Vicksburg is a quaint southern town with a big history. In fact, it was the site of a pivotal battle in the Civil War. There are a lot of things to see and do to acquaint yourself with its history, and you visit Vicksburg to see many of them in just one day.
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A Brief History of Vicksburg
Vicksburg is a historic city built by the French colonists in 1719. It was originally occupied by the Natchez Indians, however, the French built a fort there and withstood an attack, thus inheriting the land.
It’s located on a high bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which made it a southern stronghold during the Civil War. It was a key Confederate river port and its surrender to Ulysses S. Grant in July 1863 marked a turning point in the war.
Leaders on both sides agreed that Vicksburg was an important stronghold. President Abraham Lincoln said “Vicksburg is the key” to victory and Confederate President Jefferson Davis said Vicksburg was the “nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.”
The siege of Vicksburg lasted from May 18 through July 4, 1863. It was the final military action of the Vicksburg campaign. There were multiple attacks on the city, then Grant decided to surround and siege the city.
Vicksburg held for more than 40 days and finally surrendered. As the last Confederate stronghold of the Mississippi River, it significantly and negatively impacted the Confederacy’s ability to maintain the war effort.
The loss of Vicksburg combined with General Robert E. Lee’s loss at Gettysburg just a day prior is often seen as a turning point for the war. It effectively split the Confederacy in two for the remainder of the war. Seeing the city that was such an integral part of the war is a great reason to visit Vicksburg.
Vicksburg National Military Park
If there is one thing to see when you visit Vicksburg, the National Military Park is it. The Civil War appears to remain front-and-center in the mind of Mississippi and especially in Vicksburg. It’s interesting as I grew up in the North near Boston, so the Revolutionary War (against Britain) was the war that was most recognized there.
There are a lot of sites in and around Boston that are known as being significant to the Revolutionary War in Boston, Concord, and other areas. In Mississippi, it’s the Civil War that touched them the most and that makes sense.
National Military Park is a dedication to and memorial of the Civil War. Also called National Battlefield or National Battlefield Park, this park includes 25 battle sites preserved by the United States government. They are recognized as being important as the armed conflicts shaped the growth and development of the nation.
The area is very hilly and serene and it’s not easy to imagine the battles that were fought there so many years ago. The hills would certainly offer great cover. It’s so interesting to drive around the area to look at the monuments erected by many of the states. There are a number of signs and plaques that share more information about the battles that occurred there.
When you drive the loop you’ll pass a number of areas including a viewpoint of the Yazoo River, the USS Cairo Museum, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery.
Illinois State Memorial in National Military Park
The Illinois State memorial was dedicated in 1906 and cost over $190,000, which equates to more than $4.6 million dollars in current time.
The central bronze figure is called the Spirit of the Republic and the olive branch symbolizes an offering of peace. It’s the largest monument in the park and the inside has some pretty amazing acoustics.
USS Cairo Museum
The USS Cairo was the first armed vessel in the history of warfare to be sunk by a mine (called a torpedo at that time). It was an Ironclad River Gunboat, city class, commissioned on January 16, 1862.
It was torpedoed and sunk on December 12, 1862, and raised two years later. 158 soldiers and 17 officers were on board when it sank. It happened so quickly that there was no time to save personal possessions and people had to evacuate the boat immediately. All got off alive and were rescued by nearby boats.
The soldiers and officers were immigrants from France, Germany, England, Russia, Denmark, and other countries. They were from all walks of life and all colors. None had any sailing experience and they were learning on the job. T
hey were fighting for their country that they now called home aboard this Union ship.
Vicksburg National Cemetery
The USS Cairo overlooks the National cemetery. The small and neatly lined tombstones go for as far as the eye can see over the gently sloping land. The soldiers who lost their lives in this area rest under shade trees.
Driving around this tranquil area, it’s hard to believe the battles that were fought and the blood that was shed.
The Riverfront murals showcase moments in local Vicksburg history and are another great reason to visit Vicksburg. They are covering the panels of the Yazoo River floodwall. They reflect the city’s historical significance with an eye to the future role it will play in the region’s commerce and culture.
