primary strategic objective of the Union in the western theater of the
Civil War was to obtain full control of the entire course of the
Mississippi River, thus making it available for Northern commerce. Also,
Union control of the Mississippi would geographically cut the
Confederacy in two. By the winter of 1862-63, Union control had been
established as far south as Vicksburg, and as far north as Baton Rouge.
However, the Confederacy had retained control of the Mississippi between
those points by holding powerful fortresses at Vicksburg and Port
Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton commanded the Confederate Department
of Mississippi and East Louisiana. Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant commanded
the Union Army of the Tennessee. Both assumed command during October
1862 and both were West Pointers. Grant’s initial offensive to gain
control of the Mississippi using the railroads of western Mississippi as
a main supply line failed on 20 December 1862 when Confederate cavalry
destroyed his base of supply. This forced Grant to return to Memphis,
and sealed the fate of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s cooperating
amphibious expedition at Chickasaw Bayou on 27-29 December 1862. Early
in1863, Grant moved the bulk of his army from Memphis to three camps in
Louisiana opposite Vicksburg: Lake Providence, Milliken’s Bend, and
During a miserably wet winter, Grant’s attempts to
bypass Vicksburg by digging canals at Lake Providence, DeSoto Point, and
Duckport all failed. Other Bayou Expeditions also failed: The Yazoo Pass
Expedition at Fort Pemberton on 20 March, and the Steele’s Bayou
Expedition on Rolling Fork Creek in late March. The Vicksburg defenses
However, Grant never lost sight of his objective:
"To secure footing upon dry ground on the east side of the river
from which the troops could operate against Vicksburg." On 31
March, Grant marched his army southward through Louisiana, corduroying
roads and building bridges as he went. He
|hoped to find a
lightly-defended point on the Mississippi shore
south of Vicksburg.
Grant’s first plan was to cross the Mississippi
River at Confederate occupied Grand Gulf. At Grant’s request, on the
night of 16 April, Flag Officer David D. Porter ran the Vicksburg
batteries. Porter’s seven ironclads and four transports were to
provide gunnery support and transport for Grant’s troops. By 28 April,
the bulk of Grant’s army had assembled at Hard Times Plantation,
Louisiana, with plans to land at Grand Gulf, Mississippi. The next day, a determined effort
by Porter’s ironclad gunboats failed to knock out the Grand Gulf guns. Undaunted, Grant moved his army further south to Disharoon’s
On 30 April his men, transported by Porter’s boats (which
had run the Grand Gulf batteries the previous night), landed unopposed
at Bruinsburg. Moving inland, on 1 May the Union force encountered Brig.
Gen. John Bowen’s Confederates five miles west of Port Gibson.
the Confederates were greatly outnumbered, they fought so tenaciously
that an entire day was required to drive them back across Bayou Pierre.
Grant then outflanked Bowen by a river crossing of Bayou Pierre at
Grindstone Ford and advanced to Hankinson’s Ferry on the Big Black
River. This forced Bowen to evacuate Grand Gulf. Grant immediately
converted Grand Gulf to a forward supply depot. Grant decided not to
advance directly on Vicksburg from Hankinson’s Ferry because of
considerations of terrain and tactics.
He boldly turned northeast toward
Edwards to cut the railroad. He planned to cut off Pemberton’s
supplies, as well as to draw the Confederates out of their
fortifications. Grant’s plan changed after the battle of Raymond on 12
May, when Maj. Gen James McPherson’s corps was attacked by Confederate
Brig. Gen. John Gregg’s brigade. While at Dillon’s farm Grant was
informed of the Union victory at Raymond.
He daringly decided to turn
his army toward Jackson, assuming that a large Confederate force was
assembling there. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had
at Jackson with 5,000 Confederate
troops. He abandoned Jackson on 14 May after a brief fight with
Grant’s soldiers. The next day the Union army turned toward Vicksburg,
leaving Sherman’s corps behind to destroy the city. Pemberton had
moved 23,000 men eastward out of Vicksburg to defend his railroad supply
On 15 May, he marched to interdict the Union
supply line at Dillon’s farm. The Union and Confederate armies clashed
at Champion Hill on 16 May, where a decisive Confederate defeat forced
Pemberton to withdraw toward Vicksburg. Pemberton withdrew the bulk of
his army across the Big Black Bridge, leaving Bowen with a force of
7,000 men to defend a fortified bridgehead. Bowen’s defenses collapsed
under Union assault early on 17 May, turning an orderly retreat into the
Vicksburg defenses into a rout. By nightfall, Sherman had bridged the
Big Black River at Bridgeport, and was on the road to Vicksburg.
