Thursday, November 5, 2015

Vicksburg National Military Park

OK, I have to admit, when I heard that we were close to Vicksburg, Mississippi, I really wanted to visit this historical town. I have always liked American history, especially the Civil War era ... not the battles fought, but how those battles affected the people of that time and place. So, the history geek pictured above was very happy to combine two of my  loves - history and biking - as RVentures took us to Vicksburg National Military Park.

In my last blog entry, I asked if anyone remembers any facts of about Vicksburg and why it is important. I have to confess, that before coming here and starting my research, I probably could only have answered: It was a battle in the Civil War.

The Siege of Vicksburg ... yes, it was more that just a battle ... lasted 47 days. The Union Army, under the command of Ulysses S Grant, realized they could not take control of the city on the hill with a quick decisive battle. So, by surrounding Vicksburg, they cut off the supply lines. The resulting disease and starvation forced a Confederate surrender. The Union victory on July 4, 1863 effectively split the South in half and gave complete control of the Mississippi River to the Federal Government. In a time when society depended on rivers for commerce and transportation, the Mississippi River the the key to livelihood and prosperity. Vicksburg, unlike other cities on the Mississippi River, is located on high bluffs overlooking the river. Whoever controlled Vicksburg controlled the river and the river traffic.

We drove to the Vicksburg National Military Park and paid our $8/car entrance fee which is good for the next seven days ... Doug was not as enthused as I was about that news! We started at the Visitor's Center to view their 20 minute introductory video and look at the displays of life and artifacts during the siege. It amazed me to learn that the citizens of Vicksburg were forced to take shelter in caves to protect themselves from the constant shelling.

After being filled with a new appreciation for the people of Vicksburg, it was time to start exploring the park. There is a 16 mile road that takes visitors around the battlefield covered with over 1700 monuments, plaques, tablets and markers that tell the story of the siege. We decided to bike it ... a good compromise, I get to soak in history and Doug gets to ride his bike!

The rolling hills gave us a challenging ride at times as every sweet downhill was usually followed by an equally tough uphill! But it was great to be able to pull right up to the monuments, park the bikes and take in the history. Another bonus was that it was not very busy, so we did not have to compete with much car traffic.

The Minnesota monument

Each state involved in the conflict has a monument honoring the sacrifices of its citizen soldiers. One of the first monuments we came to was dedicated to the soldiers from our home state of Minnesota. 

The Illinois monument was the largest in the park

The Missouri monument reflected that the state was "divided".

The Mississippi state monument - stately and somber

At one point, the uphill got particularly challenging. We finally reached the top of the Confederate line. This cannon is located at the highest point on the bluff over Vicksburg in a perfect position to defend the city against a river invasion and an invasion from the fields behind it.

Also located in the park is a museum with the salvaged remains and recovered artifacts of the USS Cairo, a warship sunk by the Confederates in the nearby Yazoo River in December of 1862.

The road then went through the Vicksburg National Cemetery where 17,000 Union soldiers are buried. Truly amazing is that 13,000 of those buried there are "unknown". 

As we approach Veterans Day next week, we are reminded of the ultimate price these soldiers, known only to their Creator, paid for our freedom.

As the afternoon warmed up, I realized that our 16 mile ride had stretched into a four hour tour filled with many stories of heroics and courage. The plaques in the midst of this quiet field remind us of past struggles and the need to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy today... the freedom to enjoy RVentures on a daily basis!

Until next time ... THANK A VET ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!
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  1. Enjoy following your travels. If our house sells, we will be full timing as well! What kind of bikes do you have? Folding? Contemplating taking our full size bikes with over the winter, but if we could find decent travel bikes, that may be a better option.

    1. Take a look at this blog post which has quite a bit of information on the bikes that we are using: http://dougchartrand.blogspot.com/2014/10/meet-our-bikes-for-rv-origami-cricket.html

      They are working well for us, but it helps that I'm willing to do a bit of work on them.

    2. Thanks Doug, will check them out.