The work was commissioned by artist Robert Dufford. He painted 37 12X20′ panels in the first phase of the project which was completed in 2002. A second phase was commissioned across the street on the Grove Street flood wall.
The murals are incredibly detailed and they are quite beautiful. In this area, you can also see an old train next to a beautiful old building.
The Riverfront Murals are located at 1201-1299 Levee St, Vicksburg, MS 39180.
The Old Depot Museum
This museum is packed with historical exhibits designed to educate and to entertain. It’s located in a stunningly architected building worth seeing.
Inside the museum, you will see things like a huge diorama of the siege of Vicksburg where you can see what it might have been like back then. There is also video footage of trails used by both citizens and soldiers during the Siege. A large collection of model Civil War gunboats is also included.
The museum also explores different modes of transportation over time. You can also see railroad memorabilia including model railroad layouts.
There is also a miniature car exhibit with old model autos. In homage to the history of this area, you can also see some of the past architectural styles from Vicksburg’s past that are no longer around. It’s an interesting walk through Vicksburg’s history.
Old Courthouse Museum
The Old Warren County Court House is one of Vicksburg’s most historic structures. It was built in 1858 and is a National Historic Landmark and a Mississippi Landmark.
It was a symbol of Confederate resistance during the Siege of VicksbIt has hosted many famous guests and speakers such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Ulysses S. Grant, Booker T. Washington, President Teddy Roosevelt, and President William McKinley.
What a treasure trove of amazing artifacts this museum is! In my opinion, this is a must-see when you visit Vicksburg. My only complaint was that it was so packed full of stuff that it was a bit distracting and hard to really get to see everything.
There are so many artifacts here from old confederate flags to the tie that Jefferson Davis wore to his inauguration. Some other artifacts include confederate coins, dresses, guns and artillery, and furniture, among many other things.
Upstairs, you can walk around the courtroom. There are a number of paintings on the wall and tucked in the judge’s chambers are a lot of artifacts to see (This is where Confederate President Jefferson’ Davis’ tie is located.)
If you’re a cat lover, there is a super-friendly siamese who will greet you upon arrival.
Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
The Biedenharn family was the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. This museum started a collaborative effort between the family and the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, and the Foundation now runs it.
It showcases exhibits about the beginnings of Coca-Cola, the history of the Biedenharn family, sample reproduction equipment that was used to bottle Coke in the early days, exhibits showing the process used to bottle Coca-Cola, the history of advertising at Coca-Cola, and memorabilia.
Wander around a restored candy store and an office with furnishing and displays from the 1890s. And there are sweet treats including ice cream, Coke floats, fountain Cokes as well as Coca-Cola souvenirs.
Another interesting place to visit is the McRaven House. I didn’t have a chance to go, but a reader who spent a lot of time in Vicksburg shared that it’s her favorite place to go when she’s in the area.
The McRaven House has quite a colorful history and is believed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Mississippi. It was first built as a two-room structure in 1797 by Andrew Glass. It reportedly had a bedroom on top of a kitchen accessible by a ladder that he raised every night so he couldn’t be ambushed.
Glass was a highwayman who stole from people traveling the Natchez Trace. Then, he hid out at his residence. He died unexpectedly and is believed to be the first haunting.
The house went through two additional builds when new families moved in. Several people were known to have died in and around the house, including a mother in childbirth. She is believed to be the most active haunting and pranks visitors.
McRaven House is now on the National Register of Historic places. Visitors can tour the house during the day and they offer ghost tours as well. The home is filled with many antiques, some from the original owners.
McRaven House is located at 1445 Harrison Street, Vicksburg, MS. Tours are offered from Monday to Thursday from 12 to 5, Friday and Saturday from 10 to 5, and on Sunday from 1 to 5. Haunted tours are offered over the weekend from Friday through Sunday at 7 and 8:30. Tours cost $15 for the history tour and $25 for the haunted tours.