Pemberton was able to rally his disorganized and demoralized troops in
the trenches of Vicksburg. On 19 May they to repulsed an assault,
primarily by Sherman’s corps. On 22 May a second assault by Grant’s
entire army was also repulsed.
Unwilling to expend more lives in
attempts to take the city by storm, Grant began siege operations. By the
end of June, with all communication by either land or river cut off,
Pemberton realized that he could neither break out nor hope for rescue
by Johnston’s Army of Relief. After 47 days of siege, Pemberton
accepted Grant’s terms, including the parole of all Confederate
Fortress Vicksburg was officially surrendered at 10:00 a.m. on 4
July 1863. Port Hudson on the Mississippi River was now flanked and
rendered inconsequential due to the surrender of Vicksburg. The river
fortress was surrendered on 9 July 1863. Union control of the
Mississippi was complete, and the strategic objective in the west had
been achieved. Grant would write, “The fate of the Confederacy was
sealed when Vicksburg fell.”
National Park Service
In Delta, LA. From I-20, take Exit 186 to US-80. A segment of the
Williams/Grant canal still exists. The canal was started by Brig. Gen.
Thomas Williams and Rear Adm. David Farragut in late June, 1862. The
effort was abandoned in late July, 1862. Grant resumed work on the
project in the winter of 1863, but abandoned it when floods forced
evacuation of the area.
2. Duckport Canal
On the Thomastown Road, 2.7 miles north of US-80 . The site of a Union
attempt to create a water route for supplies from the Mississippi River
to New Carthage via Walnut and Roundaway Bayous. An unusual drop in the
river stage in early May of 1863 forced abandonment of the canal.
3. Milliken’s Bend
At the end of Thomastown Road, 10.5 miles north of US-80. This was the
camp of Maj. Gen. John McClernand’s XIII Corps before 1 April 1863,
and site of the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, 7 June 1863. Maj. Gen.
Richard Taylor attacked the post with Brig. Gen. H. E. McCulloch’s
Texas brigade. The defense of the post was the first major action
involving African-American soldiers. They suffered the highest casualty
rate of any Union garrison that successfully defended a post during the
4. Historic Richmond
Two miles south of the center of Tallulah. Now gone without a trace, in
1863 Richmond was the largest town in Madison Parish. Here, on 31 March
1863, the advance guard of the Union army forced a crossing of Roundaway
Bayou, compelling Confederate Maj. Isaac F. Harrison’s Fifteenth
Louisiana Cavalry to withdraw to the south. Richmond was used as a
forward supply depot by the Union army from 1 April to 16 May 1863. It
was later used as base by Confederate Maj. Gen John Walker’s Texas
Division from 5 - 15 June 1863. A Union task force led by Brig. Gen
Joseph A. Mower forced Confederate evacuation after a sharp skirmish on
15 June 1863.
5. Winter Quarters
On LA-608, 6.5 miles southeast of Newellton. Owned by Dr. Haller Nutt,
this was one of the largest plantation homes on Lake St. Joseph, and the
only one not burned in 1863. Used on 27 April 1863 as a bivouac by Union
soldiers en route to Hard Times Plantation on the Mississippi River 3
miles to the east. Entrance fee.
6. Grand Gulf Military Park
Seven miles northwest of Port Gibson. Grand Gulf was once an important
port on the Mississippi River. By 1862 the river had washed away much of
the town. Union Flag Officer David D. Porter attacked the newly
constructed batteries on 29 April 1863, hoping to silence them in
preparation for a landing by Grant’s army. Defeated in his attempt,
Porter then regrouped at Hard Times Plantation, 4 miles up-river. Grand
Gulf State Park features a Civil War museum, an antebellum Catholic
church and houses, a section of the original parapet of Fort Cobun, one
of the 13-inch mortars used to bombard Vicksburg, and other attractions.
7. Ruins of Windsor
west of Port Gibson on the Rodney Road. On 30 April 1863 Grant and
McClernand conferred briefly at this site after landing unopposed at
Bruinsburg Plantation two miles to the west. Built by Smith Coffee
Daniell III, the 5-story mansion burned in 1890, leaving only the 22
magnificent Corinthian columns as a reminder of its former grandeur.
