Friday, November 28, 2014

Dallas to Shreveport to Vicksburg November 12 and 13

We left Dallas mid-afternoon so decided to go only as far as Shreveport the first night of our road trip. We got a room at a hotel/casino and managed to lose a few bucks before calling it quits.  Thankfully we are not big gamblers and don't have any trouble walking away.  It's always fun to *TRY* for the big win, though.  :)  We had dinner at the hotel and on the way out, the cashier asked Rich for his ID to go with his credit card.  She about freaked out when she saw his driver's license was from Alaska!  She was really cute and was so excited to meet people from AK that we couldn't help but get a little excited, too. Well, I did. Rich was more embarrassed by all the attention than he was excited. She asked us if we would wait while she called her coworker over to meet us, saying that she also loves meeting people from out of state. The coworker came by and gave us a cursory "hello" and kept going, so I don't think she was all that thrilled.  The cashier then gave me a hug, told me she had tears in her eyes, and she was about to call her mama next.  I suppose if you have never been anywhere outside your home town, meeting people from Alaska seems pretty exotic.  :)

We drove around Shreveport a little the next morning but couldn't seem to find anything we were looking for, so we set out for Vicksburg to begin our Civil Rights Tour.  As an Air Force brat, I lived in Georgia in the early 1960s when segregation of the races was still the norm.  Even as a child, I knew that there was something wrong with "whites only" bathrooms and water fountains at the local drug store, just for an example.  As I grew older, I realized the larger evil and implications of oppression of an entire people. Although I was too young to participate in freedom rides or protests in the 1960s, I've always been interested in the history of the movement and desired to visit some of the important sites of that time, to bear witness to those who sacrificed so much and to acknowledge that the work is still not done.

Most of our scheduled places to visit were further down the road but we decided we would stop in Vicksburg for the night and while there we could see the Civil War national park--a fitting start to the tour in many ways. After a lunch break, we didn't arrive in Vicksburg till late afternoon when the sun was about to set and the park was about to close. We watched a short video about the Battle of Vicksburg in the visitor's center of the Vicksburg National Military Park and then proceeded on a driving tour through the grounds.
Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the Civil War battle, which lasted 47 days and ended in the surrender of the city of Vicksburg to Union troops. I did not realize till we toured the park that it is basically a monument to the Union.  In the late 1950s, a portion of the park was transferred to the city, containing most of the Confederate landmarks and sites. This was done in exchange for closing local roads running through the remainder of the park and also allowed for the construction of Interstate 20.
According to Wikipedia, "The park includes 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles (32 km) of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile (26 km) tour road, a 12.5-mile (20.1 km) walking trail, two antebellum homes, 144 emplaced cannons, restored gunboat  USS Cairo (sunk on December 12, 1862, on the  Yazoo River, recovered successfully in 1964), and the Grant's Canal site, where the Union army attempted to build a canal to let their ships bypass Confederate artillery fire. The Cairo, also known as the "Hardluck Ironclad," was the first U.S. ship in history to be sunk by a torpedo/mine. It was raised in 1964. The Illinois State Memorial has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged."

The park was quite beautiful at sunset, adding to its sad and haunting mood.  It was hard to imagine what troops on both sides endured at this place, most of them far from home and loved ones, battling day after day in terrible conditions.  We saw markers for troops from Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and more.   I'm sure many were young farm boys who had no real idea what they were going to face.  (Some day, will we learn to solve our problems without war?)

I read that somewhere around 17,000 Union troops are buried in the cemetery and about 13,000 of them are unknown soldiers.  As a mother, I imagine the anguish of those moms who never knew exactly what happened to their sons, where they fell, if they suffered, where their remains might be.

Visiting this somber place seemed an appropriate start to our Civil Rights tour as the issues of the Civil Rights movement were directly related to our country's history of enslaving human beings. When I look at the news today, I can see that there are still correlations that continue to plague us and I wish we were further advanced down the path to equality and equal justice for all.

1 comment:

Suzassippi said...

I think there might be something very fitting about your visit at near sunset.