carroll,” a cor­respondent for the Herald reported. During the course of the evening, “After a fine flow of soul and anecdote,” General Schwenk presented Col. Aus­tin Curtin with a richly carved, gold headed ebony cane in honor of his sixty-ninth birthday.

Leaving Vicksburg at one o’clock the following Monday, the commissioners stopped at Jackson to locate and examine the positions occupied by the Pennsylvania commands en­gaged in the vicinity in July 1863. Mississippi’s legislature was in session and Schwenk’s party was welcomed by the Speaker of the House of Rep­resentatives and later “very cordially received” by Gov. James K. Vardaman, Lt. Gov. John Prentis Carter, and mem­bers of the state senate. During their return trip, they also stopped at Knoxville, Tennes­see, for a few hours to visit the remnants of Fort Sanders. Schwenk and members of the delegation had actually helped build Fort Sanders and de­fended it against the Confeder­ates led by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet in the fall of 1863.

Upon their return to the Commonwealth, the commis­sioners addressed a report to Governor Pennypacker in which Schwenk described the contingent’s findings. “We are happy to report that after a thorough investigation of the subject, the members of the Commission and Committees unanimously decided to de­vote the entire appropriation to one monument, and that they are earnestly and harmo­niously endeavoring to obtain a handsome memorial of beau­tiful design, enduring quality and artistic excellence.”

The commission issued invitations for the monument’s design and construction, all of which were due by June 2, 1904. To the members’ great disappointment, “none were found to be satisfactory,” and a second design competition was conducted on February 22, 1905. Gen. John W. Schall, Commanding 1st Brigade National Guard of Pennsylva­nia, provided use of his offices for the competition. Designs were posted in rooms 540, 542, and 544 of Philadelphia’s City Hall. A “Jury of Experts” – which included renowned sculptor August Saint­Gaudens, Frank Miles Day, vice president of the American Society of Architects, and Harrison S. Morris, managing director and secretary of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts – was charged with selecting the best three de­signs (in order of merit). The commission and committees would choose one for the monument in Mississippi.

Ninety-two designs were submitted by seventy-four competitors. The winning design was the work of Albert Randolph Ross, a New York architect. The jury hailed Ross’ work as “noble, dignified and beautiful, and will undoubt­edly prove worthy of the great sacrifices and events it com­memorates.” Ross’ winning design consisted of a granite shaft, measuring four feet by nearly twelve feet high, placed at the rear of an elliptical exe­dra, and approached by a flight of three steps. At the rear of the exedra, a granite seat abuts the monument, extends in arcs to the center axis of the exedra, and terminates with two piers. The Ninth Corps badge and the coat of arms of the Common­wealth of Pennsylvania are carved into the flanking piers. The main shaft is decorated at the bottom with a carved torus of bound reeds symbolizing unity; the frieze around the top is ornamented with fes­toons of oak and laurel leaves, signifying strength and vic­tory; and the top is decorated by an elaborately carved cha­neau. On the face of the die is a large white tablet with an appropriate inscription. Be­neath this tablet are placed five raised bronze medallions with portraits of the commanding officers of the Pennsylvania units which served at Vicks­burg: Col. John I. Curtin, 45th Infantry; Lt. Col. Thomas S. Brenholts, 50th Infantry; Col. John F. Hartranft, 51st Infan­try; Col. Daniel Leasure, 100th Infantry; and Capt. George W. Durell, Independent Battery D. Light Artillery. The portrait medallions were created by sculptor Charles A. Lopez, and the architectural orna­ments were executed by Victor Pierret, also a sculptor.

On Sunday, April 30, 1905, sealed proposals for the monu­ment’s construction were opened by the Vicksburg Battlefield Commission of Pennsylvania in room 540 of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Eight bids were submitted, and the contract was awarded to the Lewiston Monumental Works of Lewiston, Maine, the lowest bidder at $11,180. The entire monument was executed in North Jay granite, and the total cost, including architects’ fees and the price of the land, total­ed $12,560.50. The dedication was set for October 20, 1905.

Commission members worked tirelessly on a myriad of details, including transpor­tation, lodging, invitations, arrangements of dedicatory ceremonies, and speakers. Their ardor, however, was dampened as a yellow fever epidemic raged through Vicks­burg in the summer and fall of 1905 and dedication ceremonies had to be postponed. The new date for dedication was set for Saturday, March 24, 1906.

At 10:50 A.M. on Wednes­day, March 21, 1906, a special train pulled out of Washing­ton, D.C. en route to Vicks­burg. The train consisted of seven cars in which there were sleepers, day coaches, and a baggage car. Passengers in­cluded Governor Pennypacker, former governor James A. Beaver, members of the Vicksburg Battlefield Commission of Pennsylvania and Committees of Commands Engaged, and other dignitaries. The train rolled south through Rich­mond, Knoxville, and Chatta­nooga, then west through Birmingham to Meridian. At Meridian, Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Capt. James Everest of the Vicksburg National Mili­tary Park Commission greeted the delegation and escorted the Pennsylvanians through Jackson to Vicksburg.

