Thursday, November 28, 2019

As Seen In New Orleans

During our month long stay here in Biloxi, Ronnie and I made two day trips to New Orleans.  Day trip one was to the French Quarter section and our second visit to the New Orleans National WWII Museum.  We only stayed three hours on our French Quarter visit as parking was very expensive.  We strolled the old streets checking out the French Market, the historical architecture and taking in the musical sights and sounds of the area.

Day trip two, our destination was the outstanding New Orleans National WWII Museum.

We spent over five hours here and we still did not see all of the Museum.  In all of our travels, this Museum has to be one of our top best!

I made very few photographs inside because I was so engaged in learning.  The WWII Museum's exhibits are well presented with actual footage along with many, many artifacts.  One almost feels immersed into the events as they transpired over the period of the War.  There are six buildings of exhibits, Ronnie and I only made it to just 4 of them. Building One: The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion offers an overview of how WWII started, Building Three: Campaigns of Courage- European and Pacific Theaters relives how the United States navigated the path to freedom.

 Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to everyone.  Ronnie and I are grateful everyday for our many blessings, the freedom to travel and see our country's amazing landscapes are one which we are especially thankful.

More Later.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Two Days In Vicksburg

Each time we passed through Vicksburg, Mississippi via Interstate 20, we always commented we should stay here a couple of days and see this interesting area.  We were a few days ahead of our scheduled reservation in Biloxi so now was a good time to stay those couple of days and explore the region.  First on our list was a nearby section of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

On this cloudy, cool day we entered the Parkway at the section that passes near the historical town of Port Gibson.  The Natchez Trace Parkway is a recreational 444 mile road that follows a historic travel corridor used by Native Americans, European settlers, slave traders and soldiers.  It is estimated there's about 10,000 years of history found here.  To read more about The Natchez Trace Parkway (It's part of our National Park System.) click HERE.

We discovered a quiet, peaceful road that traversed through hardwood forests and doted with historical monuments and natural area roadside pulloffs.

We were hoping for some fall colors but just like we found in southwestern Colorado, the late arriving spring delayed the autumn leaf changes.

 At the Port Gibson entrance, we made a brief turn northward on the Parkway to see one of its more famous sections: The Sunken Trace.

Over the hundreds of years the Natchez Trace has been in existence, people have walked this section over and over to a point it carved a deep ditch into the earth.  Because this part of the Natchez Trace is over a Loess (easily eroded dirt collected from Ice Age glaciers, dust storms and ancient seabeds) that constant traveling over this spot broke down the soil and it gradually wore away.

The information signage tells us this is an original section of the trail.  Most of the Natchez Trace Parkway road is over the actual trail except where the road slightly veers off to exhibit unpaved sections for true historical reference.  This is one of those areas here left untouched.

Turning back southward, we drove the Natchez Trace Parkway from that Port Gibson entrance to its termination in Natchez, Mississippi.  We passed several pullouts that had either a historical reference or a natural landscape importance.  It was at this pullout we discovered the Loess Bluff and just why the Sunken Section of the Natchez Trace was so easily eroded into the earth.

Another stop along the Natchez Trace was this old growth of live oak trees that shrouded an old cemetery.

We met a knowledgeable gentleman/local here who informed us some of those graves were from the 1850's.

The Emerald Mound was a quick turn off from the Parkway.  Here we found where Native Americans had piled up the dirt using nothing more than baskets and simple tools to create these large mounds of earth.  Signage informs that most likely the mounds were for ceremonial use.  The Emerald Mound is the second largest one in the United States. 

Stretching out over eight acres, this mound was built around a natural hill around 1300 to 1600.  In this photograph you see a smaller secondary mound that is on top of the larger mound.  Archaeologists have determined a temple stood here.

This historical stop along the Natchez Trace Parkway lead us to the Elizabeth Female Academy relic.  Created just for women in 1818, the Academy was the first higher-learning institution chartered by the state of Mississippi.  Closing its doors in 1845, only the one wall left standing can be seen now.

Our quick drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway ended at its termination in the town of Natchez, Mississippi.  We made a brief drive through the downtown area, tempting us again there was a lot to explore here too.  We made a mental note: we need to make Natchez a destination.  We found old antebellum mansions, the Mississippi River and a historically interesting city.  Natchez, being the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River offers much to explore.

