Crossroads of the Confederacy

Fiery fields, a famous Forrest in an adventure that goes deep into the fray.

Nathan Bedford ForrestWhen it came to fighting in the Mississippi Hills, the Confederate Army may have been outgunned, but it was the Union Army that got outfoxed, repeatedly, as the Confederates stayed in the game by staying on their toes:  their tiptoes, that is.  P.G.T. Beauregard sneaked his men out of Corinth in the dark of night to evade capture; in the light of early morning, Earl Van Dorn and his men sneaked up on Grant's forces at Holly Springs to devastate Union supplies.  The Confederate fires at Holly Springs were breathtaking in every sense, but the business of battle was fairly chivalrous.  Still, there was plenty of hard fighting and more than a little high drama at the "Crossroads of the Confederacy," where two vital railroads converged and two armies clashed in almost record numbers, with the period between the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth in 1862 seeing the largest-ever amassing of troops in the Western Hemisphere.

Nathan Bedford Forrest helped make his reputation in the Mississippi Hills, in a decisive late-war victory at Brice's Crossroads, while U.S. Grant made a blunder nearly fatal to his command when he stretched his army from Holly Springs to Oxford and beyond, a line so taut  it snapped at a surprise Confederate assault-another wily maneuver.

After the debacle at Holly Springs, Grant and his men had to march home foraging as they went.  However, on your march through these fascinating Civil War sites, following in the footsteps of giants, you'll be well-fed and well-received in towns and communities ready to win you over with a charm offensive second to none.

In short, expect a tour with all the belles and whistles, beginning with the seductive wiles of this antebellum beauty:


Walter PlaceIt was the invitation to a ball that helped do in Grant's troops here-the previous evening's festivities left them slumbering happily, so that when Van Dorn's raiders galloped in, 1500 Union troops were captured in no time at all.   Today, this historic town is still just as captivating, with an ingratiating charm that will win you over as quickly as those Union soldiers.  Gorgeous historic homes, excellent museums, and dining that ranges from the finest to the famous.  (You can get a hamburger here that USA Today calls the best in the nation!)

Here are just a few of the stops where legendary hospitality and history await:

Must Stops:

Van Dorn Raid Driving Tour
104 E. Gholson * 662.252.2515
Horse-powered history:  Follow the path of Earl Van Dorn's cavalry as they took the city by storm. 

Walter Place Estate, Cottages, and Gardens
330 W. Chulahoma Ave. * 662.252.2515
Historic hospitality:  In the splendid setting of Holly Springs architecture, you might call the Walter Place the last of the great southern belles, exuberant in its grand mishmash of Gothic and Greek Revival styles. Built in 1859, the mansion was only a few years old when U.S. Grant chose it to house his wife, her slave and the Grant's young son while the general was off campaigning. Although Van Dorn's raiders laid waste to Union stores, they showed chivalrous restraint in their refusal to enter Mrs. Grant's personal rooms.  Today, the mansion and its estate, which now includes a 15-acre botanical garden, are a site to behold-and bedazzle.

More Sites of Interest:

Hill Crest Cemetery
Elder Ave. at Market St.
662.252.2515 * www.visithollysprings.com
Eagle's rest:  Truly a gathering of  greats-not only the resting place of 13 Confederate generals but also of Hiram Revels, a hero of Reconstruction and the first African American elected to the United States Senate.


Lyceum"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863," Faulkner wrote of Pickett's Charge, the Confederate's doomed assault during Gettysburg, a battle that had special resonance for Faulkner's home town.  Shiloh proved crucial, too, for it turned the University into a hospital, and later the site of a graveyard, for both soldiers on both sides.

A town steeped in history, Oxford is also a great place to soak up Southern culture at its finest, and, surprisingly, at its most forward-thinking.   Which means you can dine deliciously at any of a number of excellent restaurants, devour world-class literature at one of the nation's preeminent independent bookstores, and take in connoisseur-worthy musical stylings at one of the area's clubs.  Oxford is a town that goes down easy in an experience that stays with you, especially when you take in these historic stops:

Must Stops:

Ventress Hall
University of Mississippi Campus
Windows on a lost world:  A company of ardent young men struck down on the field of battle, a group of young women touched by their death, the world's greatest artist in stained glass.  Sounds like the making of a romantic novel, and it is indeed a story in three parts:  a triptych of stained glass windows depicting the University Grays, a company of Ole Miss students who perished to the last man in Pickett's Charge.   Tiffany's created the windows, commissioned by Delta Gamma sorority students.  With those lovely windows and its winding staircase, Ventress Hall, a Victorian gem, still echoes with a rich history; staffers are sometimes available for brief tours.

