THE DELTA 311 cautious Delta elites. And as predicted by the Alcorn-Yerger faction, secession did indeed result in devastation for their economic order. Secession resulted in the war and the devastation that Alcorn accurately predicted. One of the first Delta casualties of the Civil War was the delay in levee construction along the Mississippi River. In 1858, the state legislature established the Levee District to build levees and protect vulnerable lands from flooding. For Delta planters, this investment in infrastructure was a godsend and portended a future in which cotton crops were protected and profits would soar. The Union campaign to take control of the Mississippi River put the levee plan on hold for the war’s duration. By the end of 1862, the Union had captured New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Natchez, and Memphis. Securing control of the area south of Memphis to Vicksburg gave the Union full control of the river and isolated the western Confederate states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Still largely wilderness, the Delta’s geography was a formidable obstacle for both Union and Confederate soldiers. Writer Shelby Foote described the Delta in 1862: “It was, in short, impenetrable to all but the smallest of military parties engaged in the briefest of forays. An army attempting to march across or through it would come out at the other end considerably reduced in numbers and fit for nothing more strenuous than a six-month rest, with quinine as the principal item on its diet.” The Delta’s swamps and unhealthy climate took their toll on Union efforts to take Vicksburg. General Ulysses S. Grant tried to move his Union troops south along the Yazoo River to reach that well-fortified Mississippi River city. After several failed Union attempts to capture it, the Gibraltar of the Mississippi fell into Union hands on July 4, 1863. Grant’s victory in Vicksburg was a key turning point in the war. Life on the home front was harsh and chaotic.Attacks from Yankee gunboats along the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers were a source of daily concern in the Delta. Plantations across the floodplain were vulnerable to Union raids, which often led to the destruction of cotton, a source of major wealth and currency for the Confederate States of America. It was also the economic lifeline for the families left behind after farmers vacated to fight for the Confederacy. Greenville was especially hard-hit, as Union forces burned all but two buildings in the once-bustling river city. With young and middle-aged men off to fight the war, Delta plantations lost many of the white masters who lorded over these lands. In addition, many owners who went to battles in far-flung parts of the South took their slaves with them. Slaves served their masters’daily needs in camps and while at battle. Back home, plantation mistresses assumed control of the daily operations of the plantation. The rough conditions of the Delta made running a plantation a difficult challenge under normal, peaceful circumstances, but the Civil War multiplied the challenges of producing a stable cotton crop and foodstuffs to feed those who lived on the plantation. Delta residents quickly learned that a war-ravaged landscape could not produce the cotton crops that had been the lifeblood of the Delta economy just a few years earlier. By the end of the Civil War, once-fertile cotton fields had been taken over by weeds and wild animals. Prewar efforts to tame the wild Delta went for naught. Another blow to the plantations came when a restless slave population sought their own freedom. Before the war, running away to freedom was an extra-ordinary risk for slaves. The chances of attaining freedom were slim, as the Delta swamps gave few options for survival. The arrival of Union troops during the war opened doors to freedom for African American slaves throughout the South and especially in the Delta with its large enslaved population. Slaves were emboldened by Union advancements and left plantations in large numbers for Union army lines. Union officers were perplexed at what to do with these runaway slaves, especially given the high numbers who needed to be fed and clothed. The Union routinely put slaves to work dredging swamps and building fortifications. By 1863, the Union allowed African Americans to serve in regiments for the U.S. Colored Troops. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, two years after the war began, made the destruction of slavery a clear Union goal. Following the war, political reconstruction from 1865 to 1877 ushered in a constitutional revolution in Mississippi. The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all persons born in the United States and stated that no state could deprive its citizens of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Passed in 1866 by Republicans in Congress and ratified by new Republican governments in the South, the Fourteenth Amendment ensured that states could not deny citizens equal protection of the law. Four years later, the Fifteenth Amendment declared that the right to vote could not be abridged on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. African Americans in the Delta acted upon their newfound freedoms and rights in powerful, affirming ways. Following the war, political reconstruction from 1865 to 1877 ushered in a constitutional revolution in Mississippi.