Vicksburg, Mississippi

Last updated

Old Warren County Courthouse.jpg
Old Warren County Courthouse ("Old Courthouse Museum")
Flag of Vicksburg, Mississippi.png
Seal of Vicksburg, Mississippi.png
"Gibraltar of the Confederacy", [1] "Red Carpet City of the South" [2]
Warren County Mississippi Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Vicksburg Highlighted.svg
Location of Vicksburg in Warren County, Mississippi (left) and of Warren County in Mississippi
Coordinates: 32°20′10″N90°52′31″W / 32.33611°N 90.87528°W / 32.33611; -90.87528
CountryUnited States
State Mississippi
County Warren
Founded1811(213 years ago) (1811)
Incorporated January 29, 1825(199 years ago) (1825-01-29)
Named for Newitt Vick
   Mayor George Flaggs Jr.
   City 35.09 sq mi (90.89 km2)
  Land33.02 sq mi (85.51 km2)
  Water2.08 sq mi (5.38 km2)
243 ft (74 m)
 (2020) [5]
   City 21,573
(2022) [6]
  Density653.39/sq mi (252.28/km2)
42,649 (US: 293rd)
Time zone UTC–6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST) UTC–5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
39180, 39181, 39182, 39183
Area code(s) 601 and 769
FIPS code 28-76720
GNIS feature ID0679216 [4]
Sales tax 7.0% [7]

Vicksburg is a historic city in Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is the county seat. The population was 21,573 at the 2020 census. [5] Located on a high bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from Louisiana, Vicksburg was built by French colonists in 1719. The outpost withstood an attack from the native Natchez people. It was incorporated as Vicksburg in 1825 after Methodist missionary Newitt Vick. [8] The area that is now Vicksburg was long occupied by the Natchez Native Americans as part of their historical territory along the Mississippi. The first Europeans who settled the area were French colonists who built Fort Saint Pierre in 1719 on the high bluffs overlooking the Yazoo River at present-day Redwood. They conducted fur trading with the Natchez and others, and started plantations. During the American Civil War, it was a key Confederate river-port, and its July 1863 surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, along with the concurrent Battle of Gettysburg, marked the turning-point of the war.


After the war came Reconstruction and then a violent return to power by white supremacists and the Democratic Party in 1874 and 1875, including the Vicksburg massacre. Today, Vicksburg's population is majority African American. The city is home to three large installations of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which has often been involved in local flood control.


First people

The area that is now Vicksburg was long occupied by the Natchez Native Americans as part of their historical territory along the Mississippi. The Natchez spoke a language isolate not related to the Muskogean languages of the other major tribes in the area. Before the Natchez, other indigenous cultures had occupied this strategic area for thousands of years.

European settlement

The first Europeans who settled the area were French colonists who built Fort Saint Pierre in 1719 on the high bluffs overlooking the Yazoo River at present-day Redwood. They conducted fur trading with the Natchez and others, and started plantations. On 29 November 1729, the Natchez attacked the fort and plantations in and around the present-day city of Natchez. They killed several hundred settlers, including Jesuit missionary Paul Du Poisson. As was the custom, they took a number of women and children as captives, adopting them into their families.

The Natchez War was a disaster for French Louisiana, and the colonial population of the Natchez District never recovered. Aided by the Choctaw, traditional enemies of the Natchez, though, the French defeated and scattered the Natchez and their allies, the Yazoo.

The Choctaw Nation took over the area by right of conquest and inhabited it for several decades. Under pressure from the US government, the Choctaw agreed to cede nearly 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of land to the US under the terms of the Treaty of Fort Adams in 1801. The treaty was the first of a series that eventually led to the removal of most of the Choctaw to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River in 1830. Some Choctaw remained in Mississippi, citing article XIV of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek; they became citizens of the state and the United States. They struggled to maintain their culture against the pressure of the binary slave society, which classified people as only white or black.

