I learned a lot about the Civil War while volunteering at Stones River National Battlefield. I’m not so great at recalling exact maneuvers, tactics, or names. Instead it’s the stories of survival that stick with me. I’ve read about a soldier so weary from battle and bad weather, he went inside an old house to sleep. Wondering why those inside didn’t argue him off for lack of space, he awoke to find them all dead. I read a story of a soldier so excited to find a chicken, he stashed it while fighting, elated to return to it and cook it for dinner. Also of a soldier running by an enemy soldier who stopped and tried to repair his battered legs and return his boots to his feet for protection from the cold. It’s those singular stories that stick with me.
Vicksburg National Military Park had more of these stories. The civilian stories were memorable here for me. There are stories of women and families who relocated to nearby caves to avoid getting hit from cannons and debris. Families who stood on a town road overlooking the river in fear of attack. Those who starved for lack of supplies.
This park is quite different from Stones River in that it has stone monuments along a long driving path from each state commemorating their soldiers’ service. We stopped a bit longer at the Illinois Monument (the white dome photographed) which had a reflection for peace engraved around the top exterior, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, let us have peace.”
We also visited the USS Cairo which was about halfway through the drive. It is an iron clad steamship that was sunk trying to pass Vicksburg during battle. Did you read that final photo? Sunk in 12 minutes and none aboard perished? Intrigued? It was built in a few short months during the Civil War, sailed down the Mississippi with a few other sister ships, sunk, sat underwater until about 100 years later when they raised and eventually reassembled and made museum worthy. Inside the museum features loads of recovered artifacts as well.
We enjoyed half a day at this park and ship museum before heading north some more.