FULL DOCUMENTARY: Mississippi’s War: Slavery and Secession | MPB
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FULL DOCUMENTARY: Mississippi’s War: Slavery and Secession | MPB

October 20, 2019


♪♪ (Thunder crackling) Mississippi, of course,
was a real storm center of opposition to the
abolition of slavery, to the election
of Lincoln. With the election
of Abraham Lincoln, Southern states began to leave
or secede from the Union. (music swells, thunder booms) A new confederacy
was being formed, a second American Revolution
loomed on the horizon. With Lincoln’s election, it
meant that Lincoln had the power to appoint people
to hold federal offices in places like Mississippi
and this terrified Southerners, because they thought,
“My God! Lincoln might
appoint an Abolitionist.” White Southerners
feared losing their money, losing their
way of life. There is a sense
that everything that you stand for
could be lost. “We do not intend to carry
on war against the government while we live
under it; but we do claim
a right to sever all connection
with you.” Mississippi Congressman,
Otho R. Singleton, 1859. This rush to leave
the Union was not unanimous,
by any means. But whether they supported
succession or not they thought Mississippi
had the right to do it. If you read what
Mississippians said when they passed the
ordinance of secession, it’s clear that the only thing
that created secession was the issue of slavery, the
protection of the slave system. (music swells as
thunder continues) Mississippi’s War,
Slavery & Secession is made possible
in part by the generous support
of viewers like you. Thank you! (Music) Narrator: On
November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected
the 16th President of the United States
of America. But in Mississippi, as
throughout most of the South, cotton was king. King Cotton
ruled Mississippi and during its reign,
Mississippi prospered. It’s important is to recognize
the sheer wealth that the South’s
economy had. By 1860, the South–
not the United States, but the South– had the fourth
largest economy in the world and that was largely due to
its production of cotton. Cotton in 1860 was the nation’s
most valuable export item. More valuable than steel. More valuable than
manufactured goods. Cotton was the one thing
Americans made that the rest of
the world wanted. And Mississippi was the nation’s
leading cotton producer. So it was a wealthy,
wealthy state. Owens: It literally
was a gold mine. Cotton seemed to
flourish in the climate. And so it transformed
the lives of many, particularly white men
and their families, and so it became a very
plantation-rich environment. Reading: “A plantation
well stocked with hands is the ne plus ultra of
every man’s ambition who resides
in the South. Young men who come to
this country ‘to make money, soon catch the mania,
and nothing less than a broad plantation, waving with snow
white cotton bolls, can fill their
mental vision.” Mississippi Author,
Joseph Holt Ingraham. People were
addicted to cotton. Cotton was the crop that
would bring you great wealth. Particularly in the
state of Mississippi. You have a state that enters
the Union in the 19th century, in 1817, and by the
start of the Civil War, it’s the richest
one in the country. in the entire Union. There are more
millionaires per region than any other place
in the United States. So Mississippi is a place
where people know you can get land for cheap, but you can
also participate in a market that allows your
wealth to grow. Narrator: The majority of
the wealth in Mississippi was controlled by a
small group of people, the wealthy plantation owners,
often called the planter elite. Gaimbrone: The fortunes
of this planter aristocracy were largely amassed
by slave labor. Slaves who worked the
fields and grew the cotton. These rich plantation owners
were dependent on slaves for their wealth
and their power. Narrator:
Throughout history the powerful have
dominated the meek. One-hundred years before the
birth of the United States, wealthy British colonists
purchased slaves to work on vast
colonial plantations. But during the
Revolutionary War, many American settlers,
in their fight for freedom, grew less tolerant
of the practice. A few American Colonies
took steps to outlaw slavery, and shortly after the
American Revolution, the newly formed
United States banned the importation
of slaves. By the late 18th century,
slavery was on the decline, but with the invention
of the cotton gin it changes everything. Cotton became king. And what happened
was a transformation of this Western
frontier. People are moving
here in droves. Slaves are being moved
from the upper south, Virginia, North Carolina,
Maryland, South Carolina and they are being
moved downward. And literally the complexion
of Mississippi changes and becomes the blackest
state of the union. Narrator: By 1860,
Mississippi’s enslaved outnumbered its
citizens who were free. Grivno: It varied
geographically. In some parts
of the state, Piney Woods in
Southeast Mississippi, the hill county
of Northeast Mississippi, there were very few
slaves and slave holders. In other counties, the counties
of Southwest Mississippi, in the Natchez
District, the vast majority of people
were slaveholders. Owens: You have
a state that has a huge population
of enslaved people. And that’s one of
the enduring legacies, in fact to this day, that
Mississippi is the only state that has a black population
of almost 40%. This comes directly because
of the popularity of cotton and also the success
of this cotton crop. Grivno: Most of the slaves
in Mississippi would have been employed
on the cotton plantations. Cotton was the engine that
drove Mississippi’s economy and the most valuable
employment for slaves were as field hands. Most slaves toiled in the
fields of big plantations in Mississippi, but slaves
really worked everywhere. There were domestics, there were slaves that worked
