Our next stop was Vicksburg, Mississippi. Our visit began with dinner at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, where we had the most fabulous fried green tomatoes I’d ever eaten. This dish takes a healthy green tomato, coats it with flour and other ingredients, fries it and covers it with a rich sauce. Only in the South can such a healthy food be turned into such a fattening (but delicious!) dish.
The next day, we visited the Vicksburg National Military Park, one of nine National Military Parks, which are battle sites preserved by the United States federal government because of their national importance. The park commemorates the Battle of Vicksburg and its significance as a turning point in the Civil War. Visitors access the park via a 16 mile tour road, which parallels Union siege and Confederate defensive lines, and contains over 1330 monuments, markers, tablets and plaques making it one of the most heavily monumented parks in the world.
Although I haven’t had as much of an interest in Civil War history as in other areas, I found this unique park intriguing. It’s located in a beautiful outdoor setting which is home to various animal and plant species.
The park also houses a restored Union gunboat, the USS Cairo, and an adjacent museum with artifacts from the gunboat, as well as the Vicksburg National Cemetery with more than 18,000 graves, of which 13,000 are unknown. Soldiers from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict and Vietnam War are interred or memorialized there.
It was not only a beautiful drive but also provided a unique perspective of a real battle. Once again our America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass paid off.
In our search for good natural foods we discovered The Tomato Place – “Part old-fashioned produce stand, part cafe, and part craft gallery, this colorful, quirky place sits along US 61 just south of Vicksburg. It offers locally grown fruit and vegetables, homemade jams and preserves, all-fruit smoothies, and fresh squeezed lemondade. Diners can enjoy tasty po’ boys, BLTs, sweet potato fries, and peach cobbler.”– 2011 Rand McNally Best of the Road® – and THEY have the best fried green tomatoes! Southern food is dangerous!
Next, we visited Vicksburg’s most historic structure, the Old Court House, built in 1858 and named one of the 20 most outstanding courthouses in America by the American Institute of Architects. Its collection of thousands of artifacts includes, of course, items from the Civil War, antique furniture, and antebellum clothing.
My favorite was the original Teddy Bear given to a local child by Theodore Roosevelt. It’s a little long, but I love the story of the Teddy Bear:
“It all began when Theodore Roosevelt was on a bear hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi on November 14, 1902. Unlike other hunters in the group, he had not located a single bear. Roosevelt’s assistants cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree. They summoned Roosevelt and suggested that he shoot it. Viewing this as extremely unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear. The news of this event spread quickly through newspaper articles across the country. The articles recounted the story of the president who refused to shoot a bear. However, it was not just any president, it was Theodore Roosevelt the big game hunter! A political cartoonist by the name of Clifford Berryman read the article and decided to lightheartedly lampoon the president’s refusal to shoot the bear. Berryman’s cartoon appeared in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. A Brooklyn candy shop owner by the name of Morris Michtom saw the cartoon and had an idea. He and his wife Rose were also makers of stuffed animals, and Michtom decided to create a stuffed toy bear and dedicate it to the president who refused to shoot a bear. He called it ‘Teddy’s Bear’. After receiving Roosevelt’s permission to use his name, Michtom mass produced the toy bears which were so popular that he soon founded the Ideal Toy Company. To this day the Teddy Bear has worldwide popularity.”
A short but interesting visit.