Vicksburg, Mississippi, you may know, fell to the Union on July 4, 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the previous day, meaning that, after a long, very hard spring, the North had two great victories back to back. Which was good news for President Lincoln, who, at the time, was dealing with a fatigued homefront that badly needed a morale boost.

Regardless, I’ve always heard that the people of Vicksburg (Vicksburgers? Let’s hope so.) didn’t begin celebrating Independence Day again until the middle of the twentieth century. But it turns out that’s a myth. Or so says Chris Waldrep, whose new book on Vicksburg and collective memory just arrived in my mailbox today. Better still, Waldrep has traced the myth back to its taproot: a bit of promotional flummery in which a National Park Service superintendent made up the story about the Fourth of July in order to generate more tourism at the Vicksburg National Military Park. After checking my lecture notes, I’m relieved to report that I haven’t been passing along the Independence Day myth to my students. But I’m also wondering what stopped me. Surely not good sense or keen intuition.

Thanks to Kevin at Civil War Memory for bringing this to my attention.

Advertisements