Directly across from the courthouse, in the center of Port Gibson, is this very imposing Confederate Monument, dedicated to the soldiers from Claiborne County who fought to defind their homeland against Northern aggressors during the War Between the States.
Claiborne County was the scene of two important battles of that War. The Battle of Grand Gulf, on the banks of the Mississippi River, was counted as a Confederate victory although it allowed Union General U.S. Grant to move his troops past the fortifications and land them at Bruinsburg. This helped set the stage for the Siege of Vicksburg and the opening of the Mississippi for the invading Union Army. The former town of Grand Gulf is now Grand Gulf Military Park with a museum, historic buildings, hiking trails and an observation tower with an outstanding view of the Mississippi river.
The Battle of Port Gibson started near the A. K. Shaifer house, May 1, 1863. A portion of this battlefield is preserved within the Vicksburg National Military Park (see link below).
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
The Ghost Town of Rodney
Rodney was originally a French settlement on the Mississippi, and progressed into a leading river town with 1,000 inhabitants and two newspapers during its prime in the 1840s.
Several calamities hit the town, and the last straw was when the Mississippi changed course in 1860. The town was officially dissolved in the 1930s. Today, a few families still live there and are willing to talk to you.
Rangers at the Natchez Trace Parkway office tried to dissuade me to go to Rodney, saying that there was nothing to see, but that is not the case. There are many ruined buildings, including a brick church literally surrounded by historical markers. As far as ghost towns are concerned, Rodney has more to it than Old Cahawba.
- Historical Travel
The Windsor Ruins
Windsor was a Greek Revival mansion, built at the heart of a huge plantation at the eve of the Civil War. While the enormous house survived the war undamaged, it burned down in 1890.
Today, the 23 ghostly columns in the middle of thick Southern "jungle" are a mecca for photographers. The site is famous, but you will likely be the only visitor there. There is no cost, no gate, no gift shop... just a dirt road.
A Cigarette Butt Caused the Damage
It is reported that the fire broke out on February 17 in 1890 when a house guess accidentally dropped a cigarette into some debris left by carpenters who had been making repairs on the third floor. Everything was destroyed except a few pieces of china and 23 of the columns, railings and iron stairs.
The Original Mansion
This sketch provides a look into what the Mansion looked like before the fire.
In its day, the mansion was host to many cultural events which provided the romance of that era. During the War Between the States, Windsor was an observation post used by the Confederates who used to send signals across the river to Louisiana. It also served as a Union Hospital after the Battle of Port Gibson in May 1863.
It was interesting after having just visited the ruins that morning to be in Vicksburg at the Military Park and seeing a documentary which depicted the soldiers marching up from the Mississippi River to the Mansion.
The Detail Still Remains
There are only 23 out of the original 29 (45ft) columns remaining after the fire. These supported the roof and provided protection for the veranda's which encompassed the house on the 2nd and 3rd levels. The house was huge and the family almost self-contained with their own commissary, doctors office, school and dairy on the bottom floor of the mansion. The 2nd floor had 2 parlours, a library and most unusual for that time, a bedroom with its own bathroom and a study. Also unusual was a dining room on this floor. Eight bedrooms and an additional bathroom was located on the top floor.
Very Grand in its Day
The construction was made up of slave labour although skilled carpenters were brought in from New England for the finished woodwork. The columns were made up of bricks which were made in a kiln across the road and were then covered with mortar and plaster. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals with ornamental railing joining at the galleries. The iron stairs, columns capitals and railings came from St Louis and were shipped down the Mississippi River. No expense seems to have been too great for this mansion with the total cost at that time being US$175,000 which in today's estimation would be around $3,152,000.
Ruins of Windsor
The Ruins of Windsor are located 12 miles southwest of Port Gibson on Hwy 552. These are the ruins of mansion built in 1860. In 1890 the main structure was destroyed by fire leaving only these magnificent stately columns and a reminder of its grand presence. The home is reported to be the largest Greek Revival Antebellum ever built in Mississippi.
The ruins have appeared in several films including Raintree County and the more recent film Ghosts of Mississippi . There is no charge for admission - there is no one out there - you feel out in the "wop-wops" but whoever looks after the property keeps the grounds tidy and trimmed. Beware the Mosquitoes out there as well in the summer months.
Lush and Overgrown
Kundz is a climbing, semi-woody perennial vine which thrives throughout most of the southeastern U.S. That was certainly evident in this area. You could imagine it covering entire buildings and hiding them forever.
Older than Windsor: Bethel Church
Two miles South of Windsor, you will find this old church from the 1840s. Ulysses Grant's troops passed Bethel Church on April 30th, 1863 while moving to Port Gibson on the Rodney Road.
- Historical Travel
Not Everyone Evacuated
This little fella was taking careful note of how close I was getting - one more step forward and he disappeared at a great pace. I think we have worked out that he is an Eastern Chipmunk.
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