More Sites of Interest:

College Hill Presbyterian Church
College Hill Rd. * 800.758.9177
Sanctuary: Built with slave labor in the 1840s, this brick beauty served as Sherman's headquarters during the Union occupation that began in 1862.  William and Estelle Faulkner were also married here.

Confederate Cemetery
Behind Tad Smith Coliseum
Together they fell:  While its simplicity is reputedly accidental-the result of a groundskeeper's error-the cemetery, with its single monument at the center, offers a dignified resting place to 700 soldiers, both Union and Confederate.


Brices CrossroadsThe Tupelo/Baldwyn area saw a lot of late-war action with Nathan Bedford Forrest's determined but ultimately unsuccessful bid to take down Sherman's rail supplies.  It was a rare failure for these parts.  Generally speaking, this area is known for its notable successes-even the Confederate general himself enjoyed a legend-cementing upset victory here at Brice's Crossroads.  

Other brilliant careers that began here included that of the King of Rock and Roll, and more recently the city scored its own successful comeback, with the rejuvenated downtown Fairpark District, a great place to shop and dine-so great you may very well want to stage your own comeback after you've stopped at these history-rich sites:  

Must Stops:

Brice's Crossroads National Battlefield Site
607 Grisham St. * 800.305.7417
Brices CrossroadsBoom with a view:  Administered by the Natchez Trace National Parkway, the site began by preserving only a single acre of the battlefield and has expanded to the current 1,400 acre site. With its panoramic setting adding a real sense of time and place, Brice's Crossroads promises an immersive experience that packs a real punch with a lot of action packed in, including an auto tour, two battlefield trails, five markers, cannon, two cemeteries with nearly 100 gravesites and the Brice's Crossroads Visitors and Interpretive Center, which, with its video programs and flag displays, is a highlight all its own. 

Shady Grove Cemetery
Spring St., Iuka, MS
Shady rest:  After the perplexing and mysterious Battle of Iuka, more than 250 Confederate soldiers were buried here.

Tupelo National Battlefield
Hwy 6 * 800.305.7417
The last draw:  The Civil War's last major engagement in Mississippi occurred here in 1864, when Forrest and Sherman battled their armies to a draw.

More Sites of Interest:

Confederate Gravesites
Natchez Trace Pkwy., milepost 269.4
Bragging wrongs:  The burial site of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers who, according to lore, were executed by their own commander, Braxton Bragg.


Battle of CorinthHighly prized as a junction for the Mobile & Ohio and Memphis & Charleston railroads, Corinth, the "Crossroads of the Confederacy," was besieged and seized, but only after the battle of Shiloh was fought over it.  Today, the city is still a crossroads, where past and present converge in a beguiling blend of Southern culture and history.  It's the sort of town where a jewelry store shows its wares in a gem of a restored Italianate building, and where you can still order a cherry soda from an authentic soda fountain at the oldest family-owned pharmacy in the state.

Tradition here runs as deep as the nation's largest and best preserved example of military earthworks which still line the landscape.  Time for you to dig in at these don't-miss sites:

Must Stops:

Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center
501 W. Linden * 731.689.5696
Command point:  A lot of pioneering warfare was conducted in the Corinth campaigns-the use of earthworks and the railroads, to name just two.  And from the methods of warfare's madness to the causes of the conflict, this 12,000 square foot state-of-the-art Interpretive Center (part of the Shiloh National Military Park) gives you a truly commanding view through more than 5,000 square feet of interior exhibits and a variety of multi-media programs. 

Corinth Contraband Camp
North Parkway St. * 800.748.9048
They had a dream:  In fact, the nearly 6,000 escaped slaves who landed here in 1862 didn't just have a dream, they had the moxie to make it come true:  A 600-acre utopia, complete with a successful working farm, church, commissary, hospital, school and tidy houses. Today, the 21-acre site with pedestrian promenade offers visitors an opportunity to walk and dream that dream once more.

