Monday, March 10, Vicksburg MS
We are staying two nights at the Duff Green Mansion, a B and B in Vicksburg. It was built in 1856 by a wealthy businessman as a wedding gift for his daughter. After being hit by at least five Union cannonballs during the siege of Vicksburg, the owners decided to offer the building for use as a hospital for soldiers. It served that purpose for the remainder of the siege. Our sleeping room was supposedly the place where amputated arms and legs were stored.(I have no idea of the eventual disposal of the limbs.)
All four of the sleeping rooms were occupied Monday night. Breakfast this morning was fine, a full hot breakfast. Spring has been late here also but flowers are starting to bloom. The inn is undergoing some minor painting type maintenance.
After breakfast we went downtown and visited the Biedenharm Museum of Coca Cola. The claim to fame here is that this drug store/candy company was the first place to bottle Coca Cola (in 1894). Prior to that time, Coke (which nick name was not accepted by the company until the Second World War) was only dispensed at soda fountains since the product was produced solely as a syrup. The Biedenharns went on to own several regional Coca Cola bottling companies.
The museum is definitely not in the top tier of historical attractions. It is more of a collection of memorabilia with a limited number of explanatory displays.
Our next stop was the riverfront, home to 34 murals painted on the flood walls from 2002 to 2009. Like most flood walls, they are basic concrete. The 34 murals present various scenes from the history of Vicksburg. I have inserted at the end of this blog additional murals in a smaller picture format. If you wish to see them in more detail, clicking once or twice on the picture should bring up the full size photo. The murals are well done and each one has a plaque describing the background of the mural and the significance to Vicksburg of the scene.
Lunch was at a restaurant that has been in town for over 50 years and then on to the Vicksburg National Military Park. We spent four hours here, having purchased the two CD audio tour that explains the siege in great detail. Two of the couples staying at the Duff Green Mansion yesterday had hired a guide to ride in their car and provide historical background. We opted for the less personal touch.
Vicksburg was one of the most critical Civil War Battles. Vicksburg was the last holdout preventing the Union forces from controlling the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy into two sections. Vicksburg was a critical rail and river transport center serving the Confederacy.
U.S. Grant was the union commander and operations against Vicksburg began in Oct.of 1862. Vicksburg was well defended and located on a bluff above the Mississippi giving it a naturally defensible position. Grant’s efforts to capture the city kept being repulsed by the Confederates. Finally in the spring of 1863 a 47 day siege resulted in the surrender of the city and Confederate forces on July 4. The surrender of Vicksburg coupled with the Union victory at Gettysburg PA on July 1-3 together sealed the Confederate defeat although the war dragged on until April of 1865.
Our audio tour presented a detailed description of the siege. An unexpected highlight was the restored Union ironclad gunboat, the Cairo. This gunboat, one of 7 that helped control the Mississippi for the Union, was sunk by mines on Dec. 12, 1862. Its remains were discovered in 1954 and finally raised in December of 1864. The exhibit was completed and given to the Vicksburg National Military Park in 1977. The exhibit allows one to see clearly now the extent of the damage caused by the mines, the inner workings of the paddlewheel, the cannon, the iron plating, etc.
Dinner was in another local restaurant. Tomorrow we hope to see the Lower Mississippi River Museum before heading to St. Francisville, LA.