Mississippi History

Mississippi - Maddox Genealogy

Mississippi - History, Civil War, and Later

The state of Mississippi was named for the river that flows along its  western boundary, and comes from several different Indian words.  The  most common translation is "Father of Waters."   Many Maddoxes moved to Mississippi, most often from Georgia and other southern states in the early 1800s.   This is a history of the state.

Originally inhabited by Indians from several tribal nations (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Natchez, etc.), Mississippi was not colonized until 1699  when Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d'Iberville landed in what is now Ocean Springs, on the Gulf Coast. Claimed by the French, then the Spanish  and English, Mississippi was eventually bought by the United States,  becoming its 20th state in 1817. By the 1830s, cotton was king, and the state was on its way to becoming one of the nation's wealthiest. On January 9, 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union, and, with the outbreak of the Civil War, battles were waged in every corner of the state.

Readmitted to the Union in 1870, the state began to rebuild. Long recognized as an agricultural state, today's Mississippi is also the nation's largest manufacturer of upholstered furniture, supplies 70% of the world's supply of pond raised catfish, and is home to NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center (Bay St. Louis), where  engines for the  Space Shuttles are tested.

When growing political tension forced the issue between union and secession into open conflict, Mississippi left the Union on a split decision. The wealthier families in the state, hesitant to trust their fortunes to a fledgling government, were joined in their support of the Union by the poorer classes, who feared the possibility of war. It was the ambitious middle class who pushed for separation from the Union and, through brilliant oratory and sheer numbers, swept the others with them into secession. At an emotional meeting of the state convention on January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second Southern state to secede from the Union on an 84-15 vote.  On January 21, Jefferson Davis resigned his seat in the United States Senate, and on February 9 was elected President of the Confederate States of America.

The election of a Mississippian to the Confederacy's highest office drew the state particularly close to the new government, and with the capture of Fort Sumter, any lingering doubts about secession were lost in the roar of cannon fire.  The people of the North dubbed the Civil War "The War of the Rebellion," while Southerners referred to it as "The War for Southern Independence." Slavery may have taken center stage as the catalyst issue, but the average soldier was neither slave holder nor abolitionist. "Billy Yank" fought to preserve the Union; "Johnny Reb" to ensure states' rights.

The Civil War, though an action of conquest, was mainly a conflict of principles. Union or Confederate, the volunteers who marched into battle in 1861 believed their cause was just.  During the first year of the Civil War, thousands of Mississippi volunteers fought in the Army of Northern Virginia, but there was no combat on Mississippi soil with the exception of the Union occupation of Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island in December 1861. The first invasion of Mississippi followed the fierce and bloody Battle of Shiloh, fought in early April 1862 because of the strategic railroad crossroads at Corinth. The Union victory at Shiloh forced the Confederates, commanded by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and numbering about 50,000 soldiers, to retreat within their works at Corinth, where a Union army of some 128,000 troops besieged them from April 29 to May 30. On the nights of May 29-30, their position having become untenable, Beauregard ordered a retreat to Tupelo.

Hard fighting took place at Lukas and Corinth in the fall of 1862 before Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commanding a Union army, began his first attempt to capture Vicksburg and attain control of the Mississippi River by marching southward through north Mississippi. Defeats at Coffeeville and Holly Springs, as well as Sherman's failure to carry the Confederate positions at Chickasaw Bayou along the Yazoo River above Vicksburg, forced Grant to try other approaches. These included the construction of Grant's Canal, an attempt to divert the Mississippi away from Vicksburg; and the Bayou campaigns, an attempt to come at Vicksburg through the rivers and bayous of the Mississippi Delta. All failed. Grant then decided to make another approach to the bluff city - an attempt known historically as the Vicksburg Campaign.

The Campaign for Vicksburg is considered by many historians to be the most ingenious military action in American history, with the prolonged quest for the city transforming central Mississippi into a bloody battleground. From Bruinsburg, Grant launched his relentless rnarch toward the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," carving a triangular arena of destruction. The Union forces moved northeast toward Jackson, capturing Port Gibson and Raymond en route to the capital city.  With the Stars and Stripes reinstated over the capitol's dome, the Union troops fought their way west, and after a major battle at Champion Hill and a defeat at the Big Black River, forced the Confederates defending the path to Vicksburg back inside the fortified city. When attempts to take the city by force failed, Grant  laid siege to Vicksburg. Cut off from the rest of the Confederacy and short on food, water and medical supplies, the city was forced to surrender on July 4, 1863.

