We drove south from Little Rock and stopped at Ameristar Casino RV Park in Vicksburg, MS. Unlike many casinos that have RV sites at the back of the parking lot, Ameristar has a real RV park across the road from the casino. There is a free shuttle from the RV park and hotel to the casino.
The roads and pads in the campground are paved, and there is grass between the sites. The site width is decent, although the pavement of the pads is a little narrow. All the sites are pull-throughs so we wouldn't have had to unhook the toad if we hadn't wanted to. More about that later. The Ameristar RV Park has full hookups including cable, and they have Wi-Fi. Some sites have 30/50 amp electric, and some have 30 amp. The photo below shows our site at Ameristar Casino.
And the next photo is a view looking up the road from our site.
There is traffic noise from nearby I-20, and there is a railroad track down over the hill in back of the campground. You can't see the trains, but you sure can hear them. Fortunately, there is no crossing nearby, so there were no train horns, but there was a lot of rumble when the trains passed.
We only scheduled one night in Vicksburg. Although we usually don't go sightseeing when we only stop for one night, we really wanted to see the Vicksburg National Military Park. Besides, it was only about 2:00 PM by the time we got set up, and it was also a warm, sunny spring day, so we went ahead and unhooked the car.
The visitor center at the park has an excellent 20-minute movie that tells the story of Vicksburg. They also have a small museum that depicts what life for both the soldiers and citizens was like during the siege.
In the 1800s, the Mississippi River was a vital transportation artery for the entire country. When the Civil War broke out, the Confederates controlled the lower Mississippi from Cairo, IL, to New Orleans. In 1862, however, Memphis to the north of Vicksburg and New Orleans to the south fell to Union control, and by early 1863, the control of much of the Mississippi had returned to the Union forces - with the exception of Vicksburg.
Controlling the entire Mississippi River was important for the Union because they could use the river to ship supplies to its troops deep within southern territory. Controlling the river would also effectively cut the Confederacy in two.
On March 31, 1863, Union forces under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant began moving against the Confederates in the area of Vicksburg. The visitor center had a map with colored lights that helped us understand the troop movement. In the photo below, the red lights represent the Confederate defenses around Vicksburg while the blue lights represent the Union forces as they prepared to cross the Mississippi.
After several battles, one of which resulted in the Union forces capturing the Mississippi capital of Jackson located about 40 miles east of Vicksburg, the Confederate forces eventually retreated to the west to the well-fortified city of Vicksburg.
Grant had the advantage of greater numbers, but the Confederates had the advantages of terrain and fortifications that made Vicksburg almost impenetrable. Union forces surrounded Vicksburg and lay siege to the town pounding it with artillery.
Although the Confederates successfully repulsed several Union attempts to break through their defenses, the lack of rations, the almost constant Union artillery fire and sickness eventually proved to be too much for the Confederates. Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863.
The war continued another 21 months, but the surrender of Vicksburg combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg the day before are considered to be the turning point of the war.
After we toured the museum and watched the informational movie in the visitor center, we headed out to drive around the battlefield. The next photo shows the Memorial Arch at the entrance to the road that traverses the battlefield in an elongated loop.
The eastern side of the loop follows the Union line. Along the road are scores of plaques and monuments. One could easily spend all day stopping to read all of them. Larger monuments, like the one in the photo below for Minnesota, honor all the soldiers from that particular state who fought and who gave their lives. There are also many, many smaller monuments that mark specific events that took place during the battle.
A little farther along the road, we came to Battery De Golyer, which is named for its commander, Capt. Samuel De Golyer. Battery De Golyer is the site of largest Union gun placement with a total of 22 canons. The spire on the horizon in the center of the photo below is the Louisiana monument over on the Confederate side. The Louisiana monument is adjacent to the main Confederate defensive position called the Great Redoubt. A redoubt is an earthworks fortification.
The largest state monument is from Illinois. There are 47 steps leading up to the memorial - one for each day of the siege.
Inside, the marble walls are lined with bronze plaques listing every regiment, company and soldier from Illinois who fought at Vicksburg.
Adjacent to the Illinois Memorial is the Shirley House, which is the only original building of the period remaining in the park.
The Shirley family, who were Northern sympathizers, were forced out of their home during the siege. Like many civilians in Vicksburg, they dug a cave in a nearby hillside where they lived to protect themselves from the shelling. The house was so badly damaged during the siege that the Shirleys never again occupied it. The house, which was originally restored in 1902, is currently undergoing stabilization.
The next photo shows Thayer's Approach where Union soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. John Thayer conducted one of the unsuccessful advances on the Confederate defenses. As you can see, the Confederates had an advantageous position on top of the hill.
At the far end of the loop road through the park is the USS Cairo Museum. The Cairo, which was named after Cairo, IL, was a Union ironclad gunboat that was sunk in the Yazoo River about 7 miles north of Vicksburg in 1862. The Cairo is believed to have been the first vessel sunk by an electrically detonated underwater mine (called torpedoes back in the day). The Confederates made inexpensive mines by filling glass jugs with gunpowder and anchoring them so they floated just below the surface of the water. Insulated wires ran to an electrical battery on shore where soldiers hiding in the bushes would wait for passing Union ships.
The wreck of the Cairo lay forgotten in the mud and silt at the bottom of the river until it was rediscovered in 1956. After an unsuccessful attempt in 1964, the vessel was finally recovered in 1965. The partially restored and reinforced Cairo is displayed in a covered, outdoor exhibit area.
An indoor museum displays photos of the recovery, models of the ship and thousands of artifacts recovered from the wreck.
You can walk onto the preserved boat (on new decking, of course - the original wood has deteriorated badly after over 100 years in the mud) and see canons...
...the original boilers, steam engines and the paddle wheel. The paddle wheel was located amidships and was enclosed in a wheel house to protect it from enemy fire.
Next to the Cairo Museum is the National Cemetery, which covers 116 acres and contains the remains of 17,000 Union Civil War soldiers, 13,000 of which are unknown.
The next stop along the park road was the site of Fort Hill at the top of the bluff overlooking the river. From this commanding position, and with the use of additional river batteries, the Confederates were successful at controlling the river.
The next photo shows Margery with one of the canons at the site of Fort Hill.
The next morning we got up and packed up the motor home, then we hopped into the car and drove over to the casino for the breakfast buffet. We normally wouldn't think of eating breakfast out on a day we planned to be on the road, but along with your first night's stay at the Ameristar RV Park they give you coupons for a free breakfast buffet over at the casino. They apparently hope you'll drop a few quarters into the slot machines on your way to breakfast, and then maybe decide to stay a while. The photo below shows the outside of the Ameristar Casino.
The buffet is fairly complete with all the usual items - ham, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, muffins, sweet rolls, biscuits, hot and cold cereals, fruit, pancakes, French toast and more. They also had chicken fried steak and made-to-order omelets. Although Paul thought a couple of the items were a little dried out (the home fries and the corned beef hash), everything else was quite good.
Back at the campground, we hooked up the car and hit the road. There are still many things to see in Vicksburg like the Coca-Cola Museum, the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum (separate from the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park), another Civil War museum in the old 1858 courthouse downtown, as well as several historic buildings in the old downtown area. We're out of time for now, but it looks like we'll be back someday. Stay tuned for news on where we're headed.