You are invited to participate in procession

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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By Darrell S. White

The history of the City of Natchez is not unlike an onion with its multiple layers. The taste of that onion when properly prepared is somewhat savory and sweet. But it can also be bitter and bring tears to your eyes.

The majesty of our numerous antebellum structures speaks directly to the town’s wealth and prosperity in years gone by.

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In contrast, there were the horrors committed at the Forks of the Road Enslavement Marketplace, where the basic principles of humanity were ignored and people of African origin and descent were brought and sold to enhance the economic wellbeing of the planter and ruling class.

There were more millionaires here in Natchez per-capita than any other city of its size in this nation. Due to political and economic reasons, Natchez was considered to be a “Yankee Town” within the Confederacy. More than just a few of the Natchez Planters were considered to be loyalist and Union Sympathizers.

When the vote was asked to succeed from the Union in 1861, the Natchez delegation abstained from voting. King Cotton and Queen Sugar and other crops produced in this region had grown to become the nation’s major economic drivers. This is where the money was.

On July 4th, 1863, the City of Vicksburg surrendered to the Union during the Civil War. By July 13th, 1863, the Union began its occupation of the City of Natchez.

At its peak there were 5,000 Union soldiers and sailors assigned here, 3,000 of which were regiments of the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.), whose mission was to defend, protect and preserve the City of Natchez among other assignments.

Natchez did not experience the levels of destruction seen in other southern cities like Vicksburg, Jackson and Atlanta during the war. The fact that there were over 500 structures here to survive the conflict, to latter be utilized to drive the local economy is in direct tribute to the energy and efforts of the U.S.C.T. They were on their jobs.

Founded in 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization comprised of Union Army, Navel and Marine veterans of the Civil War. There were a number of chapters of this organization along with its women’s axillary in our area. May 30th was designated as the day that the GAR would decorate the hallowed grounds that held the remains of their fallen comrades and Decoration Day was born.

The virtues associated with July 4th, 1776, as Independence Day in this nation had very little significance to the enslaved, which had yearned to be free for decades prior to the Civil War. Since the 1800s in this community, May 30th became the day that the formally enslaved would acknowledge those who had fought and died for their freedom.

Those commemorative marches to the Natchez National Cemetery have endured to this day. Over the years, Decoration Day has evolved into what is now Memorial Day.

With many of the Covid-19 restrictions having been lifted in our area, the 2021 Memorial Day Parade will take place. Marchers will assemble at 8 a.m. in the City of Vidalia, Louisiana, come across the bridge and pause briefly at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, and then proceed out to the National Cemetery.

You are encouraged to come out as a parade participant or as a spectator to line the streets of downtown Natchez to remember the fallen from all theaters of conflict at this year’s Memorial Day.

Darrell S. White is a member of the 2021 Memorial Day Committee in Natchez.