VICKSBURG FACTS: The River City’s fight for moral justice

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 14, 2022

Did the people of Vicksburg once try to make the community into an immoral place?

At the beginning of Vicksburg’s incorporation, there were many wonderful advances that helped the city become a popular stopping point for goods and services. However, Vicksburg was still trying to establish itself as a respectable community with a good sense of morals. Since the city grew in popularity, it attracted people from all walks of life, such as wealthy businessmen, to the scruff and scum.

Most of these scruffs and scum partook in immoral acts such as drinking and gambling. In 1835, Vicksburg had yet to establish a criminal justice system with specific rules and policies, as we know it today. Instead, military officers were used as a means of law and order. Sometimes, the citizens of Vicksburg would also take it upon themselves to establish justice in the area. 

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The most notorious story about getting justice for immoral acts began with the gambler known as Francis Cabler.

Cabler was in the Vickburg area during a Fourth of July celebration and got into a fight with one of the militia officers in the Vicksburg Volunteers, according to The Franklin Sun’s “Stanely Nelson: Mob law in Vicksburg claims five gamblers” article. Cabler was detained by the military officer but was granted release later that evening.

However, while he was detained, he made threats to the officer about getting his vengeance against the officers as stated in the Franklin Sun’s article. Later on, the military officer returned to the courthouse and found Cabler sitting there armed and ready. He was immediately seized and disarmed, then taken to the whipping post where he endured 32 lashes and was covered in tar and feathers before being removed from Vicksburg. 

However, punishing Cabler was not enough. The militia decided to take matters into its own hands and set out to seize all gambling activity in the city. According to James T. McCaffery from the Mississippi Matters website, the militia went to the gambling counters and entered every house to destroy any faro tables and other gambling paraphernalia they could find — without any legal authority.

Soon, they reached the home of a gambler by the name of North, but things escalated and resulted in the death of a military officer and another gambler. Eventually, five gamblers that remained in the house were detained and tried at a “court of uncommon pleas,” according to McCaffery from the Mississippi Matters website. Quickly, a mob,  which was led by the militia, had taken the five gamblers to the city gallows where they were hung and left there for the next 24 hours.

The word spread all throughout Mississippi and to other states about the harsh punishments that had taken place in Vicksburg.

Some applauded the decision of putting an immediate end to gambling, like Natchez. As stated in McCaffery’s article, Natchez was inspired to rid of all its disreputable characters by placing a 24-hour notice demanding that they leave the Natchez area.

The Vicksburg Register, a local newspaper, published an article trying to justify the mob’s intention; however many places outside the city disagreed with its actions. As mentioned by Joshua D. Rothman from “The Hazards of the Flush Times: Gambling, Mob Violence and the Anxieties of America’s Market Revolution,” many people in the nation thought of Vicksburg as a place of “unjustifiable violence and the excess of mob rule that threatened to undermine the authority of the law, if not the republican government itself.” 

However, the extreme decision by the mob did give them the results they were looking for, since many of the immoral characters in the Vicksburg area soon left after the event.