It is Sunday afternoon and the sun is shining. It’s Martin Luther King Jr. weekend which means a three-day weekend for me and O, W is out of school until next week when his college goes back into session.
Winter Break finished last week. I was back at school this past Monday and it was a whirlwind of a week; each day I came home from school promising myself I’d put together a post in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Names and I never did. Friday night, I fell asleep on the couch and yesterday I was laid low by the flu and took a day off, of sorts.
I spent the last week of Winter Break in Northern Mississippi visiting my step-mother, Juliana or simply J. It was intended to be a wellness check visit, she lives by herself and I worry. She has friends, but friends aren’t family. So, I worry,and my brothers worry, and we visit when we can.
I had asked J before I arrived if she would want to take a road trip to Vicksburg with me. I planned to see the Vicksburg National Military Park and possibly pay a visit to Jansen Schmidt, a blogger friend at the Baer House, J agreed. So, on Wednesday – January 4 we took off on a road trip. Oxford, Mississippi is almost two hundred miles from Vicksburg. The weather was great – it was cool in the mid-forties but dry. Perfect for driving into unfamiliar territory.
Wednesday morning got off to a slow start – I distracted myself with a technical issue that I discovered was a worthless endeavor. J was hesitant getting started, but once we were on the road we made good time and arrived at the park close to 2 PM. We were all in.
I have to admit, I knew very little about the battle or the battlefield. I knew it was a Union victory, that it was important turning point in the Civil War, and that General Grant improved his reputation in the battle. Other than that, that was about it, I was more for the adventure in the trip. I wasn’t disappointed. I was reminded of Lincoln’s quote from my last post…..
“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.” Abraham Lincoln
First of all, I had no idea how big the park was – I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Remember, I was in for the adventure. The battlefield is a giant one-way loop – about 16 miles long. I drove the loop stopping occasionally, and getting out several times. J stayed in the car until we got to the U.S.S. Cairo a restored Union gunboat. We both got out and walked around the restored ironclad. She had visited the park with my dad when they had first moved to Mississippi in the early 2000’s. She was impressed with how the Cairo exhibit had been improved and she got and walked quite a bit. I was impressed – she doesn’t get out and walk as much as she used to (which is one of the reasons why my brothers and I worry).
What most resonated with me most was the cemetery – Vicksburg National Cemetery – the final resting place for over 18,000 Union soldiers.
The cemetery is at the point on the tour loop when the Union lines give way to the Confederate positions. There are two sides to the battle – the Union and the Confederacy; and we were almost two hours into our excursion at the park. We turned right into the cemetery – and the first markers we came to were the markers of the Colored troops who had served at Vicksburg and in the Union Army in the Southern campaigns. I stopped, got out of the car, and climbed up the hill to take a closer look. The headstones had the soldier’s name and U.S.C.T. – United States Colored Troop – beneath each name. The headstones had weathered and soldier’s names were difficult to make out easily. What stuck with me was that of those 18,244 – 12,954 were interred without a name. Known only unto God.
Their names were unknown.
My trip was almost two weeks ago, and I find myself wondering and yearning to know more about the Civil War and the Siege of Vicksburg. I hope to get back to Vicksburg and J promises to go with me… who knows, maybe it will be this summer. But, when I do go back, I will be more prepared and maybe even stay overnight. Overall, it was an excellent trip. It was the first trip J and I had undertaken together since our trip to France in June 2010. Ironically, we ended up at a battlefield on that trip as well – only it was a different war – and our purpose was much different. We enjoyed our adventure and had a good conversation on the way down and on the way home. I think dad would have approved.
The sun has dipped below the horizon and it’s no longer sunny here. But it’s been a great day. I’ve been to church and I feel much better than I did yesterday. Ice is predicted overnight and I have no plans other than to rest up and prepare for the coming week. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, remembering the past, but focusing on the present.
Where do you find yourself, mid-January?
Today’s post is inspired by LAST week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Names. This week, share a photo that includes a name. When you stop and look around, you realize that we’re surrounded by names: street signs, name tags, vanity license plates, boat names, brand names, the spines of the books on your shelf… there are possibilities everywhere.
Look for something esoteric, or keep it close to home with a photo of a building that’s important to you or of your favorite person wearing a monogrammed sweater. Whatever you choose, make sure we can read the name!