Deep South Tour, Day 1

Mike Yawn, Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Political Science Junior Fellows are off on another adventure.   From January 7 – 13, the students will visit a number of venues with historical or cultural significance, and in some cases, some entertainment value as well.  The students will visit four state capitol buildings, three art museums, numerous historic homes, Vicksburg National Military Park, and spend considerable time soaking and poking in Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The first day will be the toughest.  In addition to lasting from 2:00 am through 10:00 pm or so on Friday, we’ll also see the least.  After that, we’ll settle into days with less travel and more sites culminating with two days in The Big Easy!

Ryan Brim, Friday, January 7, 2011

3:21 pm: Hello, my name is Ryan.  I’m 11 and I am from Huntsville, Texas. This is my second time blogging.  I’ve been to a lot of the states we are touring, but it is my first time visiting Georgia. I hope it will be as cool as my last trip to the Great Lakes Region.

This morning started at around 2am. I quickly got dressed and awaited my long day ahead. For most of the trip through Texas and Louisiana, I slept. I woke up just in time to see the Mississippi River. In less than 5 minutes, I saw at least 3 liquor stores and a “pour house” bar.  Now I know why the state is called “MissisSIPpi”.

We arrived just around on time to Vicksburg, MS where I got to see the National Battlefield Memorial.  There are at least 17,000 Union soldiers buried there. I wonder how many Confederate soldiers died?

After the battlegrounds, we were hungry so we ate at Bovina Café which was very good. It offers soul food, a little like Down Home Cooking in Huntsville.

9:26 pm: For the next part of our trip, we drove all the way to Birmingham, Alabama. But like the part through Louisiana, I slept until we reached the park with the statue of Vulcan, who was the blacksmith to the Roman gods. We took the elevator up to the top.  It was very windy on the outside deck.  After I looked down through the grated balcony, I saw then why my mom did not want to go.

Birmingham at night, from the Vulcan Statue

After hanging out with a bunch of statues all day we ate at Momma Goldberg’s Deli and it was delicious. We could not find our right hotel at first, but we managed to find eventuallyu. Well, I better go to bed and get ready for the long day ahead tomorrow.

Dana Angello, Friday, January 7, 2011

2:30 pm: It seems like just yesterday we were heading off to Ohio. Oh, how quickly time passes because we are departing again for another trip. This time, though, we are touring the Deep South—Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. We left Huntsville at about 2:30 (only a half hour late) with a car full of goodies thanks to Stephanie and Mike!

Our first stop was Vicksburg, Mississippi, where lots of historic events took place. In fact, the town is not only a Main Street community, but also a Preserve America community. Basically, the City has been recognized as making an effort to preserve its history.  One way it has done that is by turning the former Courthouse, the site where Ulysses S. Grant began his political career, into a museum. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to tour inside, but we read the plaques and take pictures of the great architecture.

While driving alongside the river we came across a wall of murals, which outlined the history of the area. It was as far back as prehistoric Native Americans and went all the way through to modern events. The subjects spanned from Willie Dixon, who grew up in Vicksburg and wrote songs for musicians such as Led Zeppelin and Muddy Waters, to the time William McKinley visited the town where “cotton was king.”

The history did not stop there in the fascinating city of Vicksburg. In fact, it had been the setting of one of the most deadly battles in the Civil War, which is now a national park, filled with plaques and memorials of those who died.  Still on the land were the cannons used in the battle and it was obvious where the soldiers dug trenches to protect themselves from approaching troops.  My favorite story was when the Union soldiers had developed a plan to blow up a Confederate fort by building tunnels underneath it. Once the tunnels were finished, they the filled underground channels with land mines and exploded them. According to the plaque, by the time the smoke cleared the entire fort was under the control of the Union. Still visible is the crater created by the exploding land mines. It is hard to believe that any soldier endured forty-seven days of battle on such hilly, rough terrain. They are truly heroes.

