A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.
Kathy and I are on our way for a 12 day road trip through the southern part of the United States. History is everywhere and we both really enjoy getting off the beaten path, taking a somewhat non-traditional vacation and just exploring and discovering. Here is our tentative (always subject to change if something more interesting or meaningful pops up) itinerary for the trip.
Departing from Minneapolis Minnesota.
We will spend the first night in the Mormon city of Nauvoo Illinois. In late 1839 arriving Mormons bought the small town of Commerce and in April 1840 it was renamed Nauvoo by Joseph Smith founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormon religion). 1844 marked a turning point for the Mormons, Smith was attacked and killed by a mob. At the time Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo and also running for the President of the United States. He was killed while jailed in nearby Carthage Illinois. Neither Kathy nor I are Mormons (Kathy is Catholic and dutifully suffers levels of guilt that only other Catholics can understand. I’m somewhat agnostic but the Buddhist philosophy makes a lot of sense to me). We both find the history of the Mormon church and Joseph Smith fascinating beyond belief.
Our next major destination will be Vicksburg Mississippi – lots of civil war history there. Kathy had two great great grandfathers in the Union forces at Vicksburg (shame they were on the wrong side; I grew up in Virginia and South Carolina). On the way to Vicksburg we will make a detour through Money Mississippi (population 155). Emmet Till (young black teenager from Chicago) was murdered in this small town. This was one of the defining moments in the civil rights movement in the South. The store in which Emmet was accused of acting inappropriately towards a white woman is still standing. Emmet Till was beaten beyond recognition but his mother insisted on having an open casket public funeral.
After visiting Vicksburg we are heading over to Natchez Mississippi. Natchez is one my favorite undiscovered towns in the South. Natchez had more antebellum millionaires who made their fortune from cotton than any other city in the South. Consequently the town has many beautiful antebellum southern mansions.
We then are heading up the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace (450 miles in length) starts in Nashville Tennessee and ends in Natchez Mississippi. It was originally a buffalo trail and is laden with history (prehistoric, Indian and early American including the civil war). Many interesting side trips are available along the way. Two civil war battlefields will be visited: Shiloh and Brice’s Crossing. Kathy loves to tramp around these historical sites. For me, civil war battlefields are somewhat part of a collective experience. If you’ve seen one you have seen them all. I will probably take an abbreviated tour of each then head back to the tourist center find a comfortable chair to do some relaxing and reading.
Another side trip will be to Tuscumbia Alabama, the hometown of Helen Keller. A truly inspirational figure. If someone who started out life deaf, dumb and blind can be happy and productive. Our puny little excuses for not living life fully pale in comparison.
Our last stop on the Natchez Trace will be Nashville. We will have dinner with some of Kathy’s online friends (genealogical research buddies).
In our living room at home, we have an oil painting of my great grandfather (Dabney Carr Harrison) who was killed in the civil war at Fort Donelson. We also have his diary that he carried onto the battlefield and records his last words before he died. We plan to visit Fort Donelson Tennessee, find his gravesite and pay our respects.
Two years ago we visited Normandy Beach in France where the allied invasion took place in World War Two. Obviously fascinating and profoundly moving. The most intense and emotional moment for me was visiting a small chapel that tended the wounded (Germans and Americans) while the battle was being fought and the violence raged. Sitting on the bloodstained pews that were used for the wounded soldiers is unforgettable. I’m not sure the horrors of war should ever be forgotten and thus explains our final visit .
Our last stop before we head home will be the Carnton Plantation (Franklin Kentucky) in which one of the beautiful old antebellum houses was converted into a civil war field hospital. The floors are still stained with blood from the wounded confederate soldiers. A wounded young soldier raised on the plantation requested to be brought home and died in the room where he was born. It’s way too easy to romanticize the civil war, forgetting the many who suffered and died.
I’m not sure you can categorize this as a “fun” vacation but it will certainly be a memorable one.