Expanded Mississippi’s Final Stands to open Wednesday

BALDWYN – The story of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his strategic brilliance at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads is familiar to people who study the Civil War.
The telling and retelling of Forrest’s story has overshadowed other aspects of the historic battlefield and the role it played in Federal Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.
A ribbon cutting Wednesday celebrates the opening of an expanded interpretive and visitor’s center that fills in the gaps and paints a broader picture of the connection between fighting at Brice’s Crossroads and in Tupelo – the Battle of Harrisburg.
The 2 p.m. event marks renaming of the Brice’s Crossroads Visitor’s Center and Battlefield to Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center and Battlefield, said curator Edwina Carpenter.
“The main purpose of the interpretive center is to interpret the two last stands of the Confederate Army in Mississippi in 1864,” Carpenter said.
Renovation and expansion of the interpretive center added 1,200 square feet to the original 2,800-square-foot facility and adds interpretation of the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. The interpretive center also houses a visitor’s center where guests may watch a 22-minute interpretive video and enjoy a bookstore and a gift shop.
A $1.5 million federal Transportation Enhancement Act grant paid for the interpretive center expansion and also a trail project.
Designers Michael LaPaglia and Margo Edwards of Studio LaPaglia, Chapel Hill, N.C., researched and selected the exhibits to explain how events unfolded at Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, 1864, in Tupelo on July 14-15, 1864, and beyond.
“We have the diary of Samuel Agnew, which helps us interpret local life, and newspaper accounts that show a view of the outside world,” LaPaglia said. “The diary is an exceptional time span covering 50 years of life. The historical value of this diary can’t be stated strongly enough.”
The Brice’s Crossroads Battlefield Commission expanded the battlefield holdings in 1996, purchasing 836 acres at the crossroads of Highway 370 and County Roads 833 and 231, from Samuel Agnew’s descendants, adding to the acre the National Park Service had purchased at the site in 1929. Total commission holdings now stand at about 1,600 acres.
The expansion and an interlocal agreement among Tupelo, Baldwyn, Lee County, the Tupelo-Lee Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission turns management of the former Baldwyn-owned interpretive center over to a newly-configured Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center Board, Carpenter said.
The new exhibit areas use some existing exhibits and supplement with additional information about Mississippi in the Civil War, and the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg in particular, LaPaglia said.
“We’re adding an interpretation of Chief Tishomingo here,” LaPaglia said. “He was second in charge of the Chickasaw Nation and signed the treaty document of 1832.”
There also is an exhibit telling of the role U.S. colored troops play at Brice’s Crossroads and Tupelo.
Other pull-offs, parking and new interpretations include:
n Tishomingo Creek Bridge, with new information about the Union troops rout and retreat, including a reproduction bridge constructed across the creek with interpretive signs.
n James C. Jourdan burial site on Union County Road 168 and a trail that joins it to White House Ridge on Union County Road 167, where Union troops held their last stand.
n The Tupelo site on Mount Vernon Road – Old Town Creek – where the fighting occurred on the second day of the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. About 14,000 Federal troops camped there on July 15, before fending off the attacking Confederates and wounding Forrest in the process.
“We’re excited to make this historic site more accessible and also to impact the economy of the area,” Carpenter said.

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau