Princeton '52 Mini-Reunion XXVII
Mississippi River Civil War Cruise
March 8-15, 2014


Nine Classmates of the great Princeton Class of 1952, together with their wives and Class President, Put Brodsky, a total of 19, boarded the American Cruise Line’s Paddlewheel Riverboat, the Mississippi Queen at the dock in New Orleans, Louisiana on Saturday morning, March 8th. The Queen of the Mississippi was built in 2012, by Chesapeake Shipbuilding Corporation in Salisbury, Maryland, the first new riverboat built for the Mississippi River in twenty years. It has a draft of eight feet, a cruising speed of fourteen miles per hour, and a passenger capacity of 150, with spacious comfortable staterooms and private balconies.  From left to right in photo: John Weber, Walt Culin, Put Brodsky, Paul Mueller, Don Jack, Ben Moore, Robert Lamperti, Bill Jannen, Geoff Nunes, and Dave Smith

Soon after our Riverboat pulled away from the dock and started upstream on the Mississippi a delicious lunch was served in the main dinning room. This was followed by safety instructions, tour sign ups and a description of programs planned for our seven ports of call from New Orleans to Vicksburg and back. All tours were skillfully planned for passengers to enjoy all meals on board. For early risers at 6:30 a.m. an assortment of breakfast items was offered each day on the 4th deck Sky Lounge, with breakfast service in the main dining room from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were also served before dinner, followed by a full evening of musical entertainment.

The opportunities to attend daily presentations relating to the Civil War were well coordinated with tours, meals, visiting in areas of our riverboat and time to enjoy the sights and busy commerce on the Mighty Mississippi. Interesting presentations were conducted by Author, Eric Deeb, and Historian, Bill Wiemuth; two friendly energized speakers who kept our attention and ably handled any questions. Their subjects included: "War in the West” "The Louisiana Purchase” "The Lincoln Assassination” "Understanding Vicksburg", "Here Brothers Fought” "The Early Days of Steamboating” "A Civil War Wrap Up” and "Mark Twain and The River”.

Our first port of call in Louisiana was a guided tour of Houmas House Plantation. The Mississippi Queen had tied up to the levee during the night and from 9:00 a.m until noon we were able to walk the gangplank onto and up over the levee and down a long tree covered lane to the historical plantation. Ladies in period dress guided us through beautifully decorated rooms as they narrated stories and answered questions about the life and times of plantation living. Following lunch on Monday we boarded a bus for a tour of Natchez with a resident lady who proudly narrated stories and the history of all places we visited in the city. We also visited Longwood, the largest octagonal house in America; the unfinished dream home of Dr. Haller Nutt who died in 1864. A National Historic Landmark, Longwood is maintained in its unfinished state as a poignant reminder of past glories and tragedies.

We walked the riverboat’s gangplank again on Tuesday and boarded a tour bus to visit the vast areas of Vicksburg’s Military Park. We had the advantage of a very knowledgeable veteran guide who explained in detail how many of the battles were fought. Here in May and June 1863, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s armies converged on Vicksburg, entrapping a Confederate army under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton. On July 4th Vicksburg surrendered after prolonged siege operations. This was the culmination of one of the most brilliant military campaigns of the war. With the loss of Pemberton’s army, and this vital stronghold on the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in half. Grant’s successes in the West boosted his reputation, leading ultimately to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union Armies. On Wednesday morning after an early breakfast and a climb over the levee bank we joined a guided tour of the beautiful and historic Rosedown and Myrtles Plantations in St. Francisville, Louisiana, with a quick visit to the well-known local store, Grandmother’s Buttons.

On Thursday morning we docked at the Baton Rouge landing and toured the city with a view of the Old and New State Capitols; also Downtown Baton Rouge with a stop at the Louisiana State Museum where we were able to relive the experience of Louisiana’s early settlers and the colorful history of the Rural Life Museum. On Friday the Mississippi Queen tied to the levee in front of Oak Alley Plantation where we disembarked and walked at our leisure down the lane of century old oaks for a guided tour of the prestigious Big House and surrounding gardens.

Musical entertainment was offered in the Mississippi Queen’s Magnolia Lounge every evening following dinner. Namely: "Showboat Serenade” and "Crazy for Patsy Cline” by talented singers, Laura and Bill Wiemuth. "Judy Davis - a night of story telling and musical entertainment” "The New Orleans All Stars performing Great Jazz Music” and "Great patriotic entertainment performed by the Victory Belles”. On board there were also lessons in Line Dancing, a chance to test our own knowledge with Civil War trivia, an afternoon tea in the Sky Lounge, a tour of the Pilot House with the Captain, a matinee show of Music, Magic, and Mayhem, and a presentation of all that’s new with American Cruise Lines and Pearl Seas Cruises. There was a full exciting itinerary opportunity available for all passengers.

We docked on Saturday, March 15th, at the New Orleans landing at 8:30 a.m. Some classmates took the New Orleans City Tour bus with a drop off at the airport while Lois and I took a taxi to the Holiday Inn, loaded our car and drove home to Houston in the rain. We will remember our most enjoyable cruise on the mighty Mississippi where we learned our Civil War History Lesson - that the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were being fought during the same week, and that the Mississippi River was an asset for commerce and transportation to both the North and South during the Civil War. And, we had a wonderful visit with Princeton ’52 classmates and their wives!

Submitted by Lois and David K. Smith, Princeton ’52 – May 24, 2014