Vicksburg is a city in and county seat of Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is the seventeenth largest city in Mississippi. It is located northwest of New Orleans on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and due west of Jackson, the state capital. In 1900, 14,834 people lived in Vicksburg; in 1910, 20,814; in 1920, 17,931; and in 1940, 24,460. The population was 26,407 at the 2000 census. In 2010, it became a Micropolitan Statistical Area with a population of 49,644. Vicksburg is the principal city of the Vicksburg Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Warren County.
The area which is now Vicksburg was previously part of the Natchez Native Americans' territory. 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. On 29 November 1729, the Natchez attacked the fort and plantations in and around the present-day city of Natchez, killing several hundred settlers, including the Jesuit Father Paul Du Poisson, and carrying off a number of women and children as captives. The Natchez War was a disaster for French Louisiana, and the colonial population of the Natchez District never recovered. But, aided by the Choctaw, traditional enemies of the Natchez, 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, in 1801 the Choctaw agreed to cede nearly of land to the US under the terms of the Treaty of Fort Adams. 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. Many Choctaw remained in Mississippi, citing article XIV of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, and became citizens of the state and the United States.
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, 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 mission on the site.
In 1835, during the Murrell Excitement, a mob from Vicksburg attempted to expel the gamblers from the city, because the citizens were sick of the rougher element treating the city with nothing but contempt. Five gamblers who had shot and killed a local doctor were hanged as a result. The 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."
It has been claimed that the residents of Vicksburg did not celebrate the national holiday of 4th of July again until 1945 but this is inaccurate. Large Fourth of July celebrations were being held by 1907, and informal celebrations took place before that.
Because of the city's location on the Mississippi River, in the 19th century it built an extensive trade from the river's prodigious steamboat traffic. It shipped cotton coming to it from surrounding counties and was a major trading city. In 1874, in Reconstruction-era violence, whites attacked a black Republican political gathering in Vicksburg. An estimated 300 blacks were killed, and the Republican governor Adelbert Ames left the state temporarily. Election cycles had been accompanied by increasing violence from white insurgents in the state as the Democrats worked openly to suppress black voting. In 1875, they succeeded in regaining control of the state legislature.
In 1876 a Mississippi River flood cut off the large meander flowing past Vicksburg, leaving limited access to the new channel. The city's economy suffered greatly. 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.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River in 1903 into the old, shallowing channel to rejuvenate the waterfront. Railroad access to the west was by transfer steamers and ferry barges until a combination railroad-highway bridge was built in 1929. This is the only Mississippi River rail crossing between Baton Rouge and Memphis. It is the only highway crossing between Natchez and Greenville.
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 nineteenth-century Biedenharn soda bottles are prized by collectors of Coca-Cola memorabilia. His original candy store has been renovated as the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.
During the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, where hundreds of thousands of acres were inundated, Vicksburg served as the primary refugee gathering point. 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.
In December 1953, a severe tornado swept across Vicksburg, causing 38 deaths and destroying nearly 1,000 buildings.
Political and racial unrest after the Civil War
In the first few years after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan developed chapters throughout the South, beginning in Tennessee. 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 and the White League in Louisiana, as whites struggled to regain political and social power over the black majority. On December 7, 1874 in the Vicksburg Massacre, white men disrupted a black Republican meeting, and swept through black areas, killing at least 50 black residents. Historian Emilye Crosby estimates that upwards of 300 blacks were killed in the city and the surrounding area. The Red Shirts were active in Vicksburg and other Mississippi areas.
At the request of Governor Adelbert Ames, President Ulysses S. Grant sent Federal troops to Vicksburg to quell the violence. In the aftermath of the Vicksburg Massacre, other states adopted what they called the "Mississippi Plan", an organized effort to suppress the black vote and unite whites under the Democrats. At election times, paramilitary groups intimidated black Republican voters into staying away from the polls, despite the majority of blacks in the state. In 1875 in Mississippi and within two years elsewhere in the former Confederacy, Democrats had regained control of state legislatures. Under new constitutions, amendments and laws passed from 1890 (Mississippi) to 1910, they imposed Jim Crow and disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites.
Lynchings and other forms of vigilante violence 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 went to trial.
Activists in the Vicksburg Movement were prominent in civil rights activities, especially during the 1960s.
In 2001, a group of Vicksburg residents visited the Paducah, Kentucky mural project. 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. Subjects for the murals were drawn from the history of Vicksburg and the surrounding area; they include President Theodore Roosevelt's bear hunt, the SS Sultana, the Sprague, the Siege of Vicksburg, the Kings Crossing site, Willie Dixon, the Flood of 1927, the 1953 Vicksburg, Mississippi tornado outbreak, Rosa A. Temple High School and the Vicksburg National Military Park. The project was finished in 2009 with the completion of the Jitney Jungle/Glass Kitchen mural. 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.