History lives on in port gibson
Mississippi Magazine|January - February 2021
Step back in time to explore history and architecture from a bygone era.
SHARON MORRIS

Port Gibson may sound like an unassuming town situated on the mighty Mississippi River, but its natural beauty and historical significance make it anything but sleepy. Located just a few miles south of Vicksburg, Port Gibson is easily accessed via a calming drive on the gorgeous southern leg of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Deemed “too pretty to burn” by Union Army leader Ulysses S. Grant, Port Gibson was a strategic location during the War Between the States. Because its battle sites, homes, and buildings were spared during that time, a graceful beauty exists throughout the town.

While most Port Gibson attractions are connected to Civil War history, the town and surrounding area also feature nature trails suited for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As you begin your trip, the Port Gibson Visitor Center is a great place to begin your journey. There you can get any number of guides to help plan, and you can view the Gibson family bible, which dates back more than 200 years.

The history buff and the nature explorer alike will enjoy spending a few hours meandering through, or a few days camping in, Grand Gulf Military Monument Park. The park, which opened in May 1962, is dedicated to preserving the memory of both the town and the battle which occurred there. It encapsulates a lush 400-acre area and offers a museum featuring an arrowhead collection, mastodon bones, artifacts from the War Between the States and both World War I and II, as well as relics from the old town of Grand Gulf. Climb up the 75-foot observation tower to get a panoramic view of the surrounding battlegrounds. Restored buildings on the grounds date from the 1800s and the treasures allow visitors to step back in time. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the museum and observation tower, the park includes Fort Coburn and Fort Wade, the Grand Gulf Cemetery, picnic areas, and hiking trails. Both RV parking and tent camping are permitted within the park.

One of the most well-preserved battleground sites, the first shots fired in the Battle of Port Gibson on May 1, 1863, were near the A.K. Shaifer House. Built in the late 1820s, the home served as a base for Union soldiers and as a surgical hospital during the war. It was returned to the family following the war and donated to the state during the late 1970s. It is the only original structure from the battleground still standing. Wear your walking shoes, as the roads leading to the home are gravel and subject to the elements of the weather, so you may find yourself parking the car and walking closer to the house.

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