More Sites of Interest:

Battery F
Davis St. * 800.748.9048
A+ Example:  Despite its alphabetic designation, Battery F, dug by the Union forces, remains the nation's best example of preserved Civil War earthworks.

Civil War Earthworks
Various Sites * 800.748.9048
Stellar lineup:  The impressive system of earthworks that line the ground in Corinth represents sweat equity by both Union and Confederate forces.  If you are like area joggers, you may want to work up your own sweat with a run through them.  Or, a relaxing amble will work just fine as well.

Corinth National Cemetery
Horton St.* 800.748.9048
Tombs of the unknown:  Soldiers from 273 regiments representing 15 states are buried here, with gravesites that include 1,793 known and 3,895 unknown.

Shiloh National Military Park:
731 689 5696 * www.nps.gov/shil
The rest of the story:  Located just 20 minutes north of Corinth, the Shiloh National Military Park covers not just the linked stories of Corinth and Shiloh, but also a wealth of other history within its nearly 4,000 acres, which includes a national cemetery as well as Native American burial mounds. 


Weeping Angel at Friendship CemeteryWhile no battles were fought in Columbus, the reverberations of war echoed throughout the mansion-lined streets of this city, particularly when it was conscripted into service to treat the wounded after Shiloh.  Columbus was home to Confederate General Stephen D. Lee, who ordered the first shot at Fort Sumter- the man who, in effect, started the Civil War.  Yet it was also the women of Columbus who, in their way, brought an end the war, showing a grace in their treatment of the graves of war dead that set a new standard, and eventually led to new holiday for the entire nation.

In a charm-filled city where many of those mansions remain, you'll find those dramatic beginnings and gracious endings-but don't end your tour without stopping at these remarkable sites:

First Baptist Church
202 7th Street North * 662.328.3915
800.327.2686 * www.columbus-ms.org
Baptism by gunfire:  The largest church building in the state when it was constructed in the 1830, and certainly one of the grandest, the First Baptist edifice was converted to a hospital after the battle at Shiloh; soldiers were treated and kept warm with blankets made from the church's elegant carpet.

Friendship Cemetery
4th St. South * 800.327.2686
Angel's wings, angels' work:  Spreading picturesquely on a bluff overlooking the Tombigbee River, Friendship Cemetery was barely more than a decade old when the burials began for fallen Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate.  It was the gracious post-war decoration of their graves by a group of Columbus women that eventually gave rise to the nation's Memorial Day holiday.  Wandering through the markers-a mix of simple marble stones and more elaborate statuary-makes for more than one inspiring moment.   Look for the "Sleeping Angel" stone, particularly popular with photographers, and for the stone recognizing an angel of mercy, Mrs. Canant, a volunteer nurse in the Confederate army, and the only Confederate nurse officially recognized by the United States Government.

Lee Home/Museum
316 Seventh Street North
Stephen D., not Robert E.: Listed on the National Register, this restored Italianate mansion, built in 1847 and once the home of Confederate General Stephen D. Lee, today houses a treasure trove of Civil War artifacts and collections.

906 3rd Ave. North
800.327.2686 * www.columbus-ms.org
Host to the most:  Over the years, Snowdoun played host to some of the most important notables of the Confederate cause, including President Jefferson Davis, who, according to legend, as an aspiring senatorial candidate was awakened in the night by a crowd of well-wishers and was so eager to speak he raced to the balcony in his nightshirt. 

Twelve Gables
220 3rd Street South
800.327.2686 * www.columbus-ms.org
Flower power:  A popular stop on the annual Columbus pilgrimage, this antebellum mansion was the starting site for another pilgrimage in 1866, for it was here that the women met to carry flowers to the cemetery, in a rite that would eventually evolve into Memorial Day.

Seasonal Stops:

Annual Pilgrimage
800.327.2686 * www.columbus-ms.org
Hoop-la, la!  Columbus breaks out the hoopskirts and throws open the doors to some of its most lavishly elegant homes at its annual pilgrimage, one of the first of its kind in the nation.


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