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Today is October 4, 2022

Mississippi Seen

Historical anniversaries filling our calendar

Historical anniversaries filling our calendar

Brooding Windsor is like a centerpiece of the history that surrounded it. Union troops camped in its corn fields. Extinct Bruinsburg is nearby, Port Gibson not far away. The old columns have a lot of history for visitors to contemplate. It isn't exactly accurate to say there is no sign of Bruinsburg left. Near the Windsor Ruins is a portion of the old Bruinsburg sign with a tree growing over it. The town itself is long gone. Photo: Walt Grayson

    Historical anniversaries in Mississippi are hitting fast and furious right now and will continue to do so for a few months. The 150th anniversary (or sesquicentennial) of the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War is just beginning. Gen. U.S. Grant and 17,000 Union troops crossed over the Mississippi River from Hard Times Landing, La., to Bruinsburg, Miss., on April 30, 1863, headed for Vicksburg. Grant’s crossing was the largest amphibious troop landing in U.S. history up until the invasion force in France on D-Day in World War II.
     Grant took the scenic route to Vicksburg, battling at Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill (arguably the most significant battle of the Civil War), the Big Black River, then finally Vicksburg late in May.
    Vicksburg’s defenses were too strong to be taken by force. So Grant blockaded the city and laid siege to it, finally starving Vicksburg into surrender on July 4, 1863. Consequently, the Fourth of July wasn’t celebrated as a holiday in Vicksburg until after the victory of World War II.
    All that to say that there are a lot of battle anniversary dates yet to come over the next few weeks leading up to Vicksburg’s.
    This is also the 200th anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s march down the Natchez Trace with his Tennessee Volunteers, hoping to get to the British at New Orleans. But in 1813 he was held back. His troops recalled and all he got was a trip to Washington, Miss., down the Trace. It wasn’t until 1815 that he won the Battle of New Orleans, became a war hero, had the new capital city of Mississippi named for him and, consequently, won the presidency a few years later.
    There are lots of souvenirs of these anniversaries tucked into the woods and along the back roads of southwest Mississippi. Just past the Windsor Ruins (as you are coming down Rodney Road from Port Gibson) is the last tangible sign of Bruinsburg. And it is an actual sign. The “Br” of the town’s name is the only visible part of a metal sign that has grown for decades into the tree it was nailed onto. The actual town has been gone for a long time.
    And although Bruinsburg is more closely associated with Grant’s landing in the Civil War, even Bruinsburg has Andrew Jackson ties from over 50 years prior. Jackson and Peter Bruin (for whom the town was named) were in business together in Bruinsburg back in colonial days. Andrew Jackson was in Mississippi following Rachel Robards, a Nashville divorcee, to Springfield Plantation, west of Fayette, where she was staying with family friends—a sort of exile from polite society because of the divorce.
    She married Andrew Jackson at Springfield, sort of. “Sort of” because she wasn’t quite divorced yet. A big brouhaha erupted over it when Jackson ran for president. But he won anyway.
    Springfield Plantation is still standing and under private ownership. But watch for Springfield to be open for tours occasionally during some of the Natchez pilgrimages.
    Andrew Jackson, Peter Bruin, Grant for the North, Pemberton for the South, battles like Champion Hill (as well as a bunch of minor skirmishes among the big battles) and a lot of asterisks where significant events happened make keeping up with it all mind boggling.
    But you don’t really have to keep up because what we are today is the result of it all. And a lot of it happened about right now exactly 150 or 200 years ago.
    Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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