136 miles - minimum 5-8 hours
General Ulysses S. Grant's final, successful campaign in 1863 to take Vicksburg is a military classic, still studied today. Follow Grant's route through the countryside, over bayous and bogs through Port Gibson and Raymond to his goal—Vicksburg. With its tall stone bluffs along the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was a natural fortress. The steep hills and valleys, together with several formidable rivers and swamps on the other side of the city presented challenges to the Union army. The surrender of Vicksburg was a critical mission because its guns along the river were effectively stopping northern manufacturers from getting their goods to market. President Lincoln was losing support for the war, so taking Vicksburg was imperative.
This loop follows the roads that Grant's troops used in this successful campaign. As you climb one of the outlying hills near Vicksburg itself and see how exposed the Union soldiers were, it's easy to see the challenge in capturing Vicksburg. Visit anytime, but the Civil War sesquicentennial will be commemorated from 2011 through 2015 with the Vicksburg Campaign’s events beginning in the fall of 2012.
Civil War buffs might want to read Winston Groom's Vicksburg 1863 prior to visiting Vicksburg. Another resource is the free Vicksburg Campaign: Driving Tour Guide, available at the Vicksburg Visitor and Convention Bureau, the Vicksburg National Military Park and the City Hall in Raymond which provides much more detail about the battles, maneuvers and additional sites to be found in the area.
Here are some of the highlights to look out for along the way:
Vicksburg Old Courthouse Museum (Starting Point)
The Old Courthouse Museum preserves thousands of artifacts from historic events and everyday life in the Vicksburg area. Included is a Confederate flag that was never surrendered, the tie worn by Jefferson Davis at his inauguration, Native American and pioneer implements, and much more. Many important historic figures gave speeches here. This is a good place to get some background before starting your drive.
Grand Gulf Military Park
Located along the Mississippi River, Grand Gulf was a bustling town and port in the 1800s and the scene of an important Civil War battle. It was a key victory for Union troops in the Vicksburg Campaign, perhaps the most critical campaign of the Civil War. Visit the Grand Gulf Military Museum with artifacts from the town and war and wander around the park to see historic buildings, artifacts and a Union mortar.
Ruins of Windsor
23 Corinthian columns are all that remain of the Windsor Plantation, which was one of the largest antebellum homes built at the time. It was built by Smith Coffee Daniell II, a wealthy planter. It survived the Civil War—probably because it was a Union hospital—only to burn to the ground in 1890 from a cigarette that was dropped by a party guest. Scenes from the movie Raintree County with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Cliff were filmed here.
A.K. Shaifer House
The Battle of Port Gibson during the Vicksburg campaign of the Civil War began here. The Shaifer house served as Gen. John A. McClernand's headquarters during this battle and as a Union hospital.
First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson
Port Gibson, one of Grant’s first conquests in the campaign, escaped the fiery fate of most towns. Said to be "too pretty to burn," the Presbyterian church exemplifies the beauty of the town. A gold hand with extended index finger at the top of the steeple reaches skyward. Built in 1859-60, the First Presbyterian Church is built in Romanesque Revival style. Placed on top of the steeple is a hand pointing to heaven. This makes it the tallest church in Port Gibson. The original wooden hand was destroyed by woodpeckers and the ravages of time. Now the hand and index finger pointing to heaven is made of 24-gauge sheet iron and covered with gold leaf. The hand is 10'4" long with a 4-foot finger. Explore the historic district of Port Gibson, too.
Battle of Raymond site
This battlefield is one of the sites where Union troops engaged the Confederates before turning west in their march towards Vicksburg during the critical Vicksburg campaign in the War Between the States. View cannons and sections of the battle from along the roads outside Raymond, or take a walking trail.
Raymond’s Hinds County Courthouse
Constructed in 1857-59 by George and Thomas Weldon in the Greek Revival architectural style, the courthouse is one of the oldest continually operated courthouses in the United States. During the Civil War, it briefly served as a hospital for confederate wounded. It has been named by the Smithsonian as one of the ten most perfect examples of Southern architecture in the nation. Across the street on the right is the St Mark’s Episcopal Church, which housed wounded Union soldiers.
Vicksburg National Military Park
The Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg. The city's surrender on July 4, 1863, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg the same day, was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. The loss effectively split the south, giving control of the Mississippi River to the Union. Over 1,340 monuments, a restored Union gunboat, and National Cemetery mark the 16-mile tour road. If you have time, save your tour of the park for a second day.