Vicksburg as a Pilgrimage Site?
By Morgan Gates, Historic & Haunted Vicksburg
Well , first of all, let me categorically state that we are not literally comparing Vicksburg to Mecca, Jerusalem, or any other Holy site!
Meshea and I write our blogs separately. I never know exactly what she is going to write about and she never knows what I am going to write about. Heck, most times, I don’t know what I am going to write about until it starts flowing. This is one of those occasions!
Last week when Meshea compared Vicksburg and Mecca, I laughed when I first read it. Then I fired off a comment to her saying, “I don’t know-- maybe we could get people to come to Vicksburg and gather around the Old Courthouse and whistle Dixie?” (Islamic Pilgrims gather around the Kaaba Stone and pray in Mecca in case you didn’t know). When she revisited the phrase this week it started me thinking maybe she had a point!
I grew up with the word Pilgrimage meaning viewing beautiful old homes. I am a member of the Baptist Church, the most UN-Liturgical of all the Christian Churches, so the religious meaning was pretty much lost on me. Meshea is Catholic, putting her at the other end of the Christian spectrum. (Yes, we have some interesting religious discussions as well). Yet this world is full of religions and many people “worship” things that are not at all supernatural (money, cars, sports, to name a few) so let’s take another look at that comparison. Merriam Webster’s fourth definition of religion seems to strike close to what we are talking about:
Definition of religion #4 (from Merriam Webster online)
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
Definition of pilgrimage
1: a journey of a pilgrim; especially: one to a shrine or a sacred place
No matter what the politically correct crowd of today thinks, the Civil War was about much more than slavery. The vast majority of Southerners were not slave owners--that was the realm of the moneyed elite. The ordinary man saw himself as protecting home and hearth, just as we would today if our homes and families were threatened. The people of the South, during the Civil War, thought they were on the right side of the argument. You can read it in their own words, over and over again. In their opinion, the Southern people were quietly minding their own business when they were brutally attacked by a cruel pillaging Army of blue clad Visigoths that killed and burned their away across the peaceful verdant land, destroying farms and families and a way of life. Eighteen percent of the fighting age men of the South died in the war--a way of life ended forever.
For the next decade, the South was under military occupation (Just like post WW2 Germany and Japan). The South went from being the richest to the poorest part of the country, from being the envy of the north to being the butt of its jokes.
The people of the South picked up the pieces, buried their dead, and began to put their lives back together. They reinvented themselves, but what of the memories of the dead children, husbands and fathers, not to mention the way of life, that were sacrificed to this failed war for independence? --They lost! Forget them! -- Of course not! Just as we today do not forget our war dead, the people of the South did not either. They set up their own cemeteries and memorial days and remembered their own heroes--they were no less noble because they failed. The narrative of the “Lost Cause” was born, often called the “Myth” of the Lost Cause by the P.C. crowd (I wonder if they will call the USA the “Myth of the Land of the Free” when they finally bring us down?)
As time passes, it is human nature for our reverence for honored civilizations and figures from the past to take on larger than life status. Rome fell in 476 A.D. and it still influences us today. The reputed wisdom of Ben Franklin has pushed right up there with Socrates since his time! Elvis has become a demi-god to his devotees. So, in a way, Meshea is right: A Southern Pilgrimage is, in a way, akin to a religious pilgrimage. To walk among these restored relics of a bygone era is in fact a religious experience. If the Lost Cause has become a quasi-religion, then certainly brave Vicksburg was the tragic hero of this tale of woe-- the Hector to Grant’s Achilles, where the cause was really lost! So, come and walk among our temples to the cult of The Lost Cause. You will be glad you did.
Below images are linked to www.VicksburgPilgrimage.com for complete info on tour options, pricing, dates, times, etc.