114 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI Secession and War In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, hostile to the expansion of slavery, was elected president of the United States, bringing the tension between slave and free states to a head. By that time, the Fire-Eaters had established a statewide majority and pushed for Mississippi to secede from the Union. However, the majority in the Lower River counties were Unionists who opposed secession. During the secession crisis they argued that Mississippians should unite in trying every other possible alternative. Opposition to secession was especially fervent in and around Vicksburg and Natchez, both river ports with strong commercial ties to the North. Nonetheless, on January 9, 1861, the delegates to the Mississippi Secession Convention voted for secession, making Mississippi the second state after South Carolina to leave the Union. Of the river counties’delegates, only three of the eight voted for secession. Walker Brooke of Warren County only did so because, even though he deplored secession, he had come to believe it inevitable. He felt that if Mississippi were to take such a momentous action, it should do so united. The people of the Lower River counties, out of loyalty to their state, did unite to contribute to the war effort for the conflict that followed. During the Civil War, they organized 121 infantry, cavalry, and artillery companies for the Confederate Army. Many of the region’s young men went to war in other theaters, for there was little fighting in the Lower River counties for a year and a half following the war’s beginning. In December 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant began the first of several attempts to take Vicksburg, the most strategically valuable port and crossing point on the Mississippi River not yet in Union hands.After months of failures, his final campaign began with a landing at Bruinsburg in Claiborne County.As Grant landed his troops, WirtAdams’Cavalry, stationed in Natchez, was lured away by a diversionary cavalry thrust toward the Lower River counties by Union Colonel Benjamin Grierson. OnApril 29, Adams met Grierson in a fierce but indecisive skirmish at Union Church in Jefferson County. Battles ensued at Raymond, Jackson, and finally at Champion Hill. Grierson’s diversions made it impossible forAdams to interfere with Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi River. Confederate forces were divided and Vicksburg held out under a grueling siege until July 4 when Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered the city. Grant’s campaign is still studied for strategic movement of forces.Anational cemetery in Vicksburg is dedicated to the fallen and wounded. USS Cairo was sunk by a torpedo and remains there to reflect the naval battles fought on the Mississippi River. The city continues to be mainly surrounded by the Vicksburg National Military Park. The final blow for Union control of the Mississippi River was struck nine days later when General T.E.G. Ransom took Natchez, the sole remaining Mississippi River crossing left in Confederate hands. The Federals occupied Vicksburg and Natchez until the end of the war. Their presence allowed the slave inhabitants of the Lower River counties to flee the plantations in droves. Contraband camps were established for them in both cities. Unfortunately, the new military authorities were not prepared for such a tremendous influx of people requiring food, housing, and clothing. For the first few months, conditions in the contraband camps were terrible. Catholic bishop William Henry Elder, a frequent visitor to the one in Natchez, remembered shortly afterward that “blacks of the surrounding country came flocking here to enjoy the freedom offered them. Poor creatures, died away by whole families—measles, pneumonia, dysentery, and finally smallpox prevailed among them.” In Warren County, seventy freed slaves at Davis Bend leased land under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau as part of a mostly successful experiment in self-sufficiency. Many went to work for the Union as laborers on fortifications such as Fort McPherson, built on the northern outskirts of Natchez to secure the town. Others joined the new black regiments such as the 6th Mississippi Colored Infantry being recruited for garrison duty and occasional raids on Confederate forces and resources in the rest of the Lower River counties. Ironically, the 6th Mississippi was stationed at the now unused slave market at Forks of the Road. In October 1864, the military authorities at Natchez launched a series of raids into Louisiana and the Lower River counties south ofAdams County to destroy Confederate supplies and industry. One of these through Wilkinson County in October 1864 resulted in the rout of a Confederate force at Woodville with the help of a charge into the enemy’s rear by the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry. The Aftermath of War At the end of the Civil War, the old plantation economy in the Lower River counties was in shambles. The slaves were free, and many planters had little left but their land. A great deal of property had been destroyed or looted during Confederate forces were divided and Vicksburg held out under a grueling siege until July 4 when Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered the city.