Grand Gulf-Raymond Scenic Byway Signage Completed
Release Date: 04/01/2014
Contacts: Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Parker Hills, Parker@BattleFocus.com, 601-924-5666
Marker #23: "On May 9, two divisions of McPherson's XVII Corps marched to Reganton, then known as Crossroads, and moved southeast toward Utica, camping at Meyer's Farm three miles southeast. On May 10, the XIII Corps marched through here from Big Sand Creek toward Cayuga and Fivemile Creek. Steele's division of the XV Corps moved to Big Sand Creek, while Tuttle's division remained at Rocky Springs. McPherson moved past Utica and camped at the Weeks Farm. Grant moved his headquarters from Rocky Springs to Cayuga."
In December 2013, the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission completed the placement of interpretive and directional markers along the Grand Gulf-Raymond Scenic Byway, the route of General Ulysses Grant's march into the state 150 years ago. Working with both the public and private sectors, the commission garnered the funds to purchase and install thirteen new state historical markers and to restore and install one Civil War Centennial marker which had disappeared decades ago. To assist tourists in following the historic route, thirty-seven "Grant's March" directional markers have also been installed.
From Grand Gulf the historic road meanders ten miles, venturing through the deep, fern-decorated cuts of the loess bluffs. Along the way the ancient road winds and ducks under the canopy of live oaks and bald cypresses which are hauntingly festooned with Spanish moss. After leaving the loess bluffs the road continues to writhe its way eastward, following the high ground for another 40 miles to Raymond. Along the way the route is often traversed by deer and flocks of wild turkey. It's almost as if the wildlife wishes to oblige those who take the time to experience the journey.
The old dirt road is now paved, but it still retains much of its Civil War appearance. Today it is a quiet, relaxing drive, but in 1863 a journalist who accompanied Grant's army described the road as a "well traveled thoroughfare." The reporter, Sylvanus Cadwallader, wrote that despite "the peculiarities of an illy broken mule, [the ride] was one of the most delightful of my life." Other than the mule, the same sentiments could be expressed by a modern traveler.
The reporter traveled this road in 1863 because it was the route used by the Union army as it moved into the interior of Mississippi to sever Confederate General John Pemberton's single thread of railroad that connected Vicksburg to Jackson. From Jackson, strategic rails then ran to points north, south, and east, so Grant knew he had to cut Pemberton's iron rail lifeline somewhere between Vicksburg and Jackson. Only then could he turn his federal army westward to the snag the coveted prize of both Vicksburg and its defending army.
Along this road tens of thousands of troops, both blue and gray, marched during the first two fateful weeks of May, 1863. In addition to the sweating soldiers, panting dray animals labored to pull cannons and wagonloads of supplies to feed and arm the troops. This rural road was, in fact, the supply route for Grant's army during the Vicksburg Campaign—a supply route that most campaign histories will strangely tell you never existed. But, erroneous accounts aside, in addition to being a maneuver and supply route, Grant made many decisions along this road that effected the fate of the nation. This aged and historic road begged to have its story told.
The story-telling process began in 2003 when the Friends of the Vicksburg Campaign and Historic Trail wrote and sponsored the scenic byway legislation to designate the old road as Mississippi's first state scenic byway. The bill was passed by the legislature, and when the governor signed the document in April 2004, the old road officially received the moniker of the Grand Gulf-Raymond Scenic Byway. Now, a decade later, due to a grant from Entergy Corporation and the efforts of the Sesquicentennial Commission, the entire 50-mile route has been interpreted and marked to provide the traveler with an in-depth experience.
Parker Hills, chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission, stated that, "This road is the perfect way to explore Mississippi and its colorful history. It is also a way to get back to nature. I love to drive this road, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. It is then that the air is hazy, the shadows are long, and the history is alive. As bonuses, at the beginning of the road is one of Mississippi's best kept secrets, Grand Gulf State Park. At the terminus of the trail is the wonderful Raymond Military Park."