Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vicksburg, MS - National Military Park

May 6, 2011 - Friday

We had a leisurely morning this morning at the Rv before setting out for the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Since we drove up from the South, we thought the landscape was pretty flat, so we were very surprised at the rolling hills and steep ravines in the park.  Its easy to see how the landscape provided a natural defense for the citizens of Vicksburg and why it took so long to fall to Union troops.  

The National Park Service has done a very good job of documenting troop placements and various key battlefields along the park's 16 mile roadway. Each state who had troops in the battle also have very magnificent monuments within the park.  Overall there are over 1300 monuments and plaques throughout the park so it can be a bit brain numbing.  Our RV park loaned us a CD on the auto tour so it was great to hear more details about the various battles while we were driving along the park road.
Here a Union cannon looks out onto the Battlefield.
The Shirley House is the only surviving structure in the battlefield.  Its owners hid in caves behind the home during the battles.
One of the most impressive sites was the USS Cairo which was a sunken ironclad steamship that was sunk in December of 1862.  I was amazed at the size of the ship as I expected it to be much smaller.  
The USS Cairo - Very impressive and pretty scary to imagine her and her counterparts floating down the Mississippi.

One of the 13 cannons on board the USS Cairo.
 We had a picnic lunch at the site and then off to explore the cemetary where more than 17,000 union troops were buried with over 13,000 unknown soldiers.  If you look at the photos of the grave markers, the smaller square stones were placed for those whose names were unknown at time of burial.
The Union Cemetery - Notice the sheer number of smaller gravestones on the left of the photo.
 Once we finished touring the battlefield, we headed into the historic downtown.  As many of you have probably heard, the Mississippi River is on track to have its worst ever floods this year.  We walked down to the banks of the Yazoo River (it flows into the Mississippi) and found the town erecting additional railroad-tie barriers against the rising flood waters.  The town gates had already been shut and water was seeping through them.  My guess is that in a couple of days, the flooding will make itself more known here in town.  The majority of the town sits high above the water and will not be affected.  We were not overly impressed with the downtown of Vicksburg as it seemed really depressed with lots of vacant storefronts.
The new walls going in to guard against the river.

Here Matt stands in front of one of the gates of the city - You can see the muddy river water seeping up behind him.  We could visibly watch it coming in and the water level rising slowly.
 A dinner at a Mexican restaurant and back to the RV for Matt to play guitar and me to study!  Off to explore Natchez tomorrow and most likely stay overnight there so we can see all the homes on tour.

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