Farther Flung: History and Hauntings
Built in three sections, the McRaven Mansion in Vicksburg has been labeled the “Time Capsule of the South.” And rightly so. The original 1797 structure remains next to the 1836 addition with an elaborate Greek Revival front, constructed in 1849.
McRaven is also haunted. So haunted, in fact, that its second label is Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House.”
The Duff Green Mansion in town, an enormous house built by a cotton broker before the Civil War, also contains those who refuse to check out. But, unlike McRaven, owner Harley Caldwell doesn’t enjoy discussing her bed and breakfast apparitions, namely a one-legged Confederate and a small child named Annie.
“Annie’s thought to be the spirit that lingers on the stairs,” Caldwell explained. “I don’t believe in ghosts but if I have to do chores, I say a little prayer before I go about my business.”
Haunts or no haunts, one thing’s for certain. Vicksburg’s steeped in history.
In 1863, the Civil War dragged on and Union forces were anxious to capture control of the Mississippi River. Vicksburg stood at the center of the battle and Pres. Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg “the key” to victory over the South. U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant surrounded and held siege over the city for 47 days until Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton surrendered on July 4. But the “Siege of Vicksburg” took a massive toll on the city and its residents.
To learn more about this important turn in the war visit Vicksburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Cemetery, both part of the National Park Service. The massive battlefield includes miles of historic markers and antique artillery, the USS Cairo ironclad and more than 1,400 monuments and memorials. Pick up the audio guide at the visitor’s center or listen along on a corresponding phone app. The park offers occasional free admission, including Jan. 20 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
To get a visual of the town’s Civil War history, the Old Depot Museum offers a 250-square-foot diorama of the Siege of Vicksburg.
The town harks back further than the Civil War, founded in 1811 and incorporated as a town in 1825 because of its unique location on the Mississippi River. The Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum explains the relationship of Vicksburg’s commerce with the river, why the town was vital to the Union takeover in 1863 and how the river has changed course over the years.
Other historic museums include the Jacqueline House Museum, an appointment-only landmark dedicated to the area’s African American culture, and the Old Court House Museum, where visitors can tour on their own and view the largest collection of Civil War artifacts in the South.
Atlanta may lay claim to starting Coca-Cola (Columbus, Ga., does too) but Joseph Biedenharn first bottled the bubbly drink in Vicksburg in 1894, starting the worldwide craze. Visitors will learn more about this entrepreneurial feat in the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, located in the downtown Vicksburg building the Biedenharn family used as a wholesale candy company and shoe store.
Where to stay
Vicksburg is home to numerous bed and breakfasts, many of which date back to the Civil War. The Duff Green Mansion with its three stories and 15 ½-foot ceilings was built by cotton merchant Duff Green when he married the daughter of a local judge and was given an entire city block for a wedding present. One of the best examples of Palladian architecture in Mississippi, this massive home has seen many famous statesmen through its doors, including Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis.
Other mansions that survived the Siege of Vicksburg, and a few built after the Civil War, are open for accommodations, many of which include a house tour.
But if you’re still wondering about those ghosts, McRaven isn’t the only haunted house in town, although it’s top on the list. McRaven’s haunted tours are offered on weekends. Other sites to make your hair stand up include the Old Court House Museum and parts of the Vicksburg National Military Park.
For an overview, enlist Haunted Vicksburg Ghost Tours.
Mark your calendar
A great time to visit Vicksburg is the second Saturday of every month for Vicksburg Second Saturday. The historic downtown boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars offer special events, sales and more while on the street musicians perform.
10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill
Grab a craft beer, margarita or cocktail and enjoy the best view in town of the Mississippi River, Yazoo Diversion Canal and Centennial Lake. Every visit includes the restaurant’s complimentary pretzels and honey mustard sauce, but don’t miss the Yazoo City catfish tacos with sugarcane slaw and a cilantro corn salsa or their “famous” fried chicken topped with pepper jack cheese, candied bacon and a maple chili glaze.
Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail
Vicksburg exists within the Mississippi Delta and that means it’s also a stop on the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail. Solly’s Hot Tamales has been around since 1939, while The Tamale Place serves orders to go, a great stop for grabbing lunch to enjoy while watching ships pass on the river.
New to Vicksburg is Key City Brewing Co., pouring brews with names like Mississippi Queen and Hazy He Calls Me within the Cottonwood Public House in downtown Vicksburg. Visitors and locals alike hang out at Cottonwood, enjoying craft beer, trivia night and unique pizzas.
For more info visitvicksburg.com