2015 Texas Trek travel blog

Vicksburg murals

Vicksburg murals 2

Flood gauge at the Vicksburg waterfront

Re-enactors trying to stay out of the sun

A couple of Confederates waiting for visitors

Memorial Arch at the beginning of the tour road and some of...

Illinois State Memorial - largest in the park

Mining and trench warfare - Union troops dug under Confederate battlements and...

Hello from the USS Cairo Museum

USS Cairo and Museum

Cairo's wood ribs and some iron duct work

Sue peering through the white oak timber of Cairo

Artifacts found on the river bottom and in the wreck of the...

Models of the USS Cairo and the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg

Some of the graves in the Vicksburg National Cemetery

Margaret's Grocery Store in ruins

Vicksburg school bus chapel at Margaret's

We visited Vicksburg and the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park. It was mostly driving tour because it was so hot. Vicksburg is on the bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River. The streets lead right down to the river where there is a flood wall. The city has decorated the flood wall with murals that depict significant events in the history of the city and river. I took pictures of about a dozen of them, but there are probably another dozen or so more that I didn't get.

On the other side of the flood wall is a flood gauge that depicts the levels of significant historical floods. Looks like the granddaddy of them all was in 1927. The gauge indicates that the water level would have reached 62.2 ft above normal pool - if the levees had held. The levees held back the water until breaks occurred at Mound Landing, Miss., and Pendleton, Ark., on April 21, 1927. By the time the floodwaters receded in August, more than 1 million acres and 162,000 homes were flooded, $100 million in crops had been damaged, over 700,000 people had been relocated to refugee camps, thousands of buildings had been destroyed, and several hundred people died. Coincidently we have been getting flood warnings since the weekend. Flood stage at Vicksburg is 43 ft. It's currently 44.8 ft. and is expected to continue rising until at least Friday when it's predicted to crest at 45.2 ft. We haven't been able to get away from flood on this trip. Fortunately we're high enough on the bluff that we won't have to worry that Winnie will get washed away.

We drove to the Vicksburg Battlefield Park. It's a lot like Gettysburg in that you can do an auto-tour through the battlefield. The park was established in 1899. The road is lined with some 1,300 monuments to the military units from the various states that participated in the 47 day siege of Vicksburg, both Union and Confederate State. The city's Confederate garrison finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. The most impressive of the memorials is the Illinois Monument, which was dedicated in1906 and modeled after the Roman Pantheon. On its walls are 60 bronze tablets which record the names of the 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the Vicksburg campaign. The dedication is commemorated on one of the Vicksburg Murals down by the river.

Also on the grounds is the USS Cairo Museum. The Cairo was a Union ironclad ship of the brown water Navy of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. It was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. It was sunk in December 1862 in the Yazoo River by two electrically detonated mines, the first ever used in warfare. It remained in the mud until 1965 when a project was initiated to raise the hull. After cutting it into 3 sections and placed on barges that were eventually towed to the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, MS for restoration. In 1972, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation authorizing the National Park Service to accept title to the Cairo and restore the gunboat for display in Vicksburg National Military Park. The museum consists of an underground museum building that houses the small artifacts that included weapons, munitions, naval stores and personal gear of the sailors that were removed from the wreck and the surrounding river bottom. Some are in pretty good condition for spending 100 years at the bottom of the river. Some of the glass bottles still had the original liquid in them. The partially restored ship sits on a concrete foundation under a huge tent where you can walk through the ship on a boardwalk. The museum sits across the road from the Vicksburg National Cemetery which has over 17,000 graves of Union soldiers who died in the siege of Vicksburg as well as the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and Korea. The cemetery was closed to new burials in 1965. Confederate dead are buried in another cemetery in Vicksburg.

Just north of town on US 61 is Margaret's Grocery Store. It's one of the Roadside Attractions I usually look for on our trips. It used to have huge towers of pink, white and yellow masonry that surrounded the original store building. The structure is the work of the Reverend H.D. Dennis, Margaret’s husband, who promised before they married, “If you marry me, I’ll turn your store into a palace.” In addition to the store, there was an old Vicksburg school bus that was converted into a chapel. The Rev. died at 92 in 2012 and the place has gone to ruins since and is overgrown by weeds and vines. It's a shame we didn't visit sooner.

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