For years, I have heard stories from my family about my ancestors that fought in the Civil War. However, it wasn't until the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Civil War that my interest was rekindled enough to make me know I should have paid more attention to those stories! At a recent family reunion, our Master of Ceremonies for the event (a retired judge/attorney, and author of numerous history articles/books) told us that our ancestor, Thomas M. Parrish, fought in the Siege of Vicksburg. Since there is a National Military Park ( www.nps.gov/vick ) at the site, and it is not too many hours away from where I live, I decided it was time for me to make a trip to pay homage to my relative who took part in that conflict. This photo shows the arch that marks the entrance to the 16-mile paved road that winds throughout the park. When first constructed, the arch was over a public street in Vicksburg, but population growth and automobile traffic necessitated that it be moved to a more protected location within the National Park boundaries.
There are hundreds of examples of large and small memorials throughout the huge park, but perhaps the most recognized symbol of the park is the Illinois Memorial. It is a very impressive structure, patterned after the Roman Pantheon. At the time of its construction, "pantheon" was used to describe a building that honored the illustrious dead. It has a portico, supported by four columns. Circumscribing the circular temple are the words from Lincoln's second inaugural address, "With Malice Toward None, With Charity for All". The steps leading up to the road are gray granite, and the temple is made of marble from Georgia and Tennessee.
Inside the pantheon, the names of every soldier from Illinois who participated in that memorable and decisive campaign and siege, are preserved in bronze and stone. The dome of the pantheon has an opening in it about the size of the round mosaic shown on the floor. Surprisingly, I only saw one bird fly through the opening and land on one of the ledges. It is amazing to me that the inside of the pantheon was so well preserved, considering it is open to the elements year round!
This photo shows the location of the U.S.S. Cairo Museum. The U.S.S. Cairo was one of the iron-clad, steam powered paddle wheel boats that was used during the Civil War. The white canopy protects the vessel from deterioration from the weather, and also serves as a welcome shade for visitors.
I would definitely recommend staying for one of the Ranger-led talks (scheduled several times throughout the day), so you can have a better appreciation of the structure of the vessel, and how its different parts functioned together to made it the most advanced naval vessel of its time.
The Park Ranger can demonstrate how the sailors worked together to fire the massive cannons that sat aboard the upper deck of the Cairo.
Although parts of the Cairo have been restored, one can still see some of the original wood used in its construction.
There is a museum adjacent to the Cairo, and one of its exhibits---this scale model---helped me get an overall view of what the vessel was originally like.
There are also exhibits that show some of the artifacts that were discovered inside the Cairo, whenever it was raised from its "burial ground" of the river where it sank. When I saw these wooden cones, with their explanation that they were used to plug holes that developed in the ship's hull, it made me wish I had seen this exhibit BEFORE the great "titanic-like" incident where our houseboat started sinking because of a hole it sustained during a repair job my husband was doing on its toilet. My husband's training as a physician taught him about "human plumbing", but unfortunately very little about "marine plumbing" on a houseboat! It wasn't until after the incident, that I saw the admonition in a marine supply catalog, to always have a supply of different-sized cones on hand in your boat, to plug any holes that might develop!
Across the road from the Cairo Museum is the Vicksburg National Cemetery, which is the final resting place of nearly 17,000 Union soldiers. About 13,000 of these soldiers are unknown.
Since my relative who fought in the Siege of Vicksburg was from Arkansas, I was most interested in seeing the monument to the Arkansas soldiers. I would recommend that a visitor develop a "priority list" of sculptures to visit, as there are 1,370 monuments, tablets, and markers that dot the park landscape. I find the words carved on the Arkansas monument very poignant: "TO THE ARKANSAS CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS AND SAILORS, A PART OF A NATION DIVIDED BY THE SWORD AND REUNITED AT THE ALTAR OF FAITH".
When I first saw the monument from a distance, I saw two columns with a cross in the center. As I got closer, I could see that the sculpture has a tall central shaft, which is split down the center with a bronze sword. (The sword is also designed to represent a cross.) The circle on the front of the sword contains the Arkansas state seal. In front of the sword is a plinth, or pedestal, which represents an altar. The carving on the left represents the Arkansas infantry in battle. The carving on the right represents the ironclad, CSS Arkansas, in battle on the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers near Vicksburg on July 15, 1862. I am using this image of the Arkansas Memorial as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health memory verses ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ), taken from I Peter 4:8 that says "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." It is my prayer that as I strive to love others as Christ loved me, I can be forgiven for a multitude of sins! That gives me an attitude of thankfulness and "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia (Editor's Note: By the Grace of God, our houseboat did not sink on the night of the "plumbing repair incident"! The marina owner brought over several sump pumps to remove water that was flowing in through the hole, and arrangements were made for a crane to come lift the boat out of the water --- a major deal since it required getting a special "wide load permit" from the highway department in the middle of the night! However, two fishermen, returning from a fun night of fishing and adult beverages, motored past our noisy, well-lit salvage operation in process. The fishermen were trained engineers, used to solving problems. Sooooo, after hearing what had happened, they went to their nearby dock, cut a piece of plywood slightly larger than the hole in our hull, dove down UNDER the houseboat with the plywood, and used the pressure of the water to hold the plywood in place long enough to stop the surge of water coming in through the hole! Never underestimate the power of prayer---calling out to God for HELP!---when you are in a desperate situation!)