Perhaps no other town has played as significant a role in Mississippi history as has Grand Gulf only to fade away into obscurity with the passing of time. At one time this small town was a major river port, theatre center, and strategic Confederate stronghold during the Civil War. Originally settled by the French in the early 1700s this port town remained small until the advent of "King Cotton" in the early 1800s when it became a major shipping port.
By the mid 1800s Grand Gulf was well established and at the height of its prosperity the population had grown to 1000 people and the town boasted two newspapers, a hospital, numerous business establishments, a school and churches of several denominations. In 1843 the town took a big hit when an outbreak of yellow fever occurred and claimed the lives of many citizens. Ten years later a deadly tornado struck leaving more death and destruction. Perhaps the fatal blow to the town occurred between 1855 and 1860 when the currents of the Mississippi River ate away the entire business section of Grand Gulf: a total of 55 blocks. By the outbreak of the Civil War the population was reduced to 185 people.
General Ullyses S. Grant wanted the port at Grand Gulf as a supply depot. This was not as easily accomplished as he thought it was going to be. On April 29, 1863 a five hour battle was held between Grant's seven Union gunboats located on the Mississippi River and the two Confederate fortifications located at the town of Grand Gulf. The guns at Fort Wade were silenced but due to the high elevation and the larger guns, Fort Cobun could not be silenced. Grant's troops moved down the west side of the river approximately seven miles to Bruinsburg. Here he put 24,000 troops ashore, the largest amphibious landing until Normandy. The confederacy, knowing that Grant's monumental forces were going to return for the port at Grand Gulf, blew up their own guns and ammunition magazine leaving nothing for Union use when they returned.
In May of 1962, the Grand Gulf Military Monument Park was officially opened, dedicated to preserving the memory of both the town and the battle. Located ten miles northwest of Port Gibson, MS off Highway 61, this 400 acre landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes Fort Wade and Fort Cobun, the Grand Gulf cemetery, a museum with thousands of artifacts, a campground, picnic area, an observation tower and several restored buildings.
The park is open seven days a week from 8 am until 5 pm. Visitors can retrace the development of Grand Gulf through pictures, maps, models and authentic artifacts found in this area. Please call 601-437-5911 for visitor information or camping reservations.