In 1790, the Spanish founded a military outpost on the site, which they called Fort Nogales (nogales meaning "walnut trees"). When the Americans took possession in 1798 following the American Revolutionary War and a treaty with Spain, they changed the name to Walnut Hills. The small village was incorporated in 1825 as Vicksburg, named after Newitt Vick, a Methodist minister who had established a Protestant mission on the site. [9]

Drawing of the hanging of five gamblers in Vicksburg in 1835 Vicksburg gambler hanging 1835.jpg
Drawing of the hanging of five gamblers in Vicksburg in 1835
View of Vicksburg in 1855 View of Vicksburg, Mississippi.jpg
View of Vicksburg in 1855

The town of Vicksburg was incorporated in 1825, with a population of 3,000 people; of which approximately twenty people were Jewish and had immigrated from Bavaria, Prussia, and Alsace–Lorraine. [10] [11]

In 1835, during the Murrell Excitement, a mob from Vicksburg attempted to expel the gamblers from the city, because the citizens were tired of the rougher element treating the city residents with nothing but contempt. They captured and hanged five gamblers who had shot and killed a local doctor. [12] Historian Joshua D. Rothman calls this event "the deadliest outbreak of extralegal violence in the slave states between the Southampton Insurrection and the Civil War." [13]

In 1862, fifty Jewish families formed the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Anshe Chesed in Vicksburg, and received a charter from the state. [11] Two years later in 1864, the Anshe Chesed Cemetery was formed, and it was the second Jewish cemetery in the city; not much is known about the first Jewish cemetery. [10] [14]

The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was based at his family plantation at Brierfield, just south of the city.

Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the city finally surrendered during the Siege of Vicksburg, after which the Union Army gained control of the entire Mississippi River. The 47-day siege was intended to starve the city into submission. Its location atop a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River proved otherwise impregnable to assault by federal troops. The surrender of Vicksburg by Confederate General John C. Pemberton on July 4, 1863, together with the defeat of General Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg the day before, has historically marked the turning point of the Civil War in the Union's favor.

From the surrender of Vicksburg until the end of the war in 1865, the area was under Union military occupation. [15]

Celebrations of the 4th of July, the day of surrender, were irregular until 1947. The Vicksburg Evening Post of July 4, 1883, called July 4 "the day we don't celebrate", [16] and another Vicksburg newspaper, the Daily Commercial Appeal, in 1888 hoped that a political victory would bring an enthusiastic celebration the following year. [17] In 1902, the 4th of July saw only "a parade of colored draymen". [18] In 1947, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger stated that the city of Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July again until 1945, and then it was celebrated as Confederate Carnival Day. [19] A recent scholar disagrees, stating that large Fourth of July celebrations were being held by 1907, and informal celebrations before that. [20] [21] A large parade was held in 1890. [22]

Losing of Mississippi access and commercial status

Floating drydock in Vicksburg, circa 1905 Mississippi River floating dry dock - Vicksburg.jpg
Floating drydock in Vicksburg, circa 1905

Because of Vicksburg's location on the Mississippi River, it built extensive trade from the prodigious steamboat traffic in the 19th century. It shipped out cotton coming to it from surrounding counties and was a major trading city in West Central Mississippi.

However, in 1876, a Mississippi River flood cut off the large meander next to Vicksburg through the De Soto Point, which changed the Mississippi River's course away from the city. Vicksburg only retained access to an oxbow lake formed from the old channel of the river, which effectively isolated the city from accessing the Mississippi riverfront. The city's economy suffered greatly due to the lack of a functional river port; Vicksburg would not be a river town again until the completion of the Yazoo Diversion Canal in 1903 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [23]

Between 1881 and 1894, the Anchor Line, a prominent steamboat company on the Mississippi River from 1859 to 1898, operated a steamboat called the City of Vicksburg.

Political and racial unrest after Civil War

In the first few years after the Civil War, white Confederate veterans developed the Ku Klux Klan, beginning in Tennessee; it had chapters throughout the South and attacked freedmen and their supporters. It was suppressed about 1870. By the mid-1870s, new white paramilitary groups had arisen in the Deep South, including the Red Shirts in Mississippi, as whites struggled to regain political and social power over the black majority. Elections were marked by violence and fraud as white Democrats worked to suppress black Republican voting.

In August 1874, a black sheriff, Peter Crosby, was elected in Vicksburg. Letters by a white planter, Batchelor, detail the preparations of whites for what he described as a "race war," including acquisition of the newest Winchester guns. On December 7, 1874, white men disrupted a black Republican meeting celebrating Crosby's victory and held him in custody before running him out of town. [24] He advised blacks from rural areas to return home; along the way, some were attacked by armed whites. During the next several days, armed white mobs swept through black areas, killing other men at home or out in the fields, in what would come to be known as the Vicksburg massacre. Sources differ as to total fatalities, with 29–50 blacks and 2 whites reported dead at the time. Twenty-first-century historian Emilye Crosby estimates that 300 blacks were killed in the city and the surrounding area of Claiborne County, Mississippi. [25] The Red Shirts were active in Vicksburg and other Mississippi areas, and black pleas to the federal government for protection were not met.

