Civil War & Reconstruction

Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey: A Woman of Uncommon Mind

Theme and Time Period

Without question, Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey was one of the most intellectually gifted women of Mississippi.  With considerable aplomb, she dealt as best she could with the emotional tensions arising from her lifelong compulsion to balance the conventional female role of the plantation South with a more rigorous life of the mind.  Her heart and soul refused to submit to all the repressive demands that held women in a virtual prison, called hearth and home.  But finding a proper balance between these polarities in the 19th century was scarcely easy.  

Surviving the Worst: The Wreck of the Sultana at the End of the American Civil War

Theme and Time Period

It was late April 1865 and more than 2,000 tired, sick, and injured men, wearing dirty and tattered clothes, filed down the bluff from Vicksburg to a steamboat waiting at the docks on the Mississippi River.

The city of Vicksburg was ravaged by the American Civil War, and so were the men who were about to board the steamboat Sultana. Almost all were Union soldiers who had survived the battlefields only to be captured by Confederate troops and sent to prison camps in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.

Surviving the Worst: The Wreck of the Sultana at the End of the American Civil War Lesson Plan


On April 27, 1865, the steamboat Sultana exploded and sank some seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. The steamboat was carrying former Union prisoners of war that had boarded at Vicksburg, Mississippi, plus civilian passengers and the ship’s crew. About 1,700 of the approximately 2,400 passengers died in this disaster.

Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones

Theme and Time Period

“We Stood firm to the union when secession Swept as an avalanche over the state. For this cause alone we have been treated as savages instead of freeman by the rebel authorities.”

Newton Knight, Petition to Governor William Sharkey, July 15, 1865

Newton Knight was born in 1837 near the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi, a region romantically described in 1841 by the historian J.F.H. Claiborne as a “land of milk and honey.” The landscape was dominated by virgin longleaf pines. Wolves and panthers still roamed the land.

Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones Lesson Plan


Mississippi’s heritage is rich in folklore that few regions throughout the country can rival, and the story of Newton Knight and the Free State of Jones is no exception. During the American Civil War many Mississippians of Jones County defied the state’s secession from the Union and, under the leadership of Newton Knight, made guerrilla warfare against the Confederacy. The tale of the “Free State of Jones” and Newton Knight is one of courage, conviction, and … legend.

Corinth in the Civil War: At the Crossroads of History

Theme and Time Period

“Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards,” declared a Union general early in the American Civil War. A Confederate general agreed, saying, “If defeated here [Corinth], we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”

Corinth in the Civil War: At the Crossroads of History Lesson Plan


Located at the intersection of two major railroads, the town of Corinth was destined to be a Union target during the American Civil War. From the spring of 1862 until the winter of 1864, Union troops occupied this northeast Mississippi town. Like other places in north and central Mississippi, Corinth’s Civil War story is one of bloodshed, occupation, and destruction.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, 4

Cotton and the Civil War

Theme and Time Period

If slavery was the corner stone of the Confederacy, cotton was its foundation. At home its social and economic institutions rested upon cotton; abroad its diplomacy centered around the well-known dependence of Europe…upon an uninterrupted supply of cotton from the southern states.

Frank L. Owsley Jr.