- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Vicksburg National Military Park will start planning in the new year to add 10,000 acres to protect historic Civil War battlefield sites in Claiborne and Hinds counties.

“The planning will help us determine the level of services that will be needed to serve the visiting public and to identify important battlefield protection strategies and priorities for these new lands,” Vicksburg Park Superintendent Mike Madell told The Vicksburg Post (http://bit.ly/1x7ULP9).

President Barrack Obama signed legislation this past week to allow the National Park Service to acquire land at Port Gibson in Claiborne County and at Raymond and Champion Hill, both in Hinds County.

The land includes several historic homes, such as the Shaifer House at Port Gibson and the Coker House at Champion Hill, which the Park Service will maintain.

The State of Mississippi, Civil War Trust and Friends of Raymond cumulatively own about 1,050 acres and hold easements on about 1,170 acres.

“Each of those entities has expressed the desire to donate their interests to the National Park Service, so acquisition costs for these properties would be nominal,” Madell said.

The remaining land - including much of the Champion Hill site - is privately held and will only be acquired from willing sellers if funds are appropriated by Congress.

Adding land at the three battlefields is a significant opportunity for VNMP, Madell said.

“It makes it possible to add three separate battlefield sites that will make significant contributions to telling the full story of the remarkable campaign that resulted in the siege and fall of the City of Vicksburg during the Civil War,” he said.

Raymond Military Park is one of the few battlefields in the country to have on display the exact number of guns used on site during the Civil War.

The site at Port Gibson looks virtually the same as the day Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant landed on his way to Vicksburg, Madell said.

The battlefield at Port Gibson marks the first engagement of Grant’s operations against Vicksburg after his army landed in Mississippi in spring 1863. Grant’s troops clashed with Confederate forces under Confederate Gen. John S. Bowen there May 1, 1863. Bowen, a Missouri native, had been friends with Grant before the war.

The young Confederate general died of dysentery after the Siege of Vicksburg and is believed to be buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

On May 12, 1863, the Union and Confederate forces met again at Raymond, and four days later they fought at Champion Hill - the largest and bloodiest engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign.

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, http://www.vicksburgpost.com

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