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.
Our History runs Deep—Literally by Morgan Gates
Vicksburg is most famous for its role in the Civil War of course, but much more happened around Vicksburg than just the turning point of this terrible war. This area is as rich in history as its soil is fertile! Both before and after the war.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a local relic hunter. He had brought in some recently unearthed artifacts and was looking for some information on his finds. Before we go any further let me assure you that these relics WERE NOT found on the battlefield! Relic hunting within any military park is illegal! He was hunting on land owned by his family, many miles from the battlefield, but there were more Union soldiers in and around Vicksburg/Warren County in 1863, than the current population of the city and county combined! So, artifacts can be, and routinely are, found throughout this area.
The objects he had were apparently from the 19th century but seemed to be post war civilian and perhaps connected to an early leader of the post war African- American community whose grave he found on the property. The struggles of the African-American community after the war are yet another layer of the deep history around Vicksburg. Prewar slave laborers knew only their work. They had never dealt with the aspects of daily life that most men took for granted --making a living, finding a place to live, supporting themselves and their families, etc. Post war, they were thrust suddenly into the cold cruel world with very little to no preparation--they had to start from scratch! Over the next few generations they were excluded from white society by racist policies, so they built a society within a society. They built their own communities within the larger white communities, with their own churches, stores etc. They survived and, in many cases, thrived in spite of the forces working against them. The first African- American woman in America to earn a PhD lived in Vicksburg!
Another object he found upon digging even deeper was a stone arrow head in nearly perfect condition. The arrowhead likely was of Choctaw origin, meaning it could have been no more recent than 1830 and likely significantly older. The majority of the Southeastern tribes were removed to what is today Oklahoma by the Indian Removal Act of 1830, yet another layer of history!
Let’s delve even deeper, shall we? I am a member of the Historic Vicksburg Advisory Committee, and one of the many projects we are working on is the tricentennial commemoration of Fort Saint Pierre. Established in 1719, this French outpost on the Yazoo River –inside the boundaries of present Warren County – was bigger than the French settlement called New Orleans in 1720. The Fort was built on the site of and even older French Mission dating to 1698.
Deeper yet we dig, Mississippi has a newly established series of road side markers that designate the locations of Native American mounds. These mounds predate even the Choctaw. They are mostly associated with the Mississippian Culture which dates back as far as 800 A.D., but many may be even older than that.
So if you are a lover of history, come on down, for our history runs deep.
Vicksburg is HEATING UP!
No, I am not talking about Global Warming, but I am talking about the fact that summer is nearly upon us. In The South, that means HOT TEMPS & HIGH HUMIDITY. Walking tours, especially in Vicksburg where one must go up and down BIG HILLS, can be challenging to say the least. I do not know about you, but nothing about that appeals to me or screams “FUN VACATION HERE!” Come to Vicksburg anyway, however, because you can have a HOT TIME and BEAT THE HEAT in Vicksburg at the same time!
Historic Vicksburg City Driving Tours!
Yes, I know this is a shameless plug for my “Partner-in-Time”, Morgan Gates, HOWEVER his is truly the ONLY comprehensive tour business in all of Vicksburg and Vicksburg is heating up. If I really want to help people Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg, even during a hot, Mississippi summer—and I really do—I have to provide real options. Just so happens, Historic Vicksburg City Driving Tours is IT, literally!
Start Your Visit in Vicksburg with THIS Tour, Seriously!
Vicksburg can be a bit tricky to figure out on your own. Rather than trying to follow your GPS--“Recalculating”—and find everything on your own, START your visit in Vicksburg with THIS tour! It could actually be renamed “Orientation to Historic Vicksburg” or “Vacationing in Vicksburg 101”!
How it Works!
Morgan, and his air conditioned tour van, will be awaiting your arrival at the Outlet Mall. You cannot miss it. Drive to Cracker Barrel and you will see them both in the parking lot! Morgan will provide you with a Historic Vicksburg City Driving Tour Points of Interest Sheet and a Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg Vacation Planning Form. As Morgan drives and Entertains while Educating you—as only Morgan Gates can—you can be planning the rest of your stay!
You will learn Vicksburg’s history, through excellent story-telling, while also getting the “lay-of-the-land”, all without breaking a sweat!
The tour is comprehensive, covering essentially all that Vicksburg has to over, including:
Restaurants, many of which are unique and/or in old antebellum homes
Beautiful Tour Homes and B&B’s
Architecture (Yes, there is much to learn on this point! We once had a castle here!)
Historic Buildings & Sites
Flood Wall Murals
Mississippi River History
Early Settlement, Civil-war Era, and Post War History
Folk-lore, local legends, and Interesting, Little-known-Facts
Summer, in all its glory—and Southern Heat & Humidity—is a traditional time for vacationing. Historic Vicksburg City Driving Tours is the ideal way to rediscover Historic Vicksburg, AND plan your stay so you can truly
Have a HOT TIME and BEAT THE HEAT in Vicksburg!
By Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg,
RHV Books, & Civil War Bloggers...& More Network
Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg via Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable
Part 2: The Road from Appomattox
By Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
History buff—in fact, Civil War History buff—that I am, this play had somehow escaped my attention or I had heard of it but forgotten about it. Either way, I am so thankful for the presentation at the April Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable meeting that introduced—or re-introduced—me to it:
“The Road from Appomattox” by Richard Hellesen.
