Blue Angels Practicing, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida - May 10, 2017

Blue Angels Practicing, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida - May 10, 2017
Blue Angels Practicing, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida - May 10, 2017

Friday, May 5, 2017

Vicksburg National Military Park - Weds., May 3, 2017

Well, well, well, today was a day of education for me about the Civil War. Bob is a big history buff and even he couldn't wait to see Vicksburg National Military Park. 

Our day started at the Visitor Center where we watched an 18-minute introductory movie about the battles at Vicksburg. This area was a hotbed of fighting over the all-important Mississippi River, the major highway for getting goods and people, weapons and cotton, from the north to the ports on the Gulf of Mexico. 

Another reason Vicksburg was so crucial is that it is in the center of the confederacy. If Vicksburg could be captured by the union, it would divide the confederacy. No two people stated these facts as succinctly as Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis:
"Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket."  ~ Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America 
"Vicksburg is the nailhead that holds the South's two halves together."  ~  Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
After a quick look around the visitor center, we started the 16-mile narrated driving tour. First, we checked out the different types of cannons...



Off we go!

Impressive entry gate takes you immediately
to the Union lines
In the beginning of this campaign to take Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant started out by trying to storm the city. However, this city was protected by riverfront artillery batteries, a maze of swamps and bayous to the north and south, and a ring of forts with 172 guns guarding all land approaches. General Grant was being repulsed with every attack. 

He also tried amphibious maneuvers to get the city to surrender, along with trying to build a canal to bypass the bend in the river where Vicksburg was located. Those strategies didn't work. 

Grant's next plan was to manevuer his troops west, south, then east, and come up behind the town. He had some success in defeating Lt. General Pemberton at Port Gibson to the south. He was then able to take Raymond and Jackson, the state capital. From Jackson, he marched west along the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. He fought his way closer and closer to Vicksburg's eastern fortifications. From then on, the Union soldiers attacked the Vicksburg lines.

Imagine being Union soldiers trying to sneak up on the Confederate soldiers who are encamped on top of the bluff and at the tops of the hills. There were no trees at that time. You can see the advantage of being at the top of the hill; you can see anyone trying to attack you from below!

The photo below is of Battery de Golyer. The Union forces were trying to take the Confederate Great Redoubt. A redoubt is a rectangular fort, fortification or barricade that protects the troops and artillery inside from attack from any direction. At one time as many as 22 federal (Union) cannons were positioned here. The Union forces were repelled and Captain de Golyer was mortally wounded in combat.  Scenes like this one played out over and over again in trying to capture the Confederate troops on these hills outside Vicksburg. 

The difference between a redoubt and a redan: two types of fort defenses.


Confederate Great Redoubt


Battery de Golyer

If you can believe it, there are 1,400 monuments at Vicksburg National Military Park. Wow! I took photos of a fraction of them. The photo above is a memorial to Illinois.

Wisconsin's memorial

Sculpture at base of Wisconsin memorial

U.S. Union trench
Bob wanted me to include a photo of how many
history markers there are...and this is just
on a fraction of the 16-mile drive!

General U.S. Grant's headquarters monument
We now enter the Confederate lines. Thayer's Approach is one of the Union attack points. The history marker below gives the details of the tunnel and the trenches that had to be dug. Whenever the Union soldiers dug a trench, they were in danger of getting their heads shot if they showed them even briefly above the top of the trench. Tools they used to help dig trenches are shown in a photo farther down the page. 


Thayer's approach



A tunnel approach
Tools designed to protect
soldiers as they dug trenches
USS Cairo, the Union's ironclad gunboat, has it's own museum in the park. This exhibit was our favorite. We've never seen anything else like it in our travels. These boats were fighting machines, but even though they were built tough (their boat's front armor was railroad rails), they were easily sunk with mines. Because they were so heavy, they went straight to the bottom.

The USS Cairo was raised from the bottom of the Mississippi River 100 years after it was sunk. The museum has artifacts that were preserved like a time-capsule. What the salvagers found were information on naval construction, naval stores, armaments, and the crew's personal gear. The recovered artifacts are exhibited at this museum.

When we arrived here, the wind was howling and it was starting to rain. By the time we left the museum it was raining but the wind had died down. On the remainder of our drive through the park we saw lots of leaves and some branches down on the roadway. 

USS Cairo

Bob checking out the cannons


Railroad rails lined the bow
From the USS Cairo, we drove through the Vicksburg National Cemetery, then continued on with our tour.

Below is Missouri's memorial. It commemorates where brothers fought brothers. Confederates from Missouri fought Union soldiers from Missiouri. Friends or even family members fought for opposite sides with different ideals. This war was Americans fighting Americans.







So MANY history markers!

Jefferson Davis

Texas monument

Alabama monument

The way the war concluded was that Gen. Grant fought the Confederates back into the town of Vicksburg and kept them trapped there for 47 days. There was no way for the troops to receive food or supplies. On July 4, 1863, Vicksburg was officially surrendered.

After we finished the 16-mile drive, we went back to the Visitor Center and watched the movie again. Then we needed to get lunch. 

We wanted to see the old part of Vicksburg near the river since we hadn't been there yet. We drove up and down the streets, saw the old Court House, and looked for restaurants that were unique to Vicksburg.

The old Court House, now a museum

The old train station
For lunch, we found just what we were looking for: Monsour's at the Biscuit Company. Luckily we made it just in time for lunch. We arrived at 3:30 p.m.; they serve lunch until 4. Whew! The place was empty and we were given a table overlooking the canal and the mural wall. A group of four people came in after us.

Waiting for lunch at Monsour's at the Biscuit Company

I zoomed in on the mural wall from our table

The dining room overlooking the canal

Monsour's at the Biscuit Company bar area
Looking at the menu, we decided on something that should be a specialty here because it is in a biscuit factory. We ordered the chicken pot pie appetizer. This is totally southern comfort food!

The waitress assured us one appetizer would feed both of us. In hindsight, we should have ordered two because it was the best pot pie we have ever had. All future pot pies will be measured against this one! The chicken pot pie was poured over a huge freshly baked biscuit. There was no "top" of mashed potatoes or crust on this chicken pot pie, but it didn't need it because there was a luscious biscuit underneath. Mmmmmmmm! If you order this, be patient because they make the biscuits from scratch. 

After lunch, we were going to walk along the mural wall but it was raining, so we drove by it instead.  

From downtown Vicksburg we headed back to the RV park after another long but satisfying day. Tomorrow will be a driving day to Montgomery, Alabama. 

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