The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 26, 2013

Hundreds sign up for Grand Illumination

By Josh Edwards
Associated Press

— VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — More than 300 people have volunteered to place nearly 20,000 luminary bags at monuments and memorials inside and outside the boundaries of the Vicksburg National Military Park on July 3, and more are being sought.

The Grand Illumination to honor soldiers killed during the Vicksburg Campaign will consist of at least 100 white and yellow lights at each state monument.

At least 100 luminary bags will be placed at every state monument under care of the park including those on along Confederate Avenue and at Grant's Canal near Delta, La., said Bess Averett, executive director of Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign.

"There are four on Confederate Avenue and then one at Grant's Canal," she said.

The luminaries will be on display from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. July 3 in honor of the surrender of Vicksburg.

"We want everyone to really come out and participate and see it," she said. "This is not something we are going to do again anytime soon."

Many luminary bags will be yellow to denote that the home state of a particular soldier killed in battle is unknown, she said. The yellow bags came about when researchers were unable to discover casualties by state for Florida, Kansas, and Rhode Island, Averett said.

"They have been digging all year trying to get everybody where they belong," she said.

During the campaign for Vicksburg, Union and Confederate forces lost 19,233 soldiers, but records of the dead were not kept by state, she said.

"We didn't want to lessen the representation of those states, so no one will have fewer than 100 lights," Averett said.

Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota all had fewer than 100 casualties, and added luminaries will represent soldiers whose home state was unknown.

"We also have another 1,100 that are unaccounted for, and those are going to be in entrance to the park and near the National Cemetery," she said.

Many states have far more than the minimum 100 luminaries.

The Iowa monument on the south loop of VNMP will have 2,433 luminaries, and the Illinois Memorial on the north loop of VNMP will have 2,417.

"It's just going to be breathtaking. It's so beautiful," Averett said. "It's going to be a great commemoration,"

More than 300 people have volunteered to place the luminaries, but volunteers are still being sought, she said.

"The more we have the faster it will go, so we certainly are accepting more," she said.

Volunteers also are being sought to work the night of the Grand Illumination to help monitor traffic flow and the morning of July 4th to remove the luminaries, she said.

The City of Vicksburg fireworks show and concert and a fundraiser for the Old Court House Museum also will be July 4th. The Fourth of July at the Old Court House event begins at 6 p.m. with hamburgers, hotdogs and drinks for sale and proceeds benefiting the museum, said museum curator Bubba Bolm.

The west lawn of the Old Court House also will be available for viewing fireworks that start at 9 p.m. over the Yazoo Diversion Canal.

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If you go

. 7 p.m., Mr. Sipp to perform during the Red White and Blues concert in front of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Station, 1010 Levee St. The concert will also feature a tribute to Vicksburg native Willie Dixon.

. 9 p.m., fired from a barge on the Yazoo Diversion Canal.