During the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” Turns out, he was right.
Strategically located on the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, Vicksburg is forever identified with this great Civil War Battle, known as the “Siege of Vicksburg.” The 1863 battle lasted 47 days and turned the tide of the war for the North, when General Pemberton surrendered on July 4. The name remains with Vicksburg today as the “Key City.”
The highlight of the town is the Vicksburg National Military Park which celebrates those brave soldiers who fought in the Civil War on both sides as well as made the ultimate sacrifice. Opened in 1899, the park features more than 1,300 monuments and memorial markers, The largest memorial comes from Illinois which sent more than 33,000 troops to fight the war. The impressive Illinois memorial has 47 steps to the top, commemorating the 47 days of the Siege of Vicksburg.
The park came about as a result of a group of veterans from both sides who staged a reunion in 1917. “It was from this reunion that the idea of a more permanent memorial of the Civil War was created,” said Andrew Miller, lead ranger told us. “The park was designed as a reconciliation of the North and South,” he said. The arch that welcomes you to the park was created in 1920.
Open every day, visitors can arrange for private tour of the park by licensed guides to tell them about the park’s history. I recommend that you come early as the park is filled with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists who enjoy crossing the park’s many hills and valleys.
Start at the Visitor’s Center where you can watch the movie, “Here Brothers Fought” about the battle and get a better understanding of the Civil War in general. Interestingly, Mississippi was the only southern state to vote against secession. I would also recommend downloading the VNMP app to help you get around and follow the map for the markers.
My favorite statue in the park is the “African American Monument” designed by Dr. J. Kim Sessums, created and installed in 2004. It features two African American men depicted as Union soldiers and a farmhand whose freedom they sought to win. The freed man is looking towards the future.
As a destination, historic Vicksburg offers an exciting culinary scene with focus on seafood, Southern specialties and farm-to-table cuisine. Stop in their local art galleries and meet the artists who create incredible works from paintings to folk art.
A great way to see the antebellum homes and historic buildings is to tour with Bertram and Carol Hayes Davis of Vicksburg Old Town Tours. Bertram is actually the great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy and his tour gives you special insight into his own family history as well as the South. You’ll visit Christ Church to see the magnificent Tiffany Stained Glass Windows, admire JD’s rocking chair in the Davis home as well as Duff Green Mansion, now an amazing B&B.
Where to Stay
The new kid on the block is the Mulberry Hotel, which offers a combination of hotel, air B&B and residences, overlooking the Riverfront Murals. Incorporating its French heritage with contemporary amenities, the hotel features a great pool, fitness center, bistro and the Jackson Street Art Gallery. Take a quick walk outside to see the 32-pictorial murals alongside the riverfront, created by Robert Dafford that tell of Vicksburg’s history.
Vicksburg is somewhat of a foodie town and you won’t find a shortage of great places to eat. Try Main Street Market Café, open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11 – 2. This is fresh food like you can only imagine with made-from-scratch quiches, soups and pies. Betty’s Biscuits are out of this world. Gumbo is a local favorite but save room for their Chocolate Chunky Pecan Pie.
Relish Bistro in downtown Vicksburg has been voted one of the city’s best Italian restaurants. Owned by brothers James and Jason Penley, recommended dishes include Maple Brussel Sprouts, Steak Frites with truffle parmesan fries and house-made pastas.
Get your fill of “eating Southern” at the Walnut Hills Restaurant known for their authentic, world-famous Southern Plantation cuisine. Blue plate specials include meat and three veggies. Try their mashed sweet potatoes or Southern Grits. Top it all off with Coconut Pie.
Located in historic downtown Vicksburg, 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill is a relaxed casual restaurant and bar with exquisite rooftop views of the rivers and Mississippi/Louisana shoreline. Loved the Fried Green Tomatoes and the Dirty Rice Fritters. Any of the burgers are great and also recommend the Shrimp and Grits.
Take a walk downtown and visit the art galleries. H.C. Porter’s Gallery will delight you with her colorful portraits of Southern musicians. At the Attic Gallery, you will find countless treasures of Southern folk art under the direction of curator Leslie Silver. The Jackson Street Gallery at the Mulberry features an extensive variety of art by Mississippi’s finest artists under the direction of Paula Jackson.
While you’re downtown, stop in at the Vicksburg Civil War Museum and peruse the millions of Civil War artifacts from the collection of Charles Pendleton. Check out the rifles, ammunition, uniforms, dioramas and more that tell the story of the American Civil War.
Be sure to stop at the two Vicksburg Bridges that cross the Mississippi into Louisiana. One bridge is used for vehicles, the other for rail. The views are beautiful. Then you can head down the road and enjoy the four Vicksburg casinos. For more information, go to visitvicksburg.com