The American Civil War
Many of the fiercest battles of the US Civil War were fought on Mississippi battlefields. It was a time considered by many to be the darkest hour in this nation’s history. Nearly a century and a half later, you can still visit a number of impressive Mississippi Civil War history sites. Tour countless battlefields, monuments and historic cemeteries, and capture a glimpse of history relived at exciting American civil war re-enactments staged throughout the year.
Mississippi, perhaps more than any other state, has reason to observe the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, which started in 2011. Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union, on January 9, 1861. It saw its land ripped apart by battles that swept from Corinth in its northeast corner to the banks of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Grand Gulf, Port Gibson and Natchez, and all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, where Fort Massachusetts stood guard on Ship Island. It sacrificed sons and brothers, and a way of life. And it gave the Confederacy its first and only president, Jefferson Davis.
Follow the Civil War trail through Mississippi, and you'll find battle sites, courthouses and homes that bear the scars and memories of the war. Look also for commemorative events and battle reenactments scheduled during the four-year Sesquicentennical, 2011–2015.
Begin in Corinth, at the junction of two railroads that played a strategic role in the war. The Crossroads Museum, in the old Corinth Depot, displays Civil War artifacts along with other exhibits on area history. Visit the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Centre, operated by the National Park Service, and the Corinth National Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 5,000 Federal soldiers. Here also is the Verandah House, used as headquarters by both sides during the war, and the Contraband Camp, which housed ex-slaves.
Stop in Columbus at Friendship Cemetery, which claims the first observance of Memorial Day. The ladies of the town gathered here on April 25, 1866, to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. In Greenwood, drive by Fort Pemberton Park Memorial, which commemorates the battle in which Union troops were blocked from reaching Vicksburg via the Tallatchie and Yazoo rivers.
Drive through Raymond, where the historic courthouse was used as a hospital for Confederate wounded and St. Mark's Episcopal Church was used as a hospital by the Union army following a six-hour battle in 1863. Before heading west toward Vicksburg and the battlefield sites along the Mississippi River, stop near Edwards at the Coker House Interpretive Centre, the only original structure standing at the site of the Battle of Champion Hill.
End your journey in the houses where Jefferson Davis lived. Rosemont Plantation in Woodville was his boyhood home. Beauvoir, in Biloxi, was his last home. The modest cottage-style plantation dwelling, open as Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, offers a look into the life of the man torn between love for his country and loyalty to his state.
Other places of interest:
Visit Baldwyn, and Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site, where Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest made his famous attack on General Sturgis’ Union forces in 1864. The battlefield at Baldwyn has two interpretive trails, five markers, two cemeteries and a visitor’s centre with permanent and temporary exhibits, a flag display, a bookstore, a video, Civil War art/prints and an auto tour.
Here you can visit the Port Gibson Battlefield where the infamous Battle of Port Gibson, part of the Vicksburg Campaign, was fought. Port Gibson is the town Ulysses S Grant infamously declared “too beautiful to burn”. And don’t miss the Ruins of Windsor, the remains of the largest antebellum mansion built in Mississippi.
In June of 1864, Major General William Sherman successfully kept Major General Nathan Forrest's cavalry corps in Mississippi at the Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads and away from the Federal supply line in Tennessee. To keep Forrest there in July, Sherman had to order another attack. Examine the historic Tupelo National Battlefield, site of the July 1864 battle between the forces of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union General Andrew J. Smith. This was the last major battle of the Civil War in Mississippi.
Watch the film The Vanishing Glory at the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum, and browse the Old Court House Museum. Tour Historic homes and drive through the monumental Vicksburg National Military Park, one of the most heavily monumented parks in the world with over 1330 monuments, markers, tablets, and plaques. The beauty and artistry of its monumentation prompted one Civil War veteran to call Vicksburg National Military Park, "the art park of the world." The U.S.S Cairo Gunboat was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honour of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and became the first ship in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo. The gunboat and its artefacts can now be seen along the tour road at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum. Vicksburg is also where you can see the monument dedicated to African-Americans who served in the US Civil War.