Our Southern Journey--Vicksburg National Military Park

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I recently had a very long road trip with my husband. We traveled from San Antonio, Texas to our home in the Dover, Delaware area--a trip which took us through 7 states and lasted 60 hours total.

It was a trip that began as a compromise and ended as a test of our ability to work together. Because the primary purpose of going to San Antonio was to pick up his truck, part of my condition for spending the money was that we would do genealogy stuff on the way home. We planned to stay the night in Vicksburg and visit the battlefield, stop at two cemeteries in Tennessee, stop at another cemetery in southern Virginia, then make our way home. Our anticipated arrival time at home was late Tuesday evening.

Allow me to break down our mistakes from the beginning:

Mistake #1--Budget enough drive time, especially when driving through Texas

Because of weather, we decided to drive through Austin and onto Dallas instead of Houston. This was our first mistake. Never, EVER drive through Austin. For any reason. The traffic was horrendous--entirely stop and go for absolutely no reason. There was no construction, no weather, it wasn't even rush hour. For lack of a better explanation, people in that area just don't know how to drive on a highway. We lost a lot of time driving through Texas in general.

Mistake #2--When you go to Vicksburg, don't forget to see it all

Vicksburg battlefield has over 1,300 monuments and markers throughout the park. We had no idea when we showed up that this meant that each of our ancestors' regiments were represented by different monuments, along with the monuments for the both states, monuments for the commanding officers, and monuments for the surrender. Not to mention a live artillery demonstration. And a gift shop. We only discovered all of this once we arrived, and still missed the Iowa monument and the live artillery demonstration. Had I not asked the park ranger at the help desk about all there was to see, we would have missed most of the things on this list.

View from the Confederate line over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg National Military Park

Confederate line marker for the 61st Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Me beside the monument for the 61st Tennessee Infantry monument at the Vicksburg National Military Park

The Tennessee memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park

Being able to stand on the very line where John M. P. Clark fought was a special experience for me. It was the very same feeling I had at Antietam and Gettysburg--like my ancestors who fought there were right beside me as I was walking through the place. My Civil War veterans have become special people to me, and I love them more now than I did before I made these trips. I feel a sense of kinship with them that simply having their names on paper or in a database didn't provide for me before. I needed to walk on the ground they hallowed and understand their suffering before I could appreciate them the way I do now. 

 One of the highlights from the museum was this fiber optic map, which helps to give a look into how the battle played out.

Vicksburg National Military Park was an amazing stop on our journey through the South. As far as national parks go, it left nothing to be desired and gave us exactly the insight we were seeking. But it was only the beginning to what became a very long trip.

To be continued...