Public boat ramp on the Mississippi River in Natchez.
After a late lunch at a pub on the Mississippi River waterfront we accidentally discovered the Under-the-Hill Saloon.  Stepping inside, we learn from one of the locals, this was one of the oldest buildings in the city.  Natchez's Under-the-Hill section was once a thriving port area where cotton was loaded onto the big paddlewheelers for river transport northward.  Internet searches also described this area as a once rowdy section of the port filled with taverns and brothels.

The interior of Under-the-Hill Saloon was as interesting and unique inside and outside. 

That friendly local in the saloon must have known Ronnie and I were tourists as we looked at the many historical photographs displayed on the bar room walls.  He easily shared with us some interesting stories about Natchez only making us more intrigued with visiting this town one day.  He told us these bar tables were from an old New Orleans paddlewheeler.

Sunny, warmer weather the next day was more inviting for checking out downtown Vicksburg and the Vicksburg National Military Park and Museum.  Making our way to the Vicksburg Mississippi River waterfront, we found a cruise ship/paddlewheeler docked with tourists embarked for their day exploring Vicksburg. 

The summer of 2019 saw more historical flooding of the Mississippi River.  Looking here, you will see other years of notable high water marks.

These murals decorate the flood wall that protects the downtown area of Vicksburg.  You can see the paddlewheeler cruise ship through an opening in the the flood wall.

The Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, begun in 2002, depict significant scenes from the city's history.

There are 32 panels, all painted by artist Robert Dafford.

It took most of our afternoon to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park (Click HERE to read information from the National Park's website.).  There is a lot to understand about this Park and we found the Visitor Center the only way to begin the tour.  The Visitor Center's introductory film was a good way for people who are not Civil War history buffs to understand why and how this important battle took place.  The battle between the Union and Confederate States was very complex here with many different skirmishes and combats lasting about two months. It's like there were several different mini-battles that took place all over this area.  To paint the picture in one's mind, the Military Park's road travels first through the Union battle lines on Union Avenue then it moves by the Confederate battle lines on Confederate Avenue.  Below is the Vicksburg Military Park road's entrance gateway on Union Avenue.

It would be very difficult for me to give an accurate description of each informational pulloff, roadside memorial or landmark. Every battle and skirmish is noted with a plaque and there are a lot.  The photograph below is a quick glance of the grassy waysides, the old growth trees and the many markers and monuments displayed.

It would take several blog posts to accurately describe Vicksburg Military Park.  In fact, I sort of hit a "blog block" when trying to write about our experience here.  We drove by military earthworks built by both sides, cannons nestled between them and individual State Memorial monuments.  The Illinois State Memorial is the most grand, it's the white building seen here on the right.

The Illinois State Memorial is dedicated to the Illinois soldiers that served at Vicksburg.  There are 60 bronze plaques inside with every person's name. 

As we continued the Military Park road tour, we noticed the white canopy beyond the hill. 

This is the Union gunboat USS Cairo.  Its remains are protected under the white canopy, the one we saw over the hill.  On December 12, 1862 this ironclad warship was sunk by two quick explosions and amazingly no crew members were hurt.  It was finally discovered in 1956 and raised from the Yazoo River Canal in the 1960's.  We found an excellent museum here that displayed artifacts that were found when the boat was brought up from the muddy water.

The National Park built raised walkways around and through portions of the restored gunboat so one could envision what it must have been like to work this ironclad boat.

These are the gunboat's boilers.

The Capstan

The Ship's brass Bell, it weighs 400 pounds.

Once you leave the USS Cairo Museum, the Vicksburg Military Park road travels through the Vicksburg National Cemetery. There are nearly 17,000 Union soldiers buried here of which 13,000 are unknown.  Because this cemetery was established in 1866, buried here are also veterans from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II and Korean Conflicts.  Most of the Confederate Soldiers who died during the siege of Vicksburg are buried in the nearby Cedar Hill Cemetery.

By this time, it was late afternoon and the sun setting.  The Vicksburg Military Park road begins its new path on Confederate Avenue passing by the Confederate strong holds with more southern State Monuments, memorials and bronze statues, battlefield markers with cannons and mounded earthworks.  I really wanted to see North Carolina's Monument.  Because Vicksburg has grown so much, the National Park system had to reduce the acreage size of Vicksburg Military Park therefore some of the State Monuments are found outside of the Park boundaries.  We located the North Carolina Memorial (along with a few other southern State Memorials) on South Confederate Avenue.

Ronnie and I are glad we spent this time in Vicksburg and now we're interested to explore Natchez, Mississippi.  We've been in Biloxi, Mississippi for the last couple of weeks finding sunny yet a little cooler "than what we seek" temperatures.  We plan to be in North Carolina for December and Florida for winter 2020.

More Later