Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, began after the American Civil War to commemorate Union and Confederate Soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day now honors all Americans who have died during military service.
The Natchez Trace Parkway | Highway 61
The Natchez Trace is a mysterious meandering trail along the mighty Mississippi River. Vicksburg, Mississippi is 20-30 NE of the Natchez Trace on Highway 61. Vicksburg is the home of Vicksburg National Military Park. Vicksburg was at the heart of the historic Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War that raged from Dec. 29, 1862 – July 4, 1863 where almost 20,000 soldiers lost their lives.
Blues legend Edgar Winters captures the tragic irony of the road to Vicksburg in his song Highway 61.
Some Lyrics from Highway 61
“Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says. “Out on Highway 61”.
Road Trip to Natchez, Mississippi
A few summers ago my husband and I decided to take a road trip along the Natchez Trace, stopping in Vicksburg, then go on to Natchez and Biloxi Mississippi. I had no idea how profoundly this trip would affect both my husband and I. Our first stop was at the Cedar Grove Mansion in Vicksburg, now a Bed & Breakfast along the Mississippi River. A cannonball from the Civil War is still lodged in the wall from the battles raging along the Mississippi River. You can touch it, you can see the Mississippi river and imagine the ship firing the cannon and shattering the wood, lodging there, where it rests today.
The next day we went on to the Vicksburg National Military Park. This is the cemetery where Union soldiers are buried from the Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War. The sheer numbers that I put on this page cannot impact you like a visit to this place where so many lost their lives. My husband and I went on this trip in the fall. The only other visitors we encountered were a few European couples. It was as if we had the entire place to ourselves. We actually toured the USS Cairo, a Union ship that two Confederate soldiers managed to sink. It was at the floor of the Mississippi for years. It has been raised and restored. We were the only people touring the boat, and it is magnificent.
Honoring Union and Confederate War Dead
The Vicksburg Military Park is now the permanent resting place of 17,000 Union Soldiers that died during the Vicksburg campaign and include some of the Union soldiers that died in the area including Millikan’s Bud, Champion’s Hill, Baker’s Creek, and Big Bend River.
Union Soldiers Vicksburg Campaign War Dead Union
Confederate Soldiers Vicksburg Campaign War Dead
Did you know that only two confederate soldiers were laid to rest accidentally in the Vicksburg Military Park? Approximately 1600 Confederate soldiers are buried in the Vicksburg City Cemetery. Families took the remaining bodies of other confederate soldiers home to be buried. It just never occurred to me that Confederate soldiers would not be buried in the cemetery of the commemorative battleground where they lost their lives. Visiting Vicksburg will take you back in time like no book could ever do.
There is a rotunda with 36,325 names of Illinois soldiers inscribed on the walls at the Vicksburg National Military Park. That’s just the names of soldiers from one state fighting in the Battle of Vicksburg. We could scarcely take this in. It’s something one needs to experience in person. It will bring you to your knees.
I am profoundly moved that the first rose to bloom this Memorial day in my S. Central Illinois rose garden is a hybrid tea called Memorial Day. I dedicate the first bloom of
Memorial Day to 36,325 Illinois soldiers whose names are inscribed on the walls of the Illinois State Memorial at the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Let Freedom Ring
I would like to dedicate this picture kindly sent to me by Dr. Tommy Cairns of Let Freedom Ring to all the Veterans who have given their lives for our freedom.
Veterans Honor is for all the war dead that have given their lives for freedom.
We humbly thank all the families of the war dead for their supreme sacrifice of their loved ones as well.