Artifacts

The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

May 16, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign:  The Battle of Champion Hill

Coat worn by John McDonnell. Accession number: 1960.16.3 (Museum Division collection)

Coat worn by John McDonnell. Accession number: 1960.16.3 (Museum Division collection)

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

The Battle of Champion Hill, which began on the morning of May 16, became the most decisive battle of the Vicksburg Campaign. After fierce fighting against Grant’s troops centered around Champion Hill, Lt. General John C. Pemberton decided to withdraw his army towards his base of operations, Vicksburg, and moved towards the Baker’s Creek Crossing on Raymond Road, the only escape route left for his troops. Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman’s brigade was ordered to protect the crossing at all costs. Company G, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery (Cowan’s Battery), part of Tilghman’s Brigade, positioned their guns to protect the road, which was held until late afternoon when the Union army seized the bridge and marched on to occupy Edwards.

Pemberton and his army were in full retreat to Vicksburg. Tilghman’s Brigade, along with the rest of General William W. Loring’s division, was cut off from Pemberton’s troops, and this proved to be a devastating loss. Of Grant’s 32,000 troops engaged at the Battle of Champion Hill, 410 were killed, 1,844 were wounded, and 187 were missing at the end of the day, but the victory was decisive and paved the way for the eventual success of the Vicksburg Campaign. Pemberton’s losses were severe with 381 killed, 1,018 wounded, and 2,441 missing out of the 23,000 in the battle. In addition he lost several vital pieces of artillery and Loring’s entire division.

Haversack worn by John McDonnell. Accession number: 1960.16.1 (Museum Division collection)

Haversack worn by John McDonnell. Accession number: 1960.16.1 (Museum Division collection)

Pictured here are the uniform coat and haversack worn by John McDonnell, who served with Company G, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, which was engaged in the fighting at Baker’s Creek Bridge. This type of coat is known as a “Columbus Depot Jacket” and was one of the most common jackets worn by Confederates in the western theater.

The shell fragments, six pound cannonball, and minie ball bullets pictured below were found on the Champion Hill battlefield.

Artifacts from Champion Hill Battelfield. Accession numbers: 1970.14.4, 1962.586.12a, 1977.1.6, and 1977.6.2a-c (Museum Division collection)

Artifacts from Champion Hill Battelfield. Accession numbers: 1970.14.4, 1962.586.12a, 1977.1.6, and 1977.6.2a-c (Museum Division collection)

Below is a link to previous blog posts describing the restoration of the Coker House which is located on the Champion Hill battlefield. The Coker House sustained artillery fire from both sides and served as a field hospital during the battle.

http://mdah.state.ms.us/senseofplace/tag/coker-house/

Source: “Champion Hill,” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/champhill.htm.

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Today in History: The Battle of Jackson

On May 14, 2013, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

May 14, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign:  The Battle of Jackson

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

In order to isolate Vicksburg, General Grant decided to march on Jackson to cut the rail and communication lines and military reinforcements that supplied the Mississippi River town. Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent General Joseph Johnston into Jackson to try to prevent Grant’s progression through Mississippi. Realizing the futility of fighting to save the capital city from such a large, advancing Federal force, which included the corps of Generals Sherman and McPherson, Johnston ordered an evacuation of Jackson and sent Brig. Gen. John Gregg to engage Grant’s forces and cover the evacuation. After the ensuing battle, which resulted in an estimated 1,145 casualties for both sides, Gregg pulled out of the city, leaving it defenseless. To prevent having to occupy Jackson, Grant ordered the destruction of anything of military value, including railroad tracks, telegraph lines, and factories. The railroad track pictured below, called a “Sherman Necktie,” was found in the Pearl River in 1987, and was probably torn up, bent to render it inoperable, and thrown into the river by Union forces after the Battle of Jackson.

Sherman necktie. Accession number: 1987.28.1 (Museum Division collection)

Sherman necktie. Accession number: 1987.28.1 (Museum Division collection)

Plundering by the Union troops also took place as evidenced by a telegram from Governor John J. Pettus which stated, “Furniture in State House badly abused in Governor’s mansion, demolished Telegh [sic] wires torn down cut…Ladies robbed of jewelry money. Much destruction here.” The cap photographed below was made from drapery material taken from the State House by Col. Nathan W. Tupper of the 116th Illinois Infantry. It is currently on display in the Old Capitol Museum.

