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A National Historic Landmark, this historic home is named after Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton, who used the house as his headquarters during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. It was here that he decided to surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general in command of the forces besieging the city. The house is also known as the Willis-Cowan House. It was likely built around 1835 by a man named William Bobb but was soon purchased by plantation owner John Willis. A later owner and the wife of a Confederate veteran, Mary Frances Cowan, acquired the house in 1890. Today, the house is part of the Vicksburg National Military Park and appears to be closed for renovation as of early 2021.

Pemberton's Headquarters, also known as the Willis-Cowan House, was built c.1835 and was the headquarters of Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton during the Siege of Vicksburg.

Building, Window, Plant, Property

John C. Pemberton (1814-1881) commanded Confederate forces at Vicksburg during the siege of the city in 1863. He surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4th.

Nose, Cheek, Mouth, Ear

Siege of Vicksburg

Union forces laid siege to Vicksburg for 47 days from May 4 to July 4, 1863. Union forces numbered about 77,000 men and Confederates numbered around 33,000. Both sides dug parallel trenches encircling much of the city and Union troops bombarded it using large artillery pieces, forcing residents to live in hand-dug caves. By the end of the siege, food rations were very low for both troops and residents, and many became very ill. Confederate reinforcements never came to relieve the city. Given these dire circumstances, Pemberton met with his officers in the house on July 3 and decided to surrender. The next day, Pemberton formally surrendered to Grant.

The siege was the culmination of a long Union campaign to seize control of the important, strategic city. By capturing Vicksburg, which was the Confederate's last major fort on the Mississippi River, the Union gained full control of river. This split the Confederacy into two parts and significantly strained its war effort going forward.

Willis-Cowan House

The Willis family occupied the house until 1886. Mary Frances Cowan's lived here until she passed away in 1914 (her husband spent his last days in the house, passing away in May 1892). The Sisters of Mercy, which ran a school and convent across the street, acquired the house in 1919 and renamed it St. Anthony Hall. The Sisters owned the house until 1973. In the 1990s, it was restored and converted into a bed and breakfast. That eventually closed and the National Park Service bought the house in 2002 to incorporate it into Vicksburg National Military Park.

Oppermann, Joseph K. "Pembertons's Headquarters - Historic Structure Report." National Park Service.

"Pemberton's Headquarters." National Park Service - Vicksburg National Military Park. Last Updated March 3, 2018. Accessed January 21, 2021.

"Pemberton Headquarters (Willis-Cowan House)." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed January 21, 2021.

Schroer, Blanche Higgins. "Pemberton's Headquarters." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form.

July 23, 1970.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

The Historical Marker Database

Library of Congress