Today in History: The Battle of Jackson

The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

May 14, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign:  The Battle of Jackson

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

In order to isolate Vicksburg, General Grant decided to march on Jackson to cut the rail and communication lines and military reinforcements that supplied the Mississippi River town. Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent General Joseph Johnston into Jackson to try to prevent Grant’s progression through Mississippi. Realizing the futility of fighting to save the capital city from such a large, advancing Federal force, which included the corps of Generals Sherman and McPherson, Johnston ordered an evacuation of Jackson and sent Brig. Gen. John Gregg to engage Grant’s forces and cover the evacuation. After the ensuing battle, which resulted in an estimated 1,145 casualties for both sides, Gregg pulled out of the city, leaving it defenseless. To prevent having to occupy Jackson, Grant ordered the destruction of anything of military value, including railroad tracks, telegraph lines, and factories. The railroad track pictured below, called a “Sherman Necktie,” was found in the Pearl River in 1987, and was probably torn up, bent to render it inoperable, and thrown into the river by Union forces after the Battle of Jackson.

Sherman necktie. Accession number: 1987.28.1 (Museum Division collection)
Sherman necktie. Accession number: 1987.28.1 (Museum Division collection)

Plundering by the Union troops also took place as evidenced by a telegram from Governor John J. Pettus which stated, “Furniture in State House badly abused in Governor’s mansion, demolished Telegh [sic] wires torn down cut…Ladies robbed of jewelry money. Much destruction here.” The cap photographed below was made from drapery material taken from the State House by Col. Nathan W. Tupper of the 116th Illinois Infantry. It is currently on display in the Old Capitol Museum.

Col. Nathan W. Tupper's cap. Accession number: 1972.22.4 (Museum Division collection)
Col. Nathan W. Tupper’s cap. Accession number: 1972.22.4 (Museum Division collection)

Private Daniel Jones of Company I of the 17th Iowa Infantry took the garnet necklace pictured below from a Jackson home. In a letter to his sister, Jones described his involvement in the Vicksburg campaign and the action in Jackson, writing “…we marched into the City and plundered it…”

Garnet necklace. Accession number: 2010.6.1 (Museum Division collection)
Garnet necklace. Accession number: 2010.6.1 (Museum Division collection)

The descendants of both soldiers returned the looted items to the state in recent years.


“Battle of Jackson (May 14),” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service,

Governor John J. Pettus to unknown, May 16, 1863, Section 8: Telegrams from Governor, Sept. 1862-May 1863, Series 760: Military Telegrams, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, microfilm no. 3248.