in industry and in factories. They could be found
building railroads. Working on riverboats. There were slave artisans,
craftsmen of all kinds. You could find slaves working
almost everywhere in almost every industry
in Mississippi in 1860. They were
mammies. They were
carriage drivers. They were
the laborers. They sustained the
Southern economy. They made fortunes
for people. You’ve heard the expression
“The Southern way of life”. Well it was only the
way of life for some very wealthy people who
owned a lot of slaves. There were about
31,000 slaveholders in Mississippi
in 1860. That was about 9% of the
state’s white population. The majority of people, some 55% of the people
in Mississippi, were slaves. Owens: Most of the wealth
is concentrated by only a few
in Mississippi. So most of the plantations
are owned by a very small
number of men, but there are still
slaves in what I call out communities:
smaller farms where you may
have a family who owns one or two
enslaved people. If you count households and
not individual slave owners, almost one-third of all
Southern families owned slaves. In Mississippi the
percentage was about 49%. It is really interesting
because that complicates the generalities that
we know about slavery. If you only own three slaves,
you might own a mother a husband
and her child, right? So someone’s
performing domestic labor, the child might be a playmate
to the white child or children in the household and so it
really complicates things because all of a sudden you
now you see those households as microcosms of what can
happen in the institution of slavery within
the 19th century US. The South was overwhelmingly
Christian in nature. Their form of slavery
was more of a softer nature
type of slavery. The Plantation owner,
by and large, had to take care of the slave
because they knew that the profitability
for them was how well they
took care of the slave. And that’s not to say that
they were well taken care of. (whip cracking) Owens: For me as an
historian of slavery, when I read some of the
accounts of the brutality, it’s enough to really take
your breath away that these people could endure
for as long as they did. Ballard: Slavery was a
very emotional issue. It had become so
because of the agitation by anti-slavery people,
which only made Southerners more defensive about
the institution. Owens: I think to
question an owner about whether it
was right or wrong would seem absolutely
ludicrous to him. Everybody participated
in someway, or benefited in someway, from
the institution of slavery. And they always had. Grivno: Some slaveholders
imagined that capturing and enslaving Africans
was for their benefit, that they were exposing
them to Christianity, that slavery was a
school for civilization. Some actually looked
at it as their chance to be missionaries,
even though they bought and were using
these people. Owens: Most folk who defended
slavery were justifying it on the grounds of
Christianity, and they pulled from the Protestant faith,
and also from Catholic faith. Using the Bible verse,
“Slave obey your Masters.” If you are obedient to your
masters in your mistresses, there is reward in heaven for
the kind of work that you do. Grivno: From the
1830s onward, Southern politicians began
to construct an argument that slavery truly was
ordained by God and would give birth to the
best of all possible societies. Owens: Southerners didn’t
understand why they needed to justify something that
happened since time began. And the only, kind of Sisyphus
opposition that they faced would be from
Abolitionists. Throughout the early
part of the 19th century, the divisive issue
of slavery would finally tear
the nation asunder. Narrator: Abolitionism
was a campaign to end slavery
and set slaves free. It was a movement that
began back in the 1600’s, when many
religious groups condemned slavery
as un-Christian. They were just a politically
powerful small group of people. I think that we have this idea
that they were a kind of huge number of
men and women who were dedicated
to the abolition of slavery, and that wasn’t
the case at all. They were a
really small group. Giambrone: While there
were a growing number of rationalist thinkers
that criticized slavery for violating the rights
of man in the political arena
of 1860 Southern Democrats
endorsed slavery. The cotton growing economy of
their slave-owning constituents were dependent on it,
especially in Mississippi. Owens: The slave
doesn’t need the master. The master needs
the slave. And so slave owners
believe the very opposite, that slaves
needed them. A slave doesn’t
need a master. But the only way
he can be a master is to depend
on a slave. Narrator: At the time, the
majority of the Republican Party leaned the way of
the Abolitionist movement, and in the election of 1860,
Abraham Lincoln was the presidential candidate
for the Republican Party. As a result, his name did not
appear on the ballots of ten southern states,
including Mississippi. Owens: What this points to
is the political power that a politician in a
slave-holding state has. Lincoln did not appear on
the ballot of Mississippi, in fact, did not receive
a single vote from any
southern state and I think this points
to the kind of political power that the
plantation elite had. These were the men who
were running southern states. You know, these
were the senators, the governors, these were
the mayors of large towns, these were the people who
owned slaves markets and so not only did they
have economic wealth but they also wielded a
lot of political clout. Reading: “Lincoln’s
nomination took place about two weeks
before adjournment. The intelligence came
like a thunderbolt. Members from the South
purchased long-range guns to take home
with them. The unthinking among
them rejoiced that the end
was in sight, but those who considered
more deeply were dismayed
by the prospect.” Mississippi U.S.
