by Cameron Reeder
I never expected to stop in Corinth. Not that there was anything wrong with it. Frankly, I just wanted to get home after a weekend trip to Memphis. I was tired and hungry and wanted a hot bath. But the unassuming sign on the highway caught my eye and made me hesitate.
Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, Next Left
I have always been a student of history, especially the period from 1861-1865. And I am a sucker for a side trip. So reluctantly, I pulled off to see if this was going to be a waste of time or if by chance it might be something else. It was definitely something else.
From the moment I set eyes on the center, I knew this was going to be an attraction I would not rush through. Dinner could wait. Even before I entered, I was impressed. Beginning in the parking lot, sculptures of everything from bayonets to kepis (caps) were embedded in the walking path at random intervals, drawing me slowly back in time to the mid 1800s.
In keeping with every museum I have ever visited that is operated under the auspices of the National Park Service, it was first rate. Park Rangers at the front door greeted me and provided instruction on how to best conduct my self guided tour.
As the tour advanced, the modern trappings of 21st century Corinth were stripped away and I began to envision a time when this destination was only a series of plantations with a railroad hub.
Walking from room to room, one puzzle piece after another was added until I finally understood the strategic importance of the battles that took place here in 1862. It became apparent to me how it was necessary for the north to capture and then hold this ground in order to cut the Confederate supply line before moving on to Vicksburg. Long forgotten names from American history like Beauregard, Sheridan, Halleck and van Dorn were lifted from the dusty pages of books and given flesh and bone again.
Displays educated me in almost every aspect of the soldier’s life, using diary accounts and photographs.
The museum included a number of static displays and three separate films. The first film presentation used sound, light, historical images and modern reenactment footage to immerse my senses.
Finally, when the full weight of the part that Corinth played in the Civil War had settled in my head, I sought for a solitary moment to reflect. I exited a glass door into a peaceful commemorative courtyard with a soothing water feature. At first glance, it appeared to be a simple fountain. Upon further inspection, I realized that it artistically encapsulated the course of American history from 1770 to 1870, with an emphasis on the War Between the States.
I ended my tour seated in a modern theatre watching a full recap of my tour on a big screen. The Interpretive Center had succeeded in entertaining, educating and enlightening me. I will never look at Corinth in the same way, nor will I ever drive again through without remembering its history.
“The CWIC is a showpiece for Corinth,” said Corinth CVB director Christy Burns. “Not only is the Center a beautiful building, the rich history it stores draws people from all over the world. It is rare that we don’t have visitors each day in town for our Civil War history. Once they are here, we can show them that history is only half of our story. Our downtown boasts of great boutique shops, an art gallery, museums and locally owned restaurants.”
“Corinthians have to be reminded of our history and how lucky we are to be the storytellers of that history,” said Burns. “The community is always surprised to hear how many visitors we have and the towns they traveled from to visit Corinth. The Center is always working with the school age children to make sure they know their history and that will hopefully plant a seed that will help them appreciate later in life.”
Other attractions locally include the Corinth Depot and Crossroads Museum, the Corinth National Cemetery, historic homes and businesses, and battlefields. Shiloh National Military Park is a 20-mile drive north.
For more information, contact the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at (662) 287-8300 or the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, A Unit of Shiloh National Military Park at (662) 287-9273.
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