A sense of history and heritage presides over Mississippi. The state has seen the rise and fall of several distinct cultures, and their remnants have blended together to form Mississippi's culture today. Scholars and historians agree that throughout the ages, Mississippi history has long been a source of myth and legend.
By the turn of the 16th century, archaeologists estimate that Mississippi had a Native American population of 150,000. Four major regional cultures had emerged and were distinguished by language, government and lifestyle. The Tunica, Natchez, Biloxi and Western Muskogeans (the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes) were as diverse from each other as the European visitors soon to come.
Hernando de Soto became the first European to discover Mississippi during the winter of 1540. De Soto did not find the gold and silver he was searching for, and his expedition was considered a failure.
By the end of the 17th century, Europeans regained interest in Mississippi. This time they were looking for commodities like deerskin, tobacco and indigo. The Europeans competed for alliances with different tribes, and deadly conflicts often resulted. In 1763, the treaty ending the French and Indian War gave nominal control of the region east of the Mississippi to England. Then during the American Revolution, the Spanish gained control of southern Mississippi. Their flag remained until 1798, when Mississippi was organized as a territory of the United States.
The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the rise of cotton as the major cash crop for Mississippi. The black population grew dramatically during this period due to the use of slave labor in the fields. This time was one of the most influential in Mississippi history - giving rise to gospel and blues music and influencing the literature and folk art for generations to come.
The western half of the Mississippi Territory was admitted as the 20th state of the Union on December 10, 1817. Then, on January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union.
More than 80,000 Mississippians served in the Confederate Army, and the state saw more than 600 military engagements ranging from local skirmishes to major battles.
Corinth with its railroad junction was one of the most strategic locations in the South. Union troops marched toward the town in May of 1862, erecting earthworks for 20 miles. After the bloodiest battle in Mississippi history, the Union gained control of Corinth in October.
Union forces attempted to take the port city of Vicksburg in hopes of severing Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana from the Confederacy. Finally after a forty-day siege, Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863 - the same day the Confederates were defeated at Gettysburg.
Civil government was restored, and Mississippi was re-admitted to the Union on February 23, 1870. Since then, Mississippi's culture has continued to grow and reflect its influences. Today, over 600 historic markers stand throughout the state, tangibly connecting Mississippi history to its present day.