Friday, April 29, 2016

A Rainy Day In Vicksburg

On our last day in Vicksburg, rain swept through the city, making it a perfect day to visit museums.

Vicksburg's Old Court House

Providentially, I had taken photos of the Old Court House's exterior the day before the deluge.  Isn't it pretty?  It towers above the city which is why it made a perfect lookout for the Confederates during the Civil War.  Since 1948, it has been a museum filled with a wealth of items that reflect the town's heritage.

Looking at the exhibits of antebellum and Civil War artifacts consumed my time there so that I didn't take many photos worth preserving.

But I did learn about Confederate Lt. General James Pemberton's agonizing decision to surrender the city he was told to hold at all costs.  Once he realized that General Joseph Johnston was not coming to his aid, he seemed to have little choice.  General "Unconditional Surrender" Grant showed him no mercy in the terms that turned the town over to Union forces.  

Once the surrender was settled on July 4th, 1863, Union soldiers moved into the town and forced many of its citizens to sign loyalty oaths. The Reconstruction years were particularly hard.  Is it any wonder that the people of Vicksburg refused to celebrate the 4th of July until 82 years afterward?  That fact was recorded in the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper dated July 6, 1945, a copy of which was displayed in the museum. 

A room devoted to exhibits of articles owned by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina was informative, especially the information about the arrest and two-year incarceration of Davis in Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Varina's tireless efforts to have him released.

Of course, the museum had lots of other artifacts that told the history of the city.  

One that caught my eye was the cartoon pictured below.  Did you know that the history of Teddy Bears is tied to Vicksburg?  Me, neither, but here's the story!  During a bear hunt at Smedes and Kelso Plantations approximately 24 miles north of Vicksburg, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to kill a bear and missed.  One of the men with the hunting party captured a bear cub and tied it to a thicket of sugar canes, making the animal a sure target, but Roosevelt, seeing the frightened cub, refused to shoot it.  

Cartoon's caption reads "Drawing the Line in Mississippi"

A political cartoonist from the Washington Post, Clifford Berryman, captured the event in a sketch for the paper.  The cartoon was seen by a Brooklyn, New York, toy manufacturer named Morris Mitchum who persuaded his wife to create a stuffed bear which he then mass-produced as Teddy Bears.  And the rest, so they say, is history!

Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum

Bottling Coca-Cola in order to sell to the masses was the brainstorm of Vicksburg resident Joseph Biedenharn.  

Joseph Biedenharn

First concocted by Dr. John S. Pemberton in 1866 in Atlanta, Coca-Cola was initially sold only as a fountain drink.  Its syrup had to be mixed by the fountain with carbonated water--soda water.  

Bottling apparatus

But Biedenharn had the bright idea of bottling it to sell the fizzy soda (as the museum's web site says)  "to those who could not always make it to town to visit one of his three soda fountains."  

The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum holds all kinds of memorabilia related to the popular soft drink. 

Soda Fountain

There's a 1900 soda fountain and an early bottling machine, advertising posters and more Coca-Cola bottles and cans than I'd ever imagined. 

Both museums were fun ways to spend a rainy day!  

Looking in all directions from the rooftop

But that evening, when the sun came out, Tim and I rode the elevator to the top of the old 1st National Bank for a bird's-eye view of the Mississippi River and Vicksburg's historic downtown.  

Dinner at the open-air rooftop restaurant named 10 South while watching the sun set was a great way to end the day!

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