Southern Comfort Zone

up the Mississippi River from New Orleans on the Great River
Road, we encountered the epitome of the Old South. All along
the river north to Baton Rouge, Plantation Country lives
on in well preserved splendor. Cotton
was not king down here, unlike the plantations throughout the
rest of The South, these gave us some sugar.

first stop was one of the best known and preserved plantations
in America, Oak Alley. Named for the rows of Live Oak
trees that frame the path from the river to the front
porch, the plantation gives an eye-opening
peek into Antebellum life.

took the informative and entertaining tour after a stroll
around the grounds. Our guide gave us the full scoop. The
plantation’s namesake trees were planted by an unknown early
settler a century before the mansion was ever conceived.

In 1839, Jacques Telesphore Roman picked the spot as the perfect
site for a monstrous dream home for his new wife. The idea was
to bribe his city-

girl bride into wanting to live out in the boonies,
a whopping twenty-five miles from New Orleans. Of course back
then, that was a full day’s travel. Mrs. Roman must have been
unimpressed, because it didn’t work. By all accounts she seemed
to prefer her big city life.

Civil War took a terrible toll on the plantation and it
was auctioned off in 1866. In a sad state by the 1920s,
it was bought by Andrew and Josephine Stewart who restored to
its past and current grandeur. The Stewarts lived in and loved
Oak Alley until they drew their last breath.

We both
had a familiar feeling about the place — especially the signature
oak-lined walkway — and learned why at the end of our tour.
Oak Alley is a bit of a movie star having made numerous screen
appearances. Yup, that was Oak Alley in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte,
The Long Hot Summer, Primary Colors, Midnight Bayou and even
a guest spot on Days of Our Lives on the small screen.

After our
history lesson and some interior gawking, we completed our Oak
Alley Oop with a bite to eat. Many restored plantations now
feature restaurants ranging from casual to anything but. Lucky
for us, Oak Alley is a nonchalant spot for a quick lunch. Unlike
our next stop.

up River Road lies the mother of all Louisiana plantations,
Nottoway. The largest in The South and perhaps the most
elegant too. We knew we were
out of our element here, so we decided that a quick sneak peek
around the grounds for some photos would do.

is truly a remarkable monument to a bygone era. As splendid
as Oak Alley is, this dwarfs it. Twice the size and twice the
opulence. Finished just before the Civil War broke out, Nottoway
was the pinnacle of plantation one-upmanship.

We didn’t stick around though, since we hadn’t bought a ticket
and were sure to be kicked out.

we had some more solemn history further up the river at
the National Military Park in Vicksburg Mississippi to
take in.

all accounts, the fall of Vicksburg in 1863 was a huge
turning point in the War Between the
States. It meant that the Union had gained control of the Mississippi
River, the most vital supply line in the South.

Grant tried to take the city by force, but as we could see
while we took the driving tour of the park, the Confederate
defenses were impenetrable. Dug in on the top of the bluffs,
the rebel fighters could
shoot down on the invaders and repel their advances. After losing
numerous troops in his initial attacks, the future president decided

circle the city and lay in for a long siege.

forty-seven days the city’s residents, and the soldiers
protecting them, were bombarded with cannon fire from
Union batteries surrounding the town and gunboats on the
river. All supplies in and out of the city were cut off,
effectively starving them out. Finally, on July 4, 1863,
Confederate General John C. Pemberton capitulated and

residents of Vicksburg refused to celebrate The Fourth
of July until

the loop through the park, we could really see the how the
siege took shape. Up the eastern road, we followed the Union
lines, then going down the west side we were tracing the
Confederate fortifications. Both sides had earthen
walls and trenches, often in plain sight of each other, only a
few dozen yards apart.

A highlight
of Vicksburg National Military Park is the USS Cairo, an ironclad
gunboat from the Civil War era. Brought up from the bottom of
the Yazoo River about fifty years ago, the wooden hull and framework
is made all the more interesting because rather than replace
the original wood with a replica, it has been braced and supported
in its current condition. This allows visitors to complete the
restoration with their imaginations.

Cairo was not involved in the siege on Vicksburg, having sunk
several months prior, but it is a fascinating look into the
ultimate military technology of the day. The armoured warship,
one of the “Pook’s Turtles” named for their designer
Samuel M. Pook, was remarkably preserved for a century in the
silt at the bottom of the river before being raised and restored.

city of Vicksburg is typical of a smaller southern river
city. Beautiful neighborhoods with gorgeous old antebellum
homes, an ornate old courthouse, an aging waterfront and
wait, what’s this? One huge
exception! Giant, cheesy, fake riverboats.

Yes, the
river is lined with gaudy, neon bedecked, flashy

decorated up to look like old-time riverboats. They are, of
course, actually casinos, on barges. Barges that will not ever,
under any circumstances, go anywhere. But to satisfy Mississippi’s
law specifying that casinos must be on water, these “boats”
are permanently tied to the shore here.

Being civic
minded travelers, we figured we should contribute to the local
economy, and contribute we did. In very little time at all those
riverboat gamblers had removed much of our funds from our possession.

It seems
some things haven’t changed much at all along old man river.

David &

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1 thought on “Southern Comfort Zone”

  1. Didn’t celebrate July 4 until 1945? I always thought the biggest mistake the United States ever made was not letting the South secede in 1861. Is it too late to let them go now?

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