Saturday, February 22, 2014

Vicksburg, MS

Vicksburg, the historic river city that sits on the Yazoo river. Wait! You thought it sat on the Mississippi river? It did until 1876 when the river changed course and the Yazoo was diverted into the old channel to provide a waterway for the city. Otherwise the city would have been left high and dry and this was the era when most transportation was by steamboat. The picture shows the Vicksburg waterfront and the water is only several hundred yards wide. The Mississippi this far south is well over a mile wide. The confluence is now several miles south of the downtown riverfront.
The Yazoo river also provided another surprise in 1964 when researchers discovered the remains of the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad gun boat that had been sunk by mines of the Confederates. It sank in 12 minutes and, as a result, all of the armament, personal items, military items, equipment, etc. ended up in the mud on the river bottom where it was protected. When retrieved 102 years later most items were still in very good shape and provided a window on what life was like during the war. Many of the items are shown in a museum next to the restored boat on display as shown in the picture. Incidentally, the barge that raised the USS Cairo was also called the Cairo.
Of course, the thing that Vicksburg is most known for is the Civil War battle. Vicksburg was a supply point for the Confederates on both sides of the Mississippi. If the Union could win it would split the South and cut off supplies to their army. It was considered the key to winning the war or losing. As a result, the town became a fortress. Numerous forts and bulwarks were built along an eight mile line in a U shape around the city with the ends at the river. These were maned with around 30,000 troops. When General Grant and the Union army first tried to assault the line they were defeated so Grant decided to lay siege to the city with his 70,000 men. The Union line was set up parallel to the Confederate line but outward about shooting distance. This became as little as 50 to 100 feet in some cases or up to more than 1000 feet. Both sides had cannon firing at each other in addition to rifle fire all along the eight mile front. Untold numbers of shells were fired during the 47 day siege and there were over 19,000 casualties. Eventually the Confederates ran out of supplies and had to surrender the town. This broke the back or the Confederacy, so to speak, and some historians think this action was more significant than Gettysburg for the Union. Ironically, the occupation  forces of the city for the rest of the war were mostly freed slaves that were recruited by the U.S. Army. The picture shows a Union cannon looking across the battlefield at a monument that marks a Confederate stronghold.
The tour road today follows the Union line for about eight miles and then loops around and follows the Confederate line for another eight miles. Along this road are over 1300 monuments to various units, persons, military actions, locations, etc. The largest is the Illinois monument shown in the picture.
One other unique thing that Vicksburg is known for is that it is the first place that Coca Cola was bottled for sale in 1894. Before that it had always been a fountain drink. This happened at the Biedenharn Candy Co. which is still in existence and is a museum as shown in the picture. All in all a very interesting town.

No comments:

Post a Comment