National Geographic : 1963 Jul
have been ended then. Abraham Lincoln said as much himself. "Gettysburg was a battle of 'ifs,' " Dr. Til berg summed up for me. "Meade finally did pursue; he was getting set to attack Lee at the Potomac, where rain had swollen the river and kept the Southerners from crossing. But the river fell before Meade was ready, and Lee got across safely into Virginia." With such things in mind, I drove down the Emmitsburg Road one moonlit night on my way back to Washington and stopped near the high-water mark of the Confederacy, there by the copse of trees. Dim to the west were the rounded rims of the mountains; dark across the hollow was the line of Seminary Ridge. I thought of Lincoln's words in the national cemetery: "It is rather for us to be here dedi cated to the great task remaining before us. ... " Those words, it came to me, mean more than ever-and so does Gettysburg. Vicksburg: Challenge on the Bluffs What then, I wondered, are the words for Vicksburg? Vicksburg was not, as Gettysburg was, an innocent victim trapped between two mighty armies. No, Fortress Vicksburg had asked for it. This bastion on the Mississippi's bluffs commanded a three-mile sweep, thus keeping the Union from control of the river. War had to come to it. I began seeking the meaning of Vicksburg on a rainy summer afternoon in Vicksburg National Military Park, whose 1,648 acres curve behind the city in a crescent from north to south. The rain had delayed Louisiana Mississippi Day ceremonies; only the die hards remained, steaming in their sealed cars. Finally the downpour ended and the loud speaker announced our reward: The program would go on. Out came the sun; then the in vocation. "We come to thank Thee," said the Reverend Dr. John G. McCall, "for the great ness of our Nation." Lieutenant Governor C. C. Aycock of Loui Fortress Vicksburg still commands river side bluffs, but the Mississippi no longer flows past its front door. In 1876 the river cut the new course at upper center, shaving off a loop that had slowed currents and made Vicksburg a safe harbor. Engineers later diverted the Yazoo River into the old channel at right. A century ago Union gun boats on the river lobbed shells into the town; Confederate cannon returned fire from Fort Hill (foreground). KODACHROMEBY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHERJAMES P. BLAIR © NG.S .