We finally slowed down a bit and did some serious sightseeing in Mississippi. Our stop was in the town of Vicksburg, just outside Jackson, the state’s capitol. The history in this area is quite astonishing – from civil war battlefields and the epicenter of the civil rights struggle, to the first place where Coca Cola was bottled, Vicksburg and Jackson gave us our money’s worth.

Coca Cola

Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum was built by the the Biedenharn family, the original bottlers of Coca-Cola, and the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, which runs the museum today. It’s a small venue that features a reproduction of an old-time candy shop, complete with an historic soda fountain.

Original Soda Fountain

In the back rooms are displays explaining the origins of Coca-Cola, the Biedenharn family history, the first bottled Coca-Cola, and more.

Although Coca Cola was created in 1866 by Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, it was first bottled by Joe Biedenharn a candy store owner who had a soda fountain dispensing Coca Cola. When he realized the increased demand for the beverage, he decided to try bottling it using bottles he had on hand – Hutchinson blob-top bottles embossed with “Biedenharn Candy Company, Vicksburg, Miss.”

We enjoyed the museum. It was small, but the cost was only $2 each. Made it a worthwhile stop.

Old Courthouse Museum

In historic Vicksburg, the Old Courthouse was a symbol of what they call the “Confederate resistence.” During the Civil War, despite being targeted repeatedly, the building suffered only one major hit.

Jefferson Davis, who would become President of the Confederacy, launched his political career at the courthouse.

General Ulysses Grant reviewed his victorious troops here when the Stars and Bars were lowered and the Stars and Stripes were raised on July 4, 1863.

The museum showcased General Grant’s chair as one of its exhibits.

Many historical figures have visited the courthouse over the years, including Jefferson Davis, Booker T. Washington, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

The courthouse is beautifully maintained inside, and the museum had many interesting exhibits.

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

The incredibly moving and disturbing history of the civil rights struggle is chronicled in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

We spent an afternoon wandering through the exhibits, and marveling at man’s inhumanity to man.

Here are some of the highlights. There are more in the gallery.

Vicksburg National Military Park

During the Civil War, Vicksburg was known as the Gibraltar of the Confederacy. Controlling Vicksburg meant controlling the Mississippi River.

After a nearly seven-week siege, the Union Army captured the city on July 4, 1863. This, coupled with the Confederate Army’s defeat at Gettysburg the day before, marked a major turning point in the war.

One of the unique exhibits in the park is the ironclad Union gunboat USS Cairo. The Cairo was sunk by a Confederate mine in the Yazoo river.

It was the first U.S. ship ever lost to a floating mine. It was raised and restored in 1964.

Lots of history in Mississippi. We’ve still only scratched the surface, so I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

Until then, we happily make our way to Florida.