A December 2003 trip
to Vicksburg by chadk78
Quote: It took General U.S. Grant 47 days to take this Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Today, the historic city and its neighbor to the east can keep you occupied for several days. Together, Vicksburg and Jackson give this history buff plenty to rave about.
Fortunately, there are many beautiful antebellum structures remaining to make up for it. Among these are Anchuca, the Martha Vick House, Christ Episcopal Church, the Duff Green Mansion, the Balfour House, Pemberton's Headquarters, McRaven, Cedar Grove Mansion, the old Court House, and, of course, Vicksburg National Military Park.
The Biedenharn Candy Company (ca. 1890) is now the Biedenharn Museum and the site where Coca-Cola was first bottled in 1894. The Gray and Blue Museum contains an impressive collection of Civil War gunboat models and a diorama of the Siege of Vicksburg.
Named in honor of President Andrew Jackson, this is Mississippi's state capital and largest city. A short drive east from Vicksburg, it was founded as a trading post on the old Natchez Trace. Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway, maintained by the National Park Service, passes through its downtown.
This city was burned by General William T. Sherman on his way to Vicksburg in 1863. Fortunately, a few antebellum structures are still standing. Grant used the 1842 Governor's Mansion as his headquarters during the siege. Surprisingly, City Hall was untouched by Federal troops and appears today as it did before the War Between the States. The 1857 Manship House was home to the town's mayor in 1863. Today, it is filled with 19th-century antiques and works of art. The Oaks House (ca. 1846) was occupied by Sherman. Today, it contains two pieces of furniture from Abraham Lincoln's law office (how did those get here?). The Old State Capitol (ca. 1839) was the center of state government until 1903. Today, it houses an excellent museum with many interesting exhibits.
The Metro Jackson CVB is located at 921 N. President Street. They can give you plenty of information about area attractions, walking tours, guided tours, and events. For more information, check out www.visitjackson.com.
Hotel | "Cedar Grove"
When we checked in, the ladies at the desk were extremely friendly and offered us tips on what to see and do in Vicksburg and where to eat. Our room was Scarlett’s Room (all of the rooms are named after either a character from "Gone With the Wind," a figure from the Siege of Vicksburg, or someone who lived here). We had a king-size canopy bed, which, I must say, was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in (I slept like a baby that night). It was decorated in floral patterns. They also had turndown service, complete with chocolates! My favorite part about this room was that it was located on the top-floor and offered easy access to the rooftop terrace. This terrace provided a nice view of the town and Mississippi River.
The next morning, we went down for breakfast (provided free for all overnight guests). It was very good, a traditional Southern-style breakfast. At 10am, we began our complimentary house tour. We discovered that this had been the cotton plantation of the Klein family, one of the wealthiest in the region. The house is furnished with many period antiques and items that belonged to the Kleins. The most interesting part of the tour was the two cannonballs, which still remain lodged in the house’s structure. One can be easily seen in the parlor wall, and the other can be seen through a piece of glass in the floor (it is lodged in one of the floor joists). The tour guide said that Mrs. Klein did not have these removed because she wanted to show everyone that her house had been strong enough to survive the Siege.
The tour, continuing out to the grounds, revealed a family cemetery, an old cistern mound, and a catfish pond, along with many well-manicured garden areas. The swimming pool here is phenomenal. Unfortunately, we were there in the wintertime and did not get to use it.
Rates at Cedar Grove range from $95 to $185 per night. The 30-minute house tours are $5 for those who are not overnight guests. They are given hourly from 9am to 4pm. For more information, visit www.cedargroveinn.com.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 10, 2005
Cedar Grove Mansion Inn & Restaurant
2200 OAK STREET
Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180
Another room presents the story of the rise of industry in the 20th century, with exhibits about the timber industry, railroads, textiles and scientific advancements with the cotton industry, and the rise in popularity of the Mississippi Delta Blues.
There is also a room containing exhibits about the 1960s Civil Rights struggle, much of which took place in this state. This exhibit was the first of its kind in America.
Interesting architectural features of this building include its twin spiral stairways and rotunda, where a large Christmas tree is displayed during the holidays. Special events, such as concerts, literary readings, and historical demonstrations, are also held here on a regular basis.
The House of Representatives once played host to orators like Jefferson Davis and Henry Clay. It was also in this room that Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861.
A gift shop features books and souvenirs pertaining to the state's history. This is a wonderful structure and would be a great tourist attraction based on its architecture alone. The exhibits inside, however, are outstanding in their own right. I highly recommend this as a stop on any trip to Jackson.
