(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
 RV Travel notes from
         the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
Vol 15  No 1                                                                                                                                                                                              April, 2005
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Near the end of the trace is Vicksburg, MS with its
well-known battlefield so, of course, we cut over to
Ole Miss to tour this historic site and retrace the
battle.  The Mississippi River was used by the
Confederacy for transporting men and supplies so
the defense of the river was crucial.  Vicksburg is
situated about half way between Memphis and New
Orleans on the Mississippi and was heavily fortified
by the Confederates.  In an effort to divide the
Confederacy the Yanks tried to drive a wedge
between the eastern and western Confederate
states by controlling the river.  

The battle for control of the Mississippi at
Vicksburg lasted a month and a half and was one
of the bloodiest of the war and ended with a victory
for the Union forces.  
Dear Gals… Your guys …
Our grandchildren… our sisters


What, you never heard of Iuka, MS?  It’s at the
northeastern corner of Mississippi just south of the
Tennessee border.  We’re at Coleman State Park  
on the shore of a beautiful lake that is part of the
TVA.  Our site overlooks the lake.  It showered a
bit this morning so we decided to stay here for the
day – just two days out and we hit rain.  So to get
you posted –

We always enjoy the North Carolina Azalea
Festival in Wilmington, NC in the spring.  The
azaleas are profuse around town, especially
around Greenfield Lake.  The parade features
among other things over fifty, yes, more than fifty
queens, princesses, and even mini queens.  They
celebrate everything you can imagine: spots (fish),
sweet potatoes – you get the idea – and also Miss
Azalea Festival and Miss North Carolina (a natural,
as it is the North Carolina Azalea Festival).  

The old Natchez Trace and the new Natchez Trace Parkway

Early residents of the area, from the time of Christ
to around 600 years ago, built large mounds in the
area for their various religious ceremonies.  One
immense mound built on a hillside was a flattened
pyramid, about 30’ high, that was more than three
acres on the top with two mounds above that—one
on each end.  The below-pictured mound is atop
the base mound.  

We spent a couple of days bird watching.  At Lake
Martin we observed thousands of birds including
many Roseate Spoonbills roosting.  We’ve never
seen so many, including the Everglades.  At Avery
Island, below, we saw a couple of thousand egrets
roosting on a pier that had been built for them.

So, what else do you associate with Louisiana
besides the Mardi Gras?  Did you say “Cajun”?  
What makes it real Cajun?  Tabasco, of course.  
So, we visited the Tabasco plant, below.  Here they
describe the planting and culture of the hot
peppers used to make this fiery liquid as well as
showing the stages of production.  

In addition we also visited a rice mill.  It has been in
use since the 1800s with the original leather belt
driven machinery.  Hardly state of the art.

Enjoy the freshness of spring, y’all  

OK, now we’ll tell you what we’ve been doing on this
trip.  We’ve been busy.  From Iuka we re-visited
Corinth to see the new interpretation center
describing the Civil War battles in Shiloh and
Corinth.  In addition to the carnage, the northern
victory cost the Confederacy its sole rail link from
east to west.  

Then heading south we took the Natchez Trace
Parkway.  Our idea of a parkway is the Merritt
Parkway in Connecticut – what a difference.  The
Natchez Trace was an old Indian trail from
Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi.  After the
settlers crossed the Appalachians they logged and
transported the logs to Mississippi, starting in the
Ohio valley down to New Orleans or Natchez.  They
floated barges downstream, sold the logs,
dismantled the barges and sold the lumber.  Then
the trip upstream – since they couldn’t float
upstream, they walked.  They took the old Natchez
trace, walking or on horseback over 600 miles to
get home.  In the 1830s steamboats enabled them
to ride home and the trace was no longer used.  
The “stands” where they had stayed went out of
business.  The parkway goes parallel to the old
trace and visitors can view its remnants

The Natchez Trace Parkway is now a gently curving
two-lane road that has numerous historic stopping
points along the way.
Vicksburg National Military Park has numerous
monuments marking the locations of many of the
fighting units.  In addition to land forces there were
several navy ships.  A unique display was of the
USS Cairo, below, which was the first ship ever
sunk by a mine.  Part of the engines, paddle
wheels, armor plate and wooden hull remain.  

Continuing south of Vicksburg we passed
numerous antebellum plantations.  Certainly, we
couldn’t resist visiting several.  Most plantations
were relatively small self-sufficient communities with
a dozen or so slaves and rather modest.  However,
a few were of major size supporting hundreds of
slaves.  The major crops of cotton or rice
depended upon the growing conditions, which vary
from one neighbor to another.  You would enjoy
visiting Nottoway Plantation in White Castle,
Louisiana, above, which is the grandest plantation
along the Mississippi.  It is said that some of the
staging for the movie Gone With The Wind were
recreations of this plantation.

Southern Louisiana just west of New Orleans is
bayou country.  There is much evidence of its
French heritage – some signs are bi-lingual and
many people have French family names.  The area
is strongly Catholic with stately churches.

Like most areas, the area dictates the life-style.  
Here you see rice farms, crawfish ponds, people
fishing or crabbing at the water’s edge of the
bayous, and numerous National Wildlife Areas.  
Alligators were in the canals that were along the
roadside.  Offshore oil platforms could be seen in
the Gulf of Mexico as we approached Texas.