Nearby Things to See
If you have the time, there are a couple of interesting places to visit in the Vicksburg area. Both are not far out of the way to Natchez so if you’re planning to see both cities, it’s worth taking the time to check them out.
The Windsor Plantation was built in 1861 for Smith Coffee Daniell II, a wealthy cotton planter from the area. It was one of the largest homes in the state built before the Civil War.
A fire destroyed this Greek Revival antebellum mansion in 1890 and all that was left standing was twenty-nine huge Corinthian columns. The site is now a Mississippi Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
The Windsor Ruins are now fenced off due to instability. There isn’t much to see here and it’s a bit of a drive from Vicksburg off the “beaten path,” so unless you’re going to try to find the “ghost town” of Rodney, it may not be worth visiting.
It’s a very remote road to get to the ruins so be careful driving, especially as it’s getting dark. Two young deer ran out in front of our car and we saw a number of others on the way. There are a number of homes that you will see after the ruins, but there are very little on the way from Vicksburg.
The first homes you see after the Windsor ruins are quite beat up and ramshackle. We got there around dusk and thought it would make the perfect scene for a horror movie!
We could just imagine breaking down and having to go to one of the dilapidated homes to ask for help. Thankfully, we made it to Natchez, our next stop, without incident.
Rodney is a former city that was founded in 1828. Its claim to fame is that in the 19th century, it was only a few votes from becoming the capital of the Mississippi Territory (prior to when Mississippi became a state).
It was a thriving city until the Mississippi River changed its course and the people moved out in search of work. A small number of people remain, though the area is considered a ghost town. The Rodney Center Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Interestingly, there isn’t a true address for the town, and from everything we read, it can be hard to find. The roads are also not in great shape and people recommended a 4X4 truck to navigate.
Unfortunately, it was dusk when we left the Windsor Ruins and though we were really intrigued to see Rodney, we didn’t want to risk it.
It’s in such a remote area and our cell phones didn’t get great reception. So if we broke down, we would have had a tough time getting help. I’m still intrigued, though, so if you get there, please do reach out and let me know!
Running almost parallel to the main road from Vicksburg to Natchez (route 61) is the Natchez Trace. It is a trail that was used by the Native Americans in this area for hundreds of years, connecting Natchez to Nashville.
Also called “the Trace,” it was used but European and American explorers and traders in the 18th and 19th centuries. It later fell out of use when steamboat travel on the Mississippi River increased, moving transportation away from the Trace.
The Natchez Trace is now commemorated by a nearly 440-mile road called the Natchez Trace Parkway which generally follows the original trail. It’s a nice and windy drive on a well-maintained road and worth doing if you have the time.
There are also some sites along the trail closer to Natchez worth seeing. This includes Emerald Mound, a Natchez Indian burial mound and the second-largest in the United States. Also, Mount Locust, one of the original inns from frontier days that offered food and shelter to weary travelers can be visited.
The Natchez Trace is part of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS Natchez Trace website is a resource to learn about any road closures and for things to do along the drive.
Natchez is another quaint small town within a couple of hours’ drive from Vicksburg. It’s quite charming and worth visiting. One of the main appeals of Natchez is the many antebellum mansions that you can tour. These stately old homes represent the deep south at a time of prosperity prior to the Civil War.
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There are also lots of other things to do in Natchez, so it’s worth visiting. You can walk along the banks of the Mississippi River, and go “Under the River” to a popular old haunt. Tour this charming and historic downtown area and visit the mus that share the rich history of this area.
Though you could do this trip in a day trip, I would recommend staying at least one night to really get to see this special town.
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Top Vicksburg Restaurants
For a city of over twenty thousand people, Vicksburg has surprisingly few restaurants that people rave about. My friend that I traveled with knows people who had lived in this area and asked for recommendations everywhere we went. The one place that she did rave about is Walnut Hills Restaurant.
Walnut Hills Restaurant
After we finished touring the Vicksburg National Military Park, we were hungry for lunch and decided to go to the Walnut Hills Restaurant. This award-winning restaurant won the “Best of Mississippi” in 2019 and is located in a beautiful historic home. We got traditional southern dishes of fried green tomatoes and a pimento cheese plate.
