Wednesday, July 8, 2015

2015 Road Trip, Day 17: Vicksburg

Today was exciting.  We did a tour of the battlefields of Vicksburg, MS.  The battle actually began back in May of 1863, and several attacks by the Union's Army of Tenessee were repulsed by the Confederacy.  Eventually, General Ulysses Grant decided to wait them out -- as the weeks wore on, more and more Confederate soldiers became ill, and it became apparent that reinforcements and supplies were not coming.  On July 4, 1863,   John Pemberton approached Grant and they hammered out a terms of surrender.  With the end of the siege came a turning point in the Civil War.  The Union now controlled the entirety of the Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy in half.  Combined with the simultaneous win at Gettysburg by the Army of the Potomac, it was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

We began our tour at the visitor's center, where there was a campaign summary presentation (as well as a separate film), and then headed out for a cd-based car tour.

Of course, there were all the positional and regimental monuments, but Matthew was most excited about this Illinois monument.

It's modeled after the Pantheon.  He learned about this building last year, so was excited to share what he knew.   While the opening at the roof would serve as a chimney, it also had a second purpose -- as the sun fell on the walls, it worked as a clock.

This second photo was taken about three minutes later.

And this one after he shared what he had learned - about another four or five minutes had gone by.

On Sunday we had learned about the role of the 101st Airborne during Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion in WWII.  Today we learned the origin of the eagle on their insignia -- Old Abe was the mascot of a Civil War regiment from Wisconsin.

We also saw the remains of the USS Cairo, an ironclad ship that had sunk.

Luke stumped me!  He recognized this man - James Eads - right away.  It took me a bit to place him.  He also designed a St. Louis bridge over the Mississippi that used Carnegie steel.

We also had the chance to drive through the cemetery.  Though much smaller than Gettysburg or Arlington, it has the same serene yet almost haunting feel, especially knowing that many of them men there are unknowns.  At the time of the Civil War, there were manifests to determine who was in a battalion.  If you didn't answer at roll call, they knew you were dead.  But once you were dead, it was difficult to identify individual men because very few had identification on their uniforms.  This poor system led to reforms, and is one reason why all soldiers are issued identification "dogtags" today.

 As we drove through, our audiotour read the poem The Bivouac of the Dead, which is also written on plaques around the cemetery.

One of the final memorials on the park tour is the Missouri monument.  Missouri was a divided state, and volunteers from here fought on both sides here.  This memorial sums up the entire war into a single visual.

Tucked down a side road is the place where the generals met to discuss surrender conditions. This upturned cannon marks the area.

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement -- after we finished at the park, it was time to hit the road.

Today's plan calls for exploring sites in Montgomery!

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