Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 29: The Siege of Vicksburg

August 24, 2011 -  Leaving the comfort and hospitality of our friends in Jackson was hard, but we had to press on.  Bruce and I said our goodbyes to our hosts and loaded back into the truck.  While we were leaving Jackson behind us, we still had some time left in Mississippi.  Our next stop would take us to another battlefield, Waffle House, and even a casino.

A cannon overlooking the Mississippi River at the Vicksburg National Battlefield.

Waffle House!

Before we left Jackson we did make one stop.  This would be the first time that I would get to dine at my favorite eatery; Waffle House.  Bruce is such a good buddy.  He knew that I wanted to eat at one of the many Waffle Houses scattered throughout the South so he treated me to breakfast before we continued our journey.

The story of my Waffle House fascination starts years ago when I had just graduated from basic training in the Army.  My dad and I drove around Ft. Jackson in South Carolina and saw signs for the famed waffle eatery everywhere.  We joked about it, wondering why people would only want to eat waffles.

Bruce took this photograph of me and my Waffle House.

It wasn't until one of my good friends in advanced training took me to a Waffle House that I discovered the goodness that was called Waffle House.  Ever since then, I have always associated Waffle House with my friends and I was pleased to induct Bruce into my Waffle House experience.

I could write an entire blog post on the subject.

The Vicksburg Battlefield

We made our way to Vicksburg, and easy drive from Jackson.  From there, we navigated to our next destination; the Vicksburg National Battlefield.  Before heading into the museum to start our tour (and watch a movie about the siege), Batman and Humberto had a little fun.

Batman takes careful aim.

Having missed the first time, Batman decides a different route to get rid of "Conehead".

After goofing of outside of the museum, we went into the museum and...yep, that's right, shopped.  Luckily we had some time to kill before the educational movie on the Siege of Vicksburg.  The movie was really informative and helped understand the siege before we headed out and did some sight seeing.

The Siege of Vicksburg

The siege started on May 18 of 1863 and ended on July 4 of the same year.  It was the last major battle of the Vicksburg Campaign.  The conclusion of the siege would signal the turning point of the war when coupled with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.

The Union Army. led by Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant had previously pushed back the Confederate forces, led by Lt. General John C. Pemberton.  Pemberton's army took up defensive lines in and around the city of Vicksburg.

The area surrounding Vicksburg easily allowed the Confederate forces to hold off Union troop advances.  Once the Union army figured that out, they resorted to cannons.  Eventually, with no reinforcements coming to their aid, the Confederate forces surrendered on the Fourth of July.  As a result, Independence Day celebrations wouldn't be held in Vicksburg for almost a hundred years.

The Tour Starts

We got back into the truck and headed through the Vicksburg Memorial Arch.  This spot would mark the beginning of the sixteen mile driving tour.  Driving through the Arch was, for somebody who has been to several battlefields, a very moving experience.  Not only did it mark the beginning of the tour, but also memorialized all those who had fought in this battle; on both sides.

The grand Vicksburg Memorial Arch, the start of the tour.

It didn't take long after driving through the Memorial Arch that Bruce and I saw some amazing monuments and got to experience the Siege of Vicksburg in a more personal setting by walking along the same lines that the soldiers during the Revolutionary War did.

State Monuments

Easily the most impressive monument in the Vicksburg Battlefield is the Illinois State Monument.  This amazing monument is modeled after Roman Parthenon and is accessible by forty-seven steps, the amount of days the Siege took place.  Once inside, visitors can see sixty bronze tablets that are inscribed with the names of all the soldiers from Illinois who participated in the Siege of Vicksburg; including Grant's son.

This is easily the most impressive monument I have seen in the battlefields I have visited.

The monument stands sixty-two feet in height.

The echos in this monument were booming.

While other state monuments didn't reach the physical grandness of Illinois, they each had their own unique quality about them, and were just as powerful in their ability to get the point across.

The Missouri monument has, perhaps, the saddest story.  The monument stands a symbolic forty-two feet which is the number of  units from the state; twenty-seven Union and fifteen Confederate.  The monument is placed where two Missouri units clashed in battle.