As I stated in Part 1: Grant & Lee at Appomattox, in April, Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable featured the presenters Randal L. Durbin/General Grant and Lane Smith/General Lee. The first two scenes were basically taken directly from historical documents, word-per-word. Thus, they were very deeply rooted in established fact. If you are old enough to remember Dragnet, you remember Sg. Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, Mam.” While what he was saying was entertaining, interesting, and relevant, neither the line nor his delivery of it was very moving emotionally. So it was with Scene One and Scene Two. They were certainly entertaining, interesting, and relevant—in fact, educational—but they were not deeply, emotionally moving. Scene Three, however, more than made up for that!
Scene Three is taken from the play “The Road from Appomattox” by Richard Hellesen, commissioned and originally produced for Ford’s Theatre in 2009. In 2015, it was part of events in Washington which marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
Below is a description taken from https://www.richardhellesen.com/short-plays
On April 10, 1865, the day after the surrender at Appomattox, Generals U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met once more--this time to take the first halting steps toward reconciliation. Knowing that their actions, and example, could spell the difference between true peace and an endless Civil War in the American heart, the two consider how to put their considerable differences aside for the good of the nation.
For those who are unfamiliar with the play, I do not want to spoil it for you, therefore I am going to limit my discussion to just one small—but powerful—part of the play: Grant and Lee discussing what they each feared most.
Grant’s greatest fear was that the South would take to the mountains and guerilla warfare. It was his belief that, should that happen, it would not matter how outnumbered the South might be, they could hold out indefinitely. In such a scenario, he feared when—perhaps even if—the war would ever end.
Lee admitted that Grant’s fear was legitimate. In fact, his generals had been trying to convince him for several weeks to do just that. He also agreed that the war could go on indefinitely under those circumstances. This was not something he wanted to see happen any more than Grant did because he realized that while they might not lose, the South certainly would still not win either. It would just prolong the agony the country was experiencing on both sides. This truth was not Lee’s greatest fear however.
Lee’s greatest fear was that agreeing to terms to end the war and ceasing hostilities would not actually bring the war to an end. His concern was that the issues would take hold—had taken hold—in the hearts of men. If this were the case, he said we might stop the fighting but become a nation “united again in name only”.
I was in tears.
Talk about prophetic!
I do not want to become political here and I certainly am not endorsing any one belief over another—that is not my intent. I do not believe it is political to acknowledge the fact, however, that we are a nation still greatly divided. In fact, if one studies Revolutionary War History and the writings of our Founding Fathers, one will find it was always so. The compromises they had to make to get the colonies to ratify our constitution were ones they knew we would have to deal with eventually and they feared our country would not survive when that time came. We did survive, and yet...
This is why organizations such as the Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable are so very important today. The hard truths of our history must not be buried or forgotten. While it may be cliché, it is none-the-less true, if we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes—tweaked a bit one way or the other—again and again.
I was so moved by Mr. Durbin’s and Mr. Smith’s re-enactment that I contacted a friend of mine involved with the Vicksburg Theatre Guild and asked him to bring this play up as an option for our theater. Our Roundtable also mentioned working with the VTG to develop a play about the Siege and Surrender of Vicksburg. In talking to my friend, I found out that the VTG has expressed the same interest in the past as well. He and I are actually now working to get that conversation formally started.
History accurately remembered, the arts, education, entertainment, a sense of community, and more benefits will occur in any community that takes the time to embrace who they are and what they are made of. Vicksburg is not “just a Civil War town”, nor should it limit itself to such. It did, however, play an important role in the Civil War, and the Civil War is deeply woven into the very foundation of our nation and still affecting us today. All of Vicksburg—and our nation as a whole—can only benefit from the efforts of groups such as ours.
Info on Mr. Durbin & Mr. Smith as "Grant and Lee"
Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable meets the third Monday of each month at Baer House Inn.
I must confess, when I was told the Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable was being formed, I had no idea what it was—it did not matter! Someone in Vicksburg was doing something to educate and re-engage locals in our rich history and further the concept of “History as Industry” for what should be our very own little-historical-gold-mine! I was IN! Both feet! I am one hundred percent thrilled to be a member and happy to share my Roundtable Experiences with you. It is a fantastic way of Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg!
For those of you as in the dark as I was, a Civil War Roundtable does not require a round table! In fact, I suppose we would not have to have a table at all! Seriously, it is a group of history buffs who get together to listen to speakers such as authors, reenactors, etc. and who plan and/or attend historical events. It is educational, social, fun, and a wonderful way to keep the truth of our history alive. In a town as rich in history as Vicksburg, I see it as almost a civic duty to be involved! It is so hard to believe that from the mid 1960’s until last October (2016), Vicksburg did not have an active Civil War Roundtable! The “Key to the South”—without a Civil War Roundtable—Unthinkable!
Thanks to Corey Rickrode, of Baer House Inn, and his association with Kurt Fields (General Grant), and several of our local battlefield guides—Morgan Gates, David Maggio, Michael Logue, and Joyce Hill to name a few—the lack of a Civil War Roundtable has been rectified! We are still relatively small. We are still struggling to raise funds to pay speakers. Many of us are donating time, talents, and dollars to the cause, and happy to do so. I must say, April’s meeting drove home just why such an organization matters and makes a meaningful difference!
Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
Civil War Bloggers, Authors...& More Network
Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable Vice President