We were not able to stay long at the park because we arrived around 4 p.m., just prior to closing, but we had a wonderful time viewing the park movie, visiting the gift shop and driving the self tour around the park. Our tour of the park reminded me of the importance of National Parks in preserving our history, and in turn, helping us to relive our ancestors' experiences. When I learned that my ancestor was captured outside of Vicksburg, I began reading many books and stories of the battles there, but those accounts are nothing compared to walking the land. I was able to see the steep hills, feel the heat and see the trenches (which are still there) that he had to contend with. None of which I could grasp through a book.
Started in 1916, the National Park Service manages 84 million acres of land, 2,461 national historic landmarks, 582 national natural landmarks, 393 national parks and 40 national heritage areas (as of 2008). The Service's mission is "to care for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage." That is a mission that should be near and dear to any genealogist's heart. Walking through any one of our National Parks or Landmarks is a phenomenal way to walk in our ancestor's footsteps and should be considered when planning research trips or vacations.
For more information about the National Park Service, explore their website. Each of the larger parks and landmarks have their own page with historical information and numerous photographs.