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Mississippi: Magnolia State
JOINED UNION: December 10, 1817
STATE BIRD: Mockingbird
STATE FLOWER: Magnolia
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Possibly based on Chippewa Indian words "mici zibi," loosely meaning great river
1992 POPULATION: 2,614,294
RANK FOR POPULATION: 31
LAND AREA: 46,914 square miles
RANK IN SIZE IN UNION: 32
ECONOMY: Cotton, rice, soybeans, pecans and sorghum, poultry, electrical and transportation equipment
HISTORY: Long associated with the river of the same name that flows through the state, Mississippi was home to Choctaw and Chippewa Indians. Hernando de Soto discovered the area and the river for Spain in 1541. Frenchman La Salle followed the river up to its source in Illinois, claiming the area for France. The French established a settlement in 1699 near Biloxi. Britain claimed the region after the French and Indian War and America got it after the Revolution. In 1810, America got Spain's part of southern Mississippi. With an economy rooted in cotton and slavery, Mississippi was strongly Confederate and seceded from the Union in 1861. During the Civil War, Union troops destroyed much of Jackson and Meridian. Mississippi was late in becoming industrialized; it wasn't until the 1970s that the economy switched from tilling the soil to industry. The Mississippi Delta region of the state gave America the roots of blues music.
Opening The Mississippi River July 4, 1863
This crucial Civil War campaign (April-July 1863) captured the last Confederate fortress on the Mississippi River, divided the Confederacy in two, and gave the Union complete control of the river. This victory, along with that at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, (July 1-3, 1863) tilted the war in favor of the North. Union General Ulysses S. Grant was stopped five times in trying to capture the city, which sits on high bluffs overlooking the river, but he would not give up. He launched a sixth drive in April 1863. Northern gunboats and transports sailed past the city at night under heavy fire, while Grant's ground forces marched south down the west bank of the river. The troops were then taken across the river south of the city.
Although outnumbered, Grant began a brilliant two-week campaign in which he won a half-dozen battles and at the end had forced the Confederate Army under General John C. Pemberton, who had been born in the North, back into the Vicksburg defenses. Beginning on May 18, Grant began a siege of Vicksburg. The soldiers and civilians in the city suffered terribly. They were forced to live in caves dug into the hillsides and reduced to eating horses, mules, and even rats. Pemberton surrendered the city on July 4, because he would get better terms on that day -- the nation's birthday -- than on any other.
The campaign made Grant a national hero, made Pemberton a hated man in the South, and so embittered the people of Vicksburg that the city did not celebrate the Fourth of July until World War II.
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