Thousands visit visitor center each year

By Edwina Carpenter
Special to the Baldwyn News

Several thousand visitor have enjoyed the Brice's Crossroads Visitors and Interpretive Center since it opened two years ago. The center observed its two-year anniversary on August 14.

Because of the extensive networking of local, state, national and non-profit interests to preserve and interpret the Brice's Crossroads Battlefield site, visitors to the Baldwyn site have had the opportunity to learn more about the battle at the visitors center and walk over the first phase of the newly developed 836-acre tract.

"Visitors come from all over the United States and many international visitors come to see where Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated Union troops on June 10, 1864 here and routed the Federals," said Edwina Carpenter, who is curator of the center.

The newly purchased 836-acre tract interprets the battle with five signs located on two one-half mile trails that are part of phase one of the four phases of development planned. A one-acre site maintained by the National Park Service since 1929 also orients the visitor to the battlefield at the site of the Brice home.

The visitors center, which is owned and operated by the City of Baldwyn, celebrated its anniversary by preparing some new displays for two temporary exhibit cases that feature local relics found at the battlefield during the past 135 years.

"We have experienced two very productive years here at the center and the battlefield development has been complimented by all who stop in," added Carpenter.

The temporary exhibit cases are constructed of the same materials as the permanent exhibits and compliment the decor of the center.

"The purpose of the exhibit cases is to enhance the exhibit by periodically changing the relics on display," Carpenter said.

Because the center is a visitors and interpretive center, many travelers have stopped in for directions and use of the restrooms, so the center and its staff serve as ambassadors for the battlefield and the City of Baldwyn.

When all four phases of development are complete, the battlefield will offer 14 miles of trails with interpretive signs. An audio cassette tape that orients one to the battle through a series of stops that begin at the parking lot of the center and continue out Highway 370 is available for purchase. The tour includes at the overlook near Tishomingo Creek where the Union retreat occurred.

"Our staff of volunteers who work a few hours every month have really been an asset to our center. They have performed many duties during the past two years," Carpenter said.

The center offers a permanent exhibit entitled, "Forrest's Finest Hour," a 22-minute video that interprets the battle; an outdoor flag exhibit and a bookstore-giftshop. In addition to the artifacts which are featured in the permanent exhibit throughout the center, present flags representing the 15 states who had soldiers fight at Brice's Crossroads are part of a flag exhibit located at the rear of the center.

The large exhibit area includes artifacts and replicas that interpret the Battle of Brice's Crossroads. flip cards ask questions of the visitor, based on information included in the text of the exhibit. An interactive located in the diorama in the middle of the room plays eight bugle calls from Civil War times. On the wall near an exhibit about the soldier's outfit and gear, visitors can feel of a gum blanket or raincoat, much like the one worn by the soldiers that fought at Brice's Crossroads on that hot, muggy day in June, 1864.

The center is located on a 12.5 acre site about four miles from the battlefield at the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and State Highway 370.

Future plans for the battlefield in addition to the remaining three phases of development include restoration of the Bethany Presbyterian Church cemetery. Members of the church have funded the repair and refurbishing of many of the tombstones in the Bethany cemetery. Mark Hamblin of North Mississippi Stone and Memorial had done extensive work to improve the appearance of the cemetery and preserve the valuable information that the tombstones provide about the early families in Bethany.

The Visitor Center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9-5 and Sunday, 12:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Tour groups are welcome

For more information, or if you would like to volunteer, call 662-365-3969.

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