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Vicksburg: Grant Crosses the Mississippi Itinerary

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

6:30 AM. Meet at the Hampton Inn to pick up your reading books and enjoy the hospitality hour at the hotel (which starts at 5 PM). At 7, we will adjourn to the meeting room for an opening lecture. Parker takes great pride in his PowerPoint presentations and it shows. His lecture will bring you up to date on the campaign thus far, tying it into the greater geopolitical considerations and detailing the operations and diversions Grant constructed for this plan. We will enjoy pizza during his lecture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

8:00 AM. Today we will do a quick review of the Bayou expeditions at Grant’s Canal on the Louisiana side of the river. We will then pick up Grant and his encampments near Young’s Point, discussing the winter of 1863. We will talk about supplies, show you the remains of the Duckport Canal, and travel to a major supply base near Milliken’s Bend, where black Union soldiers fought long before the storied 54th Massachusetts. While headed to lunch in Tallulah, we will stop at the forgotten grave of one of the great diarists of the period, Kate Stone. Her diary, Brokenburn, is compelling and has been included on our suggested reading list.

This afternoon we will strike out in the footsteps of Major General John McClernand and his 13th Corps. Although Grant disliked the politician, he respected his commitment to the strategic plan and knew he could count on him to do his best (unlike his doubting friend, Sherman). We travel via plantation homes at Pointe Clear, Somerset, Douglas, Wyoming, Franklin, and Winter Quarters before alighting at Choctaw Bayou on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. After discussing the April 27 skirmish there and Sherman’s diversion, we will return to Vicksburg for the night. We provide lunch, with dinner on your own. A free Happy Hour provides the means to enjoy a robust critique of the day.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

8:00 AM. Today is devoted to an underappreciated element of Grant’s strategic vision. Grierson’s Raid, which was romanticized by John Wayne and William Holden in the epic film Horse Soldiers, was designed to occupy Pemberton’s cavalry and turn the eyes of the Confederate commander away from Grant’s crossing and toward the east. While no one knows exactly where Grierson went, we do have some vector points where we can intercept his operations starting with Hazelhurst Station. We can then follow elements of his force to Gallatin and onward to Thompson’s Plantation, where he spent the night as Grant prepared to assault Grand Gulf.

After lunch, we will travel to Union Church, where a “bluff” worked to perfection and drew Wirt Adams’ cavalry away from Brookhaven, where it was screening the Confederates’ southern flank. The remainder of the afternoon will trace Grierson to Walls Bridge. Along the way, we will pass the site where the legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was killed in a plane crash in 1977. We will try to return to the hotel in time for Happy Hour but may be a little late. We will provide lunch, and you’ll have dinner on your own.

Friday, February 23, 2018

8:00 AM. Today we will pick up the Confederate’s response to Grant’s move following Edward Tracy’s Brigade to Hankinson’s Ferry and then on to Grand Gulf. The balance of the morning is spent at Grand Gulf, where the Confederates successfully chased away Grant’s initial effort to cross the river. For lunch, we will have a stop worthy of dinner. Mr. D’s in Lorman, Mississippi, has become a tradition with fresh (never frozen) fried chicken and scores of vegetables and fresh cooked cobbler with ice cream. It is a formula for fat, but with feature articles in Southern Living and other culinary magazines it is a “must” stop. Mr. D is the show, but the food runs a very competitive second.

We will then travel to Bruinsburg via Rodney, where BGES enjoys exclusive access to this critically strategic point. We will show you how the river has shifted and take you to sites not otherwise available to the public. At Windsor Plantation Ruins (one of the iconic ruins of American landscape and a place where Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift filmed Raintree County), we will lay out Grant’s plans in the roadbed of the Rodney Road behind Bethel Church. It is then back to Vicksburg for another Happy Hour. We provide lunch.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

8:00 AM. Start our final day marching with Baldwin’s Confederate Brigade to the pending fight at Port Gibson. We’ve included a number of stops looking at the Confederates’ defenses along Redbone Ridge, Redbone Church, Hankinson’s, Buena Vista, Grindstone Ford, and the old trace toward Port Gibson. We will self-cater our lunch.

After lunch, we will travel the old roads to the Shaifer House and fight the battle of Port Gibson. In doing so we will examine the axis of operations along the Rodney and Plantation Roads. It is February and the vegetation will be down, allowing us to see many viewsheds not otherwise open. As the Confederates fall back defeated, we will visit Earl Van Dorn’s grave in Wintergreen Cemetery. Our program will end with a trip to the banks of the Little Bayou Pierre where Grant has now achieved his objective of getting on the same side of the river as his enemy and discover how he has now uncovered Grand Gulf as a logistics base for the coming campaign.

We will return to the hotel, where we will then gather and go to Rowdy’s for another BGES tradition–our final night at this modest catfish joint. We have been coming for nearly 20 years. Following an evening of fellowship, we will say “later” and look forward to greeting many of you again for Part 4.

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