Congressman Reuben Davis on the nomination
of Abraham Lincoln. In many ways, they
made Lincoln out to be more of an abolitionist
than he actually was. Lincoln and the Republicans
campaigned on a platform that would have limited
slavery’s expansion into the western
territories. But Lincoln and the vast
majority of his party had no desire
to interfere with slavery where
it already existed. But to many
Southern politicians, he really did seem like a
“Boogie Man, I suppose. Giambrone: Wealthy plantation
owners feared that if Lincoln was elected President, that
it was just a matter of time before he
abolished slavery and they didn’t want
that to happen. Narrator: Many fortunes
were lost three years earlier, during the first worldwide
economic crisis, the finical Panic
of 1857. Wealthy Southerners
were afraid that if Lincoln freed
their enslaved, it would cause yet another
financial disaster. It would have
decimated the economy. It would have
decimated it. Mississippi was built on the
backs of a cotton economy. It was built on the backs of
thousands– tens of thousands of black people
who picked this, what they called white
gold in the 19th century. It would have
decimated it. Ballard: It would be an
economic burden on the South to have to give
up their slaves, but Lincoln offered to
reimburse slave owners, and free the slaves. We’ll pay you for
the labor you’ve lost. But nobody was
interested in that. They’re not
necessarily interested in compromising with
Lincoln at this point. It’s a slap in the face
to their way of life. They don’t want to
give up their slaves. The die was cast. The die for secession
was cast in Mississippi in the election for President
in November of 1860. Narrator:
Abraham Lincoln
was elected the President of
the United States, beating Democrat
Stephen A. Douglas, Southern Democrat
John C. Breckinridge, and new Constitutional Union
candidate John Bell. Lincoln won all the anti-slavery
states of the North, as well as the Western states
of California and Oregon. No ballots were cast for him
in 10 of the 15 Southern slave states, where
his name did not appear. Lincoln was elected
by Northern voters. He did not even
appear on the ballot in many
southern states. He didn’t appear on the
ballot in Mississippi. For many Southerners, this
signaled a kind of sea change that in the future the North
could elect a President without having the
support of Southern voters. The South had essentially
become a political minority in the country and was an
increasingly weak minority. Giambrone: The rights of
states to govern themselves, threats to secede and
arguments justifying secession from the United States
have been part of American politics
almost from the beginning. Narrator: In 1860,
Jefferson Davis was Mississippi’s long-standing
senator in Washington. He believed that the
states were sovereign and should be allowed to leave
the Union if they chose. But he was also aware
that the South was ill-prepared
militarily and so he argued
against secession. He wrote…. Reading: “I worked night
and day for twelve years to prevent the war,
but I could not. The North was
mad and blind, would not let us
govern ourselves, and so
the war came.” Grady: The South
was beginning to lose its power in
the Legislature and they could see
the writing on the wall. So by the time we
get down to 1861, Mississippi opts to
follow South Carolina out of the Union
and to secede. Reading: “Wisdom dictates
that all the questions arising out of the
institution of slavery should be settled now
and settled forever.” Mississippian
Jacob Thompson, U.S. Secretary
of War. Narrator: When
Lincoln was elected, John Pettus, a wealthy
Kemper County planter, was Mississippi’s
Governor. He was part of a group of
pro-slavery extremists known as “Fire-eaters”
because it was said that they would
rather eat fire than sit down with
a Yankee Abolitionist. Winschel: Gov. John
Pettus was a man who was very much
in favor of secession. And thanks to his leadership,
and his charisma, his strength of character,
he would help sway members of the Legislature and
among the civilian population to vote for an ordinance
of secession. Ballard: As a governor,
Pettus was, in many ways,
pretty pathetic. He was very opposed to staying
in the Union for any reason. The fire-eaters had
sprung up in South Carolina; there were a lot of
them later in Georgia. Pettus was probably the
leading one in Mississippi. Winter: Governor Pettus
said from the beginning that if Lincoln were elected
President of the United States, he would immediately call
a secession convention and Mississippi would
leave the Union. It was that clear-cut. He was probably the most
drastic secessionist that we had
in the state. He really wanted to begin
the war before secession. He did not want to compromise
in any way that would permit Mississippi to stay in the
Union as long as the North would not compromise
on the issue of slavery. Narrator: Even before
Lincoln was inaugurated, Pettus called for a
secession convention, and brought together
delegates from every county
in Mississippi where they argued for
or against secession. Giambrone: Not all
Mississippians were as “gung-ho” about
session as Gov. Pettus and his
“Fire-eaters.” You must remember, only a few Mississippians
owned plantations. Not everyone grew cotton
or owned slaves. Reading: “Those who had been
long desirous of a pretext for secession, now boldly
advocated their sentiments, and joyfully hailed the
election of Mr. Lincoln as affording
