The Regional Review

Volume IV - Nos. 4 & 5

April-May, 1940

The Educational Role of National Military Parks

Vicksburg National Military Park,

Visitors to Vicksburg National Military Park and to other similar areas administered by the National Park Service have shown an increased interest in our great military engagements and an increased desire to understand the importance and significance thereof. It is pointed out by National Park Service officials that while these parks are not set aside for the purpose of illustrating military lessons or of making our nation "war conscious," they do serve to call attention to the part which the soldier has played in our national life. The visitor is enabled to grasp the nature of military problems and to follow the development of fighting methods by visiting the military parks and their museums.

In the Vicksburg museum, for example, the fact is explained that the War Between the States was, to a surprisingly large degree, the first modern war. General Grant's Army in the Vicksburg Campaign was, to use a current expression, mechanized. Without the steam boats, practical navigation of our inland waters on a large scale would have been impossible, and without the fleet the conquest of Vicksburg could hardly have been undertaken. Although the Union Army lived, off the country successfully while on the march, it would have been impossible to conduct a long siege, such as that of Vicksburg, without a practical means of transporting supplies and ammunition.

The large-scale use of railroads during the War Between the States marked the first application of this means of shuttling troops from one front to another in a major war. This was admirably illustrated during the Chattanooga Campaign when Lee sent Longstreet's Corps to reinforce Bragg, and when the Union dispatched troops from Washington to the support of Rosecrans at Chattanooga by rail. The practical application of these 19th century developments, crude as they appear at the present time, proves a constant source of interest to the park visitor. The effort which President Davis made to direct the Vicksburg Campaign from Richmond, and which had so important an influence on Pemberton's actions, was, of course, made possible by the telegraph, which had been in use for about twenty years.

In general, therefore, the Vicksburg Campaign may be used to illustrate the beginnings of many features of modern warfare, and it is one of the problems of the park personnel to relate these happenings in modern terms in order that they may be best appreciated. (From The Vicksburg Evening Post.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002