Vicksburg is the only city in Warren County, 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 with a Micropolitan population of 49,644. It is the county seat of Warren County.
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 28 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. The Natchez War was a disaster for French Louisiana as the colonial population of the Natchez District never recovered. However, with the help of 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. Nonetheless, many Choctaw remained in Mississippi, citing article XIV of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.
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.
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. 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. In 1876 a Mississippi River flood cut off the large meander flowing past Vicksburg, leaving limited access to the new channel.
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.
Vicksburg served as the primary refugee gathering point, and relief parties put up temporary housing during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. It submerged a large percentage of the Mississippi Delta. That flood was the impetus towards the US Army Corps of Engineers establishing the Waterways Experiment Station as the primary hydraulics laboratory, to develop protection of important croplands and cities from the river. 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.
In the first few years after the war, the Ku Klux Klan became active but was suppressed about 1870. By the mid-1870s, new paramilitary groups had arisen in the Deep South. On December 7, 1874 in the Vicksburg Massacre, white men killed at least 50 black residents. Alternate accounts estimated that upwards of 300 blacks were killed in the city and the surrounding area. The Red Shirts, a paramilitary organization that acted as an arm of the Democratic Party, was active in Vicksburg and other Mississippi areas. 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. At election times, paramilitary groups' intimidated black Republican voters into staying away from the polls, thereby preventing the election of any Republicans or blacks, despite their legal right to vote. By the late 1870s, the Democrats had regained power in state legislatures across the former Confederacy.
Lynchings and other forms of vigilante violence continued to occur in Vicksburg after the start of the 20th century as well. In May 1903, for example, 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.