Texas Memorial at the Vicksburg Military Park

By the time we had finished driving/walking through the park, we were starving and found Café Bovina, a locally-owned restaurant serving down home cookin’. The portions of jambalaya and three vegetables were enormous. Even Mike did not entirely clean his plate. While we were ordering, one patron picked up on the fact that we were from out of town. As we spoke for a few minutes, she admitted that she had graduated from SFA. It’s a small world! Who would’ve thunk it, that in Vicksburg, MS, we would meet one of Sam Houston’s rivals?

6:00pm: Once we finished our delicious meal, we headed off to Jackson to visit the Old Capitol Museum. The building was a gorgeous Greek Revival design. It had been renovated to accommodate a museum and had fascinating history. In fact, the Secession Convention had been held there and the building still houses the 150-year-old Secession Ordinance, which was signed by many Confederate leaders who decided they no longer wanted to be part of the Union. We were even able to take a few pictures that may be a part of our Then & Now Art Gallery in April.

We did some driving around town before leaving for Birmingham and ran into a few entertaining stores—“Beauty Zone & 88₡ Store” and “Ghetto Glory.” I’m not sure exactly what the latter store sells, but I wasn’t too eager to find out. I will just stick with having an amusing picture of the sign.

10:00 pm: Once we grew tired of that, we started toward Birmingham to see the Vulcan Statue. The statue is a symbol of the industry which built the city. It oversees the city atop a hill and the statue itself is about six stories in the air. We took an elevator up so that we were almost as high as the statue. The wind made being so high a little frightening, but Amanda & I weren’t scared. Professor Yawn and Ryan, however, could barely step away from the elevator. I must admit, it was quite amusing and I recorded it with the camcorder to use as blackmail later.

That was the last adventure of the day and thank goodness because we were all exhausted by the time we were done. I’m ready to rest up so that we can make it to Atlanta tomorrow and then Savannah on Sunday!

Amanda Ketchum, Friday, January 8, 2011

10:30 pm: Hello, my name is Amanda Ketchum.  I am a sophomore at Sam Houston State University and I am majoring in Political Science and Economics.

Today was the first day of our week long road trip along the Gulf Coast states.  We started by getting together and leaving Huntsville somewhere around three o’clock this morning.  The three cities we stopped in today included Vicksburg, Mississippi; Jackson, Mississippi; and Birmingham, Alabama.

In Vicksburg, we stopped at an art mural that runs part-way along the Mississippi River.  The paintings told of the history of Vicksburg and other significant factors of the area.  I loved these paintings because the choice of colors and style of painting used created another, underlying themes and symbolism, rather than just a plain story line.  Another stop we made in Vicksburg was the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum; this was the site of a 47 day battle between the Union and Confederates during the Civil War.  Seeing this battlefield gave me a whole new appreciation for what these soldiers went through.  There is only so much one can understand from hearing about what it was like.  Being able to actually see the terrain they had to fight on and see all the lives that were lost really helped with my overall perspective of the Civil War.  We also saw the USS Cario, a Naval Ship from the battle.  It still amazes me how much people could do with what they had back then and how much technology really has helped us.  The highlight, however, was probably the Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg.  All the states that fought in the battle erected some sort of memorial, but Illinois’s was the best.

Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park

The next city we stopped in was Jackson, Mississippi.  My favorite thing we did while in the city was go to the Old Capitol Museum.  I found it interesting how small the chamber hall was as compared to others.  One thing that I really liked about the Old Capitol Museum was the hands-on interaction with exhibits.

The last city for the day was Birmingham, Alabama where we went to the Vulcan Statue.    We went up 56ft to the top of the statue.  It was a little uneasy-feeling at the top because of the platform we had to stand on squeaked, but the view of the city from the top was amazing.

All in all, it was a great day and I cannot wait for our next destination, Atlanta, Georgia.


One thought on “Deep South Tour, Day 1

  1. I think it is wonderful that the War Memorial at Vicksburg is so elaborate. Often the South is viewed as the bad guys in history, but they were fighting for what they believed it and they were tired of being bullied by the North. Those (mostly) young men who gave their lives deserve to be remembered.

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