Col. Nathan W. Tupper's cap. Accession number: 1972.22.4 (Museum Division collection)

Col. Nathan W. Tupper’s cap. Accession number: 1972.22.4 (Museum Division collection)

Private Daniel Jones of Company I of the 17th Iowa Infantry took the garnet necklace pictured below from a Jackson home. In a letter to his sister, Jones described his involvement in the Vicksburg campaign and the action in Jackson, writing “…we marched into the City and plundered it…”

Garnet necklace. Accession number: 2010.6.1 (Museum Division collection)

Garnet necklace. Accession number: 2010.6.1 (Museum Division collection)

The descendants of both soldiers returned the looted items to the state in recent years.

Sources:

“Battle of Jackson (May 14),” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/jackson.htm.

Governor John J. Pettus to unknown, May 16, 1863, Section 8: Telegrams from Governor, Sept. 1862-May 1863, Series 760: Military Telegrams, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, microfilm no. 3248.

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The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

May 1, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign:  The Battle of Port Gibson

Battle flag of 4th Mississippi Infantry. Accession Number: 1968.44.1 (Museum Division Collection)

Battle flag of 4th Mississippi Infantry. Accession Number: 1968.44.1 (Museum Division Collection)

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

Despite many setbacks, Grant’s army crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg on April 30­–May 1, 1863, and began moving toward Vicksburg. The unopposed crossing was the largest amphibious operation in American military history until the D-Day invasion of World War II. A skirmish began soon after midnight on May 1 when the advancing federal army engaged a Confederate outpost at the A. K. Shaifer House near Port Gibson. Grant gathered his forces and advanced on Rodney Road and Bruinsburg Road, and the Battle of Port Gibson began in earnest later that morning. Out-manned nearly three to one, the Confederates could not hold their position during the day of fighting. By the day’s end, the Battle of Port Gibson claimed over 1,600 casualties, and Grant made an important gain in his advance toward Vicksburg.

The image shows the battle flag of the 4th Mississippi Infantry, which participated in several battles of the Vicksburg campaign including the Battle of Port Gibson. This flag was later captured near Brentwood Hills during the Battle of Nashville on December 16, 1864.

The Shaifer House, the site of the first shots of the Battle of Port Gibson, was recently restored. Below is a link to photographs of the dedication ceremony held in 2007.

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/shaifer/

Source: “Vicksburg Campaign and Siege March-July 1863,” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/vickcamp-siege.htm.

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Ceramic by James “Son Ford” Thomas

On April 3, 2013, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us another post in her ongoing series about interesting artifacts in the Museum Division collection.

Unfired clay head made by James "Son Ford" Thomas. Accession Number: 1984.46.6 (Museum Division collection)

Unfired clay head made by James “Son Ford” Thomas. Accession Number: 1984.46.6 (Museum Division collection)

This unfired clay head with a white cotton moustache, black cotton hair glued to the top, and corn kernel teeth, was made by James “Son Ford” Thomas, a prominent Delta blues musician who became critically acclaimed for his visual art, as well. Born in 1926 near Eden in Yazoo County, Mississippi, Thomas earned his nickname from the Ford tractors he would make out of clay as a child. Working with the very pliable clay found in the hills of Yazoo County, which he called “Gumbo clay,” Thomas made his first skull when he was young, scaring his grandfather with it when he displayed it in their home. The artist’s work has been shown in numerous art galleries and museums and was even on display in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1981, at which time he visited the White House and met Nancy Reagan.

Unfired clay head made by James "Son Ford" Thomas. Accession Number: 1984.46.6 (Museum Division collection)

Unfired clay head made by James “Son Ford” Thomas. Accession Number: 1984.46.6 (Museum Division collection)

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Handmade Choctaw Quilt

On March 13, 2013, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us another post in her ongoing series about interesting artifacts in the Museum Division collection.

Choctaw quilt. Accession Number: 1972.28.7 (Museum Division Collection)

Choctaw quilt. Accession Number: 1972.28.7 (Museum Division Collection)

This quilt was made by Choctaw quilter Dorothy Thomas and her daughter Ivora Thomas of Conehatta in Newton County, Mississippi. This mother-daughter team worked together on quilts. This example, which is pieced with alternating designs of Choctaw girls and teepees appliqued on white squares, was acquired from the Choctaw Arts and Crafts Association in Philadelphia in 1972.

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