Walt's Look Around: General U.S. Grant's route to the Civil War - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: General U.S. Grant's route to the Civil War

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It was in November of 1862, 150 years ago about now, that General U.S. Grant of the Union Army started enacting plans to take Vicksburg, giving the Federal Government control of the whole Mississippi River and splitting the Confederacy in two. But there were several logistical problems in getting TO Vicksburg. First of all there was no direct route through the center of the state that wasn't held by the South with strong armies.

And the Delta was a different place 150 years ago than it is now. Heavily wooded with bottom-land hardwood forests and criss-crossed with bayous and swamps. It would almost be impossible to walk across it if you were by yourself, much less trying to march a whole army across it.

So that left coming down the Mississippi River, past Vicksburg and landing in the unprotected bluffs south of the town and marching back up to it.

Grant first set his sights at Grand Gulf as a landing place. And you could see why the cotton fields around the antebellum home Winter Quarters just south of Newellton in Tensas Parish, Louisiana would be perfect as the last encampment before hopping the Mississippi River, between where we are in Louisiana, and Grand Gulf, marked vividly today by the cooling tower at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station.

Now there were around 15 plantation homes on Lake St. Joseph at that time. After the Union Army left, there was just one still standing, Winter Quarters.

Winter Quarters is owned by the state of Louisiana and is a historic landmark. It is USUALLY open to the public. But a tornado a few years ago did severe damage to the house and it has been closed for a while. But contracts have been let and workers are on the job re-roofing, putting in a new cooling and heating system and doing general clean up-fix up on the old home.

Hopefully, Winter Quarters in Newellton will be open by the actual 150th anniversary of the night the Union Army camped here, in April of 2013.

The Civil War defined who we are as a nation today. And there are fewer and fewer of these witness to it still standing. But here's one that will be around a while longer in Tensas Parish, Louisiana.

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