Sitting on the Stockade Redan
by Morgan Gates
A storm raged in my mind today, life-changing events swirl in my near future. Not bad things, mind you, good in fact, but still, life-changing! Change, especially significant changes can be exciting, but also somewhat frightening! So I did what I often do when in need time to think and clear my head, I went for a walk in the Vicksburg National Military Park. (Those of us who live in Vicksburg can purchase an annual pass for a quite reasonable sum, which allows unlimited access to the park road and there are several places where access to the tour road is available to pedestrians and bicyclist.)
From where I parked my truck, my dog, and I walked just over a mile to the Stockade Redan before retracing our steps. It was a perfect day for a walk. The sky was a cloudless blue that you could really only see in winter in Mississippi. I have often said that as the landscape around here turns bleak and gray, it is almost as if Mother Nature makes up for it by painting the skies in vivid hues. The temperature was also just right—60 degrees with a light wind. Sometimes winter can be the best season in the South. Despite the pleasant weather, the Park was almost empty and entirely peaceful. We stopped at the Stockade Redan and sat on the peak of the fort for a few minutes.
I'm sure anyone who reads this blog regularly knows of the profound events that happened in that place, but in brief review: The Vicksburg Campaign was the actual turning point of that deadly war. More so than Gettysburg, for though many more men died in that Pennsylvania field, the loss of Vicksburg severed the Confederacy in half! In sight of where I sat, Sherman's 15th Corps charged into the teeth of death. The 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment took 43 % casualties including George Washington’s Grandnephew. A few days later, the Forlorn Hope led a charge that piled bodies so deep it blocked the Graveyard Road that I had just walked down. Later in the siege, Henry Clay's Grandson died defending another fort less than a mile to my right, and less than a mile to my left my own Great-great Grandfather hunkered in a trench for 47 days.
On this day no smoke obscured the view, the roar of cannon and musket were replaced by the whisper of the wind. The ominous muzzle of Union cannon stared at me across the ravine, but no death and destruction had issued from them within the living memory of man. Black Vultures circled high in the sky by while their distant ancestors may have feasted on human flesh. These carrion birds would likely sup on nothing more gruesome than road-killed armadillo.
Do spirits still haunt this battlefield? Some say they do. Certainly there still a few forgotten bones buried somewhere in the ravine below. But today only memories, visual images pulled from the pages of history books, people the landscape below.
These images remind me that this place where I sit in peace today was once a place of bloody carnage where lives were sacrificed so that the nation we know today could exist.
My dog grows restless. He wants to move on, to smell the deer cropping and trace the path of other woods' creatures that have passed this way. I get up and we start back the way we came.
Info From the National Park Service website:
What is the Stockade Redan?
Stockade Redan was constructed to protect the Graveyard Road approach to Vicksburg. The fortification was given its name because of the wall, or 'stockade,' of poplar logs built across the Graveyard Road. The redan was attacked twice, on May 19 and 22, and each time the Confederate garrison successfully repulsed the Federal soldiers.