Today Tango and I crossed the states of Alabama and Mississippi, stopping in Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Vicksburg is notable for being the spot where the first Coca Cola was bottled in 1894. It was also the site of one of the critical battles of the American Civil War. In 1863, from May 18th until July 4th, the Union forces laid siege on Vicksburg. The armies totaled 110,000 men–more than twice the current population of Vicksburg. Causalities were more than 37,000–a number that does not include the civilians of Vicksburg who were trapped along with the Confederate soldiers.
Vicksburg’s strategic place along the Mississippi made it a “must win” for the Union. Abraham Lincoln declared Vicksburg “the Key” to winning the Civil War.
Today the land on which the Yanks and the Rebels squared off against one another is preserved as a National Park. With close to 150 years of recovery, the landscape no longer resembles the war-ravaged land of 1863. Monuments grace the 1,800 acres and the Park Service clearly has its hands full keeping the grass trimmed back. You can hardly believe there was ever the carnage and suffering that is depicted in the exhibits.
Why visit such a place, you might ask? Why care about a war that is long gone and that many college students can’t even tell you who won (it was the Union)? It has to do with perspective, I think. There are many who feel these are the worst of times in the U.S. But there was a time in this country when we set about to slaughter one another and did a darn good job of it. Estimates are that 620,000 people died in the Civil War, which was only four years long. Do the math…155,000 a year, 12,917 a month! Add to that the mammoth destruction of property in the South. It was a horrific time….
Yet today soft green grasses of spring wave peacefully on the hillsides. The trees have that rich color of new growth and birds are everywhere collecting the makings of their springtime nests. Butterflies flitter about and dozens of people, like me, stopped by to pay their respects to this hallowed ground. Things may be a little tough right now but let us hope we never return to the horror that was the American Civil War. ❖
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