Ribbon Cutting for Endangered Battlefield: Part I
by Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Saturday, November 28th, at 1:00 p.m. was a proud day for the City of Raymond and for all interested in the preservation of its historic sites. David McCain, President of the Friends of Raymond, and Isla Tullos, Mayor of Raymond, delighted the crowd by cutting the ribbon to the newly purchased core portion of the battlefield. Local television stations were present to capture the historic event as it unfolded.
Prior to the ribbon cutting, David McCain addressed the audience and discussed the reasons for the purchase of the battlefield. "The first reason for sealing the purchase of the battlefield," stated McCain, "was for historic preservation. It was on this site that one of the most important battles of the Vicksburg Campaign was fought. The battlefield in Raymond, as well as other historic properties in town, witnessed defining acts of our nation's history. The Civil War was a time when people of all descriptions and origins rebuilt their world in a completely new and better pattern.
"The second reason for the purchase of the battlefield was for educational purposes. Roles of every component of society were important from the farmers and planter's wives to slaves, bankers and generals. There are many stories left untold that need to be told. A visitor's center on the Battlefield could help educate the youth of our town as well as the tourists who will visit in the years to come.
"Economic development would be the final reason for preservation. Heritage tourism is one of the nation's fastest growing industries. Over one million visitors come to the Vicksburg Military Park a year. Development of a major Civil War site in Raymond, including walking trails, campgrounds and perhaps an interpretative center, could mean economic dollars to Raymond. The battlefield as a tourist attraction would help support general businesses. It would also attract new businesses such as restaurants, bookstores and antique stores. This type of economic growth would be good for Raymond.
"Raymond is a part of a wider vision as a part of the Friends of Vicksburg Campaign and Historic Trail. These organizations, in Vicksburg as well as in Raymond, are working to preserve, interpret, manage and promote a 200 mile long trail through three parishes in Louisiana (East Carroll, Madison and Tensas) and three counties in Mississippi (Claiborne, Hinds and Warren.)
"The objective will be to present the entire Vicksburg Campaign in such a way that an interested scholar or tourist will be able to follow the Campaign Trail from its inception at Young's Point in Louisiana to its conclusion at Vicksburg."
Also introduced and invited to address the audience was Elbert Hilliard, Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. "Across the country there is a great deal of activity and interest going on in making sure that the significant battlefields are preserved," stated Hilliard. If this is to be done it will certainly necessitate the cooperation of citizens on the local level. We need to make a push during this session of the Legislature and try and get funding and support for an overall preservation effort for the sites associated with the Vicksburg Campaign."
Adding to the excitement of the day was the presence of Stanford's Battery who fired a Civil War cannon in tribute. Dick Kilby, board member of the Friends of Raymond, displayed items of interest recently excavated by Gordon Skelton from the battlefield. Among these items were mini-bullets and a metal plate once worn by a Union soldier.
The Friends of Raymond will continue to work toward the preservation and development of the battlefield. The organization encourages you to join and contribute toward preserving one of our most important historical sites.
Photographs by James and Rebecca Drake
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