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John B. Deitz

Build: 100521.2

Day 15
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Friday, 12 August 2005.  Vicksburg to Trenton, Georgia

We visited the Vicksburg Military Park first thing in the morning, riding around the park a bit and stopping at several of the monuments and the USS Cairo museum.

Located high on the bluffs, during the Civil War Vicksburg was a fortress guarding the Mississippi River. It was known as "The Gibraltar of the Confederacy." The Vicksburg campaign was waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863.  Capturing Vicksburg was crucial to the Union forces, as it would virtually assure Union control of the entire Mississippi River and sever the western Confederate states from the main body of the South.  At the end, 47 days of Union siege operations against Confederate forces defending the city of Vicksburg lead to its surrender.

The present day sterility of the park makes it hard to appreciate the havoc and death of the actual assault and siege of Vicksburg, both on the civilians and the soldiers of both sides.


Left.  Illinois Monument with the wonderful reverberating echo inside the dome.
Above.  Part of the Vicksburg National Cemetery.

All the monuments and graves seemed to be Union soldiers.  I wonder where memorials to the Confederate soldiers are?

Right.  USS Cairo gunboat

The Cairo was sunk by the Confederate forces during the siege of Vicksburg.  It was raised in 1964 and became a part of the Military Park.

My great-grandfather, John D. Smith, Jr., was a "coal heaver" on the Mississippi River gunboat USS Benton of the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla.  He served on the gunboat for most of 1862, and was involved in several engagements, including the captures of Island Number Ten, Fort Pillow and Memphis. During the Summer, the Benton was in action with the Confederate ironclad Arkansas near Vicksburg, and participated in an expedition up the Yazoo River at Vicksburg.

While the Benton was of a different class, I'm sure the horrible living and work conditions of the crew were no better.  He would have worked below deck in a very hot, cramped space keeping the boilers fired.  After only one year, he was taken seriously ill and discharged.  Seeing the Cairo gave me a greater appreciation of what he had to endure.

Our last view of "the West" across the Mississippi River as we continue to head east and home.

Notice how low the Mississippi River is

The trip across Mississippi and Alabama on I-20, then I-59 east of Birmingham,  was the same monotony as the trips across the desert southwest, except that the forest didn't allow any vistas.  Only in northern Alabama on I-59 did it get "purdy" again.

Trenton, GA is tucked away in the northwest corner of Georgia, to the southwest of Chattanooga, TN.  The motel seemed to be popular with bikers (both the motorized and pedal type), hang gliders, hikers, and general outdoorsy folks.  One motorcycling couple from Birmingham claims the area has some of the best riding roads around.  Did not get around to dinner until nearly 9 p.m., and was able to find only one restaurant still open.  Mediocre food.

We decided to cancel the reservation for Saturday night at Waynesboro, VA, since we had decided to take until Monday to get back, and didn't need to bust our chops with a very long day of travel, but rather stop when we felt like it.

Distance:  About  miles Accommodation: Days Inn (no WiFi) Cost:  $55.45

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23 October 2007