Panel #31 Mississippi Riverwalk
Mile 437.1 AHP
A flourishing river port in the antebellum of Vicksburg was the site of a major Turing point of the U. S. Civil War. The Mississippi later changed course and by-passed the valley, but a man-made canal has restored its vital port. Today. Vicksburg is an important commercial and historical present on the river.
Under French, British, and later Spanish rule little settlement took root in this area. After the United States took control in 1797, settlers began to arrive, establishing a small farming community named Walnut Hills.
Newitt Vick drew up his plan for the town in 1819. Its sold quickly and in 1825 it was named in his honor. Within a decade, Vicksburg became a thriving river port, known both for its prosperity and for the vice and violence of its waterfront district. Citizen vigilantes finally organized to drive the gamblers and river roughnecks out of town.
High on the bluff, Vicksburg strategically commanded the river and the Civil War transformed it into an armed camp. After Memphis and New Orleans fell, Vicksburg became the key to military control of the river. The heavily fortified town held firm against both land assaults and river bombardment. Making a daring river crossing below the city in the spring of 1863, General U. S. Grant encircled Vicksburg with a noose of Union troops. When direct assaults again failed, Grant conducted a 47-day siege. Vicksburg and its 30,000 Confederate troops, reduced to eating horses and mules, surrender on July 4m 1863. Union control of the river split the Confederacy and was a major turning point in the war.
In 1876, the Mississippi cut through DeSoto Point opposite the town, and the channel's route left Vicksburg without a waterfront. The town declined and seemed headed for extinction. In 1903, the U. S. Corps of Engineers completed the Yazoo Diversion Canal, which rerouted the Yazoo River into the abandoned Mississippi channel past Vicksburg. By the time the new harbor opened the great steamboat era was over.
Renewal of river shipping in the 1920's gave Vicksburg a new lease on life, and the Mississippi River Commission and the Corp of Engineers established headquarters in the city. The Port of Vicksburg is again a shipping center and industrial development are growing. Much of the city's old south heritage has been preserved, making Vicksburg one of the state's major tourist destinations.
Photo Credit: (1) Mississippi River Commission Headquarters, Alfred Dulaney/USACE, (2)Bridge at Vicksburg, MS, Alfred Dulaney/USACE