I first visited Vicksburg with my sons on one of our "multi-state" tours. I think I've mentioned them previously. However, neither my mom nor her friend, Doris, had ever visited the site.
As you enter the "drive-thru" trail through the battlefield you learn that the Union Army, led by General Grant, defeated the Confederate Army, led by Pemberton, at Champion Hill and Big Black Bridge. These Union victories forced the Confederate Army to retreat to Vicksburg. For the Confederates, Vicksburg proved to be quite a fortress. It was built on high bluffs and was pretty easily defended. Interestingly, although the Confederate Army was not defeated in any battle around Vicksburg, they were forced to surrender because their supplies had been effectively cut off and the soldiers and residents were starving to death and were incredibly ill. (As you drive through the various parts of the battlefield, you'll see blue and red markers, like those above, to indicate the locations of each side).
Another interesting thing at this battlefield, several years after the war, many veterans (of both sides) returned to the site and gathered at the places where they fought during the war. There are placards and memorials depicting the location where various companies etc fought...I thought that was cool. There are also much larger monuments, like the one to the right, above. These represent various states with troop representation in the battle. The one above is the Illinois monument. (I took this picture because, after the war, my great-grandfather moved to Illinois, rather than return to Virginia. He met and married my great-grandmother in Illinois. Yes, much to my chagrin, I do have a bit of Yankee in me...)
Another interesting fact involved the African-American soldiers in the war. It was becoming increasingly difficult to attract new soldiers to join the war. The Union army enlisted African-Americans and promised them freedom from slavery for fighting against the Confederacy, provided (of course), the Union army won the war. It did and the African-American soldiers who fought were given their freedom. There is also a monument (pictured to the left), honoring these men...pretty cool, right?
So, needless to say, we stayed in Vicksburg a lot longer than we had originally anticipated. We learned a lot and our hearts were touched. We had intended to get to Atlanta in time to visit some of the attractions downtown before venturing out to Tucker, a suburb, to visit some dear friends. Well, between the traffic for fans going to see the Braves, the Hawks and/or the NCAA men's final four, we elected to head straight to our friends' house.
Jerry ("Woody") and Renelle are the embodiment of Southern Hospitality. As Doris said, "they made you feel as if you had known them for years, rather than hours." My dad and "Woody" were buddies in the army. As children, my sisters and I grew up hearing stories about their days together and "Woody" was one of the groomsmen in my parents wedding. I think it is a testament to their friendship that after nearly 50 years of corresponding only through Christmas cards and long distance phone calls and an occasional letter, when they did see each other again, they still felt the bonds of friendship. They became a permanent part of our family and we are so much richer to count them as friends.
Jerry and Renelle opened their home to us and allowed us to be their guests for a couple of days. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about our stay in Atlanta.