As the battle of Gettysburg raged, a thousand miles to the south the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi was nearing the end. For forty-seven days between May 18 – July 4, 1983, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant surrounded the city. Confederate troops led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton held firm. Finally, with their supplies nearly gone, they surrendered on July 4—one day after Meade defeated Lee at Gettysburg.
Although the number of casualties wasn’t as high as those in Gettysburg, there was still loss of lives. The Union army suffered 766 deaths with another 3,793 wounded. Over three-thousand confederates were listed as killed, wounded, or missing. Another 29,495 surrendered.
The city itself lay in near ruin with many of its residents near starvation. With such tragedy is it any wonder Vicksburg is a place known for paranormal activity?
My husband and I visited the city a few years ago. We toured the battlefield and national cemetery, spent a night in an antebellum mansion turned bed and breakfast, and went on a ghost tour. Below are a few of the stories about Haunted Vicksburg.
John Alexander Klein was a wealthy Vicksburg businessman who built Cedar Grove Mansion as a gift for his bride, Elizabeth. Completed in 1852, it offered a view of the Mississippi River. The Kleins furnished the home with Bohemian glass, paintings by renowned artists, Italian marble fireplaces, and French Empire Gasoliers.
In 1862, John joined the Confederacy, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Elizabeth. She was a relative of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. He moved her behind Union lines to have the baby, which she named Willie. Sherman also converted Cedar Grove into a Union Hospital to save it from destruction.
However, it did not escape damage. The front door has a patch where a cannonball entered.
One is still lodged in a wall of the front parlor, and another made a hole in the floor. After the war, Klein and his family returned to the mansion, thanks to the money he kept hidden to pay his taxes.
Cedar Grove was not without tragedy. John and Elizabeth Klein had ten children, but only six of them lived to adulthood. Two died in infancy, and a two-year-old succumbed to yellow fever. Their sixteen-year-old son, Willie had just returned from a hunting trip with a friend. The two of them were sitting on the back step when the friend accidentally knocked over his rifle. It fired, hitting Willie in the chest.
Supposedly, he was able to climb up the stairs to the second floor where he collapsed and died on the spot. Today, visitors to the mansion claim to see shadowy figures on the stairs. Others have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a woman in the ballroom, heard children’s feet in the upstairs hallway, and had strange encounters in the basement which served as a morgue for the soldiers who died there.
My husband and I stayed in Cedar Grove. We didn’t have any paranormal experiences. Perhaps it was due to the complimentary glass of sherry we consumed before going to bed, which put us in a deep, dreamless sleep.
During the siege of Vicksburg, General Pemberton occupied an 1835 Greek Revival house on Crawford Street. At that time, the neighborhood had some of the most beautiful homes in Vicksburg. In the years following the war, the house was a private residence until a family sold it to the Sisters of Mercy. They used for a dormitory, a nursing school, and a kindergarten. In 1973, the Sisters of Mercy sold the house, it reverted to a private residence and was later made into a bed and breakfast.
In 2003, the National Park Service acquired the home. Several years ago, employees at the Baldwin House next door reported seeing a group of Confederate soldiers in the front yard and assumed the were Civil War re-enactors. Imagine their surprise when the soldiers walked behind the house, then vanished.
Some believe these were the spirits of Confederate soldiers who camped near the home during Pemberton’s time there.
Spirits are also reported to reside in the Baldwin House, including a woman who wears long, flowing black skirts trimmed in white. The owners named her “Aunt Gertrude.” There is also a ghost who wears black, old-fashioned clothes and is known as the funeral lady.
Of note, you may recall I posted a photo of this house a few weeks back. At the time I took the picture, I didn’t know the story of the funeral lady. However, the house is one I pictured for my upcoming short story, “Woman in Black.”
It’s no surprise there are many reported sightings in Vicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery. Many have purported to see the ghost of General Grant riding across the battlefield at midnight. Others say they hear the screams of wounded and dying men or the sounds of gunfire and cannons. One young man was jogging near the cemetery one night when he saw fog over the graves. The mist was not visible anywhere else. Both the Illinois and Pennsylvania Monuments are said to be haunted.
There are countless other reports of ghost sightings and hauntings in Vicksburg. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a visit to the battlefield is a sobering reminder of what happens when a nation stands divided.