that pretext. The conservative men
were filled with gloom. Secession they regarded as
fraught with all the evils of Pandora’s Box, and
that war, famine, pestilence, and moral and
physical desolation would follow
in its train.” Mississippi Unionist
Reverend John Hill Aughey. Ballard: So this rush
to leave the Union was not unanimous
by any means. And too, you have to
figure in the patriotism of Mississippians
and other Southerners. They, after all, were products
of the Revolutionary War which had won
them independence. The Union had
grown out of that war. So they felt
ties to the Union. Many of them had been
educated in the North, especially the
wealthier classes. So this was not an easy
thing to convince people. There were strong Union pockets
in the state of Mississippi. For instance, when the
Secession Convention was called to Jackson,
several counties sent two delegations
to represent. One side of
the county would represent the
secessionist movement; the other part
of the county represented the
anti-secessionists. Narrator:
Tishomingo County, which at the time was
a very large county, sent four pro-Union delegates
to Gov. Pettus’ convention. Their lives here were
tied to railroad commerce, interstate commerce. There wasn’t a lot to gain
by separating from the Union. And they’re sent down
to that convention, specifically for the fact
that they’re not ready to leave the
Union yet. They want to wait to see
what’s going to happen. They voted against
secession. Those people lived
in hilly country. They didn’t have
plantations. They didn’t grow cotton, so
they didn’t have many slaves. There were very
few in that area. Also, there was dissent
in south Mississippi, central south Mississippi
because there were not concentrations of
slaves down there. There were not
plantations. Jones County did not
produce that much cotton. It had the smallest
slave population of any county
in Mississippi. When the Secession
Convention came in 1860, Jones County
elected a delegate who ran on a platform
opposing secession. Not every Mississippian
was interested in secession. In fact, the ironic thing about
the Mississippi secession is that some of the
larger slaveholders along the
Mississippi River were opposed to secession
because they were worried about the impact that
the loss of slavery would have if a war came and
the war did not go the way they would’ve
liked it to go. There were many that
believed that the best way to preserve slavery
was to stay in the Union and maintain control
that way. Ballard: Vicksburg,
ironically, Natchez, two areas that depended
heavily on river traffic were not anxious to
secede because they knew what it was going to do
to their businesses. The two largest cities in
the state of Mississippi voted against
secession. But as the bulk of the rest
of the state voted in favor, the pro-Union sentiment
expressed here in Warren County and in Adams County
would be stifled. The real argument was
not whether or not Mississippi would
leave the Union. That much seems to
have been certain. The question was should
Mississippi leave immediately, regardless of what
other states did. Because remember,
at this point only South Carolina
had seceded. So, did Mississippi
want to go out on this very dangerous
branch alone, or did they want to wait
for other states to secede? Narrator: But those arguing
for secession would not wait, and put a lot of pressure
on those who were pro-Union. Parson: When it became
apparent that the rest of the counties
wanted to secede, they had a second vote and many of the delegates
changed their vote to have a bold
front Mississippi. Everybody is
in agreement. Narrator: On January 9, 1861,
Mississippi’s Secession Convention voted 84 – 15
to leave the Union. The vote itself
is a lot closer than most people
believe today. There would be a lively
debate in newspapers and town halls across
the state of Mississippi. Not everyone was
in favor of secession. Narrator: After
the news broke that the Ordinance of
Secession had passed The Natchez Courier
reported: Reading: “The secession
ordinance was received yesterday with
almost unanimous disapproval and
condemnation. ‘Hasty, ill-judged, wrong’ were the terms
generally applied to it. Our citizens, generally,
felt that the convention had sacrificed everything,
and obtained nothing. Narrator: Days later,
on January 21, 1861, Mississippi’s senator,
Jefferson Davis resigned from the United States Senate,
a day that he called: Reading: “The saddest
day of my life. It has been a conviction
of pressing necessity; it has been a belief that we are
to be deprived in the Union of the rights which
our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi
into her present decision. Narrator: Pettus made
Davis a Major General of the Army of
Mississippi. Florida, Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas soon followed the
example set by South Carolina and Mississippi and they
too seceded from the Union. These seven cotton-growing
states came together and formed the
Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861. And on February 9, they
made Jefferson Davis the Provisional President of the
Confederate States of America. Giambrone: Their whole
argument for secession was that they felt that they
were loosing their freedom, their rights, the power
to self-govern themselves. Many Mississippians, as
well as other Southerners, felt that they had the
right to secede and govern themselves
anyway they saw fit. They’re saying well,
they’re trying to pick on us. They’re going
