Although President Lincoln described the Siege and Battle at Vicksburg as “the key to victory” of the Civil War, and Vicksburg is full of Civil War history, we opted to pass on seeing the battlefield, monuments, cemetery, U.S.S. Cairo, museum, etc. Civil War buffs we are not.
It was a bit of a dreary, rainy day in Vicksburg; however, we didn’t mind walking the town with our umbrellas in hand, after we took the hop on-hop off bus tour for an overview.
Being the glass buffs that we are, we chose to spend time viewing and learning about the six priceless Tiffany stained-glass windows at the Church of the Holy Trinity, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In all of Mississippi, there are only eleven Tiffany stained-glass windows, so the windows at this church are quite significant. A husband-wife docent team gave an informative talk about the gorgeous windows.
When the church was built, the original church windows were clear. The stained-glass windows were paid for by contributions from Civil War veterans around the country, dedicated to the soldiers who died in battle during the Siege of Vicksburg. The front wall windows were the first ones installed at the church as a memorial of reconciliation in the South following the Civil War. (It’s interesting to note that Vicksburg was 70% Union.)
Six of the windows were created by Tiffany Studios in New York under the supervision of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Opalescent glass was used for the windows, giving them a watercolor-like appearance. Tiffany felt that not only should the color be part of the design, but the texture as well; so, texture was added to the glass to give a life-like appearance. In one of the windows, the woman is wearing a robe that has wrinkles, created quite effectively with added layers of glass. Surprisingly, we were encouraged to go ahead and touch the textured glass in these priceless windows. (Since no insurance company will insure the church, a value for the windows cannot be determined.)
Tiffany was also a genius in how he worked with color to capture light. In this window, “The Good Shepard,” we were told that no matter what time of day or ambient light, the lantern always looks lit.
Having the opportunity to see and photograph those incredible windows was well worth visiting Vicksburg.
For a fun bit of nostalgia, we popped (no pun intended) into the nicely restored Biedenharn Candy Co. building to have a look around the Beidenharn Coca-Cola museum. Owned and operated by The Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, they did a nice job restoring the building and creating enjoyable exhibits about the Biedenharn family who were the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. Alongside reproductions of the first bottling equipment used to bottle the iconic soda-pop, they explained the bottling process. In addition, Coca-Cola memorabilia and advertising from past to present were on display.
Bruce and I also checked out the Old Courthouse Museum (built in 1859) and Lower Mississippi River Museum. Most memorable was exploring the river museum’s M/V Mississippi IV, a former river workboat that plied the river for the Corps for over thirty years and hosted public Mississippi River Commission (MRC) meetings, until she was decommissioned in 1993.
Headquartered in Vicksburg, the MRC was established by an act of Congress in 1879 with the purpose of controlling the Mississippi River. In addition, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has its research headquarters in Vicksburg, and the town boasts more Phd’s per capita than any city in the U.S.A. Who knew?
In addition to Cape Girardeau and Paducah, Vicksburg also did a wonderful job turning an ugly river flood wall into a beautiful work of art. Here are some of the murals that graced the wall where American Queen was tied up:
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