Admission is free. The museum is open 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, 9:30 to 4:30 on Saturdays, and 12:30 to 4:30 on Sundays. For more information, visit www.mdah.state.ms.us.
While at the Old Capitol, be sure to check out the nearby War Memorial Building. This monument honors Mississippi’s fallen heroes of all American wars. It is a very touching memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Also nearby is the State Archives and History Library. The second oldest of its kind in the United States, and it contains a wealth of genealogical records and information about the history of Mississippi. It is open Mondays from 9am to 5pm, Tues day through Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm.
The "New Capitol," located at 400 High St., was constructed in 1903. Similar in architectural style to the U.S. Capitol, the interior is highlighted by marble and stained-glass throughout. Guided tours are free and take you through the executive and legislative chambers. The Hall of Governors is a portrait gallery of every Mississippi governor. The Capitol grounds are dotted with monuments to notable Mississipians. The most notable of these features an angel comforting the wife of a Confederate soldier. It is dedicated to the women of the Confederacy. A golden eagle on the façade of the building seems to keep watch over the city. Give yourself about an hour and a half at the state capitol. It is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm.
Because it was being used as a hospital, this structure was not molested by Federal troops when they captured the city. Built in 1847, it is one of the finest examples of Greek-Revival architecture in the country. Located on S. President Street, it is open to the public for free Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. For more information, call 601/960-1034.
Constructed in 1842, this building served as headquarters for both Grant and Sherman. Throughout Mississippi’s history, this Greek-Revival mansion has been the only one designated as the official residence of the state’s governor (it is the second oldest of its kind in the United States). Free guided tours are given Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 to 11am. For more information, call 601/359-6473.
Located at E. Fortification Street and Congress Street, this Gothic-Revival mansion was built in 1857. It was the home of Charles Henry Manship, the town’s mayor, who surrendered the town to Sherman on July 21, 1863. The house is filled with Manship family belongings and artwork. Free guided tours are offered Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 4pm and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. For more information, call 601/961-4724.
The Oaks House
This Greek-Revival residence is thought to be the oldest house in Jackson to be continuously occupied. Constructed in 1846, it was the home of James Hervey Boyd, a former mayor of Jackson. The house has been restored and furnished with period antiques. A rocking chair and couch that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln are among the many antiques found here. Thirty-minute tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Admission is $3. For more information, call 601/353-9339.
Boddie Mansion at Tougaloo College
The 200-year-old moss-draped oaks that once graced Boddie Plantation now shade the students of Tougaloo College, a historically black institution founded in 1869. The Boddie Mansion, erected in 1848, now houses the college’s administrative offices.
Discussed in a separate listing, this 1840 plantation house now operates as a bed-and-breakfast inn.
Duff Green Mansion
This three-story Palladian mansion was constructed by African slaves in 1856. The home of wealthy merchant Duff Green, it was used as both a Confederate and Union hospital during the war. One interesting story relayed on the tour is about how Green’s wife gave birth to a son in a nearby shelter during one of many attacks on the house. He was appropriately named Siege. The mansion now operates as a bed-and-breakfast. Just as it did in the 1850s, the large ballroom still hosts many large parties and receptions. Thirty-minute guided tours are given daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $5. For more information, call 800/992-0037.
Built in 1830, this Greek-Revival mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was used as a hospital during the Siege of Vicksburg and was also the setting for one of Jefferson Davis’ last public addresses. The interior is furnished with period antiques and the grounds feature landscaped gardens and courtyards, as well as outbuildings which once served as slave quarters. Thirty-minute tours are given on Saturdays from 4 to 6pm. For more information, please visit www.anchucamansion.com.
Visitors to this 1835 Greek-Revival mansion will learn the story of a Christmas party interrupted by uninvited guests: Union troops. You will also learn about the hardships endured by Vicksburg residents during the Siege, based on the diaries of Emma Balfour. The three-story staircase is indescribable – you have to see it for yourself. Admission is $6/adult. Tours are available Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. For more information, call 800/294-7113.
Martha Vick House
Built for the daughter of the town’s founder in 1830, this small brick mansion is filled with period antiques and artwork. Thirty-minute tours are given Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Sundays from 1 to 5pm. Admission is $5. For more information, call 601/638-7036.
Christ Episcopal Church
Located at 1119 Main St., this is the oldest church in Vicksburg. Constructed in 1839, its cornerstone was laid by Bishop Leonidas Polk, who later became a Confederate General. During the Siege, daily services were held here despite the shelling from the Union gunboats. The rectory, located next door, is also a pre-Civil War structure and still used as the rector’s home. It is open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 6pm. Admission is free, but donations are recommended.
