For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is October 4, 2022

Mississippi Seen

Union Army struggled to take Vicksburg in winter of 1863

Union Army struggled to take Vicksburg in winter of 1863

I was in Tensas Parish, La., doing a story about repairs on the antebellum home Winter Quarters, owned by Haller Nutt of Natchez, when I was struck by the proximity of Hard Times Landing to Grand Gulf and Bruinsburg. You'd think it was a long way away after you've driven over there in your car. But you are no distance at all from the cooling tower at the Grand Gulf power plant just across the Mississippi on the other side of the levee. Photo: Walt Grayson

You have to assume the Mayan calendar must have been continued on another rock, which archaeologists haven’t found yet.
    The first calendar ran out Dec. 21, 2012, which had folks who produce TV shows on those upper cable channels thinking that the world was coming to an end that day. But it didn’t.
    I told Miz Jo that I thought I’d hold off Christmas shopping until after the 21st just in case. But I didn’t fool her a bit. She knows that I usually don’t ever do much shopping until the last few days before Christmas, anyway. But at least I had an excuse this past year.
     So here we are in the New Year and looking ahead to the future again. However, there are some incidents in the past I’d also like to consider as we bound off into 2013.
    These years between 2011 and 2015 are the block of years marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Since April of 1862 the Union Army had a strong presence in north Mississippi after the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, just above Corinth. Then 150 years ago about right now, going into 1863, Generals Grant and Sherman started converging on Vicksburg.
     These winter months 150 years ago Grant spent breaking levees in the Delta to try to get enough backwater to float gunboats into a variety of rivers to get to Vicksburg via the Yazoo.
     He didn’t leave out north Louisiana in the process. In trying to bypass Vicksburg without having to go down the river itself and take fire from the guns in the city, he broke the levee at Lake Providence. The idea was to flood the bayous and backwaters enough to get troop transport boats south of Vicksburg via that route. He even tried to dig a canal across DeSoto Peninsula south of Vicksburg and get boats through there.
    Without going into a lot of detail, none of that worked.
    When I was growing up in the Delta, we would drive past a cannon beside Highway 82 east of Greenwood at old Fort Pemberton. This is one of those places where the Union gunboats were turned back and kept from getting into the Yazoo River.
    Not too long ago I visited the Cottonlandia Museum (now The Museum of the Mississippi Delta) in Greenwood where they have that gun, all restored. It is a rare spiral-bore type weapon that they are awfully proud to have.
    To everyone’s surprise, it turns out the cannon had been loaded all the time it sat there after the war. My guide laughed and told me that it was a wonder it didn’t kill anyone. He said when they were kids they used to climb all over it and throw firecrackers down the barrel.
    Northeast Louisiana is where most of Grant’s army migrated in these first few cold, wet winter months 150 years ago, digging and diverting and making other plans. It took until April, but they finally got the transport boats south of Vicksburg by going ahead and running the batteries past the city. They shuttled the troops that had collected at Hard Times Landing, across the Mississippi River south of Newellton, La., over to Bruinsberg in Mississippi, just south of Bayou Pierre from Grand Gulf.
    And the rest, as they say, really is history.
     Several places have commemorations of the Vicksburg Campaign going on these next few months, including The Museum of the Mississippi Delta at Greenwood. Go see the restored cannon. But no firecrackers allowed.

Site designed by Marketing Alliance, Inc.