“…Port Gibson’s inviting architectural history is still here for you to explore and enjoy today.”
It was so beautiful it disarmed General U.S. Grant, literally. The man known for putting vanquished areas to the torch declared the city “too beautiful to burn.” It was so glamorous that even one of its ruins captivated Hollywood and became a suitably bewitching backdrop for a film of “Gone with the Wind” type dimensions. That film, 1957’s “Raintree County,” featured a dazzling young Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in a Civil War story of star-crossed love.
Today, as you watch the sun slant in through the Ruins of Windsor—23 magnificent fluted columns that stretch 45 feet in the air, filigreed with wrought-iron staircases and balustrades—the sight is so splendid you know one thing: This is no star-crossed love. Your romance with the beautiful city of Port Gibson is destined to last.
While the Windsor mansion was destroyed by a lit cigar at the turn of the century, Grant’s change of heart has meant that much of Port Gibson’s inviting architectural history is still here for you to explore and enjoy today. The city’s construction boom extended into the 20th century, so the building styles are richly diverse, ranging from stately Federal to lavish Victorian, spread across in two historic districts, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic churches are a particular highlight, whether classical masterpieces like the grand Moorish Revival style Temple Gemiluth Chassad, the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the state, or the unusual and unusually dramatic First Presbyterian Church, its steeple topped by giant gilded hand, finger pointing toward heaven. Historic cemeteries, such as Wintergreen, shrouded in Spanish moss and overhung with oaks, make excellent spots for meditation and contemplation.
You will also want to trace the steps of Grant’s army at the preserved battle sites on the edge of town. Before reaching Port Gibson, Grant had to make a pre-dawn crossing at Bruinsburg to avoid the withering fire from the Confederate’s Grand Gulf fortifications. At the 400-acre Grand Gulf Military Park, vivid reminders of the battle remain, including remnants of the fortifications, a restored Parrott rifle, and a cemetery where Civil War soldiers are interred. Hiking trails and a 75-foot observation tower let you see the park from every angle. It’s easy to let your imagination roam here.
But that’s okay. Grant surrendered to the charms of this place. So can you.