At the request of Republican Governor Adelbert Ames, who had left the state during the violence, President Ulysses S. Grant sent federal troops to Vicksburg in January 1875. In addition, a congressional committee investigated what was called the "Vicksburg Riot" at the time (and reported as the "Vicksburg massacre" by northern newspapers.) Testimony from both black and white residents was given, as reported by the New York Times, but no one was ever prosecuted for the deaths. The Red Shirts and other white insurgents suppressed Republican voting by both whites and blacks; smaller-scale riots were staged in the state up to the 1875 elections, at which time white Democrats regained control of a majority of seats in the state legislature.

Under new constitutions, amendments and laws passed between 1890 in Mississippi and 1908 in the remaining southern states, white Democrats disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites by creating barriers to voter registration, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. They passed laws imposing Jim Crow and racial segregation of public facilities. In 1908, a publication documented some of Vicksburg's leading African Americans including lawyer and banker W. E. Mollison. [26]

On March 12, 1894, the popular soft drink Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time in Vicksburg by Joseph A. Biedenharn, a local confectioner. Today, surviving 19th-century Biedenharn soda bottles are prized by collectors of Coca-Cola memorabilia. The original candy store has been renovated and is used as the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.

20th century

Mississippi River Commission building, built 1884 Mississippi River Commission building in Vicksburg.jpg
Mississippi River Commission building, built 1884
Aerial view, 1932 Mississippi - Vicksburg - NARA - 23941741 (cropped).jpg
Aerial view, 1932

The exclusion of most blacks from the political system lasted for decades until after Congressional passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Lynchings of blacks and other forms of white racial terrorism against them continued to occur in Vicksburg after the start of the 20th century. In May 1903, for instance, two black men charged with murdering a planter were taken from jail by a mob of 200 farmers and lynched before they could go to trial. [27] In May 1919, as many as a thousand white men broke down three sets of steel doors to abduct, hang, burn and shoot a black prisoner, Lloyd Clay, who was falsely accused of raping a white woman. [28] [29] From 1877 to 1950 in Warren County, 14 African Americans were lynched by whites, most in the decades near the turn of the century. [30]

The United States Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River in 1903 into the old, shallowing channel to revive the waterfront of Vicksburg. The port city was able to receive steamboats again, but much freight and passenger traffic had moved to railroads, which had become more competitive.

Railroad access to the west across the river continued to be by transfer steamers and ferry barges until a combination railroad-highway bridge was built in 1929. After 1973, Interstate 20 bridged the river. Freight rail traffic still crosses by the old bridge. North-south transportation links are by the Mississippi River and U.S. Highway 61. Vicksburg has the only crossing over the Mississippi River between Greenville and Natchez, and the only interstate highway crossing of the river between Baton Rouge and Memphis.

During the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, in which hundreds of thousands of acres were inundated, Vicksburg served as the primary gathering point for refugees. Relief parties put up temporary housing, as the flood submerged a large percentage of the Mississippi Delta.

Because of the overwhelming damage from the flood, the US Army Corps of Engineers established the Waterways Experiment Station as the primary hydraulics laboratory, to develop protection of important croplands and cities. Now known as the Engineer Research and Development Center, it applies military engineering, information technology, environmental engineering, hydraulic engineering, and geotechnical engineering to problems of flood control and river navigation.

In December 1953, a severe tornado swept across Vicksburg, causing 38 deaths and destroying nearly 1,000 buildings.

Vicksburg 1910 LOC pan 6a13672.jpg
A 1910 panorama

During World War II, cadets from the Royal Air Force, flying from their training base at Terrell, Texas, routinely flew to Vicksburg on training flights. The town served as a stand-in for the British for Cologne, Germany, which is the same distance from London, England as Vicksburg is from Terrell. [31]

Particularly after World War II, in which many blacks served, returning veterans began to be active in the civil rights movement, wanting to have full citizenship after fighting in the war. In Mississippi, activists in the Vicksburg Movement became prominent during the 1960s.

