Mississippi troops fought in every major theater of the Civil War, although most were concentrated in the Western Theater. The only president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, though born in Kentucky, spent his formative years in Mississippi. Prominent Mississippi generals during the war included William Barksdale, Carnot Posey, Wirt Adams, Earl Van Dorn, Robert Lowry, and Benjamin G. Humphreys. The major military operations came in the Shiloh and Corinth campaigns and the Siege of Vicksburg, from the spring of 1862 to the summer of 1863. The most important was the Vicksburg Campaign, fought for control of the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The fall of the city to General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863, gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, cut off the western states, and made the Confederate cause in the west hopeless. See also Ten Bloodiest and Costliest Battles of the American Civil War.
Mississippi was a stronghold of Jacksonian Democracy, which glorified the independent farmer; they even named their state capital in Jackson's honor. But dishonor was also rampant. Corruption and land speculation caused a severe blow to state credit in the years preceding the Civil War. Federally allocated funds were misused, tax collections embezzled, and finally, in 1853, two state-supported banks collapsed when their debts were repudiated. In the Second Party System (1820s to 1850s) Mississippi moved politically from a divided Whig and Democratic state to a one-party Democratic state bent on secession. Criticism from Northern abolitionists escalated after the Mexican War ended in 1848, causing an intense countercrusade that tried to identify and eliminate all dangerous abolitionist influences. White Mississippians became outspoken defenders of the slave system. An abortive secession attempt in 1850 was followed by a decade of political agitation during which the protection and expansion of slavery became their major goal. When Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 with the goal seeking an eventual end of slavery, Mississippi followed South Carolina and seceded from the Union on Jan. 9, 1861. Mississippi's U.S. senator Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederate States.
After each battle there was increased economic chaos and societal breakdown. State government during the course of the war was forced to move from Jackson to Enterprise, to Meridian and back to Jackson, to Meridian again and then to Columbus, Macon, and finally back to what was left of Jackson. The two wartime governors were fire-eater John J. Pettus, who carried the state into secession, whipped up the war spirit, began military and domestic mobilization, and prepared to finance the war. His successor, General Charles Clark, elected in 1863, although facing a deteriorating military and economic situation, remained committed to continuing the fight regardless of the cost. The war presented both men with enormous challenges in providing an orderly, stable government for Mississippi. There were no slave insurrections, as plantations turned to food production. The Union presence made it possible for planters to sell their cotton to Union Treasury agents for high prices, a sort of treason the Confederates were unable to stop.
Jefferson Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, at Irwinville, Irwin County, Georgia. On May 19, 1865, Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Although he was indicted for treason a year later, he was never tried. After two years of imprisonment, Davis was finally released on bail which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley and Cornelius Vanderbilt. See also Southern States Secede: Secession of the South History.
Columbus was an important hospital town early in the war. Columbus also had an arsenal that produced gun powder as well as cannons and handguns. Columbus was targeted by the Union on at least two different occasions but failed to attack the town due to Nathan Bedford Forrest and his men. Many of the casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were brought there, and thousands were buried in the town's Friendship Cemetery.
Mississippi attempted to modernize its plantation economy after the end of slavery. The legislature enacted policies to attract Northern capital, including huge land grants to railroads, and almost no taxes for railroads and other corporations.