to invade us. They’re forcing us to do
what they want us to do. People who lived in
the South in those days, I don’t know if it’s
completely gone away, you know you ask me
about something and I’ll work
with you. Tell me what you’re
going to do something whether I like it
or not, then you’ll get
some resistance. States’ Rights was a political
theory that Southern states used to defend the
institution of slavery. It was used to
justify secession. But secession itself
was driven by the desire to defend the institution
of slavery. When Mississippi seceded
in 1861, the delegates to the secession convention
stated that our position is thoroughly identified
with the institution of slavery, the greatest material
interest in the world. So the battle from the start
was all about slavery. This business of
states’ rights, of course, among some latter day
historians has been injected, but it was really
about slavery and the secession resolution in
Mississippi in January of 1861 says so in so many words,
that this is about slavery. Narrator: Mississippi’s
ordinance of secession: Reading: “Utter subjugation
awaits us in the Union, if we should consent
longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice,
but of necessity. We must either
submit to degradation, and to the loss of property
worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the
Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every
other species of property. For far less than this,
our fathers separated from the Crown
of England.” In a way,
it’s ironic that the argument
that they were making was that they were
against enslavement, but not by an owner
of a plantation, but enslavement
by the laws and will of the
United States of America. Narrator: Many
Mississippians who desired the freedom to self-
govern themselves denied that very
freedom to over half the state’s
population. Liberty and freedom
were foreign concepts for many enslaved. Born into a life
of subjugation, they had never
experienced freedom. The enslaved
lived out their lives under constant
constraints. You have to ask
just to be mobile. You can’t
choose yourmate without your
owner’s permission. You’re not free. If you are pulled away from
the community that you know, and let’s say you are
sold two or three times, where are you
going to run? You know what the consequences
of running away are. You can’t run away. The risks just
weren’t worth it. And so, you
would just hope, many of them
prayed for freedom. Narrator:
The new ‘provisional’ Confederate President
Jefferson Davis, issued a call for 100,000
men from the various states’ militias to defend
the newly formed Confederacy. Giambrone: He began
to remove U.S. Government presence from within
Confederate boundaries. This called for
Confederate troops to start taking
possession of U.S. courts, custom houses,
post offices, U.S. mints, basically all
Federal buildings, most notably,
arsenals and forts. Narrator: After
Confederate troops attacked and took control
of Fort Sumter, Lincoln called up 75,000
Union troops to re-occupy U.S. properties
throughout the South. Thus began
the Civil War. Reading: “It is
now near midnight, and the excitement is
beginning to abate. The Battle House, and
telegraph office have been thronged for hours,
and speeches were made by many
prominent Southerners. And in the distance I hear
revelry and shouts of applause for the gallant Beauregard
and the Southern Confederacy.” Unidentified member
of the Vicksburg Artillery on hearing of the firing
on Fort Sumter. Ballard: We have to remember
that most of these soldiers were like teenagers
going off to war. They thought this was a way
to gain glory and honor and come back home
and marry that pretty girl they always wanted to marry
and they’d be a hero. They never really stopped
and thought about the blood and guts and being blown
apart by cannon balls. That never crossed their mind
until it was too late and then they realized
what they had gotten into, then it was
a matter of pride. You don’t go running home
because everybody in town would know that you deserted
and nobody will ever have anything to do
with you anymore. They were kind of
caught up in the early part of the secession
movement. And once it caught fire,
it just sort of spread. (Patriotic music swells) Reading: “Our country calls
and he that would not respond deserves not the name
of man and though we fall, we fall battling
for our rights and are determined
to have them or die in the attempt.” Private Robert A. Moore,
17th Mississippi Infantry. Here in Mississippi, the
Magnolia State would send her bravest and most noble
sons to the conflict. Men of prominence
such as Earl Van Dorn, William Barksdale,
and Jefferson Davis, would be quick to respond
to the call of the state. Tens of thousands of these
Mississippians would die on the fields
of battle reaching all the way
from Pennsylvania, to the Mississippi River
and beyond. Narrator: Mississippi’s brave
sons marched into battle in faraway places:
at Bull Run, at Port Royal, and off the coast
of Norfolk. But as the war
dragged on, the battlefields grew closer
and closer home. Shiloh, fought on
April 6th and 7th of 1862, would be the bloodiest
battle ever fought on the North American
continent up to that date. The battlefield at Shiloh,
just a few miles north of the state line
with Mississippi, would be a blood bath
in which thousands upon thousands of soldiers,
North and South, fell on the field
of battle, including many
Mississippians. Narrator: The brutal
