Corinth, Miss.: Battle at the Crossroads

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in full swing throughout 2011, it's only natural that the spotlight would shine on Corinth, Miss. Located in the northeast corner of the state near the Tennessee state line, this small town attracted the attention of both Union and Confederate leaders thanks to the two railroad lines that crossed paths here. In 1862, several key events took place in Corinth and the surrounding area, resulting in more than 35,000 combined casualties for both sides. A visit to Corinth provides an in-depth look at these campaigns through a variety of quality sites and attractions.

The starting point for any visit to Corinth is the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center at Battery Robinett. As stated in the name, the center sits on the site of Battery Robinett, one of the earthen redoubts used during the fighting, particularly on Oct. 4, 1862, during the Battle of Corinth. A part of Shiloh National Military Park, the center features a variety of informative exhibits, a public research library, a bookstore, an auditorium, a multimedia presentation on the Battle of Shiloh and a video on the Battle of Corinth. Together, these offerings give visitors a detailed synopsis of these battles, resulting in a deeper understanding of what took place and why.

In addition, throughout the year, the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center showcases special events that further illustrate the history of this town and its role in the Civil War. Of special note, each year the center hosts the Grand Illumination on the first Saturday of November. Around the center and throughout downtown Corinth, 12,000 luminaries are placed and lit at dusk to commemorate every casualty of the Siege and the Battle of Corinth. It's a haunting tribute to those who fought in this defining moment of our country's history.

Another must-see while in Corinth is the Corinth Civil War Trail. Full of historic homes, sites and earthworks, this trail brings home the depth of the town's involvement in the Civil War. A key attraction on the trail is the Corinth Contraband Camp. A camp established for runaway slaves by Union General Grenville Dodge, this site features several bronze figures that depict life in the camp, which more closely resembled a small town with a church, commissary, hospital, school and housing. It was the start of a new way of life for thousands of slaves who were emancipated following the Civil War.

Although it requires a trip across state lines, no visit to Corinth is complete without a stop at Shiloh National Military Park in Shiloh, Tenn. Just a short ride northeast of Corinth, Shiloh saw some of the most devastating fighting of the Civil War. Over the course of two days, more than 65,000 Union and more than 44,000 Confederate troops engaged in battle, resulting in nearly 24,000 combined casualties. This outcome earned the battle the nickname of "Bloody Shiloh."

At the park's Visitor Center, you will find museum exhibits from the Shiloh battlefield as well an orientation film on the battle. To fully explore the site, the park has a 12.7-mile auto tour that includes 20 tour stops, with such key locations as the Bloody Pond, the Hornet's Nest and the site of Albert Sidney Johnston's death. For an enhanced experience, the bookstore offers a 76-minute audio tour on CD for purchase.

Throughout the grounds, visitors will find a variety of monuments and markers honoring individual units, field officers and their commands, as well as state and Confederate monuments. Shiloh National Military Park also is home to Shiloh National Cemetery, where 3,584 Civil War dead–2,359 of them unknown–are laid to rest.

As you can see, Corinth claims a vivid and notable history for its role in the Civil War. However, it also has a strong culinary background, one which visitors to the area will appreciate during their stay. A mainstay since 1974, Abe's Grill features a breakfast menu filled with a variety of meats, biscuits, gravy, grits and other Southern favorites. When those items start to run out, usually around 10:30 a.m., the lunch menu kicks in with a variety of sandwich options, such as hamburgers, catfish sandwiches, a rib-eye steak sandwich and even a pizza burger.

Another lunch option is Borroum's Drug Store and Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, located in downtown Corinth. Like all drugstore lunch counters from days gone by, Borroum's offers an array of sandwiches, side items and beverage favorites like malts and cherry Cokes. But the highlight of the menu is the Slug Burger, a mixture of ground pork, soy flour and spices. This unique culinary treat was developed during the Great Depression when both money and meat were scarce. The burgers were sold for a nickel–also known as a "slug" back in the day–hence the name "Slug Burger."

Dinner provides another opportunity for Southern favorites, which can be found at the Rib Shack. This restaurant's menu contains a wealth of barbecue, including ribs, smoked pork tenderloin and smoked chicken accompanied by such sides as baked beans, cole saw and corn on the cob. For those that have room, make sure you sample the fried pickle spears.

For an alternative to traditional Southern selections, head to Pizza Grocery. A relative newcomer to Corinth (since 2006), this restaurant maintains a menu full of pizza, pasta and calzones plus a large selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and desserts. If you need help ordering, start with the spinach and artichoke dip and follow up with "The Tuscan" pizza, topped with shrimp, artichoke hearts, roma tomatoes, garlic, goat cheese, mozzarella and a pesto base. You won't be disappointed.

When it comes to lodging, Corinth boasts a number of options, from well-known chains such as Holiday Inn Express and Econo Lodge to bed and breakfasts like The Generals' Quarters. To find out more information or to plan your visit, go to www.corinth.net.