Mississippi Civil War
Vicksburg Campaign: First Phases
Once Union forces consolidated their hold on the important rail junction at Corinth, Miss, in the fall of 1862, all eyes turned toward Vicksburg. The heavily fortified city on the bluffs above a big curl in the Mississippi River was the key. If the Confederate stronghold fell, Federal forces not only would control navigation over thousands of miles of waterways, but also cut the area west of the river off from the rest of the Confederacy.
Gen. U.S Grant, back in charge of Union troops in Mississippi, soon found that the Vicksburg nut was tough to crack. Through the fall of 1862 and early spring 1863, Grant and his subordinates tried dozens of plans, large and small, to get close to the Confederate river bastion. Grant first tried to move southwest into the heart of the state along the Mississippi Central Railroad, then he tried various waterway routes on both sides of the river. Nothing seemed to work.
But all the Union schemes kept Pemberton guessing in Vicksburg. Several sites associated with the early part of the Vicksburg campaigns are available for visitors. See the links section for good history and chronologies.
Confederate fort near Grenada
Confederate Forts at Grenada Lake (Corps of Engineers)
MS 333 Scenic Loop, just north of Route 8, Grenada MS 38901
The Confederate army under Gen. John Pemberton withdrew here at the junction of the Mississippi Central and the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroads in late 1862 after his lines farther north were compromised. A series of forts were constructed but never really threatened by Grant’s army since the Confederate raid on the Federal base at Holly Springs forced a Union withdrawal from the area.
A Corps of Engineers visitor center is located at the south end of the dam. It’s free and open daily. It offers Civil War material and directions to two of the Confederate forts.
Holly Springs Visitor Center
148 E College Ave, Holly Springs MS 38635
This small town 40 miles southeast of Memphis was a busy place during the early winter of 1862. Its location on the Mississippi Central Railroad made it a good place for Grant to stage his initial “overland” campaign against Vicksburg. Grant made Holly Springs his headquarters and amassed a huge supply depot here. That also made the town a target. On Dec. 20, 1862, Confederate cavalry under Gen. Earl Van Dorn raided Holly Springs, destroying millions of dollars in Union supplies. The raid forced Grant, who by that time was approached Grenada (nearly 100 miles southwest), to abandon this route to Vicksburg.
Interpretive signs and a driving tour commemorate sites related to Van Dorn’s Raid. Pick up a copy of the tour at the visitor center.
Marker at the fort site
Small Tallahatchie River-front park located just north of Route 82 east of the Tallahatchie river
A hurriedly built Confederate fort made of logs and cotton bales and river obstructions west of Greenwood blocked the Yazoo and Tallahatchie rivers, turning back Union gunboats and infantry March 11–16, 1863. The battle halted Gen. U.S. Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg using these Mississippi River tributaries. Among the river obstructions in the Tallahatchie River was the carcass of the steamship Star of the West, which was fired upon by cadets from the Citadel in far-away Charleston SC on Jan 9 1861. Not much of the fort remains today. Exhibits at the nearby Museum of the Mississippi Delta include a model of the fort and artifacts from the Star of the West.
Website links to Mississippi places: Mississippi Links