General John C. Pemberton, Confederate commander of Vicksburg, used this 1835 mansion as his command post during the Siege. Pemberton, a West Point graduate and transplanted Yankee (born in Pennsylvania), made the decision to surrender from the parlor of this house. This decision ended weeks of starvation and suffering for the residents of Vicksburg. However, they would live under the watchful eye of Federal troops for the remainder of the war. Tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 1 to 5pm. Admission is $5. For more information, call 601/636-9581.
This unique historic home was built during three different periods. First constructed in 1797 as a brick structure, two other sections were added in 1836 and 1849. A portion of the fighting during the Siege took place all around the house. Cannon damages and bullet holes can still be seen. Many artifacts from battle have been found on the property and are on display. Tours last 1.5 hours and are given Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $5. For more information, visit www.mcraven.com.
The Old Court House
Constructed by slaves in 1858, this historic building has been visited by several US Presidents. The architecture is very impressive. Each side of the building features six 30-inch columns. A bell tower on top is housed inside a cupola. When Union troops captured the building in 1863, they promptly lowered the Confederate flag and replaced it with the American flag. It now houses a museum with Civil War artifacts and exhibits about life in the "Old South." Tours are self-guided. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30m to 4:30pm and Sundays from 1:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $3. For more information, please call 601/636-0741.
For 2 years, this important port high on the Mississippi’s bluffs had been impenetrable. Now that Memphis and New Orleans were in Union hands, Vicksburg became a prized target. Grant and Admirals David Farragut and David Dixon Porter concentrated every resource they had upon its capture. It proved to be a daunting task. They began shelling the town on March 31, 1863, and did not capture it until July 4. While General Meade was turning Lee’s forces away at Gettysburg, Grant had opened up the Mississippi River completely to Union control. In the process, he had cut off Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy; he had cut the Confederacy’s lifeline. Although not as well known, the victory won that day at Vicksburg was probably more important to the outcome of the war than was the battle of Gettysburg. Because of this success, Lincoln appointed Grant as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lee would soon meet his match and the war would be over in less than 2 years.
Today, Vicksburg National Military Park stands as a memorial to the brave men and women (Confederate and Union) who withstood the 47-day Siege of Vicksburg. Upon entering the park, you will be charged $4/car admission fee. Your first stop here is the visitor center, which gives you a good orientation of the battlefield and lots of background information on the history of the battle. A short film about the battle is shown, and several exhibits are on display. They also have a gift shop, which includes postcards, books, and other souvenir items. You can also purchase a $5 tape here, which guides you on your auto-tour of the battleground. The tape was very informative, but I often found myself getting ahead of the narrator, despite the fact that I was only going 25mph, as it suggested.
As you leave the visitor center, you will drive through the Memorial Arch and proceed into the area of the Union battle lines. Because this area was the Union position, many memorials erected by Northern states are located along the route here. The Shirley House, known to Union troops as the "White House," was occupied by the 45th Illinois Infantry. It was not opened when we were there. Just past here is a very impressive domed structure with four large columns and a bronze eagle perched atop a gable. This is the Illinois monument.
The area that served as Grant’s headquarters is marked by a life-sized statue of the general. Once you pass this area, you begin to travel toward the river. At one place in this wooded area, we could see a trailer park through the woods. Although it probably cannot be see in the summer months when leaves are on the trees, it seems the National Park Service was not able to totally salvage the battlefield from all development. Near the river is the USS Cairo Museum. This museum is dedicated to a Union ironclad, which sank in the river. It was closed at that time due to renovations.
Just past the USS Cairo Museum is the Vicksburg National Cemetery. 17,000 Union soldiers from the Siege of Vicksburg, along with 13,000 more from later wars are buried here. Once you have passed the National Cemetery, you begin to enter the Confederate portion of the battlefield. Now, you will see memorials from Confederate states to honor their heroes. Several earthworks and fortifications constructed by Confederate forces are located along this route as well. Near the Great Redoubt, a Confederate earthwork, a monument marks the spot where John C. Pemberton surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. Pemberton could no longer watch the suffering of his troops and the citizens of Vicksburg, who had been cut off from the rest of the world for 47 days. We found some tables, near a statue of Jefferson Davis, to have a picnic on. Shortly after this, the road brings you back to the Visitors Center and you are done with the tour.
Give yourself plenty of time to see everything there is to offer here. We got out of the car and read most of the historic markers and looked around. It took us about 2.5 hours to go all the way around the loop. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/vick.
Blacksburg, South Carolina