Early 21st century

In 2001, a group of Vicksburg residents visited the Paducah, Kentucky, mural project, looking for ideas for their own community development. [32] In 2002, the Vicksburg Riverfront murals program was begun by Louisiana mural artist Robert Dafford and his team on the floodwall located on the waterfront in downtown. [33] Subjects for the murals were drawn from the history of Vicksburg and the surrounding area. They include President Theodore Roosevelt's bear hunt, the Sultana, the Sprague, the Siege of Vicksburg, the Kings Crossing site, Willie Dixon, the Flood of 1927, the 1953 Vicksburg, Mississippi tornado, Rosa A. Temple High School (known for integration activism) and the Vicksburg National Military Park. [34] The project was finished in 2009 with the completion of the Jitney Jungle/Glass Kitchen mural. [33]

In the fall of 2010, a new 55-foot mural was painted on a section of wall on Grove Hill across the street from the original project by former Dafford muralists Benny Graeff and Herb Roe. The mural's subject is the annual "Run thru History" held in the Vicksburg National Military Park. [35] [36]

On December 6–7, 2014, a symposium was held on the 140th anniversary of the 1874 riots. A variety of scholars gave papers and an open panel discussion was held on the second day at the Vicksburg National Military Park, in collaboration with the Jacqueline House African American Museum. [37]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.3 sq mi (91 km2), of which 32.9 sq mi (85 km2) are land and 2.4 sq mi (6.2 km2) (6.78%) are covered by water.

Vicksburg is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. Much of the city is on top of a high bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Vicksburg is also served by Interstate 20. The interstate opens Vicksburg with a cloverleaf interchange that heads out to U.S. Route 61 North towards Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Clarksdale, Mississippi, and stretches out for another 77 miles towards Memphis, Tennessee. On the south part of the exit, it heads on Mississippi Highway 27 towards Utica, Mississippi. As the interstate goes on it makes interchanges with Clay Street, Indiana Avenue, and Halls Ferry Road. After the downtown interchanges are over, before finally crossing in Louisiana with a cloverleaf interchange, I-20 makes a directional T interchange with US-61, and US-61 heads south toward Port Gibson, Mississippi, Natchez, Mississippi, and then continues for another 92 miles into Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louisiana's capital city. Interstate 20 then continues to head west towards Monroe, Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana, Dallas, and lastly after 445 miles, making a trumpet interchange with Interstate 10 in Toyah, Texas.


Vicksburg has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and hot, humid summers.

Climate data for Vicksburg, Mississippi (Vicksburg – Tallulah Regional Airport) 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1948–present
Record high °F (°C)81
Mean maximum °F (°C)76
Mean daily maximum °F (°C)57.2
Daily mean °F (°C)47.6
Mean daily minimum °F (°C)37.9
Mean minimum °F (°C)20
Record low °F (°C)−2
Average precipitation inches (mm)5.44
Average snowfall inches (cm)0.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)9.310.
Source: NOAA [38] [39]


Historical population
1850 3,678
1860 4,59124.8%
1870 12,443171.0%
1880 11,814−5.1%
1890 13,37313.2%
1900 14,83410.9%
1910 20,81440.3%
1920 18,072−13.2%
1930 22,94327.0%
1940 24,4606.6%
1950 27,94814.3%
1960 29,1434.3%
1970 25,478−12.6%
1980 25,434−0.2%
1990 20,908−17.8%
2000 26,40726.3%
2010 23,856−9.7%
2020 21,573−9.6%
2022 (est.)20,391 [6] −5.5%
U.S. Decennial Census [40]
2020 Census [5]

2020 census

Vicksburg racial composition as of 2020 [41]
White 5,97427.69%
Black or African American 14,42366.86%
Native American 270.13%
Asian 2090.97%
Other/Mixed 5372.49%
Hispanic or Latino 4031.87%

As of the 2020 census, there were 21,573 people, 8,969 households, and 4,864 families residing in the city.


The city is home to three large US Army Corps of Engineers installations: the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), which also houses the ERDC's Waterways Experiment Station; the Mississippi Valley Division headquarters; and the Vicksburg District headquarters.

The 412th Engineer Command of the US Army Reserve and the 168th Engineer Brigade of the Mississippi Army National Guard are also located in Vicksburg.

