On the Road with Ralph - Part II

As I stated in Part I, my erstwhile companion, Ralph, my 5-year old beagle, and I are on the road this week and part of next week visiting American Civil War sites.  After staying in Montgomery, Alabama until Wednesday morning, we set out for Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, MS.  We arrived in Vicksburg, MS about 1PM Wednesday.  I wanted to wait until Thursday morning before Ralph and I visited the battlefield park.  I decided to go partake of some of the local cuisine.  Obviously, I couldn't take Ralph with me.  I couldn't leave him in this room.  Most likely, he would have bayed until the police knocked down the door.  I certainly didn't want that.  So, I asked the front clerk what could I do.  He was a really nice fellow.  He said Ralph could stay with him until I returned from eating. Ralph would be placed in an enclosed space with green grass and plenty of water.  I also gave him his favorite bone toy.  I walked away with Ralph and the desk clerk playing in the enclosed space.  I decided to get out of there before the clerk changed his mind.

I went to a restaurant that was closest to the riverfront.  There were a large cluster of each of these little restaurants.  Each one had the maximum seating capacity on the window of each specific restaurant.  Most specialized in seafood, of course.  I chose one that had the best seafood gumbo I have ever eaten.  I mean the BEST!  I ate so much until I thought I was not going to be able to get up and walk back to my motel.  The service was what you would expect from a small southern town.  The waitress even gave me a free generous piece of pecan pie to take back to my motel room.  Friendly and extremely courteous place.  I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to eat the pecan slice.  But, late that night, I somehow managed to eat it.  As I slowly walked back to the motel, I felt transfixed by the slow, small town atmosphere.  The smell from the waterfront, the restaurants and the sights of sounds of this small southern town made me feel at home.  Of course, I could hear Ralph baying in his little playground.  He barks when he's happy.  He barks when he's unhappy.  So, I thanked the clerk and let Ralph do his "business" since I didn't see any evidence of it in the playground.  He said Ralph only started barking when he saw me.  That's Ralph for you.

At 8AM Thursday morning, I got Ralph up and we walked over to the Vicksburg National Military Park.  They would not allow Ralph inside the visitor's center.  I wanted to watch the twenty-minute documentary they were showing.  But, a park ranger did volunteer to go buy me a CD that would give detail to each stopping point in the park.  We would stop at each designated point, listen to what happened there and Ralph and I would just walk around.  The one that got to me most was the array of canons that was setup to fire on troops.  The murderous fire that day must have been more than anyone can imagine. There were state monuments for each detachment that fought from a particular state in that campaign.  We visited the USS Cairo that was restored back in 1964.  Ralph and I also visited the Vicksburg National Cemetery which is located inside the park.  I couldn't help but look at some of the gravestones.  Some had been distorted by the ravages of time.  But, I saw one of a young Confederate soldier who was only 16 years old.  I'm not sure if that was the norm or not.  But, I felt so sad for that young man.  He had not even started to enjoy life.  I felt what a waste as I looked out over the enormity of lives lost in that 47 day siege of Vicksburg.  Even Ralph seemed a bit sad.

I won't go into all that transpired in that Vicksburg campaign of the Civil War.  You can easily Google it.  Our visit around the park took Ralph and I about three hours.  We took our time.  It seemed that many people were not paying proper respect.  It just seemed far too many seemed jovial there.  To me it was a very somber experience.  The visit to the cemetery (where over 12,000 are unidentified) made it a very thought provoking and heartfelt experience.  I took numerous pictures.  I said silent prayers at each designated stopping point of interest.  It was a learning experience.  If you ever get down this way, I encourage you to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park.  It is an experience you will never forget.  Next up?  Shiloh National Park in Tennessee.  We're leaving this morning (Friday) for "Bloody Shiloh."

Link to Part III


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