(Click to Dramatic Memoir of a Union Colonel Maddux's experiences in the Seige of Vicksburg..from Maddox Site's Military section.)

The Union victory at Vicksburg, and the subsequent surrender of Port Hudson in Louisiana, gave the Federals control of the Mississippi River, and coupled with the Union victory at Gettysburg, crushed the hopes of the dying Confederacy.  After the city's fall, the majority of Confederate forces left in active service in Mississippi were sent to other states. In 1864, the Southern troops who remained, including a highly effective force of mounted infantry commanded by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, were kept on the defensive by numerous Union forays into the state. The most significant of these raids, Gen. William T. Sherman's Meridian Expedition, occurred during the winter of 1864 and resulted in the destruction of everything of military value from Vicksburg to Meridian. A Union cavalry force under Gen. Sooy Smith had been ordered to join Sherman at Meridian but was routed by Forrest at Okolona on February 22 and retreated instead to Memphis.  Later in 1864, Sherman, who wanted above all else to keep Forrest off his supply lines in Tennessee as his army pushed into Georgia toward Atlanta, sent three successive expeditions into north Mississippi. Battles at Brice's Cross Roads and Tupelo, skirmishing at Oxford and a celebrated raid by Forrest on Memphis ensued between June and August of that year.

At the Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, hotly fought in June, Forrest and his outnumbered horsemen enjoyed an overwhelming victory against a numerically superior mixed Union force of artillery, cavalry and infantry. Despite such brilliant tactical victories, the war was drawing to its inevitable close following Sherman's conquest of Atlanta and Grant's successes in Virginia. Forrest's triumph at Brice's Cross Roads proved to be a hollow one.  Contraband camps were established throughout Mississippi in areas that were under Federal military control after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The more notable of these sites were near Corinth, Vicksburg, Natchez and the Gulf Coast.  On May 4, 1865, less than one month after Lee and Grant met at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, Mississippi forces surrendered. And the soldiers and citizens of the state looked toward peace. Of the 80,000 soldiers Mississippi contributed to the Confederate cause, 59,000 were either dead or wounded by war's end.

In his last public address, Jefferson Davis urged Southerners to put the sorrowful memories of the Civil War behind them and work to build a strong, united country.   "Before you lies the future," Davis said. "Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feelings, and bring about   a consummation devoutly to be wished - a united country."

 In 1911, 48 years after the fall of Vicksburg, U.S. Gen. Fred D. Grant, the oldest son of Ulysses S. Grant, echoed Davis' thoughts upon returning to the city.   "Leaving those days of strife and battle, the years 1861-1865,     we look gratefully upon our present time of peace and    prosperity, when North and South are drawn together .. in  harmony and union," Grant remarked at dedication ceremonies  in the Vicksburg National Military Park. "How beautifully this    present condition of peace in our land is expressed by the   inscription on yonder monument, which says, 'Here brothers   fought for their principles; here heroes died for their country;  and a united people will forever cherish the precious legacy of  their noble manhood.' "  Veterans from both sides felt an obligation to preserve the memory of those turbulent years, and as a result of their joint efforts, a number of important battle sites, including the Vicksburg National Military Park, were purchased for preservation.  Today the fields are tranquil and the guns silent, but an aura of timelessness dominates the landscape. Glorious triumphs and heartbreaking defeats are captured in stone and bronze, withstanding the touch of time to share their t stories with future generations. Monuments honoring long ago heroes, from both North and South, remind visitors that this ground is hallowed, populated by restless spirits clad in blue and gray.

North Mississippi

From the first shots at the Battle of Shiloh until the surrender of the Confederacy, north Mississippi boiled with fierce battles, strategic engagements and intense skirmishes. While the Campaign for Vicksburg was the most significant military effort in Mississippi, the majority of the 772 battles which took place on Mississippi soil occurred in the northern section of the state. The towns of Aberdeen, Baldwyn, Corinth, Holly Springs, Luka, Okolona, Oxford, Pontotoc and Tupelo all assumed their places in the dark history of the war.

