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Vicksburg National Military Park begins national cemetery stabilization project following weather-related erosion

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(Photo by Robert D. Hubble - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51225025)

In mid-April, the National Park Service (NPS) will begin a multi-year, multi-phase project to stabilize portions of Vicksburg National Cemetery in Vicksburg National Military Park to address grave disturbances and erosion caused by severe weather events in 2020 and 2021.

Beginning in January 2020, unprecedented rainfall caused extreme erosion, road loss, sinkholes and severe landslides at Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Cemetery. This weather event impacted historically significant landscapes, including burial sites in the national cemetery. Additional storm activity in 2021 contributed to further impacts.

The park will begin the stabilization project by temporarily relocating approximately 50-80 endangered burials through this summer and constructing a soldier pile and lagging wall early next year to prevent further erosion. Once stabilization is complete, the park will conduct a respectful reinterment process and complete other mitigation measures. The NPS has committed approximately $4.686 million for the first two phases of this project.

“This project affirms our commitment to commemorate the fallen and protect one of the nation’s most sacred landscapes,” said Carrie Mardorf, acting superintendent, Vicksburg National Military Park. “Several of the impacted burials are unknown United States Colored Troops. Throughout this process, we are engaging with several communities, organizations and leaders to provide the soldiers their due honor and help give voice to under told stories.”

All remains previously recovered, as well as those yet to be disinterred, will continue to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Burials must be disinterred to ensure they are protected and secured during the stabilization and construction process. A specialized facility was built within the park for the temporary care of recovered remains, burial objects and grave markers until the items can be respectfully reinterred.

Future mitigation measures for the project will include additional research about the role of United States Colored Troops (USCT) and local African American community contributions to the cemetery. This is an opportunity to bring co-stewardship into the forefront concerning our collective histories of USCTs at Vicksburg and across the region. This effort also restores awareness of Vicksburg’s national significance during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Future mitigation measures will also include further exploration of the Native American and Spanish colonial eras and their significance within Vicksburg National Military Park.

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