8. Bethel Presbyterian
south of Windsor on MS-552. After marching from Windsor on the afternoon
of 30 April 1863, the Union soldiers of Grant’s army reached the road
junction at Bethel Church. At the junction a Union officer directed the
column into the historic Rodney Road leading east toward Port Gibson.
Heavily damaged by a tornado in 1943, the present structure is a
restoration of the 1863 building.
9. Old Rodney Road
Now known as
the Russum-Westside Road and the Shaifer Road, this road was the Rodney
Road in 1863. The original width of the road is preserved in the
abandoned section north of Bethel church. The road served as the main
axis of advance for the Union army to Port Gibson. A Union soldier
described his experience: “The moon is shining above us and the
road is romantic in the extreme. The artillery wagons rattle forward and
the heavy tramp of many men gives a dull but impressive sound.”
Today, the old road appears much as it did in 1863.
10. Shaifer House
Four miles west of Port Gibson on the Shaifer Road (the historic Rodney
Road). The house was used by Maj. Gen. John McClernand as headquarters
during the Battle of Port Gibson. It was later used as a hospital by
both Union and Confederate troops. The Battle of Port Gibson began at
this site when, near midnight on 30 April 1863, Confederate pickets
fired on the Union advance guard as it marched eastward toward Port
Gibson. Much of the battle was fought on the ridges immediately to the
east as well as along the road 2 miles to the north. The site is now
owned by the State of Mississippi.
One mile southwest of the Claiborne County Court House in Port Gibson.
Wintergreen Cemetery began in 1807 as the family burial plot of Samuel
Gibson. The cemetery is noted for its enormous Eastern red cedar trees
and cast-iron ornamental fences. It is the final resting place of Brig.
Gen. Benjamin G. Humphreys, first post-war governor of Mississippi, Maj.
Gen. Earl Van Dorn, and many of the soldiers killed in the Battle of
12. Grindstone Ford
Accessible only from the Natchez Trace Parkway, this historic river
crossing is 4.5 miles northeast of the junction of MS-18 and the Trace.
On the evening of 2 May 1863, Confederate troops retreating after the
Battle of Port Gibson set fire to the wooden decking of the suspension
bridge. Union troops extinguished the blaze and repaired the damage.
They crossed early the following morning and flanked Grand Gulf. Ruins
of the stone foundations can still be seen by walking the Old Natchez
13. Rocky Springs
miles northeast of Port Gibson on the Natchez Trace. Union General
McClernand arrived here on 6 May 1863 from Willow Springs. One of his
soldiers wrote, “came to… Rocky Springs several stores and fair
buildings. I called at one, where a crowd was gathering up the articles
and got a couple of books.” Grant arrived here with Union General
McPherson on 7 May from Hankinson’s Ferry. Another soldier noted, “here
we have good, cold spring water, fresh from the bosom of the hills.”
The only remnant of the 1863 town is an old cistern, an abandoned bank
safe, and the old red-brick Methodist church and its cemetery.
14. Utica Cemetery
Located near the town center. The cemetery is the final resting place of
many of the town’s founding citizens. Maj. Gen James McPherson’s
XVII Corps passed through Utica on 10 May 1863 and encamped at the A. B.
Weeks and later the Roach Plantations north of town.
15. Lebanon Presbyterian Church and Cemetery
Eight miles northeast of Utica on MS-18. Lebanon Church, one of the
oldest churches in the state, was passed by Maj. Gen. James McPherson’s
XVII Corps on its way from Utica to the Battle of Raymond. The old
roadbed may be seen in front of the church. MS-18 closely follows the
route of McPherson’s march.
16. Hinds County Courthouse in Raymond
in Raymond. The Courthouse was constructed by the famous Weldon Brothers
of Natchez between 1857-1859 using skilled slave labor. One of the most
elegant examples of Classic Revival architecture in Mississippi. It
served as a Confederate hospital following the Battle of Raymond, 12 May
17. St Mark’s Episcopal Church
Next to the
Raymond Courthouse. Built in 1854, St. Mark’s is the only antebellum
church in Raymond and is still in use. The church was used as a hospital
to treat Union soldiers following the Battle of Raymond. Bloodstains are
still visible on the old wooden floors.
