Tracing South

Imagine a protected, forested, 2-lane parkway that spans 715 km between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi. With virtually free camping. Away from the interstate highways. A route that was first used by Native Americans (Choctaw & Chikasaw) who then guided the early European and American explorers and pioneers, which served as a postal road during the era of Daniel Boone. A route that was critical to War of 1812, where indians were forcibly relocated (aka Trail of Tears), and later, where slaves were traded, and along which several key battles of the U.S. Civil War took place.

This is the Natchez Trace and it is little promoted but was a wonderful discovery as we made our way south from Nashville through Mississippi (and onwards to New Orleans).

parkway-sign

A Civil War Primer (as Canadians, we learn very little about this…but learning even a bit more helps put many of the current socio-political issues into perspective). The north-side divide is still evident in subtle and obvious ways. There are many, many civil war historians who spend their entire lives dissecting every aspect of this event, but as the saying goes, history is written by the victors. There’s always more to the story…or each American’s understanding thereof.

us-starts-civil-war

 

TENNESSEE TRACE

Cumberland region – we never heard of the Cumberland Presbyterians before. Also where Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark expedition) met his mysterious end as he was returning to Washington post-expedition to report to Jefferson. 

Shiloh – one of the major battles in the Civil War and one of the greatest losses of soldiers in 2 days (24,000 dead in 48 hours, April 6-7, 1862)

shiloh-cemetary

MISSISSIPPI TRACE

Corinth – another key battle site that included one of the few house to house battles in the city of Corinth, at the crossroads of two major railways. Now, Corinth is a great town to walk around and see all the restored houses from the Civil War period.

corinth

Between Corinth and Jackson – lovely scenery of the original trace (right) and the current roadway …

… boon docking at a rest area due to an impending tornado (didn’t hit but we had a full night of torrential rain, thunder and lightening that shook the van while lighting up the skies in a dazzling light show)…

and look what we woke up to after the storm…

morning-view

going for a hike in the Cypress Swamp…

Jackson (State Capital) – we did a 10-mile bike ride along the “multi-use” path into the city before driving through the city centre and visiting the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Crafts Center. Jackson is also home of Jim Henson’s “Kermit.”

Between Jackson and Vicksburg – random pics from small towns that border the parkway

Vicksburg – one of key Civil War battles and one of the bloodiest, in October 1862. After several failed attempts by the Union to take Vicksburg, the Confederate army ended up conceding as the Union essentially starved them out. This is also the site of the USS Cairo, the only remaining iron-sided wooden battleship that was part of the battle. Like Shiloh, Vicksburg is the site of a National Military Cemetery that contains about 17,000 graves, mostly unknown. Vicksburg is also a very pretty town, more so in preparations for Christmas, and a popular place for weekenders, weddings, and those that are interested in viewing all the antebellum and other architectural styles.

Stuart is protesting man’s inhumanity to man until he learns that the train track is still use…

Windsor Ruins (an old cotton plantation):

Natchez -a very interesting town at the Trace’s terminus. Inhabited by the Natchez indians until under French rule in the 18th C, and then an important centre for the cotton industry (known as “white gold”). It prides itself on its inclusion of “free men of color” and evidence for the wealth of plantation owners is still evident. We visited the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians (unfortunately much was under repair), the historical museum for Natchez (culture), and the Lower Mississippi River Museum.

natchez-under-rule

And a final thought from a sign in a shop window in Natchez…

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