Best Historic Sites in Old Dixie Part Two In Mississippi vs Tennessee
Edited by Kathy McGraw
This article explores the historic sites of Mississippi and Tennessee, the final two states that comprise the region known as "Old Dixie." Being in the heart of the American South, a lot of the sites have to do with the Civil War, which made a huge impact in the region, but there's also the gentler side comprised of sprawling plantations and smooth Jack Daniel's whiskey.
Method 1: In Mississippi
The state of Mississippi is named after the river that flows through her and exits out into the Gulf of Mexico. She is a southern state in every respect, from the plantations, sweet-smelling magnolia blooms, and huge Southern Oak trees, to the bloody Civil War battles fought on the very ground you can stroll over today.
- 1Vicksburg Military Park. This site commemorates the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, when General Ulysses S. Grant finally seized control of the city, after a 47-day siege. It was a stunning defeat that would cripple the Confederate forces' ability to move supplies and weapons along the Mississippi and its tributary rivers.Advertisement
- 2Old Capitol Museum, Jackson. The Old Capitol Museum used to be the Mississippi State Capitol building and is where Mississippi's legislature voted to secede from the Union just before the Civil War. The museum is free to explore and showcases the secession and other important events in Mississippi's history.Advertisement
- 3Natchez Trace Parkway. Originally a road that connected the frontier towns with the lower Mississippi River, this trail runs through some historical points of interest, including the ancient burial grounds of the natives, such as the Emerald Mound, Owl Creek Mounds, and Bynum Mounds. It was also a major conduit that General Ulysses S. Grant used as he marched into Vicksburg in 1863.
- 5Longwood, Natchez. The Civil War all but stopped construction of this 30,000 square-foot home. Although the construction began toward the end of the 1850's, construction was still ongoing when the war broke out in 1861. The workmen laid their tools and took up arms to go and fight in the war, leaving the mansion unfinished. Although the owner's slaves did continue to piece it together for a while, they were only able to get the basement finished, before they, too, left in 1862. The home remains unfinished, which you can see today, a different legacy from the war.
- 6Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. The Natchez Pilgrimage Tours give you a glimpse into the lives of Natchez residents in the Antebellum South. Tour palatial estates while costumed interpreters re-enact scenes from the past. Also included in the tours are wine receptions and musicals from that period.
- 7Brices Cross National Battlefield. Brices Cross National Battlefield is the site of one of the most studied battles in American military history. The battle pitted the Confederate forces led by Lieutenant General Nathaniel Bedford Forrest against a Union contingent lead by Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis. Sturgis had been ordered to attack Forrest before he could damage General William Sherman's supply lines as he was engaged in his campaign in Georgia. Unfortunately for the Union, Forrest was able to rout their forces in four hours of frenzied battle in and around the Brices Cross Roads. Forrest was able to defeat a much larger force with the loss of fewer Confederate soldiers while inflicting heavier losses on the Union side.
- 8Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson. The Windsor Plantation was an impressive Antebellum estate which was built at the height of that period. The reason it is just ruins today has nothing to do with the Civil War, which it survived just fine, thank you very much. No, the reason that the Windsor Plantation is called the Windsor Ruins has to do with a particularly clumsy and thoughtless houseguest who left a lit cigar on a balcony. The ensuing fire destroyed the structure, leaving behind what you see today, which is open year round for touring.
- 10Winterville Site, Greenville. The Winterville Site is one of the most important American archaeological discoveries in modern times. Together with the National Parks Service, Harvard University undertook an exploration of the site beginning in the 1940's. The site includes 12 prehistoric burial mounds built by the natives. There is also a museum on the site that displays the artifacts found there, too.
- 11USS Cairo at Vicksburg. The U.S.S. Cairo was an Ironclad gunboat meant to patrol the rivers and attack the Confederate forces from the water. Ironclads were instrumental in the Union blockades that prevented the Confederate army's resupply. The Cairo sunk to the bottom of the Yazoo River in December of 1862, after electronic mines were detonated from the shore as she turned to fire on the land cannons at Vicksburg. She has since been raised and is now on exhibit, giving you the rare opportunity to see inside a real Civil War era Ironclad.
- 12Dentzel Carousel, Meridian. Harken back to the heady days of the turn of the century, when electrified and motorized marvels thrilled the American heart. Dentzel Carousel has been operating since its inception in 1909, and it is one of the few remaining carousels in the country, and the only one in the south.
Method 2: In Tennessee
Tennessee is the home of country music, with the noted cities of Memphis and Nashville located within its borders. Like other southern states, the scars of the Civil War are still present, and you can visit the battlefields where brother fought against brother, and so many young lives were lost or destroyed.
- 1Graceland, Memphis. Elvis has left the building. Just kidding. Well, not really, but you can go visit Graceland, Elvis' mansion and an important pilgrimage site for Elvis fans worldwide. Seriously, Elvis Presley's contributions to American culture and to rock music can't be denied, and his home has been carefully preserved for the public to view.Advertisement
- 3Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville. If you love country music, or even if you don't, don't miss a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame while you're in Nashville. There is no more quintessential American genre of music like country music, and here you can listen to the great Patsy Cline sing "I Go To Pieces" and "Crazy." Other greats whose contributions to the genre are commemorated here include the great Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
- 5William Blount's House, Knoxville. Going back to Tennessee's frontier days, William Blount was the governor of the Southwest Territory, of which Tennessee was a part. Known as the "house with many eyes," his home is today a museum depicting frontier life in those early days of the American experience.
- 6Shiloh National Military Park. This park commemorates one of the bloodiest battles in the already bloody Civil War. Over 3,000 men lost their lives during the battle, which took place over two days in April of 1862. You can tour the massive battlefield by car, which you can enhance with an audio CD that you can buy at the bookstore on site.
- 8Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville. As you might guess from the name, the Parthenon is modeled after the original building in Athens and is a tribute to the classical Greek aesthetic. Inside is a museum that not only features full-scale replicas of Athenian sculptures, but also the works of American artists from the 19th century through today.
- 9The Hermitage, Nashville. The Hermitage was President Andrew Jackson's home for a time. He served as president from 1829 to 1837. He's also the guy on the 20 dollar bill, just in case you didn't know. The house and its grounds are open for self-guided tours, which you can enhance by listening to an audio download to your smartphone.
- 11Lotz House and Battle of Franklin. As an American living in the 21st century, I have no experience with the horrors of war, and I's a hard thing to even imagine. Unfortunately, the residents of Lotz House were not so lucky. It was at the center of the Civil War's Battle of Franklin, and today the house is open for tours during which the monstrous happenings of that day are preserved.
- 12Jack Daniel Distillery. The Jack Daniel Distillery is where Jack Daniel's whiskey is brewed and distilled. Fun fact: the distillery is located in a dry county. Go figure! But don't worry, after you tour the distillery, you can hop over to another county to have a good taste of the famous Tennessee brew.
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