A new face at the place where Vicksburg's struggle began

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PORT GIBSON -- From museums to meticulously preserved battlefields, Vicksburg abounds with reminders of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1862-63 effort to capture the city and take control of the Mississippi River.

To see the site of the campaign's first battle, though, one must penetrate the tree-studded ravines of Claiborne County to the yard of an inconspicuous building that, until recently, was in danger of falling down.

Restored by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and rededicated in November, the structure is the Shaifer house, named for the family living there in April 1863.

That was when the Confederate army stationed an advance unit at the home to guard against advances on Port Gibson by Grant's forces, which had crossed the Mississippi River west of town on April 30. Shortly after midnight the next morning, the pickets traded fire with the Yankee invaders, inaugurating the brief Battle of Port Gibson.

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