Baldwyn  After the fall of Vicksburg in 1863, Confederate troops focused on hampering Gen. Sherman in his campaign for Atlanta. In June of 1864, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest organized his mounted infantry for an attack on Sherman's supply line, and Union Gen. Samuel Sturgis moved out of Memphis with plans to hold Forrest in north Mississippi. The opposing units - 3,500 Confederates and 8,1 00 Federals - met at Brice's Cross Roads. The out- numbered Confederates attacked vigorously and forced the Union troops back. Sturgis began a careful withdrawal, but as the troops crossed Tishomingo Creek, a supply wagon overturned, panicking the soldiers and turning their orderly retreat into a full blown rout. In their wild flight to Memphis, over 1,500 Union soldiers were captured, while almost as many were killed in a hail of bullets and shells. The Confederate victory was a brilliant success for Forrest, the colorful military genius.

Corinth  The city's strategic location at the junction of two railroads made Corinth a prime strategic prize for both the Union and Confederate forces. Federal Gen. H.W. Halleck told his high command,  "Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of  war ...," while Confederate Gen. RG.T. Beauregard warned his  superiors, "if defeated here we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause ...." Federal forces numbering 128,315 inched their way toward Corinth in late April and May of 1862, erecting earthworks every step of the way for 20 miles, until entrenched so close to Corinth they could hear the clatter of trains and the beat of Confederate drums inside the fortified city.  Vastly outnumbered and facing a shortage of supplies, Beauregard decided to conduct a secret retreat to Tupelo. Dummy cannon guarded the lines, campfires burned and buglers serenaded the deserted works. As empty train cars returned to the station, the Confederates cheered as if being reinforced. When Halleck's men cautiously entered the city at daybreak on May 30, they discovered only a deserted town and abandoned earthworks.  The Battle of Corinth occurred in October 1862, when the Confederates attempted to retake the town in what was to become the bloodiest battle in Mississippi history. Hand-to-hand fighting engulfed most of downtown. The Confederates were forced to abandon the town because they failed to capture Battery Robinett.

Grenada  The city escaped the ravages of war until Grant's victory at Vicksburg allowed him to turn his attention to the conquest of the state's interior. In 1863, Union forces from Tennessee and the Big Black River near Vicksburg moved simultaneously toward Grenada to join forces and capture the railroad stock there. In order to avoid being surrounded by the approaching Federals, the Confederate cavalry withdrew from Grenada. Facing interference from other Confederate troops, the Union force destroyed 51 railroad engines, nearly 500 cars and a large quantity of supplies.

Holly Springs  Standing squarely in the path of Union attempts to invade Mississippi from the north, Holly Springs was the site of some 61 raids by both armies during the course of the war. The town changed hands so many times and with such alarming frequency, the citizens made a daily practice of checking to see which flag was flying.  The most famous of these raids was led by Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn in 1862. In preparation for the Vicksburg Campaign, Grant moved his supply base to Federally occupied Holly Springs. Attacking in the early morning, Van Dorn's raiders took the Federals completely by surprise. While the townspeople rejoiced in the streets, the confused Union troops wandered around in their night clothes.  The raiders discovered an abundance of food, clothing and ammunition, and destroyed what they could not carry. Grant's losses were estimated at $1 million, forcing him to postpone the Vicksburg Campaign in order to regroup.

Tupelo  After the disastrous Union rout at Brice's Cross Roads, Gen. Sherman ordered Gen. A.J. Smith to,       "Go out and follow Forrest to the death..."  Smith set out to draw the Confederate forces commanded by Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Gen. Forrest into battle, and the opposing forces met at a hamlet called Harrisburg, near the larger town of Tupelo. A wounded foot forced Forrest from his horse into a carriage, which he drove madly up and down the Confederate lines, swearing and shouting orders as he went. A misunderstood direction cost the Confederates the battle - an incident which one of Forrest's men described as "making the general so mad he stunk." Smith, with his men suffering from heat exhaustion and short of supplies, retreated hastily to Memphis, leaving his own wounded troops behind.  According to legend, as Generals Lee and Forrest discussed the day's events that evening, Lee wondered aloud why he had not met with the success in battle that Forrest usually experienced.   "Well General," Forrest is said to have replied, "I suppose it's    because I'm not handicapped by a West Point education."

Central Mississippi

The fate of the Confederacy was sealed in central Mississippi, when the fall of Vicksburg gave the Union forces control of the Mississippi River. Grant's campaign for the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy" left a path of destruction across Mississippi, with bloody battles fought at Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson and Edwards.

Canton  Just north of Jackson, Canton was battered by two Union invasions during the war, and Sherman established temporary headquarters in a tent beneath a large tree that came to be known as the "Sherman Oak."

