On January 19, we moved to a parking lot in Mississippi, by the Natchez visitor center. The Mississippi river was very wide, brown, and sort of calm-looking. It was a lot calmer and wider than I had thought it would be.
We spent a day at Vicksburg National Military Park. It is where, in 1863, Confederate and Union forces fought to control the area for a while. It is important, because the Confederate army surrendered there, and it marked a turning point in the Civil War for the Union side.
We got to take an audio tour (with a CD we had bought) of the battleground and see many monuments, cool buildings, a graveyard, and a ship, the USS Cairo, which fought for the Union side in the Civil War. The USS Cairo was sunk, but then later saved and is now on display at the museum.
My favorite building was the Illinois State Memorial. It was very tall, with many steps in front. It was white, and when you go inside, you can see the grand design of the marble, the floor, and the walls. The building was modeled after the Roman Pantheon. The floor was made up of patterns and had a mosaic of an eagle on it. The building was huge. Being inside made me feel like it was made for someone three times the size of me. After we went out, we heard someone yodeling from inside the monument. (The inside was echoey.)
We went to Natchez National Historic Park, which had 2 separate pre-Civil War era sites to explore: the William Johnson House (the home of a free black barber in Natchez) and the Melrose estate (a Southern planter class antebellum estate). Both sites provided insight into what it was like to live in the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s before the Civil War when slave labor was common and being a free black business man was not. Another memorable stop in the city of Natchez was the historic Forks of the Road Slave Market site. The Forks in the Road Slave Market was one of the largest slave markets in the United States in the 1830’s until it’s close in 1863. Today, it looks like any ordinary intersection with a field of grass on the side of the road. The only visible memory of the slave trade almost 200 years ago is a small display of slave shackles embedded in concrete in the ground on the sidewalk.
At this time of the year and in this area, it was cold, a bit windy, and overcast or drizzly, but the boys still enjoyed skateboarding, building campfires, and playing outside the RV at Plantation RV Park in Natchez.
Before leaving Natchez to return to Louisiana, we visited the Mount Locust Inn on the Natchez Trace Parkway at mile marker 15.5. This inn served travelers who were going down the river by boat to sell goods in New Orleans. These people would sell their goods, along with their boat (since paddling upstream would be too difficult), and then walk back home on the Natchez Trace.