Tuesday, October 22

Road Trip to Mississippi

What better place to study the history of the Confederacy than on a road trip through Mississippi?  With beautiful landscapes and a multitude of small and large museums and historic sites, our drive straight up through the state provided a unique look at aspects of the Civil War...

The only stopping point we had in mind on the one-day drive straight through this state was the Vicksburg National Military Park.  The boys had heard that there was an ironclad housed there, and since reading about the Monitor and the Merrimack, they have been obsessed with finding out more about these boats!
The park itself is quite photogenic, lending almost an eerie quality in the daybreak hours.  The little one, who enjoys photography, had himself a time taking several pictures to play with and filter later.  This one is of the gate at the entrance to the driving tour.  

A short history lesson --
The siege of Vicksburg in 1863 is sometimes considered the turning point of the war.  After holding out for more than forty days, with their supplies nearly gone, the garrison surrendered on July 4, effectively yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces, who would hold it for the rest of the conflict.  It cut off the Trans-Mississippi Department (containing the states of Arkansas, Texas and part of Louisiana) from the rest of the Confederate States, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two for the duration of the war.

The USS Cairo is housed within the grounds of this national park, located at one of the stops along the scenic driving tour that shows visitors where various events within the battles occurred.  It has its own museum, separate from the park museum, located beside the boat, and this was the favorite attraction of our road trip through Mississippi!

In January 1862, seven ironclads were commissioned by the Union, including the Cairo.  It's job was to be a problem for Confederate supply lines.  In December 1862, after participating in only two skirmishes, the Cairo was rocked by explosions that tore a hole in her hull and bow.  She took on water and sank into the river.  No life was lost.

The boat sat underwater until its excavation in 1977, followed by a lengthy restoration.  Explore the USS Cairo Gunboat, including a virtual museum and other articles exploring the unique stories of the ironclad.
Nestled up against the Gulf Coast lies Beauvoir, the private home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  You can tour the property and home, learning about both his personal and political life, with the accompaniment of Civil War-era, hoop-skirt clad tour guides...some of whom can be pretty amusing!  This was an impromptu stop...we saw the sign during a long drive, and decided to stop and check it out...

The home itself has a long and varied history, beginning in 1848.  As with most homes, it has been added on to and repaired multiple times (including after Hurricane Katrina), and it was also used as a hospital during the Civil War.  You can learn a lot about daily life in the deep south just from walking around the site and observing the construction and uses of each room.

The tour was shorter than we'd imagined, but did cover quite a bit of Confederate history that you won't find in today's re-written history textbooks.  The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library is also located on the property, containing many original manuscripts, diaries, journals, and other primary sources from the southern side of the Mason-Dixon line.  While we probably won't come through here again, it's nice to have stopped and shown this part of history to the boys.

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