Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vicksburg, Mississippi

We left Birmingham before 9 o’clock and it was already 85 degrees. We haven’t been that hot since mid-May. I guess we’ll have to deal with the heat and humidity for the rest of the summer. The weather was clear after the torrential downpours of Saturday and we arrived in Vicksburg mid-afternoon.

We set up and then took the Blue Driving Tour around the city. It took us to the riverfront to Catfish Park for kids, past the Murals of Vicksburg that tells its history and Riverfront Park. The beautiful old railroad station is now the SPCA! There are several old mansions on the tour that have been restored and most are now Bed and Breakfasts. We took a picture of this huge tree because it created a canopy all the way across the street and it was in the yard of this ordinary house. It just caught our eye.

We saw Church of the Holy Trinity and its stained glass windows. Of the 11 Tiffany windows in Mississippi, it contains six. Oak Hall has 38 stained glass windows. The Old Court House built around 1858 now houses a museum.

On Monday we went to Vicksburg National Military Park. I was finally able to get my America the Beautiful Senior Pass. I have tried since last October from as far west as Pearl Harbor in Honolulu to as far east as the Andrew Johnson National Site in Greenville, TN before I found a park that sold them. If they don’t charge to get in, they don’t sell them. Ted stopped in Huntsville for his two years ago. Last summer we were able to enter Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and Quake Lake for free. Normal entrance then was $25 per car.

After watching a video, we rented a GPS tour guide but it wasn’t working so we took it back and purchased the CD drive tour and booklet. We had to start and stop it instead of GPS knowing where we were but it worked OK.

There are 16 miles of roadway and 1300 markers, memorials and statues. Each state also has a large memorial. My first picture is the Illinois State Memorial and is the largest and grandest of all the state memorials.

This next picture is the last memorial added and it is of three Black men. It is dedicated to the Blacks of Mississippi that fought in the war. Of course I had to throw in Texas, the second picture.

General Grant astride his horse is the next picture. This statue is only one of two equestrian statues in the park. There are 17,000 Union soldiers buried here. The Confederate soldiers are buried in a city cemetery. There is a normal grave marker for those who were identified and a small white marble block to mark unknown graves. There were many more Unknowns than Knowns.

It is impossible to stop and read all 1300 markers. We soon realized that they are dedicated to various state militias, regiments, etc. that fought in that particular area. I was unable to look at the rolling hills, valleys, trenches, etc. and understand the strategy behind the campaign. From reading I know what happened at Vicksburg and understand the importance of the campaign and the great loss of life and suffering but I had trouble visualizing the assaults that were made. It all looks so peaceful and beautiful now.

Our longest stop was the USS Cairo, an armor clad ship sunk in 1864 in the Yazoo River, found in 1960 and restored by 1984. The entire boat, with “ghost” wood filling in what was missing, is on display outside the museum under a huge canopy. All of the metal parts survived and a lot of the wood. The boilers were intact as well as the pistons. All of her cannons are once again in place. You can see the metal cladding on the front of the ship and the pilothouse.

Inside the museum were scores of artifacts that were salvaged. The bell from the ship was on display and the sign said that an air pocket that had been trapped underneath it for over a century shot to the top of the river when the bell was picked up. Personal articles, tools, dishware, bottles (including a Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce bottle), shoes, etc. were all found intact and are on display. Anything of metal was in perfect condition. They said even the bolts were able to be turned while the ship was still in the water.

It was late in the afternoon when we finished so we went to fuel up and head back to prepare dinner. We called FedEx and learned our parts are to arrive in Lufkin on Tuesday so we’ll be taking off for Nacogdoches in the morning. That puts us just north of Lufkin and we will pull into Bailey’s first thing Wednesday morning. If all goes well we should be at Rayford by Wednesday late afternoon. We’ll be there two nights as we empty the RV of the things that need to go home, clean the carpets and wash the outside. We always do this before putting it away.

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