Vicksburg History

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 -- Vicksburg, MS

Vicksburg is packed with history. In a lot of ways, it's the real heart of the old South. It was the home of Jefferson Davis for many years and the seeds of the confederacy where sown here. It's location on the Mississippi River was important economically before the Civil War and strategically during the war. It was the successful Vicksburg Campaign that boosted the standing of Ulysses Grant with Lincoln, and was key to Grant being given complete military control of Federal forces during the last two years of the war. His success also translated into popularity with the people which translated into his being elected president in 1868.

The Vicksburg National Military Park is a huge crescent shaped park that encircles most of the city and was the area that contained the Confederate and Union lines during the 47 day siege. Here's more from Wikipedia:
The park includes 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, two antebellum homes, 144 emplaced cannons, restored gunboat USS Cairo (sunk on December 12, 1862, on the Yazoo River), and the Grant's Canal site, where the Union army attempted to build a canal to let their ships bypass Confederate artillery fire. The Cairo, also known as the "Hardluck Ironclad," was the first U.S. ship in history to be sunk by a torpedo/mine. It was raised in 1964. The Illinois State Memorial has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged.

I really enjoyed the Illinois State Memorial which is nothing less than spectacular. It's circular shape and dome with an open oculus reminded me of the Pantheon in Rome, one of my favorite buildings on the planet.

The U.S. ironclad Cairo exhibit was stunning. After a hundred years in the muck on the bottom of the Yazoo River, large portions of the boat were raised and reassembled within a "ghost framework" that allows visitors to walk around and through it. A museum of Cairo artifacts that were raised with the boat is worth seeing as well.

The last stop of the day was the old County Courthouse in downtown Vicksburg. This building was built before the Civil War and is now a museum. If you think the Civil War ended in 1865 a visit to this museum will correct that idea. In many ways, the War -- or at least the ideas that caused the War -- are still alive and well in Vicksburg. I may write more on that issue in the near future.

Because we packed so much into Tuesday, we're planning much less for today. I have some work to do on the bus and with the short days this time of year, my window of opportunity is short. Tomorrow we'll be heading west, toward Texas, but plan to at least overnight somewhere in Louisiana.



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