Directly across the road from our hotel is the Vicksburg National Military Park. We’d read about this in a blog some time ago and after this morning’s iffy experiences, we looked forward to a contemporary and professionally designed attraction as we’ve come to expect from the National Parks Service here.
First, there was a video introduction to the events. I never for one minute lost concentration, Mary stayed awake and yes, my hero watched it all through as well
From there, we picked up our map and jumped back in our car, because we’d decided to drive the 16 mile route. We could have download an app to follow on our phones, but with data charges considered, that wasn’t really practicable. Another option was to buy a CD to play in the car with a commentary, or we could do as we did in Gettysburg some years ago and have a park ranger come with us in our car and give us a guided tour. Whilst that had been a really great way to learn about the events in detail, none of us were sitting an A level History exam with a Civil War module this time, so we opted for the simplest choice: we’d follow the map and guide ourselves.
There wasn’t too much traffic so we could take things at our own pace. Fairly frequent memorials and markers were set on both sides of the single track, one way road and having stopped at the first few, we soon realised that if we were to stop at every single one, we’d be here for a week.
We hadn’t gone far when there were a few spots of rain on the windscreen. It had been 97F when we went back to the car after the presentation, and the sky had looked a little dark in places, so perhaps it wasn’t that surprising.
We enjoyed spotting the various landmarks and changing landscape. doing our best to tally them with the map.
Though actually, once we were close enough, everything was very clearly marked with a blue sign for the Union and red for the Confederacy.
To begin with, we were driving through Union lines and yes, it was starting to rain heavily now.
I was happy with the window wound down, taking photographs, whilst Mary held onto the map and read the commentary as we approached a key point along the way.
Except that soon, what had been a refreshing few drops of rain became a torrential downpour and rather than get soaked, we would the windows up quickly.
As it thundered and lightened, we sat it out a while and stopped the car. There was no fun to be had driving when we couldn’t see anything.
As is often the case, these things don’t last long and we were soon on our way again.
We continued our tour and simply followed clear signs as we reached the furthest point.
We came upon this white tent and thought that perhaps there had been an event in the park this weekend, before realising that this was the display of the USS Cairo, a Unionist Monitor ship which had been sunk by the Confederates.
Whilst Mary and I didn’t really want to dodge the few raindrops that were still falling, my hero was keen to see the Cairo at closer quarters, so off he went whilst we took a short nap!
Back on the trail then.
Past a cemetery where rows of simple stones marked the graves of some of the 17,000 souls who lost their lives here.
By this time, we were on the Confederate side.
Here was General Pemberton, who finally had no choice but to order the surrender.
Here was the monument to the dead of Mississippi.
Local men whose families attended the dedication of the monument and who appeared in the striking photograph alongside it.
And finally, here was Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, whose house and office we’d visited in Montgomery. I always find it pleasing when a thread runs through our travels and when, eventually, loose ends come together like this.
We knew we’d reached the end of the trail because lo and behold, there’s our hotel right opposite!
Our day wasn’t quite over though, because Bernina was calling about seven miles up the road at Stitch and Frame. Don’t be fooled by the plain and unassuming exterior though, because inside is a dream of a sewing store!
Just a few quilting frames set up in the corner, alongside the latest Bernina commercial embroidery machine.
Everything Bernina in the next room too, alongside a few reels of thread.
Needless to say, there was a huge room full of fabric too, but I was simply too overwhelmed and forgot to take a photo of that. But suffice to say, if I could have transplanted the lot to Gloucestershire, I’d have been very happy.
This evening, I chose a Mississippi speciality for dinner: catfish, hush puppy and fries. It was delicious!