Friday, February 3, 2012

Vicksburg Part One

After we left Monroe, we headed east across the Mississippi River to stay in Vicksburg, Mississippi. What a thrill to go across that magnificent, historic river.

Looking south at dusk.

South of Vicksburg about 5 miles looking north.

This was shot with my Droid Bionic phone in panorama setting. This is 6 photos put together looking south to north.

The bridge across the river from Louisiana to the right into Mississippi to the left.

Going across eastern Louisiana we rode across the Mississippi River flood plain from centuries before. Naturally it was mostly flat until we got to Vicksburg where the town was high above the river with many hills and valleys. I asked the Park Ranger why were there hills there on not flat like the other flood plains. He said that the soil in Vicksburg is made up of loess soil (pronounced lois).

"The Vicksburg area is somewhat unique in a geological sense, in that it is located in one of the few areas of the country where loess soil has formed massive bluffs.  But what is "loess"?  Loess is a type of soil that has its origins in the last ice age 20,000 years ago.  At that time huge glaciers moved south out of the northern arctic.  As these glaciers advanced southward, they churned up the underlying rock, moving it along and grinding it into smaller pieces.  When temperatures started to rise, the glaciers stopped and began to retreat north again.  As they melted they dropped their loads of mixed-up rock.  Some of these rock remains were small enough to be caught up in the vast meltwater that was spawned by the shrinking glaciers.  The meltwater formed into braided streams that seeked the path of least resistance to the sea.  When the streams expended themselves and lost their energy, they dropped what gravel, sand, and mud they'd been carrying.  In some places these deposits were huge.  Over vast spans of time, prevailing winds lifted massive quantities of the finer and lighter material and brought it to rest in a narrow band stretching from present day Baton Rouge to Tennessee.  Vicksburg sits atop a portion of the loess band that accumulated a particularly thick deposit of material just east of the Mississippi River."  


"The loess soil has an interesting feature in that while this fine-particled material is very erodable when subjected to any sort of disturbance, it is able to hold its form almost indefinitely if cut vertically at right angles.  That is why there are some spectacular loess profiles exposed within the park and elsewhere."

We saw many vertical slopes around the town and wondered why there was no erosion. The answer was this loess soil that had blown across the country and settled in Vicksburg.
As you'll see in future blogs, many of the people in Vicksburg lived in caves to escape the shelling from the Union army and this soil allowed them to cut steep, vertical walls.

We originally to Vicksburg to see the battlefield site but there was so much else to see when we got there. They had a wonderful pharmacy downtown that was a must-see because it was supposed to have many old Civil War mementos from the battle....and it did not disappoint.

And old, original still.

No, these are not old bowling balls....
they're some of the cannonballs used to bombard the city by Union forces for over 30 days!
More armament used in shelling the city.

Read the bottom page, then look at the next photo to see the 13-inch mortar ball.

The 13-inch mortar ball. Can you imagine this thing coming down on you?

In the spring of 2011, the Mississippi River rose to flood levels and, in Vicksburg, the water levels rose to almost an all-time high. We took these photos down at the flood wall.
This is the COE flood water Gauge. the one at the second highest was the disastrous 1927 flood. The 2011 flood reached 57 feet. Downstream at Natchez the water reached over 64 feet!

Here's a before and after photo of the Yazoo & Mississippi Railroad Station:

 Some pretty dramatic photos of this historic flood were on display throughout the city.

Vicksburg has other sites that we'll share in our next couple of blogs including: The Confederate Cemetery, the local courthouse, the Vicksburg Battlefield and the restored ironclad, the Cairo.

Kim and Steve

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