Saturday, February 4, 2023

HottyToddy Hometown: Vicksburg, Mississippi

1426714_362921057176783_566091437_nThe Mississippi River has long played a part in the historical, economic and residential development of Vicksburg. Founded in 1811 and incorporated on January 29, 1825, Vicksburg rapidly grew as a center for commerce, agriculture and river traffic.
In the 1800’s, river travel up and down the Mississippi was fraught with danger. Riverbends were littered with the remains of hundreds of riverboats. In 1838, Congress passed the first federal steamboat safety regulations. Although the Steamboat Act of 1838 made passenger safety requirements federal law, inspections and certifications were virtually impossible and the law was effectively unenforceable.
The hazardous conditions of river travel enabled the railroads to make significant inroads throughout the lower Mississippi River regions. In 1831, the Vicksburg and Clinton Railroad was organized for the purpose of shipping and receiving cotton and other products between the river port and inland Mississippi. Early rail operations in Vicksburg consisted of “mule power,” but by 1840 the line was complete to Clinton and “on track.”.
In 1846, the line and track spanned the state and was renamed the Vicksburg & Meridian Railroad, the only east-west railroad between Memphis and New Orleans.
Vicksburg’s best known contribution to American history is probably the part she played in the epic known as the Civil War.
In 1859, the Mississippi state convention adopted an official resolution calling for immediate secession from the Union if an abolitionist was elected president. Following Abraham Lincoln’s election, the state seceded by a vote of 8415 on January 9, 1861. With this vote, Mississippi followed South Carolina into the Confederate States of America.
By February, seven states had seceded. On February 9, 1861, representatives of these states met in Montgomery, Alabama and the provisional Confederate Congress elected Jefferson Davis as President of the CSA. Two days later, in Vicksburg, President Davis gave his first address as the first President of the Confederate States of America. In this address, he stated that he struggled “earnestly” to maintain the Union and the constitutional equality of all states but “our safety and honor required us to dissolve our connection with the United States. I hope that our separation may be peaceful. But whether it be so or not, I am ready, as I have always been, to redeem my pledges to you and the South by shedding every drop of blood in your cause…”.
Both the Confederacy and the Union expected a war, if fought, to be over after the first battle. After the first meeting near Manassas Junction, Virginia in July 1861, both factions were to realize the war would be long and hard.
Throughout the war, no matter the outcome of the battles, the South remained intact as long as the river remained open. As the North’s attention narrowed to the 150 mile area between Port Hudson and Vicksburg, the South’s economy was disrupted . The fall of New Orleans and the surrounding strongholds resulted in major evacuation procedures along the Lower Mississippi Valley region. Cotton was removed or prepared for destruction. Storekeepers loaded their goods and headed inland. Families left to visit relatives and acquaintances elsewhere in the state, and those left behind waited for the arrival of the Union fleet.
Vicksburg maintained rail access to the heart of the Confederacy at this time but most of the other towns along the river could not. They soon found their situation untenable.
Two weeks after capturing New Orleans, Farragut started up the Mississippi with repaired and resupplied warships. Although not an easy voyage, the northern troops pressed on. Baton Rouge fell first. On May 12, 1862, Natchez surrendered without a fight.
The first advance Union units arrived off the coast of Vicksburg on May 18, whereby Commander Samuel P Lee of the USS Oneida delivered an order for the surrender of the city. The city’s reply, delivered five hours later, was “No!” According to Colonel James L. Autry, Military commander of Vicksburg, “Mississippians don’t know and refuse to learn how to surrender to an enemy.”
After a period of intermittent bombardment from the river, Farragut conceded that he could not run his fleet past the “Gibraltar of the Mississippi.” As he was not equipped for river combat, his guns could not be elevated high enough to strike the city, and 1,400 troops would be hard pressed to scale the hills to overtake the garrison. Farragut withdrew his ships and returned to New Orleans.
Farragut arrived off Vicksburg again on June 25, with a force including 3,200 troops on transports and several mortar schooners designed to bombard the elevated shore batteries. The following two days of bombardment marked the city’s first concentrated assault and provided her first casualties.
The bombardment was only the beginning of continuing strife for the residents of Vicksburg. During the historic Siege of Vicksburg, the citizens of Vicksburg and her defenders began living in caves dug out of the hillsides, conducting their daily business as well as possible … while under constant bombardment from all sides. The siege caves of Vicksburg have long remained one of the most unique aspects of the city.
Content courtesy of https://www.vicksburg.org/history

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