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"I am following the highways, down the rivers, past the cradle of the civil war. I'm going to Graceland." Paul Simon, Graceland

In 1862 the US went to war with itself. Up until this time wars were fought mainly between armies. Occasionally some towns and civilians got in the way but in the main, casualties were primarily military. The south was primarily agricultural and had a smaller army, while the north has the advantage of men and industrial might. But the south was better led and this was decisive and during the first years of the war the southern armies under Robert E Lee repeatedly trounced the armies of the north. Normally this would have resulted in the defeated party treating for peace and some form of political settlement bringing the whole sorry mess to a close, but Abraham Lincoln was not about to go down as the last president of the United States so he opted for a new strategy. He replaced his incompetent generals with two ruthless men, Ulysses S Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Grant and Sherman changed the face of war. Grant simply smashed his army against Lees in battle after battle, absorbing catastrophic losses, but never conceding ground as he knew his losses in men and materiel could be replaced, while the Souths couldn't. Sherman led his army down the Mississippi River and burnt every southern city he came across to the ground.
So, when you read that Natchez and Vicksburg are charming southern towns, know that the authors are lying. Both were burnt to the ground by Sherman's army and have never really recovered.
Vicksburg is famous as the site of a terrible siege. The Union siege lasted over a year, destroying the city. The signs of devastation are still there to be seen 150 years later. The confederate and union trench lines are now a national monument. We drove through the park, quite startled at the size of the place. Near the Mississippi River is the remains of the USS Cairo (mispronounced by every American there as 'cay-row'), an armoured river monitor. The Cairo was part of the Union fleet attacking the city from the river when she struck a mine and sank. The wreck lay at the bottom until discovered again in the 1960s and was raised and preserved.
We spent the night in a motel and hit the road first thing in the morning as there isn't anything else to see in Vicksburg.

Posted by paulymx 10:31 Archived in USA

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