Vicksburg is the principal city of the Vicksburg Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Warren County.
The area was first settled by the French, who built Fort-Saint-Pierre in 1719 on the high bluffs overlooking the Yazoo River at present-day Redwood. Native Americans, however, wiped out the settlement 10 years later. A military outpost established on the site by the Spaniards in 1790 was known as Nogales, but it changed to Walnut Hills (Nogales is Spanish for walnut trees) when the Americans took possession in March of 1798.
A sprawling community developed which officially incorporated in 1825 as Vicksburg, named after Newitt Vick, a Methodist minister and conscientious objector of the Revolution. During the American Civil War, it was site of the Siege of Vicksburg, a significant event in which the Union gained control of the entire Mississippi River. The 47-day siege was intended to starve the city into submission, for its location atop a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River proved impregnable to assault by federal troops. The capture of Vicksburg and the simultaneous defeat of Lee at Gettysburg marked the turning point in the American Civil War.
Because of the city's location on the Mississippi River, its reputation in the 19th century often rested on the river's prodigious steamboat traffic. Between 1881 and 1894, the Anchor Line, a prominent steamboat company on the Mississippi River from 1859 to 1898, operated a steamboat called the City of Vicksburg. In 1876 a Mississippi River flood cut off the large meander flowing past Vicksburg leaving access to the new channel limited. The United States Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River in 1903 into the old, shallowing channel to rejuvenate the waterfront. Railroad access to the west was by transfer steamers and ferry barges until a combination railroad and highway bridge was built in 1929. This is the only Mississippi River rail crossing between Baton Rouge and Memphis and the only highway crossing between Natchez and Greenville. Interstate 20 bridged the River in 1969 and freight rail traffic still crosses by the old bridge. North-South transportation links are by the Mississippi River and U.S. Highway 61.
On March 12, 1894, the popular soft drink Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time in Vicksburg by Joseph Biedenharn, a local confectioner. Today, surviving nineteenth-century Biedenharn soda bottles are prized by collectors of Coca-Cola memorabilia, and his candy store is the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.
Vicksburg served as the primary refugee gathering point and temporary housing during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 which submerged an area of the Mississippi Delta nearly the size of New England. That flood was the impetus towards establishment of the United States Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station as the primary hydraulics laboratory to develop protection from the river. That establishment, now known as the Engineer Research and Development Center, works in the areas of military engineering, information technology, environmental engineering, hydraulic engineering, and geotechnical engineering.
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,407 people, 10,364 households, and 6,612 families residing in the city. The population density was 803.1 people per square mile (310.1/km²). There were 11,654 housing units at an average density of 354.4/sq mi (136.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 37.80% White, 60.43% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.04% of the population. There were 10,364 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.9% were married couples living together, 24.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.4% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 82.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,466, and the median income for a family was $34,380. Males had a median income of $29,420 versus $20,728 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,174. About 19.3% of families and 23.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.8% of those under age 18 and 16.5% of those age 65 or over.
The city is also home to three large Corps of Engineers installations, The Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), the Mississippi Valley Division headquarters, and the Vicksburg District headquarters.