US South: Vicksburg, MS

by - September 27, 2018

Many may find this odd, but I spent a summer and a winter in the deep South of the US. One of the places where I stayed was Vicksburg, MS. This trip was done when I was still in college, and working on a project on the Mississippi River.

My journey began on the I-20, not the document that grants you entry into the United States, but the highway along the Mississippi River leading to Vicksburg. Vicksburg is probably one of the most historic of the cities, along with the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and just 200 miles north of New Orleans. It is also home to the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, Vicksburg Military Park, and the newly built Lower Mississippi River Museum.

What I didn’t know was that this quaint town has an even deeper history and was part of the Natchez Native Americans' territory. This city used to be a part of the Natchez Native Americans' territory. The first Europeans who settled the area were French colonists, who built Fort-Saint-Pierre in 1719 on the high bluffs overlooking the Yazoo River at present-day Redwood. Then, in 1790 the Spanish founded a military outpost on the site, which they called Fort Nogales. When the Americans took possession in 1798, they changed the name to Walnut Hills. Thereafter, the area grew to become Vicksburg, named after Newitt Vick, a Methodist minister.

Vicksburg is particularly well-known for the Seige of Vicksburg and was the sight of the American Civil War. The city, which sits at the southernmost tip of the Mississippi Delta, began to grow cotton in the plantations and became a commercial hub. A large number of Delta plantation owners became very affluent from this. When the civil war broke out, the Union Army, led by Grant, put the Confederates at Vicksburg to siege. It was a 47-day siege lasting from May 18 – July 4, 1863.  The people of Vicksburg dug caves into the hillsides to survive the bombardment. The legacy of the siege lives through much of Vicksburg's art, museum exhibits, and traditions. Their memorial still stands.

While this is a sad history, there is a lot to learn from this place, so best to go with an open mind!
Luckily, for me, I went there with a blank slate, not knowing American history too well, and between Boston and Vicksburg, I covered American History 101, from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

My first week in Vicksburg, I spent most of my mornings walking through the famous Vicksburg National Military Park. It is a great place to bike and run, and is ideally situated at the ledge overlooking the great Mississippi River.

The park includes a number of historic monuments and markers with almost a re-enactment of the civil war, as well as a restored gunboat USS Cairo, which sank on December 12, 1862. on the Yazoo River.

On a lighter note, Vicksburg was instrumental in the growth of American Blues music-- which is native to Mississippi. Blues evolved primarily in the Mississippi Delta region from the musical traditions of African-American slaves before the American Civil War. Vicksburg served as a central hub for musicians to perform for merchants and travelers in the music halls and "juke joints" near the river port at Vicksburg.

There are also some great places to try out food. One well-known place is Walnut Hills, which is known for southern style food. Then, there is Rusty's Riverfront grill, which has great sandwiches. There's also a Mexican place called El Sombrero, where all my colleagues loved going to, and then, there's Anchuca, which is a place you can stay and they also have food. where the chef will provide you a recipe book! Of course, chances are you'll always get invited to dinner somewhere cause people are ridiculously hospitable.

That's why, the best thing that Vicksburg has to offer more than the history is the Southern hospitality. The people of Vicksburg are very, and I mean very, welcoming. They invite you to dinner, cook for you, smile and say hi for no apparent reason. On top of that, they like to get to know you. For the average person, the pace of life may appear to be a little too slow, but for someone trying to do writing and research, it is the ideal place. Not to mention, people are pretty smart here, since Vicksburg has the highest concentration of per capita engineers in the entire nation!

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