Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mississippi Plans for Sesquicentennial

Commission plans for Civil War Sesquicentennial
by Lena Mitchel/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – Members of the governor-appointed Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission expect to lay out plans for the state’s commemoration and begin publicizing this year.

However, the group has met only once, with a second meeting in Corinth aborted in November by lack of a quorum.

With state Legislature starting the 2010 session last week, the commission will need lawmakers to act quickly to allocate funding for its work, something it did not do when it authorized the commission last year.

Without that funding it may be left to individual cities and communities to beef up their ongoing Civil War events to highlight that historic period.

“The Legislature put together the commission but did not fund it in any way,” said Kristy White, executive director of the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The route between Corinth and Vicksburg is a naturally significant corridor, so we’ve decided to work together and do some cooperative things like an itinerary for motor-coach and car tours. We don’t have a formal agreement, but these are things we can market at some of the Civil War consumer shows and other places.”

Corinth is a pivotal Civil War site in Northeast Mississippi as the focal point for the Battle of Shiloh.

That connection between Corinth and Shiloh has brought significant financial support through federal and state appropriations.

In the past six or seven years the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission has established the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center and the Corinth Contraband Camp; bought significant amounts of battlefield acreage; and has secured funding to begin restoring the Verandah-Curlee House Museum, used as military headquarters for both Confederate and Union generals during the war.

During the same period, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Mississippi Department of Transportation have provided significant funding to restore the Old Corinth Depot to house the Crossroads Museum and the Railway Express Building as headquarters for the Corinth Area CVB.

The interpretive center and contraband camp are both managed by the National Park Service as units of Shiloh National Military Park, and plans are to bring the Verandah-Curlee House Museum under NPS management as well.

A project to update the orientation film at the visitors center is a priority for the 2012 commemoration events at Shiloh, said Superintendent Woody Harrell. A new orientation film for Corinth’s interpretive center is nearing completion and is planned to premiere April 6, 2012.

“The film is 52 years old and somewhat outdated, and people have talked about doing a replacement for a number of years,” Harrell said.

“We’ve taken entrance fee money for about seven years and put together enough to tackle the project of making the film. In December we executed a contract with a film company. They’ll begin preparing the script and doing all the other work between now and April 2011. Then they’ll do the filming at the same time of the year as the battle occurred, and have another 12 months for post-production like editing, developing the music score and so forth.”

The contract calls for a cost of about $390,000 to $400,000 to complete the project, Harrell said.

The Brices Crossroads Battlefield in Baldwyn is represented on the state commission by Executive Director and Curator Edwina Carpenter.

“One of our goals is to demonstrate to the public the opportunities to learn about history and the opportunities Brices Crossroads brings to Baldwyn,” Carpenter said.

“By 2011, the sesquicentennial of Brices Crossroads, we should have three new interpretive pull-off areas here, a brand new trail and a pull-off site and interpretation of the Battle of Tupelo, increasing awareness of the public about the battles fought in this area.”

New construction also is set to get under way at the Brices Crossroads Visitors Center, adding a wing to interpret the Battle of Tupelo.

“The Brices Crossroads National Battlefield Commission received a grant for this work and purchased property in Tupelo also,” Carpenter said.

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Brices Crossroads will be June 10, 2014, and will undoubtedly draw thousands more re-enactors than do the regular biennial re-enactments, she said.

The Mississippi Civil War Trails project also continues to develop, with the work at the Brices Crossroads Museum and Interpretive Center the final piece of construction work to be completed at Trails sites, said Jim Woodrick of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which manages the $6.2 million project.

The sites will become part of The Civil War Preservation Trust’s Civil War Discovery Trail.

Plans for commemoration events at the Okolona Battlefield have not been decided yet, said spokeswoman Patsy Gregory. However, a book released in November chronicling the Battle of Okolona has sparked great interest.

“We are real excited,” Gregory said. “It’s the first book written about the battle, written by a man who moved from Virginia to this area to research it. He had a book signing (recently) and more than 50 people came to get a book. I’ve had even more inquiries about it since then.”

The Civil War is an ongoing topic of interest even when no significant commemoration events are planned, and Corinth Area CVB’s White thinks the interest will continue to heighten as the sesquicentennial dates come closer.

White recently hosted a writer for the AAA magazine who visited Vicksburg, Brices Crossroads, Corinth and Shiloh.

“There is always a lot of interest in the Civil War and people are interested in traveling to the sites of those history-making events,” White said. “Any mention we get in the Triple A magazine or any other national publication will help us tremendously.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or

- The Civil War Preservation Trust lists 39 Mississippi sites on its Civil War Discovery Trail (, with 10 of those sites in Corinth. Two additional sites are pending.

• Battery F, Corinth

• Battery Robinett, Corinth

• Beauvoir: The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, Biloxi

• Brice’s Crossroads Battlefield Visitor and Interpretive Center, Baldwyn

• Campaign of 1862- Driving Tour of Corinth Campaign

• Confederate Cemetery, Raymond

• Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center

• Corinth Contraband Camp

• Corinth National Cemetery

• Crossroads Museum, Corinth

• Driving Tour of Historic Raymond

• Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island, Ocean Springs

• Fort Pemberton, Greenwood

• Friendship Cemetery, Columbus

• Grand Gulf Military Monument Park, Port Gibson

• Grenada Lake

• Longwood, Natchez

• Manship House Museum, Jackson

• Marshall County Historical Museum, Holly Springs

• Melrose, Natchez

• Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, Jackson

• Natchez National Cemetery

• Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History, Jackson

• Old Court House Museum and Eva W. Davis Memorial, Vicksburg

• Port Gibson Battlefield

• Rail Crossing-Trailhead Park, Corinth

• Raymond Battlefield

• Raymond Courthouse

• Rosemont Plantation/ Home of Jefferson Davis, Woodville

• St. Marks Episcopal Church, Raymond

• The Beauregard Line, Corinth

• The Coker House Interpretive Center, Champion Hill (to be added with Mississippi Civil War Trails)

• The Oaks House Museum, Jackson

• The Shaifer House Interpretive Center, Port Gibson (to be added with Mississippi Civil War Trails)

• The Verandah-Curlee House, Corinth

• The William Johnson House, Natchez

• Tupelo National Battlefield

• Vicksburg Battlefield Museum

• Vicksburg National Military Park

• Waverly Plantation Mansion, West Point

• Windsor Ruins, Natchez