February 12, 2012

Touring Mississippi

When you have visited as many battlefield parks as Tim and I have over the last few months, it just seems natural to compare one with the other.  We did that today at Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  The Siege of Vicksburg was a critical turning point in the Civil War.  The South’s loss here split the Confederacy in two and gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union.  The military park commemorates this campaign and its role in the Civil War.

Vicksburg was one of the four original military parks established by Congress at the end of the nineteenth century.  Like Gettysburg, Shiloh and Chattanooga and Chickamauga, it features a driving tour through the park.  The drive here is much more peaceful than at the other parks because no local roads intersect with the park road.  Like the other parks, the landscape is dotted with monuments erected by the states.  The monuments here tend to be much grander in scale, and many of them are distinct works of art or architecture.  

Illinois Memorial
Memorials Dot the Landscape
Wisconsin Memorial
Arkansas Memorial
Memorials to Fallen Soldiers
Mississippi Memorial
We were also able to see a battlefield restoration project that is currently underway.  The removal of acres of woodland cover is a bit disconcerting now.  However, the more open landscape will more accurately reflect the battlefield’s historic appearance and make the site more visually accessible.

Battlefield Restoration in Progress
We left Vicksburg and drove toward Port Gibson, a town that was “too pretty to burn.” Although the town is indeed lovely, my favorite building is the First Presbyterian Church, which features a gold hand at the tip of the steeple with a finger pointing to Heaven.  I love it!

The Church With the Finger
We made our way to the Windsor Ruins, just outside of town.  Twenty-three columns are all that remain of the largest antebellum plantation house ever constructed in Mississippi.  It’s an eerie sight and very powerful.  Unlike my last visit when I was alone and able to lose myself in thought, today we were joined by several carloads of visitors and about eight Harley motorcycles.  Everyone was very friendly, but the site did not have quite the haunting atmosphere that I remembered.

Windsor Ruins
Just Columns Remain
Our touring continued along the Natchez Trace Parkway where we stopped to see Emerald Mound, the second largest ceremonial mound in the United States.  It is immense at nearly eight acres and was built from 1200 to 1730 by the Mississippians, the ancestors of the Natchez Indians.  It was quite an impressive site.

Emerald Mound Is Huge
We ended the day in Natchez, the beginning point of the Natchez Trace. Natchez is known for its antebellum architecture, and I thought we should visit at least one of the homes. We chose Melrose, considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek Revival style architecture in the region. Melrose is a part of Natchez National Historical Park and is open for tours by the National Park Service. Melrose is also one of the best preserved estates in Natchez and contains many of the original furnishings and outbuildings from the nineteenth century. We had a great tour, and we were able to get a sense of the immense wealth that once characterized this city.

Melrose, a Cotton Kingdom Estate
Gold Details Proved Their Wealth
Pukah Fan Over the Dining Room Table
It was a full day of touring, much more than we’re used to, and we finally crossed the Mississippi River and settled into a campground directly on the riverside overlooking Natchez.  What a nice way to end a long day.

Kitty Enjoyed Her Day

Ending the Day Along the Mississippi River


  1. And so Caesar has crossed the Rubicon...! ha ha
    Looks like you had a pretty day for touring. You guys sure know how to pack it in. Hope it's warmed up down there. LV

    1. LV, Ha! You are right. This day was the exception as far as packing so much in. Normally, our pace is much slower. We're going to take a day off just to recover! Yes, it is warming up a bit, and we survived the freezing weekend weather. Sarah