two-day battle produced over
23,000 casualties a tragic irony
considering the name for Shiloh means
“place of peace.” Union victory at Shiloh
in April of 1862 would open up North Mississippi
to Union invasion. And very shortly after
the action at Shiloh, Union forces would move
into the Magnolia State. Mississippians
feared the possibility, the threat of invasion
from Northern forces, that this might encourage
slaves to rebel. With slave owners gone,
with their sons gone, with overseers gone,
it left women, young men, old men in
charge of the plantations. And they were afraid that
these people would be unable to control the South’s
large slave population. Owens: For black people who
are living on plantations and slave communities,
masters and their sons are now away and so
there is a change in terms of the hierarchy
on plantations. You now have to listen
to plantation mistresses. Many enslaved
people don’t. They become
insubordinate. And many white
Mississippians sensed, in some way, that they
were sitting on a powder keg. Again, over half the
population was enslaved. How stable was
that society? How would the slaves react
to their masters leaving? How would they react to the
arrival of Northern forces? And right from the beginning
of the war there were rumors of slave insurrections
throughout the state, and those rumors
became more frequent as the war progressed
and as Northern forces actually began moving
into Mississippi. Narrator: The invasion
of Mississippi began in May of 1862 with the
Union Army seizing control of the rail junction
at Corinth. Winschel: In Corinth
you have the intersection of North-South and
East-West rail lines. It was referred to,
at that point in time, as perhaps the
most strategic city in the Confederacy due
to those rail connections. But with the fall of Corinth,
the focus of military operations in the West
will truly center on the fortress
city of Vicksburg. And for the remainder
of 1862 and into 1863, Union land and naval forces
will operate against what was know as the Gibraltar
of the Confederacy: the city of Vicksburg. The big thing about
Mississippi and the Civil War was that an awful lot of
key events happened here that had an impact on the
way the war was going to go and the way
the war resulted. Mississippi and Mississippians
would experience war firsthand and see the horrors of
war in their own homes. All the way from Ship Island
on the Gulf Coast, to Corinth in
North Mississippi, Iuka, and Meridian
in the East, and Vicksburg
in the West. The entire state of Mississippi
became a battleground and scores of major engagements
and minor actions were fought on
the soil of Mississippi. By war’s end, the state
was pretty much left a desolate ruin. Giambrone: Nobody in
their right mind craves war. The wealthy Southern cotton
growers didn’t want war. They had hoped that the great
desire for mighty King Cotton would prevent war. That didn’t happen. People are just afraid. There are just a number
of things that are happening that is really decimating the
communities that Southerners, both black and white,
are living through. In Mississippi there is
great death and sickness. People are hungry. Despite the abundance of rich
agricultural land in Mississippi the state could not
feed itself. It relied on imported
food from the Midwest. So when the war began,
Mississippi had to transition from a state that
produced cotton, to state that could
essentially sustain itself and that was very
difficult because in 1862, Mississippi was
hit by a drought. So there were crop
failures throughout the state. Reading: “I myself
have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee,
and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands
of women and children fleeing from your armies
and desperadoes, hungry and
with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg,
and Mississippi, we fed thousands
and thousands of the families of rebel
soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could
not see starve.” General William
Tecumseh Sherman, United States Army. There were real problems
with food shortages. Now, those problems
were made even worse by the military campaigns
fought in Mississippi. The Gulf Coast fell
very early in the war, which made salt
difficult to obtain. Without salt, you couldn’t
preserve your beef, or your pork. Grant’s campaigns
against Vicksburg, when his army
marched through the Delta, it tore up many of the
levees in the Delta, which made flooding more
common and made that much of that land unsuitable for
agriculture in the short-term. So the military campaigns
were tearing up the state’s infrastructure, which added
to things like drought and the absence
of so many men from the home front,
it was very very difficult for the people of Mississippi
to feed themselves. Narrator: A few farms managed
to grow enough crops to get by, but other places, like the
besieged city of Vicksburg, faced rampant
starvation and under those conditions,
disease can spread rapidly. Disease,
or the amoeba, which was the great
decimator of the armies. That’s where the great
Grim Reaper of Death really decimated
the armies. These boys, they
gathered together. They went off
confident. They were just going to
meet a foe on the battlefield and blast away
at each other, defeat the enemy
and be the heroes. Little did they realize,
when all these boys congregated from all
of these different locales, that disease would
decimate and kill. Roughly, 80% of the boys
in the war died of disease. You have all kinds of illnesses
