Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center – 150th anniversary must-see!
One of the most interesting places that we visited this past winter was actually an unplanned day excursion to a National Park that we weren’t even planning on hitting!
Being a bit of Civil War buffs, we knew that while we were heading through Tennessee we would HAVE to visit Shiloh. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of, and is now one of the most well-known battles of, the Civil War; we made a detour and fit in a day at Shiloh while we were heading through TN.
Shiloh was a beautiful park, and we were content to tour the grounds, watch the film on the battle, complete the Jr. Ranger program, and peruse the museum, with Shiloh as our only destination for the day. However, while we were at Shiloh, and the kids were getting set up for the Jr. Ranger program, we got to talking with the rangers there and they asked if we were going to make the short jaunt down to visit the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. We hadn’t been planning on it; we figured that it would be a bit of a dud – after all, how great could it be if it doesn’t even have it’s own National Park page!?! But, the rangers talked us into the short trip… wasn’t a hard sell after they told us that it was only a 20 minute drive, and that Corinth has their own Jr. Ranger program, with their own badge! So, the kids got their Shiloh Jr. Ranger booklets, we hopped right back in the van, and we headed south to visit the Corinth C.W. Interpretive Center. And boy, were we glad that we did!
Corinth may be part of the Shiloh National Park, but it is worthy of exclusive recognition. It’s newer visitor’s center intrigued us from the moment that we stepped out of the van – the sidewalk leading up to the building is inset with metal replicas of items that may have been left on the field after the siege and battle at Corinth. Because Corinth was a crossroads for the 2 major rail lines that fed the south, it was a strategic point and both armies desperately wanted control of the town. The south needed it to transport supplies and troops, the north wanted it to break the lateral communication lines of the south. The siege of the town, and then subsequent battle, apparently left all sorts of items strewn over the landscape, and the park service brings the background of the park to the present with the treasure hunt that is sure to ensue once the kids set eyes on the first gun/boot/mess kit/kepi they find in the sidewalk or strewn in the manicured lawn alongside.
Once in the spacious, newly built visitor’s center, there is a small gift shop filled with all sorts of interesting Civil War items. There is also a museum with various kinds of displays including artifacts, lighted map displays, replica train tracks and rail car, and a film on the area. But, what really stood out at this park was the memorial that is located in the small enclosed back yard of the center. Now usually, I must admit, memorials do not interest or excite me – I tend to find the ugly abstract monuments of stone to be disconnected from whatever it is that they are supposed to memorialize. And, at first glance, this one didn’t impress me too much. But, then again, I was too busy helping the littles with their Jr. Ranger program to notice it much. How glad I was for that Jr. Ranger program. You see, without it, I would have missed most of the symbolism in the memorial!!! The kids had to do a page on the blocks in the ‘stream’, and the program explained so much about the symbolism found in the memorial that most visitor’s would not know/learn!
The memorial consist of a water fall of sorts, that runs down a stream that shows the passage of time. In the stream, the 4 years of the Civil War are ‘enlarged’ to take up the majority of the flow, and in the midst of the stream are a jumble of granite blocks. The blocks are of varying sizes, and have the names of battles etched on them. As the stream flows, from the top, the battle blocks are placed according to their timeframe and sequence in the Civil War. They also symbolize the cost in life during the conflict: the bigger the block, the more lives were lost in that particular battle. This was an incredible visual tool for the kids to be able to compare the deadliness of the conflicts; the numbers of soldier’s deaths gets lost in all the war details after so many parks.
One other interesting thing about the blocks was that many of them had TWO battle names on them. One side had the name that the south gave the battle, the other side would list the name that the northern army gave the battle; I never realized that each side often called the battles by different names. Many times I would recognize both battle names on the same block, but had not previously realized that they were in reference to the same battle! There were other uses of symbolism, but these were the ones that we especially enjoyed learning about/through. Several of my older kids also found it interesting; to the point that it was their favorite part of the park!
Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center is such an interesting place to visit and learn about! We are trying to visit as many Civil War Battlefields as we can during the few years that are the sesquicentennial of the war (150th anniversary), and we are so glad that we visited Corinth and not just Shiloh even though they are considered the same park.
*For the record, we did get back to Shiloh that same day, but we had spent so much time at Corinth that the kids didn’t get their Jr. Ranger booklets done by closing! That’s OK tho, we were still able to tour the grounds after hours and finish their booklets and mail them in once we got back home.
I just love our National Parks!!!
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