Vicksburg on the river

At 6:30 in the morning, going down to check on my boat, I was greeted by a big, stern wheel paddle boat. It made me smile. Then I see Little Joy and I can see the tarp covering my gear is torn back. Crap. A plastic bin with all the food plus my Jetboil stove, fuel and little pot and pan set are gone. Crap.

The boat itself is untouched. My expensive PFD, the anchor, an umbrella and my never used crocs are still there. So is the big note saying please help me watch over my boat. Sigh.

I let out a breath and figured it was someone needing food more than me. Still I’m angry and have an uncomfortable feeling of being violated.

I rented a car and headed out to walmart to replace the gear and buy two weeks worth of food. I had planned to stay overnight in Baton Rouge in about a week but not now. I’m not leaving my boat anywhere until I reach the Gulf.

There is a guy with a red Trump 2020 hat on near me as I check out stoves in Walmart. I say hello and we chat about camping equipment. “I’m worried about the electrical grid.” He says. “I’m worried the whole world is going to hell.” He added. I say nothing. A few hours ago my trust in people was tested and now I might tend to agree with him. No I’m not going to get drawn into some paranoid, people suck, world. He said goodbye and walked away.

With $300 worth of food and other supplies, including fresh donuts, (they always make me feel better) I went to the one place I looked forward to visiting on the whole trip, Vicksburg National Battlefield.

Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Appomattox. I have been to every major Civil War battlefield in the East but I haven’t visited any in the west.

In 1863 Gen Grant marched his Union army south past Vicksburg on the Louisiana side of the river. On April 16th a fleet of Union steamboats ran past Vicksburg, where Little Joy and Margaritaville are now, and past the bluff which bristled with cannons. They took a beating but made it past then ferried Grant’s army of 35,000 men and 60 cannon to the east bank of the river. It was the largest amphibious operation prior to WWII.

Once across Grant’s army fought 5 battles, capturing Jackson, the Capital of MS, and trapping the Confederate army inside Vicksburg. The city was a fortress and could not be taken by direct assault. Grant laid siege and pounded the city day and night from the east and from the river on the west. Citizens, to protect themselves, dug caves into the clay hillsides and lived there until the siege was over.

The city finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July again for 81 years.

On the way back I stopped to do much needed laundy. The stink of my dirty clothes in the rubber dry bag made my nose burn. ‘Excuse me,” I said to a black woman near me, “the soap machine doesn’t work…’ I don’t work here.’ she replied. “No I just want to buy one of your tide pods” I said holding up a dollar. She smiled and said take two and wouldn’t take my money.

At the pub I had a burger and beer and listened to two black guys plays the blues for a room full of young white people. They played Purple Rain by Prince. I smiled.

I woke up this morning to this.
Everytown has flood reminders on the wall
About four miles south of Old town Vicksburg where the river now runs
The battlefield just outside of town.
USS Cairo, an ironclad river ship salvaged from the Yazoo river. James Eads, largely self educated, designed and built seven of these boats from the keel up in just five months. All seven saw action on the mississippi during the Civil War. He then went on to build 23 more before war’s end. Just after the war he designed and built the Eads bridge in St Louis, my favorite bridge. Later he designed levees in the lower mississippi that cut and maintained a navigable channel.

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