Vicksburg, We Have Arrived

At 5:30 in the morning, one would expect to find most students still snuggled in their beds. That was not the case this past Wednesday. After a month delay, the 6th grade Saints excitedly boarded buses headed for Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The first stop on our three day journey was in Natchitoches, Louisiana where students explored Fort St. Jean Baptiste. In addition to learning about the successful trade between the Spanish, French, and Native Americans in this area, students also practiced following basic line commands.

Boo! Hiss! Ahh! These were the words that the 6th graders could be heard shouting at our next stop, our first stop in Vicksburg. Students attended a showing of “Gold in the Hills”, the longest running consecutive melodrama in US history. Being able to interact with the show and witnessing Mr. Becker receive a kiss from one of the actresses made this a successful last stop on day one.

Nonstop is the word I use to best describe Thursday. We headed off to the Vicksburg battlefield where students became active participants as they learned how to load artillery, hold rifles, and follow more military commands.  The next stop was the USS Cairo.  Students stepped back in time when they boarded the partially reconstructed ironclad gunboat.  A park ranger shared that it was the boat’s white oak carriage and the mud of the Yazoo River that helped preserve the boat and the trove of artifacts, such as weapons, ammunition, and sailors’ personal gear, found inside.  From there, we began our driving tour through the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Many of the events that students learned about in their history class were mentioned, but one piece of information that they learned while on the tour that fascinated all of the students was the story of Douglas the Camel, the mascot of Company A of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry.  Students became even more intrigued about Old Douglas while visiting the Old Depot Museum and learning about his fate.

As evening approached, students headed off to a prayer service at Christ Episcopal Church, a church that with the exception of a few destroyed stained glass windows survived the siege on Vicksburg.  Students were interested to learn that both Jefferson Davis and Ulysses Grant visited this church during their time in Vicksburg.   After leaving the church, we headed over to Cedar Grove for dinner.  During our visit, we learned that this mansion, the home of Alexander Klein and Elizabeth Bartley Day, only survived the war because it was used as a Union hospital and because Day was the niece of General Sherman.  One of the highlights of this particular stop was seeing the cannon ball that is still lodged in the parlor wall.

Friday was our departure day but not without first visiting with a Confederate doctor.   His talk was a pinnacle of the trip as he shared with students the medicines and medical procedures of the time.  Students were shocked to learn that the doctors were unknowingly giving their own soldiers poison, causing many, if not most, to die.  After ending our trip with a visit to the Old Courthouse Museum, where students saw Elizabeth Day’s wedding dress and the original courthouse, we headed back for our great state.

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