Vicksburg, Mississippi
October 20, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

In the Civil War, one of the Union military strategies was to take control of the entire Mississippi River, thus splitting the Confederacy in half and cutting off supply routes. In order to accomplish this goal, Vicksburg, Mississippi had to be captured.

Vicksburg sits on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. At the beginning of the War, it was controlled by the Confederacy. This control allowed recruits and supplies to reach the Confederates via the River. President Lincoln described Vicksburg as the key to victory and stated “the war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”  He ordered General Ulysses S. Grant to take Vicksburg. The Vicksburg Campaign began in April of 1862 and ended in July of 1863.

Vicksburg was heavily fortified by the Confederate Army. In the final push to take Vicksburg, General Grant considered two options: an all out frontal attack and a siege. The siege option involved “out-camping” the Confederate Army by surrounding the City, cutting off recruits and supplies and starving the Army and the civilian population into submission.

General Grant chose the frontal attack. Several attempts were repulsed by the Confederates. Two famous battles were fought-one on May 19 and another on May 22. The Union Army was led by General Sherman. Both attempts to dislodge the Confederate soldiers from their fortifications failed.

On May 23, General Grant switched to the siege option. During the siege, Grant’s artillery hammered the Confederate fortifications while Admiral David Porter’s gunboats blasted the city from the River. The residents were forced to flee to caves to survive the carnage. Forty-seven days later, on July 4, 1863, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered his army after his  beleaguered troops and the civilians were reduced to eating cats, dogs and rats. They also suffered from illness, including dysentery and malaria. The surrender ended the largest and most complex campaign of the Civil War.

There were 20,000 casualties in the Vicksburg campaign. The casualty rate was 4-1 in favor of the Confederates. The Confederate Army had won the battles but lost the siege.

The surrender of Vicksburg was one day after General Robert E. Lee was defeated in the battle at Gettysburg. These two battles marked a turning point in the Civil War and led to the end of the War with General Lee’s surrender to General Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia  on April 9, 1865.

On October 19, Jill and I toured Vicksburg National Military Park. Our guide was Ralph Stillions. This wonderful tour lasted three hours. This tour is a must-see if you visit Vicksburg. Be sure you hire a Park guide so you get all the fabulous back stories.

In the Anchuca restaurant, I met two really nice families. The Andrews family, who live in Louisiana, and the Biedenharn family, who live in several states. I’m hoping to spend the night with Ron, Sharon and Sarah Andrews during my next stop downstream. The Biedenharn family are related to Joe Biedenharn, who was the first bottler of Coca-Cola. He started bottling Coca-Cola at his candy store in downtown Vicksburg. The candy store/bottling company is now the site of the Biedenharn Museum. One of the Biedenharns was celebrating his 77th birthday at Anchuca.

I capped off this wonderful stay in Vicksburg with a visit to David Darby’s church in Vicksburg. The Sunday service at Solid Rock Church touched me deeply. Pastor Bill Talbert’s message-“From Setback to Comeback”-gave me renewed faith that God will help us overcome our grief over the loss of Danny and will continue to guide and protect me on my journey.

The weather forecast calls for a big storm on Monday. Looks like I’ll be back on the Mighty Mississippi on Tuesday.


Our great guide, Ralph Stillions

Minnesota Monument

Wisconsin Sixth Battery Light Artillery

Wisconsin Sixth Battery Light Artillery

One of the major battlefields looking from the Union side

Union Infantry Trenches

Union Infantry Trenches

Illinois Monument in the shape of the Pantheon. 47 steps for the 47-day siege

Illinois Monument in the shape of the Pantheon. 47 steps for the 47-day siege

The Shirley House. The only period home on the battlefield

“Old Abe”, the Mascot of the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry. Old Abe survived the War and became a War Hero. The 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” shoulder patch was modeled after Old Abe.

The Naval Monument

The Missouri Monument- brothers fought against brothers. Some Missouri residents aligned with the Union and some aligned with the Confederates

USS Cairo-Ironclad paddle wheel gunboat sunk by the Confederates in the Yazoo River

Louisiana Monument

Largest National Cemetery of the Civil War dead. Only Union solders were interred in National cemeteries.

The Andrews Family

The Biedenharn Family

Dean Andrews, the manager of the Anchuca restaurant

Pastor “Brother Bill” Talbert

Bill, Brother Bill & David