The bronze plaques on both sides represent both Confederate and Union troops.

The Missouri Monument from a distance.

The "Spirit of the Republic".

Another impressive monument we saw was the one dedicated to the troops of Arkansas.  The monument, at first, appears to be just a simple design until you read the inscription:  "To the Arkansas Confederate Soldiers and Sailors,a part of a nation divided by the sword and reunited at the altar of faith."

The Arkansas Monument.

See the sword?  See the altar of faith?  Pretty cool, huh?

Another impressive monument that stands out in my mind was the Mississippi state monument. While I didn't get a chance to get very close to it; the size and design was impressive even from the truck.

The Mississippi Monument.

Landmarks and Battlefields

All throughout the tour Bruce and I were able to get out of the truck and trudge around the same areas that the soldiers from both sides of the American Civil War did a long time ago.

The Shirley House; one of the Union army's main locations.

A hole Union soldiers may have lived in during the Siege near The Shirley House.

The USS Cairo

Driving our way through the Vicksburg Battlefield we ran across something we didn't really expect to see.  The USS Cairo was a ironclad Union gunboat that was the first armored warship sunk by a electrically detonated mine...ever.  The Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo River on December 12, 1862.

The USS Cairo is protected from the elements by a very large...sail.

The USS Cairo was recovered in 1964, but most of the ship was destroyed when the cables used to lift it out of the mud cut into the hull.  What visitors can see now is a mixture of new and old.  Portions of the vessel remain while newer wooden beams replace those that were destroyed.

Visitors can walk all the way around the Cairo and even inside of it on walkways.  Seeing the amazing artifact from the Civil War was amazing.  Interestingly enough, when the Cairo sank, there were no hands lost.

The newer beams are evident when compared to the original wood of the ship.

Another picture of the USS Cairo.

Did I mention there was a museum and gift shop at the USS Cairo?  Yep, there was.

A Grand View

Above the USS Cairo is Fort Hill, a place where Confederate troops placed cannons in which to fire upon Union ships coming down the Mississippi River.  Driving up the hill was quite a task, but it was well worth it.  Once up on the summit of Fort Hill, we were awarded with an amazing view of the Mississippi River.

The mighty Mississippi River; there, in the distance.

Fort Hill.  From here, the Confederates guarded the Mississippi River.

From here, our tour of Vicksburg started winding down for the day.  We two more major stops before calling it good, the Great Redoubt and the Second Texas Lunette.  From here, we took the road out of the battlefield and made our way to a camper park and for some fun out on the town.

Casino Time; Vicksburg Style

After setting up the camper and taking a dip in the pool; Bruce and I decided to go to the casino and try our luck.  Luckily the place we stayed at was run by the casino that we went to and they had free shuttle service to and from the casino.  We took this opportunity to have some fun.

Our first stop when getting to the casino was the buffet.  Wow!  What a selection.  Bruce and I filled up on food before heading downstairs to the main floor.  After starting off with the nickle slots and a few beers later; Bruce and I found our luck was with us that night.

The machine kept ringing and ringing and people were coming over to look over my shoulder.

After winning big on the nickle slots we went over to the bar.  I tried my hand at the games there but kept on loosing.  Eventually, Bruce directed me over to a quarter slot machine right outside of the bar and I tried my luck there.

I won big time!  Let me rephrase that:  Bruce and I won BIG time!

The rest of the night Bruce would get a lucky feeling on certain slot machines and I would win on them; just like that.  We spent the whole night, and part of the early morning, having a fun time and drinking way too much.  In the end, Bruce and I had won over $800.  Not bad for some Alaskan boys!

However, all good things come to an end and we started loosing more than we were winning.  We called it a night and headed back to the camper via the shuttle service after taking a brief stop at the local Waffle House. After a quick meal and exhausted from our long day, we went to bed.

Tomorrow would bring us to the Vicksburg Battlefield again to finish up our tour and then across the Mississippi River to continue our trip.


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