The United States Coast Guard's 8th District/Lower Mississippi River sector has an Aids To Navigation unit located in Vicksburg, operating the buoy tending vessel USCGC Kickapoo. [42]

In 2017, Emma Green of The Atlantic stated, "The Army Corps of Engineers sustains the town economically". [43] 12.3% of the local workforce is employed by the federal government. [44]


Vicksburg is the home of four casinos along the Mississippi River.

Arts and culture

Annual cultural events

Every summer, Vicksburg plays host to the Miss Mississippi Pageant and Parade. Also every summer, the Vicksburg Homecoming Benevolent Club hosts a homecoming weekend/reunion that provides scholarships to graduating high-school seniors. Former residents from across the country return for the event.

Every summer since 1936, Vicksburg Theatre Guild has hosted Gold in the Hills, which holds the Guinness World Record for longest-running show.

Places of interest

Vicksburg City Hall, by architect James Riely Gordon Vicksburg City Hall, Mississippi.jpg
Vicksburg City Hall, by architect James Riely Gordon


U.S. Post Office (former) and Courthouse in Vicksburg Vicksburg December 2018 25 (United States Post Office and Courthouse).jpg
U.S. Post Office (former) and Courthouse in Vicksburg

The city government consists of a mayor who is elected at-large and two aldermembers. The current mayor is George Flaggs Jr., who defeated former mayor Paul Winfield in the June 2013 election. The two aldermembers are elected from single-member districts, known as wards.


Mississippi River at Vicksburg Vicksburg-SL2.jpg
Mississippi River at Vicksburg

The City of Vicksburg is served by the Vicksburg-Warren School District.

High schools

Junior high schools

Elementary schools

Private schools

Former schools



Vicksburg Daily News, [48] Vicksburg's only locally owned amateur news source.

The Vicksburg Post, [49] formerly the Vicksburg Evening Post.




The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad and then the Illinois Central Railroad for several decades had passenger service through the city, at two different stations, one on Levee Street, and the other on Cherry Street. The IC's Planter went north to Memphis, Tennessee and south to New Orleans. The Chery Street station hosted the Northeastern Limited and an unnamed train east to Jackson and Meridian (sleeping car passengers could continue to New York; coach passengers could transfer at Meridian's Union Station to an Atlanta and New York bound train there), and the Southwestern Limited and another train west to Monroe and Shreveport's Union Station. [50] [51] The final train serving Vicksburg was the Southwestern Limited/Northeastern Limited in 1967.

Interstate 20 runs east–west through the southern part of Vicksburg. U.S. Highway 80 runs east–west through the city. U.S. Highway 61 runs north–south through the city.

The nearest airport with commercial flights is Jackson–Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, 53.2 miles to the east of Vicksburg. Vicksburgh Tallulah Regional Airport and Vicksburg Municipal Airport, to the west and to the south of Vicksburg, are, on the other hand, two general aviation airports.

Notable people

Cultural references

See also

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Mississippi is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States. It borders Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Louisiana to the southwest, and Arkansas to the northwest. Mississippi's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River, or its historical course. Mississippi is the 32nd largest by area and 35th-most populous of the 50 U.S. states and has the lowest per-capita income. Jackson is both the state's capital and largest city. Greater Jackson is the state's most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 591,978 in 2020.

A Mississippi Landmark is a building officially nominated by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and approved by each county's chancery clerk. The Mississippi Landmark designation is the highest form of recognition bestowed on properties by the state of Mississippi, and designated properties are protected from changes that may alter the property's historic character. Currently there are 890 designated landmarks in the state. Mississippi Landmarks are spread out between eighty-one of Mississippi's eighty-two counties; only Issaquena County has no such landmarks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">3rd United States Colored Cavalry Regiment</span> Military unit

The 3rd United States Colored Cavalry was a regiment in the United States Army organized as one of the units of the United States Colored Troops during the American Civil War. The regiment was originally formed in October 1863 at Vicksburg, Mississippi as the 1st Mississippi Cavalry Regiment. The unit soon began taking part in expeditions near Vicksburg. In February–March 1864, the regiment saw action at Yazoo City. After being renamed the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry in March 1864, the regiment continued to participate in raids, including the Yazoo City expedition in May. In December 1864, the unit took part in a successful raid led by Benjamin Grierson during which the Battle of Egypt Station and other actions were fought. The regiment operated near Memphis, Tennessee, until April 1865, after which it returned to Vicksburg for occupation duties. The soldiers were mustered out of federal service in January 1866.


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Further reading