that manifest themselves physically, but also
emotionally, psychologically. You also have strikes
that are happening. The Confederate currency
doesn’t mean much because of the rates
of inflation. Mississippi was suffering
from rampant inflation. Money was quickly
losing its value. There was a breakdown
in local government. The state government
had to flee Jackson. Ballard: When that
began to happen, faith in government officials
began to fade away. It became apparent that the
government of Mississippi would be pretty
impotent in trying to carry on the business
of the state, especially after the invasion
of Mississippi began. Grivno: Chaos reigned
in some parts of Mississippi
during the war. There was a breakdown
in law and order. Counties were overrun with
deserters, paroled prisoners, men who simply wanted
to avoid conscription. Ballard: Mississippians
went to war, a lot of them
reluctantly. There would be pockets
of resistance throughout, not just in Mississippi,
but all across the South. Narrator: Not long
after the battle of Shiloh, on April 16, 1862,
Jefferson Davis enacted the very first
American Military draft. The draft was
incredibly unpopular. To many Southerners,
especially people who excepted the States’ Rights ideology or
the States’ Rights Doctrine, it seemed that
they had replaced one tyrannical national
government with another. Giambrone: Under
the Conscription Act, all healthy free men,
between the ages of 18 and 35, had to sign up for a
three-year tour of duty. Unless you owned
20 or more slaves and could afford to hire a
substitute to take your place. If you were wealthy enough,
you could choose not to go. For poor people, people
who didn’t own 20 slaves, it seemed as if they
are fighting to protect someone else’s property;
that they were being asked to bear a
disproportionate burden. People understood
what had caused the war, and now the people who had
most to gain from the war were exempting themselves
from military service. They believed this
made the war into a rich man’s war
and a poor man’s fight. Ballard: But once
the war came along and people started dying,
it really didn’t matter who was shot down
on the battlefield, whether it was a rich guy
who owned slaves, or guy who came from
a poor white family, who owned
no slaves. It was still Southern blood
being spilled and that was kind of a unifying factor,
the war itself. But still, if you
get back to cause, nobody can convince me that
if slavery has not existed that there would have
been a war anyway. No, nobody can
convince me of that. Giambrone: Mississippi
suffered devastating human losses
during the Civil War. Approximately 78,000
Mississippians served in
the military; of that number about
27,000 were killed or died. One quarter of the
white male population over the age of 15
in 1860 was dead; an entire generation
was laid waste. Winschel: More than
620,000 American soldiers, North and South, died on the
field of battle or from disease. It was the costliest war,
in terms of human life in American history. Narrator: On July 4,
1863, Vicksburg, the great Gibraltar
of the Confederacy, fell after a
47-day siege. Union forces took control
of the Mississippi River, effectively splitting
the Confederacy in half. Vicksburg was really
the turning point, not just in
Mississippi but in the western theater
of the Civil War. And I would argue even of
the Civil War all together. After Vicksburg surrendered,
there were a lot of people in Mississippi
who gave it up. They didn’t want
the war to go on. The loss of Vicksburg
pretty much put the Union army
in control of Mississippi. Narrator: Confederate
General-in-Chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered
to Ulysses S. Grant on April 6th, 1865. Six days later, Southern
sympathizer John Wilkes Booth assassinated
President Abraham Lincoln. Today Lincoln is considered
one of the most beloved of all American Presidents,
but that wasn’t the case during the Civil War. Lincoln was so hatted
during his Presidency that he received well over
10,000 death threats. Ballard: As a Governor,
Pettus is very prominent in newspapers and wherever
early in the war. But as time passes, he really
becomes less revenant. He was just
pro-Confederate. Pro-Confederate. Get the Yankees. Kill the Yankees. But as the war began
to come to Mississippi, there was not much
he could do to stop it. Pettus took the Loyalty Oath
twice after the war. But he was convinced
he’d been singled out for special punishment,
maybe for execution. Was afraid he was
going to be captured, so he fled
to Arkansas. Crossed the Mississippi River
and went into the swamps in the Arkansas Delta
and lived as a fugitive there. He died and was buried
in a cornfield there. And the result is
that John Pettus lies today somewhere
in an unmarked grave. His grave as lost
as the cause for which he
so gallantly fought. Narrator: As the body
of President Lincoln was being laid to rest in the Oak Ridge Cemetery
of Springfield, Illinois, Confederate Lieutenant
General Richard Taylor surrendered all remaining
rebel forces in Mississippi to Major General
Edward Canby. It was May 4th,
1865. The Civil War was
at an end, but in many ways
Mississippi’s true struggle was just beginning. Reconstruction was
an attempt to make sure that
the former slaves, now free, would become
part of Southern society, would become part
of American Society. But as you know, there was all
sorts of violence in Mississippi and other places
in the South where individuals
