We left the Mermaid Hammock the morning of April 12th. Our aim was to camp through the weekend along the coast of Florida’s panhandle. We had a couple beautiful, full-moon-nights on the Forgotten Coast. But camping through the weekend was sidelined by a three day weekend, and we had to move along, away from the coast. Time for us to just go get lost!
Not sure what to expect for camping prospects, we were pleasantly surprised. Campgrounds were near capacity, but had room for us. We tried to locate a bird song we’d never heard before, but couldn’t find a thing.
When the song continued after the sun set, it dawned on us it probably wasn’t a bird, but some insect. (Not the high-decibel screech of the cicada.) Soon the bullfrog’s baritone “aa-rooom” joined in. Add the hum of crickets and a small-frog song – “reeb, reeb, reeb, reeb” . . .next thing you know there were bouncing fireflies, and they became a virtual conductor’s baton. Watching our fire subdue, and the stars bring it on, we had ourselves a symphony brought to us by nature. We took it in until we couldn’t keep our eyes open, and crawled in to our cozy shelter.
The “music” was seducing, but we’d occasionally alert to a random splash of water that broke the rhythm. Then, in the middle of the night there was a distinct “heh, heh, heh.” A seriously creepy, “heh, heh, heh.” I’d pull back the curtain, squint and comb the outlying area, but saw nothing, so I convinced myself it was just another type of frog. In the morning, Woody confirmed he heard the same three syllable call, apparently it ruffled him and he had a “Jason moment” but filed it under “frog” just as quickly.
Mississippi River Music to Mississippi River War
Following the Old Natchez Trace northward we landed at our next “pin,”
Vicksburg, the Key to the South. A strategic Confederate river fortress, one of the more remarkable campaigns of the American Civil War took place here. The National Park presented the 47 days of the siege in great detail, along with the historical context. In a thoughtful, well-produced video we saw the siege come to life, for soldiers and civilians. From the museum we downloaded their dedicated app and it guided us through the 17 mile drive with narration, animated maps, video, and text – you could write your Civil War thesis with this one app! I’ll share a few of my takeaways.
The City of Vicksburg had more memorials, more historical markers, more landmarks, more bronze plaques than any little city I’ve seen. One of the more monumental monuments is the Illinois Memorial. Fashioned after Rome’s Pantheon, sixty bronze tablets name all 36,325 Illinois men who served in the Vicksburg campaign.
There was only one wartime structure in the entire park which survived the battle, the home of James & Adeline Shirley. James was a supporter of the Union – his export customers were wealthy Northerners. Confederates burned down all their outbuildings, to clear the battlefield. The soldier ordered to burn down the residence was shot while in the act of starting the fire.
I learned that many civilians had relocated themselves to manmade (more likely, slave-made) caves. Basements were not sufficient refuge to the heavy canon fire. Opportunistic capitalists even became cave realtors, either selling the dug-outs, or leasing them for $15 a month. Civilians would make their caves homey with area rugs and furniture. I read journal entries that expounded the certain claustrophobia of this life, as well as one that actually enjoyed the cocooning effects of a cave dweller.
Heading Further North along the Mississip
We continued along route 61 heading to the birthplace of the blues. There was so much to share about that visit, that I’m going to post it in next weeks newsletter. Stay tuned!