In Vicksburg plans were underway to welcome the Pennsylvanians. The Vicksburg Evening Post duly noted the preparations for the great event: “The decorations in all parts of the city are grand and indeed a great compliment to the Pennsylvania visitors.” An official party assembled at the Holly Street station of the Alabama and Vicksburg Rail­road to formally receive the Keystone State’s dignitaries. Among the welcoming group were Vicksburg Mayor Ben­jamin W. Griffith, Adj. Gen. Arthur Fridge, Col. J.J. Hayes, Col. C.C. Wyatt of Gov. James K. Vardaman’s staff, and the Volunteer Southrons, a militia unit from Vicksburg. The War­ren Light Artillery was also on hand to fire the Governor’s Salute. Amidst much fanfare the Pennsylvanians were to be escorted to the Carroll Hotel. The procession’s route along Cherry Street was to be illumi­nated and, as reported by a local newspaper, “Red fires and fireworks at all the princi­pal streets will be an attractive feature of the reception.”

Although the superintend­ent of the railroad assured local dignitaries that the Pennsylvanians would arrive promptly at 10:15 P.M. on Thursday, March 22, wrecks along the tracks in Tennessee caused several delays. Much to the disappointment of all, the delegation did not reach Vicks­burg until dawn the following day. Exhausted by their long journey, Pennypacker and Beaver, along with the com­missioners and their spouses, dignitaries, and guests, were taken by carriage to the Carroll Hotel, located on the south­west corner of Clay and Wal­nut streets. The Carroll Hotel offered guests luxurious ac­commodations for the princely sum of $2.50 a day. Large numbers of Pennsylvanians, mostly veterans and their families, considered the Car­roll too expensive and secured lodging at the Piazza Hotel for two dollars a day. The Com­monwealth offered free trans­portation to the dedication ceremonies to veterans of the Pennsylvania commands which had participated in the Vicksburg campaign.

After a hearty breakfast on Friday morning, Pennsylva­nia’s distinguished visitors were accompanied on a drive through the park by Captain Rigby. The entourage made a stop at Pennsylvania Avenue to inspect the monument and those present agreed that the memorial was “eminently appropriate for its purpose.” Those not wishing to tour the park were offered a ride on the Mississippi River aboard the steamer Cordill. The compli­mentary trip was provided by John M. Cameron, resident manager of the Monongahela River Coal and Coke Com­pany. A reception honoring Governor Pennypacker of Pennsylvania and Governor Vardaman of Mississippi was held that evening at the Carroll Hotel.

Dedication Day-Saturday, March 24 – dawned bright and clear, with weather “ideal for the occasion,” reported the Herald. At 1:30 P.M., an im­pressive caravan of people in buggies, and on horseback, bicycle, and foot wound its way through the streets of Vicksburg and out to Pennsyl­vania Avenue in the park. Marching in the procession were five companies of the Third Infantry, Mississippi National Guard, the Warren Light Artillery of Vicksburg, and a company of cadets from Jefferson Military College of Washington, Mississippi. “The scene was a most imposing,” noted a local newspaper. “Staff officers rushed to and fro with their gold braid glistening in the sun, saluting and giving orders. The music of the Vicks­burg band enlivened the occa­sion. The tramp of the military and the roll of the drum lent additional dignity to the occasion.”

Promptly at 2:30 P.M. the Warren Light Artillery of Vicksburg fired the Governor’s Salute to open the ceremonies. Gen. Samuel K. Schwenk, chairman of the Vicksburg Battlefield Commission of Pennsylvania and former cap­tain of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry during the siege of Vicksburg, called the assembly to order and introduced the Rev. T.W. Douglas, who of­fered the invocation. The min­ister’s words were well chosen to reflect the solemnity of the occasion. Vicksburg school children played America and the entire assemblage joined in song. Anna Mai Schwenk, niece of General Schwenk, then rose to recite a poem, “Roll Back The Years,” that had been written specifically for the dedication ceremonies by Capt. Jack W. Crawford. The young woman, dressed in white, stood nervously. Nevertheless, her young, sweet voice rose above the crowd which gazed at her as she delivered Crawford’s poem.

Roll back the years, oh, Thought, and gently raise
The curtain that obscures those other days,
Unfold the picture, still un­dimmed by Time;
Of all in history none is more sublime –
Save only one – the Christ on Calvary,
Who taught men how to die to make men free.

She spoke tenderly of a mother’s farewell embrace and parting kiss as the women of Pennsylvania offered up their best and most noble sons. With elegance and grace she continued as Captain Craw­ford, “The Poet Scout,” beamed with approval.

None were more quick to heed our chieftain’s call
More eager to leave home and friends and fall
Into the lines of blue that marched away
To throw themselves against the lines of gray,
To bravely meet whate’er might be their fate,
Than were the sons of our old Keystone State.

