First World Problems! By Morgan Gates
I’m going to borrow a page from my friend and fellow blogger jansenschmidt for a portion of today’s post. She posts about everyday life as a busy innkeeper and the frustrating and sometimes funny things she encounters. So, allow me to explain why you haven’t seen a new post in a while, then I’ll transition to our historical tidbit for today. Have you ever had one of those days—ALL MONTH LONG! Well that’s what has been going around the Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg HQ. First my “Partner -in-Time” Meshea Crysup is in the middle of a major flare (for those who do not know she suffers from a chronic condition known as fibromyalgia, if you want to know more check out her:
LIVING a Fibro LIFE Blog:
She is resting and will be back in action soon.
Next my computer’s hard drive suffered an unexpected stroke and went home to that great cloud in the sky—it never was that great so maybe it is in that other place where all the lost data winds up! I Found a good deal on a new Dell and I’m back online now.
To top that off much of the Vicksburg Warren County area has just emerged from a widespread water outage that my Facebook friend David Day (of the historic KlondykeTradingPost here in Vicksburg) rather cleverly tagged “Aquapocalypse17”! It seems 50 years is about the life expectancy of industrial grade water valves and a series of failures compounded by the river above flood stage came together to cause much of the city and county to be without water for 3 to 5 days. We survived, and everything is back up and running now!
Oh by the way did I mention that the Mississippi River is considerably above flood stage! Not a huge problem to a city built on high bluffs but inconvenient to those who visit our city via the river.
Now everyone of the problems mentioned above are what is called a “first world problem” if you are not familiar with the term it means, a problem that we lazy, spoiled, 21st century Americans (could include most Canadians and Western Europeans and a few others too) call a near tragedy but would be laughable to many people in the poorer parts of the globe and Americans of the 19th century! Not to minimize fibromyalgia for it is a Bitch but my friend doesn’t have Yellow Fever or Dysentery! She is down but not out. Clean running water pumped into your home on demand—is almost unimaginable for many on this planet to this day! Computers and internet access, mere luxuries!
One hundred fifty-four years ago during the Siege, Vicksburg was also having widespread water problems. Of course, in those days there was no such thing as filtered and purified running water in homes, people drew their water directly from nature –rivers, streams, wells, etc.-- as they had from the dawn of time. Natural water sources are abundant in Mississippi we average almost 53 inches of rain per year making us one of the wettest states in the nation. In fact the county in which Vicksburg is located is defined by rivers. The Mighty Mississippi is our western boundary with about 4.5 million gallons of water per second flowing by. The Yazoo River draining the Mississippi Delta north to Memphis our northern and the Big Black River with its head waters Northeast Mississippi our southern and eastern borders. The county is crisscrossed by innumerable small streams and Bayous and of course the water table beneath the soil is brimming. But in the 19th century there was one small hitch! The loess bluffs upon which the city was built towered two and three hundred feet above the river and were deposited upon a limestone and shale escarpment. To dig a well in Vicksburg required digging down hundreds of feet and then breaking through rock! This was not at all practical in the 19th century therefore Civil War era Vicksburgers relied on the abundant rainfall for their drinking water. Every home and business in town had underground storage reservoirs known as cisterns filled with rainwater collected from their roofs. That was fine for the few thousand people who lived in Vicksburg at the time, but almost 30,000 Confederate soldiers within the lines would have sucked those finite sources dry in no time. The Union Army surrounding the city had polluted the headwaters of the streams that ran through the city making them unfit for consumption. The Mississippi was difficult to access due to the gunboat fleet. The Garrison suffered for lack of water often drinking from muddy little holes they had dug beside the steams that filled with slightly less fouled seepage or simply drinking the water anyway rather than die of thirst. As it was almost 100 men a day were dying on the lines from disease and enemy action. So just remember the next time you have “one of those days” it could be far worse.
This Memorial Day weekend, take a minute to remember ALL Americans who died in the service of their county, so that we can enjoy those freedoms (and first world problems) so unique to our United States! Remember Freedom isn’t free! Happy Memorial Day.