18. Confederate Cemetery
the Old Raymond Cemetery on Port Gibson Street, 0.4 miles from the town
center. The Confederate Cemetery is the final resting place for 140 men
who were killed during the Battle of Raymond. Most of the dead are from
the Third Tennessee and Seventh Texas Infantries.
19. Raymond Civil War Battlefield
On the MS-18, 2 miles southwest of town center. Confederate Brig. Gen.
John Gregg’s brigade of 3,000 men attacked Union Maj. Gen. James
McPherson’s 11,500-man XVII Corps late on the morning of 12 May 1863.
After an all-day battle, Gregg’s brigade was forced to withdraw
through Raymond and retreat toward Jackson. A monument honoring the
Seventh Texas Infantry can be seen beside MS-18 at Fourteenmile Creek.
The Union victory at the Battle of Raymond caused Grant to change his
offensive plan and attack Jackson on 14 May 1863.
20. Old Capitol Museum
near the center of Jackson at 100 South State Street. One of three
public buildings in the city not destroyed by Maj. Gen William T.
Sherman’s army when it occupied the city on 17-23 July 1863. The
historic building, built in 1836 by William Nichols, architect from
England and a resident of Raymond, is now a museum. Free. Open Friday
8-5, Saturday 9:30-4:30 and Sunday 12:30-4:30.
In the city
center at 300 E. Capitol St. Designed in 1842 by William Nichols who was
also the architect of the Old Capitol. It is an excellent example of
Greek Revival architecture. It is the oldest occupied governor’s
mansion in the United States. Tours available Fridays on the half hour,
22. Manship House
420 E. Fortification Street. Built in 1857, the restored house is a rare
example of the Gothic Revival residential style of architecture. The
house survived the destruction of Jackson during the Union occupations
of 14-15 May, and 17-23 July 1863. Entrance fee.
23. Greenwood Cemetery
Located at 324 George Street. Established in 1823, Greenwood’s burials
include seven of Mississippi’s governors. A Confederate Cemetery is
located within the oldest public cemetery in the city of Jackson.
24. The Oaks House Museum
Located at 823 North Jefferson Street. The museum interprets the life of
the Boyd family from the 1840's to 1860's. It is one of the few houses
to survive the burning of Jackson during the Union occupation of 17-23
July 1863. Fee charged.
25. Historic Middle and Jackson Roads
Now known as the Billy Fields Road, this road joins the Champion Hill
Road 4 miles east of Edwards. The Crossroads, a strategic junction of
the Jackson and Middle Roads was a focal point of heavy fighting during
the Battle of Champion Hill. It is located 1.5 miles east of the
junction of the Champion Hill Road. In 1977, Champion Hill was
designated a National Historic Landmark.
26. Coker House
Four miles southeast of Edwards on MS-467. It was used as a hospital
following the decisive Union victory at the Battle of Champion Hill on
16 May 1863. The house fronts on modern MS-467, which very closely
follows the alignment of the historic Raymond Road, one of three axes of
advance of the Union army.
27. General Lloyd Tilghman Monument
On MS-467, 3.5 miles southeast of Edwards. Confederate Brig. Gen. Lloyd
Tilghman was killed at this spot by Union artillery near the close of
the Battle of Champion Hill as his men were delaying the Union advance
along the Raymond Road. The Tilghman monument north of the road was
placed by his sons in 1907.
28. Pemberton’s Headquarters
1018 Crawford Street, near city center. Confederate Lt. Gen. John
Pemberton used this house as his headquarters. Here, on the night of 2
July 1863, Pemberton met with his commanders to discuss surrender, and
on the following day, sent a message to Grant to “arrange terms of
capitulation of Vicksburg.” Vicksburg and the Confederate army were
surrendered on 4 July.
29. Vicksburg Military Park
just off I-20. Established by Congress on February 21, 1899, to
commemorate the most decisive campaign of the Civil War. The park
includes 1,325 historic markers and monuments, a 16-mile tour road, the
antebellum Shirley House, one hundred and forty-four cannons, the USS
Cairo Museum, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Entrance fee.
30. Old Vicksburg Courthouse
of the most famous buildings in the South and certainly Vicksburg’s
most imposing structure. Construction began in 1858 according to designs
developed by the Weldon Brothers of Natchez. Today, the historic
building is maintained as a museum with emphasis on Civil War history.