Edwards  The importance of the Battle of Champion Hill to the outcome of the war is overshadowed only by the fall of Vicksburg, which came six weeks after the Confederate loss at Champion Hill.  May of 1863 found Gen. John C. Pemberton and 30,000 Confederate troops entrenched at Vicksburg, and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and forces numbering 20,000 moving toward Jackson to defend the capital city. Grant and the bulk of the Union forces were on the march toward Vicksburg when Johnston ordered Pemberton to reinforce him at Jackson. The united Confederate forces would have outnumbered Grant by some 20,000 soldiers. Pemberton, however, was reluctant to leave Vicksburg.

 President Davis had instructed him to defend Vicksburg at all costs.  By the time Pemberton moved, the Union troops had forced Johnston to retreat to Canton and were approaching Vicksburg. Pemberton led a force of 20,000 out to meet them, and on May 16, the armies collided at Champion Hill. The fierce fighting lasted for hours, with the crest of the hill changing hands three times.  When the Federals were reinforced by fresh troops, Pemberton chose to withdraw rather than see his entire army destroyed. Too exhausted to celebrate what was a major victory, the Union soldiers camped on the site, sleeping among the dead from both sides.

Greenwood  The towns of the Mississippi Delta were spared physical damage during the war, but were economically devastated. With almost every able bodied male enlisted as a soldier, no one was left to grow the cotton that was the backbone of the Delta economy, and Union blockades prevented the shipping of the small amount that could be produced.  A significant military engagement occurred in the Delta at Fort Pemberton in Greenwood. The Union planned a naval expedition south via the Yazoo Pass through the Tallahatchie River to the Yazoo River and the hills north of Vicksburg. The Confederate forces defending Fort Pemberton successfully drove back the three Union ironclads, forcing Grant to seek another route to Vicksburg.

 Jackson  Union troops converged on the capital city on May 14,1863, forcing the outnumbered defenders to evacuate the city. While Grant celebrated in Jackson's finest hotel, the Federal troops began a jubilant parade throughout the city, celebrating under the influence of what Sherman called "a bad lot of rum."    "Many citizens fled... abandoning houses, stores, and all their personal property," a Federal soldier recalled later. "The streets  were filled with people carrying away all the stolen goods they    could.... The convicts of the penitentiary .. set all buildings  connected with the prison on fire, and their lurid flames added  to the holocaust."

When the Federal forces turned their attention to Vicksburg, Johnston's Confederates re-established themselves in Jackson, only to have the city recaptured by Sherman upon his return march in July. On their second visit to the capital, the Union forces inflicted major damage, rendering the once lovely town a smoking ruin and earning Jackson the dismal nickname, "Chimneyville." It was at Jackson that Sherman is said to have uttered his famous remark,    "War is hell."

Meridian  Prior to the war, Meridian was a small community built around a railroad crossing. The war brought a Confederate arsenal, military hospital, prisoner-of-war stockade... and Gen. Sherman, who demolished the railroads, burned the town and proclaimed,  "Meridian no longer exists."  However, he didn't count on the determination of the people, who began rebuilding as soon as his forces left the area. Within two months of Sherman's proclamation, the tracks were reopened.

Vicksburg  A victory at Vicksburg would sever Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana from the Confederacy and give the Union complete control of the Mississippi River. For over a year, the city seemed impregnable, as Federal forces made fruitless and often disastrous attempts by land and by water to capture it. Adm. David Farragut - a former Pascagoula resident - led Union gunboats against the city, but withdrew after several bombardments failed to shake the defenders.

Grant and Sherman planned a converging attack from the north, but Grant was forced to withdraw when his supply base at Holly Springs was raided, and Sherman was hurled back in a disastrous charge on Chickasaw Bayou. Grant tried a rear attack through a series of bayou expeditions, all of which failed. There was even an attempt to out a channel opposite the city so the Union gunboats could access the Mississippi without facing the guns of Vicksburg, but Grant's engineers could not alter the powerful river's course.  In the spring of 1863, Grant passed the batteries of the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," landed down river of the city and marched back to the north, scattering the Confederate defenders who attempted to stop him.

Following their defeat at Champion Hill, Pemberton's Confederates attempted to rebuff the advance at the fortified Big Black River Bridge, but again failed. With the Union troops in pursuit, the routed Rebels swarmed back to Vicksburg, driving confiscated livestock into the city in anticipation of a siege.  Once inside the fortified city, the Confederates were able to halt the Federal advance. After suffering heavy casualties on two frontal assaults, Grant decided to surround the city and starve the defenders into submission. For 47 days and nights, the Union forces engaged in "the grand sport of tossing giant shells into Vicksburg."

