If your travelers like history, they’re going to love Mississippi.
Historic roots run deep in this Deep South state that enjoys abundant antebellum architecture and that saw more than its share of fighting during the Civil War. Groups visiting Mississippi today can enjoy the best of its Southern beauty and stop to hear the most compelling stories of the conflicts that took place there.
This tour begins in Natchez in southwest Mississippi and then proceeds northeast, ending in Shiloh, which sits on the Tennessee border. Along the way, groups also spend time in Vicksburg, Jackson and Tupelo. Taking five days and four nights will give you plenty of time in each city. If you’re in a hurry, you could combine two nearby city stops into a single day to shave a day off the trip.
Antebellum Homes in Natchez
On the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwestern part of the state, Natchez is one of the oldest cities in the South. Established in 1716, this city now boasts 13 National Historic Landmarks and more than 1,000 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Thirteen antebellum homes around town make a great way to learn about Natchez history. The gem of the area is Longwood Plantation, a home that was begun before the Civil War but never completed. It is one of the few octagonal mansions in the United States.
In addition to these tour homes that are always open to visitors, groups can see many more Natchez homes during two annual pilgrimage events. The tradition of the Spring Pilgrimage dates to 1932 and features private homeowners in period dress that welcome guests into their 19th-century homes. The Fall Pilgrimage also features tours of autumn gardens and evening entertainment.
While you’re there: On the outskirts of town, the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians preserves the ceremonial center of the Natchez Indians, who inhabited the area between 700 and 1730. Groups can see re-creations of the structures used by the Natchez people and learn about their interactions with French and English settlers.
Civil War Sites in Vicksburg
About 70 miles north of Natchez, Vicksburg was the site of one of the most decisive Southern events of the Civil War. Union soldiers surrounded and besieged the city in 1863, and Confederate forces held their ground for 47 days before finally surrendering.
Visitors can learn more about the events of the Civil War in the area at a few attractions around town. A good place to start is the Old Depot Museum, which features a 30-minute film about the siege called “The Vanishing Glory.” Another attraction, the Old Courthouse Museum, occupies a building that housed Union prisoners during the Civil War and is full of artifacts from the era.
The Vicksburg National Military Park gives an even more in-depth look at the battle in Vicksburg. The park features 1,800 acres of earthworks, cannons and monuments, as well as the remains of the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad ship that was sunk by the Confederacy.
While you’re there: In downtown Vicksburg, the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum preserves the 1890 building that served as Coca-Cola’s first bottling plant. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a re-created bottling works, Coke memorabilia, a 1900 soda fountain and historic candy story.