Sunday, April 8, 2012

Days 3 - 4: Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, Mississippi

After leaving Lake Palestine, we headed into Louisiana via interstate 20.  Since we'd been to LA recently and plan to go to New Orleans in the fall with the Ryders, we drove all the way across the state and into Mississippi.

There's a big river there, if you hadn't heard...

...and a lot of Civil War history.

Vicksburg was of great strategic importance during the war because it controlled that section of the Mississippi River and the Union needed that to win the war.

There's a large park dedicated to the sacrifices on both sides,
The Vicksburg National Military Park

This is the "Shirley House", the only original structure left dating back to the Civil War.

Hopefully you can zoom in and read this but if not you can at least see what the grounds looked like during the siege of Vicksburg.  The Union army used the house during and after the siege.

There are monuments to all the states that had troops in the operation.
One of the largest is the Illinois monument.

Illinois state seal in the center of the floor, notice it's wet.

It's modeled after the Pantheon in Rome and has a hole in the center of its domed roof.

Looking from the Illinois monument back towards the Shirley House, you can still see the faint outline of a trench.  Trenches and other evidence of the battle still scar the landscape all over the park.

In the valley across from the monument they're restoring the landscape to look more as it did during the siege.

In the distance you can just see Shirley House.  The red plaques indicate Confederate positions and blue indicates Union.  The Union got within yards and were still repulsed by the Confederate troops.  The Union even dug a tunnel and tried to break thru by placing explosives but they were still repulsed.

Right after this photo the weather really got nasty and we had to call it a day...

Motel 6 to the rescue!
When you travel with a dog and can't camp, this is where you stay.

Since we had to leave in a hurry due to the thunderstorm we returned the following day to make sure we hadn't missed anything.

This cannon marks the site where Generals Grant and Pemberton met to discuss the terms of surrender for the Confederate forces.  The town of Vicksburg had been under siege for over a month and had been heavily shelled by Union forces.  Out of supplies and with no reinforcements on the way, Pemberton finally had no choice.

This is what's left of the Union warship "USS Cairo".
If you're visiting the area and don't have a lot of time, make sure you visit at least long enough to see this!  The ship was sunk by a Confederate mine in 1862 and stayed under the Mississippi River until the 1960's!  A team of historians finally located and salvaged what was left of the ship and put this exhibit together.  They "ghosted" a framework of new lumber to provide a skeleton for the original parts of the salvaged ship.

The only historic photo of the ship...

This speaks for itself.  Most of these graves are unknown.

After Vicksburg, we headed south towards Natchez and made a stop at the Grand Gulf Military Park which has a little museum with more Civil War artifacts and quite a few historic buildings, including this little chapel.

Grand Gulf was a thriving town for awhile and was even considered as a candidate for the state capital.  Unfortunately, history had other plans.  Read this and you'll see things did not end well...

The museum just happened to have a model of the Cairo.  If you look at the painting behind you can see the artist's rendering of the ship striking the mine that sank it.  It sank in twelve minutes.

Just before getting to Natchez we stopped for the night at Natchez State Park.

Home for the night.  Camping on this leg of the trip has been very easy, so far.  Civilized, in fact.  The campsites have all had electricity and water so we haven't had to do any primitive camping yet, which was pretty common out west.  Camping with a fridge and a microwave is hardly camping at all!  We like it!

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