The poem recorded for posterity the selfless devotion to duty and patriotic zeal of Pennsylvania’s fighting men, and of their sacrifice on the altar of war. With great emo­tion, Anna Mai Schwenk con­cluded her recitation.

And Lord, Thou great Commander of us all,
To Thee, who e’en must note the sparrow’s fall,
We pledge our loyal Keystone hearts anew,
Here, while this shaft is pointing up to you,
Here, while our flag of freedom is unfurled,
Beacon of Peace and Justice to the World.

Throughout this phase of the ceremonies, the monu­ment’s great granite shaft was kept from view by two large United States flags, each mea­suring twelve by twenty-four feet. The flags were provided by Capt. John McConnel, Commanding Signal Corps, Illinois National Guard. Lillian Von Schwenk, another of the general’s nieces, assisted by Laura Campbell, unveiled the memorial as the flags were hoisted up two large poles which flanked it. The Warren Light Artillery fired a National Salute as the flags were being raised and the school children sang the Star Spangled Banner.

General Schwenk, on be­half of the commission, pre­sented the monument to Governor Pennypacker. “The chief executive of the Keystone state was in fine voice and made a short address which greatly pleased the people,” reported the Herald. The gover­nor in turn presented the monument to John C. Sco­field, chief clerk of the War Department, who represented the Secretary of War. Captain Rigby considered Scofield’s address “particularly fine, very appropriate, highly gratifying to the Commission and greatly enjoyed and appreciated by the large audience.”

Mississippi’s Gov. James K. Vardaman addressed the crowd in his characteristic­ – and legendary – style. His address, boasted the Herald, “was fully up to the standard of that well known orator of whom Mississippi is proud.” The flamboyant Mississippian was followed by Gen. James A. Beaver, former governor of Pennsylvania, who gave the principal oration. The ceremo­nies concluded with the bene­diction offered by the Rev. Benjamin Albright, a veteran of Durell’s Battery.

The dedication ceremonies ended, the crowd slowly dis­persed and returned to town. At eight o’clock that evening, a Blue and Gray Campfire was held at the Walnut Street The­ater with former Confederate general Stephen D. Lee presid­ing. Mississippi’s Confederate camps of Vicksburg, Port Gib­son, Natchez, Jackson, and Yazoo City had been formally invited by the Pennsylvania delegation to attend the festivi­ties. Henry Mayer, business manager of the theater, pro­vided the building for a rental fee of fifty dollars and offered to engage an orchestra for an additional twenty-five dollars. General Schwenk declined Mayer’s offer because, he wrote, “our appropriation was small.” Captain Rigby was able to secure the services of a Professor Charles P. Kemper to provide “vocal music.” The lack of an orchestra evidently did not detract from the event for the gala was pronounced “a grand success.” “Fraternity and a common flag were the keynotes of the occasion and the men of the North and the men of the South expressed sentiments which showed that almost every vestige of ill feel­ing has passed away,” so re­ported a local newspaper writer.

The following day Gover­nor Pennypacker, members of the commission, and most of the visitors took leave of Vicks­burg. Not long after, trains carrying distinguished visitors from Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin – all on similar journeys – arrived at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The monu­ments erected by these, and other states, are impressive and inspirational. One Civil War veteran was moved to exclaim, “Vicksburg is the art park of the world!”

The monuments at Vicks­burg bear mute tribute not only to soldiers in blue and gray – but all Americans. But of all these tributes, wrote Confederate Gen. Stephen D. Lee, the inscription on Penn­sylvania’s monument “is the sweetest and tenderest mes­sage which ever came from the Northland to the Southland.” To this day, atop the quiet hills at Vicksburg, hundreds of miles from home, the Key­stone State’s testimony to her noble sons is indelibly etched in granite.

Here brothers fought for their principles; here heroes died for their country, and a united people will forever cherish the precious legacy of their noble manhood.


For Further Reading

Allen, Albert D. History of the Forty-Fifth Pennsylvania. Williamsport, Pa.: Grit Publish­ing Company, 1912.

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. New York: The Cen­tury Company, 1914.

Bearss, Edwin C. The Vicksburg Campaign. Dayton, Ohio: Morningside House, Inc., 1986.

Bearss, Edwin C., and Warren Grabau. Battle of Jackson. Baltimore, Md.: Gateway Press, Inc., 1981.


Terrence C. Winschel, a native of Pittsburgh, is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and has received graduate degrees from Mississippi College. A four­teen year member of the staff of the National Park Service, he has served at Gettysburg National Military Park, Fredericksburg National Military Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park. He is currently a historian at Vicksburg National Military Park. He has written thirty artic­les devoted to the Civil War, as well as more than sixty-five book reviews. He is author of The Corporal’s Tale and co-author of Vicksburg: A Self-Guiding Tour of the Battlefield.