Vicksburg to Natchez, Mississippi February 13-16

We rolled in to River Town Campground (a Good Sams Campground at $24.61/night) in Vicksburg around 1:30 PM on February 13th. This campground is nicely laid out and all the sites are pull though, which helps in getting the RV set up quickly. 10 minutes tops.

After set up we headed to the visitor’s center. While traveling in the past I often bypassed the visitor’s centers. This is a big mistake if you want to take advantage of the best places to visit in a limited amount of time. Note to self: always stop by for an orientation of the area and some very helpful advice.

Leaving the visitor’s center we headed down to the historic downtown drive. This is a quaint area of eclectic shops and riverfront murals, casinos, and restaurants. Beautiful area! Pre-civil war buildings are in short supply as during the Siege of Vicksburg the town was hit by barrages of artillery from May 29 through July 4, 1863, when Lt. Major John Pemberton surrendered to the Union army of Ulysses Grant. Vicksburg was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The buildings that did survive mostly did not survive the great fire of 1910.

Early on the 14th we toured the Vicksburg Military Memorial Park which is part of the US Parks Service. This park was magnificent, with 1800 acres, demarcation of the red and blue battle lines and monuments for each state and regiment that fought there. The restored ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo, is also on the grounds. It was a marvel built in 1861 for the war effort. Seven of these gunboats were built in 100 days. I was very moved by what I learned there.

After about 4.5 hours we were overwhelmed and left for a late lunch/early dinner of soul food. LDs at the riverfront was excellent! One meat, 3 veggies, bread, dessert and water for $8.50 each. The staff was as great as the food. We even had pink angel food cake with pink icing for Valentines Day. It tasted like pure sugar! This place is a locals’ favorite and we would eat there again!

We headed to Natchez on the 15th, down the Natchez Trace. This is an old Indian trail that is now kept up by the National Parks Service. It reminds me of a more southern version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Natchez is the ancestral language of the Natchez people who historically inhabited Mississippi and Louisiana They now live among the Creek and Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma because they were removed from their native lands by the US Government. Natchez was discovered by French traders in 1716. They started the first European Settlement in Mississippi, named Fort Rosalie. The First American Flag was raised on the highest ridge in 1797 to claim all Spanish lands east of the Mississippi.

The French explorers left and went further south and founded New Orleans. New Orleans became known as the Big Easy and Natchez was known as the Little Easy. I found that very interesting. The architecture in both cities have a lot of similarities from the French influence.

Many of the historic homes in Natchez survived the Civil War and many are now bed and breakfast inns that allow tours of these treasures. The Historic Spanish Promenade that was built on the bluffs in 1790 is still being enjoyed today. That is where we started in the historic district of this alluring town.

Under the Hill was up next. It was the original Natchez which was a river port in 1730. At that time the area was home to gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen, and prostitutes. Around the time of the Revolutionary war the more respectable folks coming to the area built their fine homes on the bluffs above. Under the Hill is now home to eclectic shops and cafe’s. I did not see any current day prostitutes nor gamblers but I was there in the early after noon! Pictures below.

The following pictures are from the historic district, also full of eclectic shops. I really loved visiting this place.

Saint Mary’s Basilica was an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1842. Wonderful!

Our last stop was the Melrose Estate, an 1800’s Greek revival-style mansion that reflects the height of Southern prosperity and “King Cotton.” It was built by the John T. McMurran family and has 21 guest rooms, original full bathroom and contains 80% of the original furnishings of the home. It is maintained by the National Parks Service and our guide Barnie was the best tour guide I’ve had. He knew his history and made it a fun and entertaining tour. I consider this place a must see. Pictures follow:

We thanked Barnie, our guide and headed back to camp. We were leaving for Beaumont, Texas at 6AM on 2/16/19. Another adventure on our trip of a lifetime. More to come.

Andersonville – no words….

February 6th we arose early, broke camp and headed to Montezuma, Georgia. Our campground was rural and adjacent to a working sheep farm. It’s lambing season and the lambs were cute to watch. That released some of the feelings that occurred while we toured this area.

Our first tour was to The National Prisoner of War Museum which was opened in 1998, it tells the story of prisoners of war throughout American History. This was created through a partnership of former prisoners of war and the Andersonville National Historic site. To date it is the only museum solely dedicated to interpreting the American prisoner of war experience. There are many testimonials both verbal and written as to the horrors of being a POW.

Touring this museum can be be quite overpowering and can overload ones senses. It was very emotional for me and reinforced the idea that war should be avoided at all costs and only be the ultimate last resort. The very last resort. More info here:

After the POW museum we made it over to Andersonville, which originally was built as the Camp Sumter in 1864 and was only open for 14 months. It was built to house Union POWs that were being moved from the Richmond, Virginia to a more secure area. It was built to contain 10,000 prisoners but ended up with a total of 45,000.
The Confederate government was unable to provide the prisoners with adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care. Due to the terrible conditions, prisoners suffered greatly and a had a high mortality rate. In 14 months 13,000 prisoners died. So many died daily that they were buried shoulder to shoulder in trenches by other prisoners.

Captain Henry Wirz, the stockade commander was arrested and charged with “murder, in violation of the laws of war.” He was tried in Washington, D,C. and was found guilty and hung on November 10, 1865. The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument to Wirz in Andersonville town center to honor his service to the confederacy. What? Yes!

The prison stopped operation in May 1865. Former prisoner Dorence Atwater and Clara Barton went to Andersonville to identify and mark the graves of the Union dead in July and August of 1865. They transformed the area into the Andersonville National Cemetery. 12,000 dead are interred there. Due to their efforts only 460 of the Andersonville dead are marked “unknown US soldier.” The following are pictures of the town of Andersonville, the prison site and the cemetery. More information here:

This was and emotional day of experiencing man’s inhumanity to man. I leave you with this: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” From a song by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, originally sung by the Temptations then remastered and sung by Edwin Starr.

Tomorrow is another adventure……