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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Natchez Trace - Day One - Here we go! 4/22/09

I was pretty excited to be on the Natchez Trace for real. I had this crazy idea that I would actually count the number of motorcycles, vehicles, RV’s, and bicyclists that passed us along the way. This wasn’t too hard to do in the morning. Then we left the Trace to go to the National Military Park in Vicksburg. By the time we returned to the Trace, it was late afternoon. There was a lot of traffic on it – then I realized that people were using it as a shortcut because of construction on another road. So I’m not going to consider those cars in my calculations. Over the course of 3 ½ hours, we passed 8 motorcycles, 40 cars, 4 RV’s, 22 bicyclists, and 1 turkey! That averages out to be: 11.4 cars, 2.3 motorcycles, 1.1 RV’s, 6.3 bicyclists and a turkey leg (or wing) per hour!

We blew past the stops we made yesterday, so our first stop of the day was Sunken Trace at mile marker 41.5. This was part of the actual road that had been worn down well over 12 feet deep by the thousands who traveled the Trace, be it human or beast. The picture doesn't do it justice, or truly capture the feeling of awe that we felt standing there.



A few miles down the road we stopped at Grindstone Ford/Magnum Mound. Before we even turned into the pullout, I was mesmerized by this beautiful scene.



There were two roads off the main driveway. We weren’t sure if either had a loop at the end to make it possible for us to swing around in with our large trailer. We noticed a lone bicyclist coming towards us. He was pretty friendly and told us that we’d have to go under a bridge that was only 11’ 14” leading to the Mangum Mound. Since our trailer was 12’ something tall, that road was out. We drove to the other site and saw old gravestones from the early 1800’s.




Jim walked to the other site while I took pictures of the farm with the horses.


At this point we opted to take a detour from the Trace and visit the Vicksburg National Military Park. We got in for free due to Jim’s National Senior Pass.



The Battle of Vicksburg lasted 47 days in the year 1863. Union soldiers, lead by Major General Ulysses S. Grant fought, and won, a bloody battle to take control over Vicksburg, and thus, the Mississippi River. This would also isolate the States of Texas and Arkansas and most of Louisiana – an area which the South depended heavily upon for supplies and recruits.

The Vicksburg National Park is spread out over 16 miles and 1,700 acres of land. We were able to drive completely around it towing our trailer. There were only a couple of spots we avoided because they did not offer a loop for us to turn around in.

Twenty eight states were represented in the battle, and each of them has a monument erected to honor their soldiers. Illinois has the best monument, I must say, and I’m not being biased. Here it is – you see for yourself.



It has 47 steps leading up to it, one step for each day of the battle. The walls inside the dome are lined with metal plaques listing all the names (almost 37,000) of the soldiers who fought in the Vicksburg battle. There is a hole in the top of the dome which allows natural light to come in.

This is the Shirley House. Union troops called it “the white house.” It is the only surviving wartime structure in the park. During the siege it served as headquarters for the 45th Illinois Infantry, members of which built hundreds of bombproof shelters around it to protect themselves against Confederate artillery fire. It has been restored to its 1863 appearance.



This is the U.S.S. Cairo, a gunboat that suffered two explosions while moving up the Yazoo River just north of Vicksburg. It had hopes of destroying Confederate batteries and clearing any enemy obstructions from the channel. The explosions (caused from an electrically detonated torpedo) tore gaping holes in the bottom of the boat and sunk within minutes. The boat was salvaged in the early 1960’s.



We couldn’t drive to the cemetery because we wouldn’t be able to fit through the gates (darn!) so this is a photo I took overlooking the cemetery from where we parked.




We hightailed it back to the Trace when we finished our tour of the National Military Park. From the Trace we exited to our campground that a fellow camper had recommended to us. It was a beautiful drive along the reservoir. The campground itself was very nice.

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