Thursday, November 3, 2016

Corinth's Grand Illumination will feature candles, camels and holiday open house

(National Park Service)

After a four-year absence, the Grand Illumination returns this weekend to Corinth, Ms., an event that will combine a Civil War memorial and merchants holding their first holiday open house of the season.

Events Saturday and Sunday include period music by Bobby Horton, living histories, tours of Civil War-era homes and infantry firing demonstrations. See the schedule here.

(NPS photo)
The signature moment will be the lighting Saturday evening of 12,000 luminaries representing casualties during the 1862 siege and battle of Corinth. About half of the luminaries will be placed at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, a unit of Shiloh National Military Park. The others will be placed along streets leading to and in downtown Corinth.

“You think about 12,000 casualties. It is hard to comprehend,” said Ashley Berry, Shiloh supervisory park ranger. “When you stand on the hill, looking downtown … it is breathtaking and puts it into perspective.”

One sight sure to turn heads will feature two camels and the 16th Alabama Infantry re-enactor group. The 16th will be portraying the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, which fought at Corinth and Iuka and was trapped in the Union siege of Vicksburg. A camel dubbed Old Douglas carried baggage and musical instruments for the regiment.

Doug Baum of the Texas Camel Corps will provide the beasts, which will have their own “hotel” and veterinarian, Berry told the Picket. The interpretive center will "ring in" old Douglas with artifacts from the U.S. Camel Corps experiment, including the bell shown below.

(NPS photo)
An article in an old issue of Confederate Veteran magazine recalled the “faithful” service of Old Douglas with the 43rd: “When the regiment was ready to start Douglas would be led up to the pile of things he was to carry, and his leader would say, ‘Pushay, Douglas;’ and he would gracefully drop to his knees and haunches and remain so till his load was adjusted and he was told to get up. His long, swinging gait was soon familiar with the entire command, and ours was called the ‘Camel Regiment.’”

In a recent Facebook post, Shiloh Superintendent Dale Wilkerson wrote about Old Douglas' refusal to be tethered. "The loose ranging camel scared horses on several occasions, causing stampedes."

Alas, Old Douglas was killed by a Federal sharpshooter at Vicksburg, and legend has it that his famished human companions consumed his remains.

The timing of the Grand Illumination, the last National Park Service centennial event for Shiloh, was coordinated with the Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. (The Battle of Corinth occurred in early October 1862).

Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Christy Burns, the bureau’s executive director, has worked with Shiloh on getting about 120 volunteers needed to place and light the luminaries. The Grand Illumination, which also depends on donations, is returning largely because of an NPS grant, officials said.

“It fills all of my tourism hats,” Burns said of the event. “All the boutique businesses are having their first holiday open house that weekend.” She cited a list of new or signature downtown businesses, including Blazing Noodlez and Borroum’s, the “oldest drug store in the state (and) with great milkshakes.”

A view of Fillmore Street (CACVB)

Besides events at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, people can see Civil War-related items at the Crossroads Museum at the old depot and visit the antebellum Verandah and Duncan houses.

“Christmas decorations are going up as we speak,” said Burns. “Our downtown is another jewel we are trying to sell as one unit.”

The bureau touts industry and businesses that employ many of the northeastern Mississippi city’s 15,000 residents. “History is only half our story,” Burns said. Major employers include the hospital, Caterpillar and Kimberly-Clark.

(NPS photo)
The NPS interpretive center in Corinth is 12 years old. It’s about a half hour drive from the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee. It’s designed to be the starting point for those wanting to learn about the action at both Corinth and Shiloh. It also tells the broad story of the war’s causes, impact and significance today, said Berry.

She said a large number of slaves flocked to Corinth after President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862.

A contraband camp was established in Corinth and its hospitals, churches and schools served about 6,000 African-Americans until January 1864, when the Union army moved its headquarters to Memphis, Tenn.

Berry said the Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth works to preserve Civil War sites “scattered around town.” The city was a strategic railroad hub for the Confederacy, and the Federal army meant to control the crossroads.

The siege and battle were two separate events. Federal troops laid siege to the town in late April 1862 (a few weeks after the clash at Shiloh), eventually forcing the outnumbered Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to withdraw. Rebel units marched on Corinth in early October, only to be defeated.

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