Courtesy Columbus CVB
Published June 02, 2014
Known as the Magnolia State and the Hospitality State, Mississippi is one of the most unassuming destinations in the United States, and over the years, it has unexpectedly shaped the course of American and world history. The state of Mississippi was the 20th state to become a part of the Union in 1817 and played an active role in the Civil War.
Although the war ravaged much of the state, many spots across antebellum Mississippi somehow escaped the destruction of combat. Today, a group trip through the state provides a glimpse into the former grandeur of the Old South, as well as a look into the state’s rich antebellum history.
Port Gibson is not only the third-oldest incorporated town in Mississippi, but the antebellum gem was even proclaimed by Union General Ulysses S. Grant to be “too beautiful to burn” during the Civil War. Today, groups can enjoy its preserved charm with walking tours of the town. The tours highlight numerous homes and cemeteries listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as two historic antebellum churches.
“The Catholic church has a hand-carved altar rail,” said Linda Ory, director of Port Gibson Claiborne County Chamber of Commerce. “The panels in the church each show a religious scene and were carved by Daniel Foley from solid panels of walnut. Foley also carved the original golden wood hand on top of the Presbyterian church. Groups should also check out Grand Gulf Military Park and the famous ruins of Windsor, the most photographed site in the state of Mississippi.”
Best known for its role in the Civil War, Vicksburg was first settled as Fort St. Pierre in 1719 but became known as Vicksburg after it was founded in 1811 and incorporated in 1825. The Siege of Vicksburg began on May 18, 1863, and lasted until July 4, when General John Pemberton signed the city’s surrender to Grant.
Groups can experience Vicksburg’s Civil War history at the Vicksburg National Military Park, the Anchuca Mansion, the Cedar Grove Mansion, the Bazsinsky House, the Duff Green Mansion, the George Washington Ball House and the Old Court House Museum.
“The Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the world’s premier outdoor art parks,” said Ashley Gatian, group services manager for the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The leading artists of the last century were commissioned to create the commemorative sculptures that make up the more than 1,300 monuments in the park and throughout the city, and the homes and hallways of historic Vicksburg open their doors and tell the stories of Vicksburg’s river culture.”
Called an “antebellum encyclopedia” by some locals, Holly Springs is a quaint little town just 40 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee, with a rich history and a colorful heritage. The historic destination offers a walking and driving tour that includes more than 25 historic homes and churches, some of which are open to the public for daily tours.
“Holly Springs is filled with many stories, and, as we say in the South, ‘it depends on who is telling the story,’” said LaKisha Mitchell-Buffington, executive director for the Holly Springs Tourism and Recreation Bureau. “One or two of our claims to fame would be the fact that General Ulysses Grant personally stayed in Airliewood  on many occasions in and between the 62 times Holly Springs was occupied during the Civil War. We have such a varied heritage to share with others, and I’m grateful I have the opportunity to relay our message of passion, from our toils, our struggles, our battles and our victories, to the many visitors.”
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