Antebellum South & Civil War Tour
Prior to the Civil War, Natchez was home to more millionaires per capita than New York City.
Begin in Natchez, with its more than 500 antebellum homes, churches, and public buildings. Prior to the Civil War, Natchez was home to more millionaires per capita than New York City. More than a dozen of the palatial mansions built by wealthy cotton planters are open for tours all year; many more welcome visitors during annual Spring and Fall Pilgrimages. Arrive in time for lunch, followed by a tour of the spectacular homes and the Natchez City Cemetery. Spend the evening exploring Natchez Under the Hill. Once a haven for riverboat gamblers, thieves, and ladies of the evening, it is now a colorful area of shops, restaurants, and 24-hour casino gaming.
NATCHEZ TO PORT GIBSON–40 miles
PORT GIBSON TO VICKSBURG–29 miles
Spend the morning touring more magnificent mansions, enjoy lunch in one of the tour homes,then browse antique shops or take a carriage ride through historic downtown. Washington, a small community just north of Natchez, was once known as the “Versailles of the Mississippi Territory.” Jefferson College, the first educational institution chartered in Mississippi, is now a museum. From Washington, take the Natchez Trace Parkway north to Springfield Plantation where president-to be Andrew Jackson wed Rachel. Stop at Lorman to see Alcorn State University, the first land grant African American college in the United States.
Next is Port Gibson, the town Union General U.S. Grant proclaimed “too beautiful to burn.” Most of the antebellum homes and churches that so enchanted the Union general are along Highway 61—an easy walking tour. Take a side trip to the Ruins of Windsor, the remains of the largest antebellum mansion ever built in Mississippi. Windsor survived the Civil War only to burn to the ground in 1890 at the hands of a careless smoker. North of Port Gibson, Grand Gulf Military Monument Park encompasses a Civil War fort, cemetery, earthworks, an excellent museum of Civil War artifacts, and several restored antebellum buildings. Continue north to Vicksburg for dinner and Delta Blues music.
View the film The Vanishing Glory as an introduction to the siege and fall of Vicksburg. The capture of the city was crucial to the Union victory. After 47 days, Confederate General John C. Pemberton finally surrendered to Grant on July 4, 1863. The Old Court House Museum is packed to the rafters with antebellum and Civil War-era artifacts. The building was a Civil War target until Union prisoners were moved into the upstairs courtroom. After lunch, explore the Vicksburg National Military Park, 1,800 acres of earthworks, cannons, and monuments. Also displayed at the park is the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad sunk by the Confederacy and raised after more than a century underwater.
VICKSBURG TO EDWARDS–7 miles
EDWARDS TO JACKSON–22 miles
Traveling toward Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city, you’ll pass the site of the Battle of Champion Hill in Edwards. The Confederate loss here led to the fall of Vicksburg, and ultimately, to the collapse of the Confederacy. This significant battle is periodically reenacted. During the 1860s, Union troops reduced Jackson to a smoking ruin, earning Jackson the nickname “Chimneyville.” Tour the 1842 Governor’s Mansion, the magnificent Old Capitol Building, the formal gardens outside antebellum City Hall, and the Manship House. After lunch, visit Jackson’s art, natural science, sports or agricultural museums before enjoying the evening in one of the city’s fine restaurants.
JACKSON TO TUPELO–168 miles
More Civil War history awaits in north Mississippi,where more than 500 of the battles waged on Mississippi soil were fought. Take the famed Natchez Trace Parkway north toward Tupelo and stop at the marked historic sites. The Tupelo National Battlefield features a large memorial,cannons, and interpretive marker recounting the Battle of Tupelo.
OPTIONAL SIDE TRIPS
Take a side trip off the Trace to Aberdeen and Columbus. Both feature antebellum tour homes, but Columbus’ most important contribution to Civil War lore actually came in 1866 when a group of war widows decorating graves in Odd Fellows Cemetery decided to honor not only the Confederate dead, but also the Union soldiers buried there. This act of remembrance evolved into America’s annual Memorial Day, and the Columbus cemetery where it all began was renamed “Friendship.” Or head west to Grenada whose location and railroad facilities made the town a key Civil War asset. The walking and driving tour includes forts, a cemetery for “Unknown Confederate Soldiers,” plus other sites and historic homes.
TUPELO TO CORINTH–51 miles
CORINTH TO SHILOH–23 miles
Continue north to Baldwyn and Brice’s Crossroads Battlefield, site of a major victory for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Continue to Corinth, site of the bloodiest battle in Mississippi history. The Civil War Interpretive Center offers a presentation on the battle and the city’s significance to the conflict. Don’t miss Battery Robinette, the Corinth National Cemetery, the miles of earthworks found throughout the city, and Shiloh National Military Park, across the Tennessee state line.