Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Vacation 2014: Vicksburg National Military Park, Day One

I visited Vicksburg National Military Park in seventh grade and I was glad to have an opportunity to return.   Joey had never visited the site of one of the major sieges of the Civil War, so he was very excited to stop and spend a day in the beautiful Mississippi town.   It was right on our way so it seemed a natural first hotel stop on our trip.   We arrived in early afternoon.

The siege of Vicksburg was of major importance, because with victory there and at Port Hudson in Louisiana (just a few miles from the farm where I grew up), the Union took complete of the Mississippi River--vital for shipments of troops and goods-- and divided the Confederacy in half.   Vicksburg was a hard-fought battle, though and General Grant failed on his first attempts.   The town was perfectly fortified because of its position amongst among high bluffs along the Mississippi River.   Its strategic importance to both the Confederacy and the Union was huge.  It was only after Grant finally managed to seal the city off, starving and outlasting the Confederacy, that victory could be declared.

My beloved Mississippi River: these pictures were taken from the Visitor's Welcome Center for the town of Vicksburg.   I just stood there and tried to take it all in.

On to the National Park:

This park is mostly a memorial to the lives lost, but it is also a very educational park, with replicas such as this one:

Visitors may drive through and park along the way to get a closer view of battle sites and memorials:

The children received their first cancellation stamps at Vicksburg.   I am so glad I read about the National Parks Passport program before our trip.   The books are about $9.   They include information about all the national parks and there are spaces for cancellation stamps, collector's image stamps, park ranger autographs, etc...   We saw adults with their passports, also!

Vicksburg is one of the best preserved and marked battle sites in the world since veterans of the siege helped mark the area.   The views are a stunning combination of overlooks such as this and valleys scarred with the remains of the engineering work done by the entrenched soldiers.   It is quiet and sobering and leaves one with the feeling that the road and monuments--over 1300-- are never-ending, not in a boring way, but in a way that drives home the destruction and violence of this time in our country's history.

Each state designed and built multiple memorials such as this obelisk, in addition to statues and other markers.  

The Mississippi state memorial

This sign shows a photo from the dedication of the park, the Civil War not yet a distant memory to those in attendance:

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy

An elegant magnolia stands guard over this now peaceful landscape.

Destruction having given way to beauty

The Texas memorial is one of the best-known memorials in the park.

View from the Texas memorial

The Illinois monument

Interior view of the dome

The house in the background is the surviving home from the siege.

Wisconsin state monument

One of the tunnels dug and used by troops.   The brick structure was added later to preserve the tunnel.

A moment of cool relief from the heat.   We were visiting at during the same time of year as the original siege.   When the children said they were hot, we reminded them of the uniformed soldiers who lived and fought in such heat.

Details?   I don't know how many our children will carry away from their tour of the memorials and battlefield, but I think they will carry away the important general ideas.   War is ugly.   Man against his fellow man is not what we were created for.   War leaves scars that last for decades and beyond.   War is real, as the land and climate in which it is waged.   We all stand on the sacrifices of others and we have an obligation to commemorate and appreciate them.

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