- Kara Kimbrough
Looking for a spring trip? Do what tourists from around the globe do- visit Vicksburg
By Kara Kimbrough
The mental preparation has already begun. I'm steeling myself for the inevitable email that appears in my email inbox every time I write about one of our state's most beautiful areas. A column about Vicksburg is sure to incite anger or at the very least, disbelief from a transplanted Northerner who can't believe I'd mention an area known for an infamous Civil War battle. My answer is always the same. "The War" happened...we lost.. and yet, lessons learned in that horrific five-year battle shaped who we are as a nation and changed Mississippi and specifically, Vicksburg, forever.
War debates aside, Vicksburg is an amazing, intriguing place; after all, it's still drawing tourists over 150 years after the last cannon (many of which are located in Vicksburg) was shot. And since spring has officially arrived, there's no better time to visit an area filled with architectural wonders, natural beauty courtesy of blooming plants and foliage and a world-famous river view.
One of Mississippi's oldest cities, Vicksburg dates back to 1719 when, after fending off native Natchez Indians, French colonists put down roots. Today, the city is filled with historic sites. A chance to stand on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River highlighted by the scenic Old Vicksburg Bridge and the new modern one that carries I-20 over the rushing waters is almost reason enough to visit.
However, nothing is as awe-inspiring as the 1,800-acre Vicksburg National Military Park. America’s most monumented national military park contains more than 1,400 memorials to soldiers who served on both sides of the War Between the States. There’s also a Civil War gunboat, museum, visitor’s center, the largest National Military Cemetery of Union dead and a separate cemetery where 5,000 Confederates were laid to rest.
Even if "The War" doesn't hold any interest for you, simply bypass the museum altogether and walk, hike or bike through the park filled with, to borrow a phrase from the National Park Service, "lushly forested landscape emanating with birdsong." At last count, over 60 varieties of flowering trees, shrubs and flowers are found in the park. Expect to see dogwood and Japanese magnolia trees intermingled with a multitude of bloom and lush green foliage.
But don't get the impression that the landscape is devoid of anything but greenery. History and architectural buffs will be interested to view impressive monuments, markers and tablets memorializing soldiers from both the Grey and the Blue. After the park opened in 1899, architects and sculptors from 32 states set to work to create fitting monuments to honor its soldiers and sailors involved in the Vicksburg Campaign. The first monument was dedicated in 1903, with the remainder erected within 14 years.
Mississippi's monument to our state's soldiers is impressive, but nothing compares to the one from Illinois. Modeled after the Roman Pantheon, the impressive structure is composed of marble and granite, contains 60 bronze tablets listing the name of over 36,000 Illinois soldiers involved in the Vicksburg campaign and is topped with a bronze bald eagle. It's definitely a site to behold. If you're into selfies, this is a can't-miss stop.
Speaking of history, no trip to Vicksburg is complete without a stop by downtown's Biedenharn Coca-Cola® Museum. It was there that the first bottle of Coca-Cola® was bottled in 1894. Before heading out of town, drop by the Mississippi River Overlook for an up-close and personal view of the Mighty Mississippi and plenty of photo opportunities.
A plethora of wonderful restaurants, ranging from Southern-style buffets to fine dining options, can be found in Vicksburg. When you begin planning a trip, drop me an email and I'll send you a list of my favorite places.
In the meantime, experience and enjoy all that Mississippi has to offer during this beautiful season of the year.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.