Accompanied by their slaves and taking their furniture and possessions, the frightened citizens fled to caves dug into the hillsides, seeking shelter from the constant rain of shells.

Citizens and soldiers alike suffered for the duration of the siege. The summer heat was terrible. The water supply was low. And mule meat became a delicacy. As the long days passed, the distance between the lines grew shorter, until the opposing troops were almost eye-to-eye. During lulls in the fighting, Union and Confederate soldiers exchanged jokes and stories along with coffee and tobacco. And two brothers from Missouri who were fighting on opposite sides were temporarily reunited.  On July 3, facing mass starvation and dwindling supplies, Pemberton met with Grant to discuss terms of surrender. Grant demanded "unconditional surrender," to which Pemberton replied,  "Sir, it is unnecessary that you and I hold any further conversation.... I can assure you, you will bury many more of your men before you will enter Vicksburg."  Grant relented, and Pemberton surrendered the city on July 4,1863.

When the Union troops entered Vicksburg, they found a starving population and a town in which almost every window pane had been shattered by shells. The Confederates expected a full- fledged Union celebration; instead the Federal troops provided them with much needed food and, according to one witness, "a hearty cheer was given by one Federal division for the gallant defenders of Vicksburg."

South Mississippi

 Natchez With the Union concentration on Vicksburg, the Civil War had little impact on southern Mississippi. Natchez surrendered and was occupied by Union forces early in the war, but the city was for the most part spared any actual fighting.

Port Gibson  By 1863, Grant concluded that he could not take Vicksburg by frontal assault. Waiting until nightfall on April 16, Grant ran his gunboats past the city's batteries with the intention of landing at Grand Gulf, then marching back north to attack Vicksburg from the rear. Commanded by Gen. John Bowen, the Confederate forces at Grand Gulf repelled the Union attack, and Grant probed further south in search of a landing site. A runaway slave directed Grant to Bruinsburg, where 30,000 Federal troops landed unopposed and marched inland. Bowen set out from Grand Gulf to stop the approaching Federals, and the two armies clashed in the dense forests near Port Gibson. Fighting began shortly after mid-night in the vicinity of the still extant Shaifer House on the old Rodney (Shaifer) Road. Bowen was able to hold the enemy in a furious engagement for over 18 hours but finally withdrew, leaving many of his men dead. The Confederates at Grand Gulf were outflanked and were forced to abandon the position in order to avoid being trapped, and Grant assumed contr-ol of the fortifications.  In a rare departure from his "scorched earth" policy, Grant declared Port Gibson "too beautiful to burn," and left the town's picturesque collection of homes and churches unscathed.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

With the exception of a few skirmishes and the Union occupation of Fort Massachusetts, Mississippi's Gulf Coast was comparatively unharmed. Southern Mississippi's most famous contribution to the Civil War was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who as a boy lived near Woodville and returned to spend his final years in Biloxi, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Biloxi  Jefferson Davis was arrested at the war's end, and spent two years in a Federal prison awaiting trial before treason charges against him were dismissed. Davis eventually retired to Beauvoir, a breezy mansion over- looking the Gulf of Mexico where he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

Ocean Springs  Twelve miles out in the Gulf of Mexico lies Ship Island, a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the home of Fort Massachusetts. Union forces captured the fort early in the war, and staged their attack on New Orleans from Ship Island. Later, under orders from Gen. Benjamin "Beast" Butler, who held New Orleans for the Union, Fort Massachusetts became a POW camp for captured Confederates and civilian military prisoners.

A hundred Years later

In the 1950s and 60s, civil rights meetings were held in churches, restaurants and homes.  Much national attention turned to marches in Mississippi, where Reverend Martin Luther King focused a great deal of his time for the African American cause--of equal education and accommodations.  The state is not particularly proud of  the resistance against desegregation efforts at Old Miss, when a handful of black students sought admission to the state's flagship university.  The sixties were times when blacks stood gallantly for the principles and freedoms they believed in and it took Federal help to get that accomplished.

Today, Mississippi is an emerging state.  It is not a wealthy state, compared to most others.  The state has a long ways to go, in part due to it's history of the Civil War, migrations of many of its population to the north during the Depression..  But even so, the state's leaders and citizens are modernizing and take pride in what industries it has developed--even as holding dear it's significant history in America.

Most, but not all,  of the history text on this page from the Mississippi Department of Tourism and Economic Development