The Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs collection contains 328 items, mostly black-and-white photographs, which were maintained in the files of longtime park commissioner William T. Rigby. In addition to the photographs, the collection contains a small number of other items including postcards, drawings and conceptual sketches of monuments, a newspaper account of a 1917 reunion of members of the 45th Illinois Infantry Regiment, and a railroad dining car menu bearing an image of the park’s Massachusetts monument. The range of known dates is 1899 to 1923, however many of the items are not dated.
William T. Rigby fought in the Vicksburg campaign as a member of the 24th Iowa Infantry Regiment and in 1895 was elected secretary of the Vicksburg National Military Park Association. As secretary, Rigby spent four years traveling across the nation speaking to veterans’ groups, legislators, and members of Congress in an effort to generate support for legislation to establish a national military park. The legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law by President William McKinley on February 21, 1899. It created a three-member commission to oversee the development and management of the park and specified that all three members had to be veterans of the Vicksburg campaign, one Confederate and two Union. The original commissioners were Rigby, James Everest of Illinois, and General Stephen D. Lee of Mississippi. Rigby was the only member of the commission to move his residence to Vicksburg. He established a park office there and became fully engaged in the acquisition of land, construction of the tour road and bridges, and the securing and placement of monuments, memorials, and tablets. He continued to work to build and improve the park for thirty years until his death in 1929.
The materials in this collection depict and document the efforts of William T. Rigby and others in the establishment of the Vicksburg National Military Park. The photographs include images taken by several prominent Vicksburg photographers, including J.C. Coovert, Charles Long, and J. Mack Moore.
Captions appearing in quotation marks were handwritten or typed on the front or reverse of the photographs by the owner(s) prior to donation to MDAH. Other descriptions were supplied by the curator. Images may be accessed through keyword search on the Web site.
The exact date that MDAH acquired these materials is unknown. According to a 1934 inventory, what was then known as the “Rigby Collection” was in the hands of MDAH by that time. The “Rigby Collection” contained other materials documenting the creation and early history of the Vicksburg National Military Park in addition to the photographs and was organized into series by MDAH archivists and incorporated into Record Group 12: Memorial, Monument, and Exposition Commissions Records. The materials in this online collection eventually became Series 573: Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs.