State #33 Mississippi

Or how us rednecks learned to spell it – M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I. Don’t ask me. That’s just how Trev and I were both taught to remember how to spell it (and we grew up in different counties). I shared that little fun fact with the boys and they looked at me like I was dumb. I asked them how they learned to spell it and they said with a little jingle MISS-ISS-I-PP-I. Totally random info, I know. Sorry. 🙂

We were up early from our overnight stay in Tuscaloosa, AL to get to Vicksburg National Battlefield in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Of course, we started at the Visitor’s Center with the 20 minute introductory video and then the Junior Ranger program. We found out the battlefields hand out trading cards that are site specific. Mason thought that was cool.

This was the first national battlefield that we can remember going to. We went to a Gettysburg reenactment in Gettysburg, PA two summers ago but we didn’t go to the National Parks Service battlefield. Kind of wishing we had now. I would totally recommend the Gettysburg reenactment experience. The sound and emotion is hard to explain. I may have mentioned that in the Pennsylvania post but I can’t remember at this moment. Sorry, digressing again.

Being our first battlefield, it was a very different experience because it’s a road tour. You drive, walk, or bike the 16-mile loop. Seeing as the temperature was in the 30s, we opted for driving. You can pay for a private guide, buy an audio CD, download a free app, or do a free cellphone tour. I, almost always opt for some kind of tour. There is so much you miss without it. This park is no exception. Please don’t visit this site without some kind of extra information! You will get bored and be so lost as to what was actually happening on the battlefield; you won’t truly appreciate what this park is all about. I downloaded the app. It offers lots of information to read and a few short audio clips. The numbers don’t correspond with the road tour map numbers so just look for the names. We wound up using the app and the cellphone tour. The cellphone tour is audible, obviously, so that was easier for all of us in the car to hear, especially using my phone’s Bluetooth through the car’s speakers. Depends on whether you want to read or listen to your information as to which one to use. We didn’t pay for the private tour or the CD so I can’t opine on them.

Even though we drove, there are plenty of places to stop and get out. Which we did often, giving the boys time to let out their inner soldier while running around the hills and trenches.

And if you have kids you have to get out at the Illinois monument. It is huge and the most costly of all the monuments in the park. It orginally cost $194,423.92 in 1906. That would be like $4.6 million dollars today.

But the boys will remember it as the Holler House. It has an amazingly loud echo that the boys were more than happy to repeatedly try out. Running and being loud, what’s not for them to love? I will spare you the video we took of the boys yelling inside. It’s one of those things that’s cute if they’re your kids but obnoxious if it’s someone else’s kids. Know what I mean?

In a teeny tiny nutshell, here’s the scoop on Vicksburg. Vicksburg, situated, at that time, on the Mississippi River, was important during the Civil War. President Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” The fate of the Confederacy would largely lie with the fate of this city, with Confederate President Jefferson Davis remarking, “Vicksburg is the nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.” The South controlled it but the North needed it in order to cut off the South’s supple line. The Union lost way more men and where turned back numerous times by the Confederacy but, in the end, Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton surrendered to Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant after a hard and brutal 47 day siege on the city on July 4, 1863.

Basically, the tour winds along the battlefield with over 1,300 monuments, markers, etc dotting the countryside denoting where different sets of soldiers were positioned. Due to the records kept, this battlefield is the most documented battlefield in the US.

A little over half way through is tour is the USS Cairo Museum. The USS Cairo was an iron-clad ship in the Brown Water Navy. All you have to say is museum and Mason is practically jumping out of the car to get to it. Tuck would rather have Trevor time how fast he can run around the ship (21 seconds in case you’re wondering). As long as they are both learning and having fun, I’m good with that. The museum has tons of personal artifacts from the ship’s crew and a short video on how the ship was retrieved from the Mississippi River over around a hundred years later.

Across from the Cairo Museum is the Vicksburg National Cemetery where the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers are interred with about 75% of those listed as unknowns. Numbers get thrown out us all the time but when you start seeing row after row after row after row of headstones, the weight of those numbers starts getting heavy.

If you’re not a history or military buff, it is still a nice peaceful drive. It would be great if you’re a runner and you’re training for a marathon or something, I would think. I would have absolutely no experience regarding that though. 🙂

Our history is important and I hope our kids learn to have an appreciation for it.

The next day we took a little drive out to Liberty, MS. It is a quiet little town in the middle of nowhere. It is also the hometown of Jerry Clower. For those of you that aren’t aware of him, he was an amazingly funny story teller who spoke about life in rural Mississippi. The stories about Coon Huntin’ and Fishing with the Game Warden are two of my boys’ faves. He’s good and clean. If you’re not a southerner, I’m not sure if you’ll think he’s hilarious or not but it’s worth a view on YouTube.

Mr. Clower passed away in 1998 and there used to be a Jerry Clower Museum which we set out to visit. However, we found out that Mr. Clower’s wife passed away in 2018 and we were unable to find out whether the museum was still open or not. No one answered the phone to schedule an appointment. We drove out there anyway to see and it just looked like their driveway so we didn’t drive up. But we did find this marker along the road so we stopped for a quick picture. The plaque gives a brief bio on Mr. Clower’s life and career.

And BAM! Just like that we are off to our next state on a regular ol’ Thursday instead of a “Fat Tuesday.”

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