tried to keep blacks, not enslaved, because you
couldn’t enslave any longer, but keep them down,
keep them suppressed. Owens: White
Southerners are angry about the loss
of the Civil War. For those who
lost property, their communities
were decimated. They lost the lives
of family members and loved ones
within the community. Of course
there’s animus. The richest state in the
Union has now crumbled, parts of it have
been burned. And so I think quite naturally
there is a lot of anger. And black people
and Northerners, they’re seen as the one
who are the creators of the downfall
of their civilization. Ballard: Did slavery
cause the Civil War? Yes. Slavery did
cause the war. Why people fought is an
altogether different issue. Some of them did
not own slaves. Many of them did
not own slaves. Some did fight for slavery,
to preserve slavery. Some didn’t care
one way or the other, but they did care
about the Union Army coming down
into their states. Union soldiers wanted
to preserve the Union. They didn’t care
about slavery either. In fact, a lot of them
were extremely angry. When the Emancipation
Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863, a lot of
Union soldiers were furious. Narrator: The
Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President
Abraham Lincoln, was not a statute
enacted by Congress. It was a
Presidential proclamation. Lincoln told his
Cabinet that he had used his powers as
Commander-in-Chief to free the slaves in
the Confederate States, because it was a covenant
that he had made with God. Owens: The Emancipation
Proclamation brings the institution of slavery
to the forefront. There is no way that
you can now state that the war doesn’t
deal with slavery, because the
Emancipation Proclamation in fact, makes
slavery an issue. And it really changes
the focus of the war. Once slaves realized
what this war was about, they rushed
to Union arms. Parson: Wherever there
is a Union presence in the South
during the Civil War runaway slaves
gravitate to that area. Not only for protection
from Union forces, but the hope
of freedom. Narrator: Lincoln wrote the
Emancipation Proclamation, due to the fact that the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required the return runaway
of slaves to their owners. But Union Generals
refused to do so and declared the runaways
contraband of war. Parson: You start
seeing a large influx of runaway slaves
after the siege of Corinth. When the Union begins
to occupy this area, runaway slaves begin
to first drift in here singly and in pairs and
then in large numbers. Narrator: In order to
house the numerous runaways at Corinth,
the Union troops set up a refugee or
“contraband” camp. In just a short period of time,
the Corinth contraband camp becomes a model camp
throughout the country. This is the way that all
contraband camps should be. Which is
interesting, right? The state that becomes the
richest state in the Union because of slavery,
also houses the largest contraband camp
in Corinth, Mississippi. And so for the year,
year and a half, that it is in existence,
it has upwards of about 6,000 people. It really becomes
a model community. And I think that at the
core of it for black people to prove
their humanity, to show that they can
be more than slaves. People tend to think of
those who were enslaved as living a
one-dimensional life. Yes, it was oppressive,
it was brutal. But I think what is
really important, particularly in a
state like Mississippi that had the largest population
of people of African descent, you can see the
cultural legacies that the state
is left with, all the way from
the culinary cuisine that enslaved people
helped to create, to the music, but also the
ways in which people worship. Woman singing: ♪ Through many dangers,
toils and snares ♪ ♪ I have already come. ♪ Owens: They built
community in the worst and oppressive kinds
of environments. And I think it’s a real
testament to their strength. ♪ T’was grace that
brought me safe thus far. ♪ ♪ And grace
will lead me on. ♪ Grady: After the war
between the states is over, Southerners by in large lost a
lot of their lands to taxes. Parson: During this
time of Union occupation, you see a large influx, of
Northerners coming down. Later, they will be
called Carpetbaggers, but these are folks
looking to make a few bucks. Marzelak: People were
coming into Mississippi from other parts of the South,
from places in the North, but they were coming
to try to take advantage of the cotton trade. And realizing
the potential bought up a lot of
these plantations, and then created
a new slavery for white and black
by low-paying. You’re free to go. You can come and go
and you’re free to go. You’ve got to take care
of your medicine. You’ve got to take care
of your own food. You can live
on the place. I provide a company
store on the plantation. Now, the company store had all
kinds of beautiful little items and trinkets, and jams
and jellies and pies, and all kinds of
stuff in there, which you could
buy on credit. So the freed man,
white and black, who worked
on those fields got so in debt to
the company store that he could not
leave the plantation. So that was a new form of
slavery that was more vile than the older form of
slavery which existed. And of course, slavery
in any form is no good. Woman singing: ♪ I once was lost,
but now I’m found. ♪ ♪ Was blind,
but now I see. ♪ ♪ Oh… ♪ Narrator: For more details
about Mississippi and the Civil War,
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