VICKSBURG FACTS: The bloody steps to the Vicksburg Massacre

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 16, 2022

Did you know about the events that led to the Vicksburg Massacre?

After the Civil War, the Southern states entered a period of Reconstruction. Many Black Mississippians took the incentive to rewrite the narrative for the South, including Warren County’s first Black sheriff, Peter Crosby. However, it was still a challenge. 

Crosby was not a favorite among many Vicksburg civilians, primarily the white population. Immediately, he started to receive some backlash, especially when it came to taxpayers’ money going to the sheriff. In 1873, Crosby submitted an application to stop the Board of Supervisors from coercing the County Treasurer for not granting him a new bond of $109,000. The money was supposed to help Crosby protect the county with the necessary funds to run the sheriff’s office.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

However, specific beliefs and ideas about how Crosby was running the office were affecting his work. As stated in the Dec. 19, 1873, edition of The Vicksburg Herald, “It became a question of vital importance to the taxpayers of Vicksburg, whether the public money should pass into the hands of a functionary who declines, or is unable, to give such security as will prevent a loss to them by any act of his…” 

This intense hatred toward Crosby only increased in the following year.

In 1874, many Vickburgers tried to remove Crosby from office by claiming he was unqualified to stay in this position.

“It is known to the Board of Supervisors that Peter Crosby is a defaulter today; that he has not settled with the State for the taxes collected for the State, and that he has not paid the County Treasurer a single dollar since the first day of February last, now nearly eight months ago,” as it was reported in the Sept. 23, 1873, edition of The Vicksburg Herald. In the same edition, the people of Vicksburg were encouraged to “go to the Courthouse this morning and let these scoundrels understand that Crosby must give a sufficient bond, or there will be trouble for which they alone will be held responsible.”

Soon the hate turned into a bloody event that many know as “The Vicksburg Massacre.” Because of their loathing of Crosby, he was given false criminal charges and removed by an angry white mob on Dec. 7, 1974.

According to Clarksdale News, the angry mob began to attack Black citizens who tried to help Crosby stay in office and several of Crosby’s deputies. It was estimated that 75 to 300 black citizens were killed during the Vicksburg Massacre.

Following this brutal attack, federal troops were sent to Vicksburg and Crosby was appointed as sheriff again. However, in early 1875, a white man named J.P. Gilmer was hired to serve as Sheriff Crosby’s deputy, as detailed by the Equal Justice Initiative. After Crosby tried to have Gilmer removed from office, Gilmer shot Crosby in the head on June 7, 1875.

Gilmer was arrested for the attempted assassination but never brought to trial. Crosby survived the shooting but never made a full recovery, and had to serve the remainder of his term through a representative white citizen.