This place has a dozen different kinds of monstrous cakes, so we couldn’t leave without trying one. We shared a piece and it was very large! It was a tough choice but we got Italian cream and it was really good and definitely worth the calories. I would definitely recommend that you check this place out when you visit Vicksburg.
How to Get to Vicksburg
There is a small municipal airport in Vicksburg located at 5855 US-61, Vicksburg, MS 39180, and a regional airport located in nearby Tallulah, across the Mississippi River and only around 15 miles away, at 175 Vtr, Airport Rd, Tallulah, LA 71282.
Jackson, MS, offers the largest airport in the area, Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, just under 50 miles away. The airport is located at 100 International Dr, Jackson, MS 39208.
Vicksburg is around a 4-hour drive from Mobile, Alabama. It’s under three-and-a-half hours from New Orleans, Louisiana, and a six-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s very easy to visit Vicksburg as part of an itinerary with some other cities in the region. If you plan to see several different areas, it’s worth the road trip as the driving is easy and directions to Vicksburg, MS are very straightforward.
Drive from Mobile, AL
We drove from Mobile, AL, and Hattiesburg, MS offers a great stop in the middle of the ride. The Crescent City Grill is a great lunch and dinner place located at 3810 Hardy St, Hattiesburg, MS 39402. It’s open daily from 11 to 10. The Midtowner is a great breakfast and lunch diner located at 3000 Hardy St, Hattiesburg, MS 39401. It is open daily from 7 to 2.
Local chef and owner Robert St. John owns these places as well as The Mahogany Bar, Tabella, and Ed’s Burger Joint nearby. We got to eat at both the Cresent City Grill and the Midtowner on our way to and from Alabama and recommend both.
Travel to Natchez
Vicksburg and Natchez are only 72 miles (one hour and twenty minutes drive) apart, so it’s a very easy trip to make. It’s worth seeing both places as they give a great view of the pre-and-post Civil War history of this area. You can drive along route 61 or on the Natchez Trace, though 61 is a bit quicker.
Visiting Vicksburg and Natchez makes a great weekend or long weekend trip that I highly recommend. There are a lot of fun things to do in Natchez.
Hotels in Vicksburg, MS
There are a number of places to stay in Vicksburg and you have a range of options. The following are a few antebellum mansions that are now B&Bs and a hotel option for those who prefer it.
- Cedar Grove Mansion Inn and Restaurant is an affordable antebellum budget B&B option located at 2200 Oak St, Vicksburg, MS 39180-4008. It’s in the heart of the historic district and just a few minutes’ walk from the murals and other attractions.
- The Corners Mansion Inn is a comfortable “Old South” style mansion and B&B located at 601 Klein St, Vicksburg, MS 39180-4005. This Inn is also in the historic center of town.
- If you’d prefer a traditional hotel, the Margaritaville Hotel Vicksburg is right by the Yazoo River in the center of town. It’s located at 1310 Mulberry St, Vicksburg, MS 39180.
Summers tend to be hot and humid, with high temperatures ranging between June and August from 90°F and 92° (32°C to 33.3°C) and lows 67°F to 70°F (19.4°C to 21°C). Winters from December to February run 61°F to 64°F (16°C to around 18°C) for highs and lows of 35°D to 38°F (1.7°C to 3°C).
October is one of the best months to go with low chances of rain and cooler temperatures with a high of 80. If you prefer cooler weather with low participation, February is generally a good bet.
Why You Should Visit Vicksburg
If you’re seeking a small southern town with lots of historical flair, Vicksburg is the place for you. It’s a great place to see some attractions from the Old South, as well as to learn more and immerse yourself in Civil War history.
I honestly never expected to visit Mississippi, but after seeing Vicksburg and Natchez (and a small bit of Hattiesburg), I’m glad I went. It’s a geat addition to any Mississippi visit and I look forward to seeing more.
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