New Orleans and Louisiana on our pre-Christmas trip, we drove east into coastal
Mississippi following US Highway 90. We
were headed for the east shore of Mobile Bay where we were spending the night
and it was just a short drive…so we had some time to explore. I’d checked out my guide books looking for
attractions on the way.
Did Laurie, Dawn and I find a small walk-through zoo? Yes and
no… The Dromedary Camel, the miniature horses and other critters are pastured
in back of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in
Biloxi. As you will recall from your history lessons, Davis was
President of the Confederate States of America. (CSA)
loves animals and she’s telling this little bovine just how pretty she is… Other
animals wandering on the grounds included a standard size horse, llamas,
donkeys and sheep.
is a Mississippi Historic Landmark as well as a National Historic
Landmark. It’s dedicated to preserving
and interpreting the legacy of Jefferson Davis as well as the Confederate
Soldier. The property is owned and
operated by the Mississippi Division, United Sons of Confederate Veterans,
Inc. Operation relies solely on
admission receipts, gift shop sales and contributions for its funding…
shown in the photo, this is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Confederate States of
America. There is also a fairly large
cemetery containing 771 graves of Confederate veterans and their wives. I don’t quite understand the pasturing of
animals on the cemetery portion of the property…
those buried in the cemetery is Samuel Emory Davis, the father of Jefferson
Davis. Samuel Davis was born in Georgia
in 1756 and served as a major in the militia of Lincoln County Georgia during
the American Revolution.
Beauvoir. Its construction was begun in
1848 by a wealthy plantation owner. It
was purchased in 1873 by the planter Samuel Dorsey and his wife Sarah Dorsey. After her husband's death in 1875, Sarah
learned of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis' financial difficulties.
She invited him to visit at the plantation and offered him a cottage near the
main house, where he could live and work at his memoirs. That resulted in his publication of "Rise
and Fall of the Confederate Government".
with cancer, in 1878 Sarah Ellis Dorsey remade her will, bequeathing
"Beauvoir" to Jefferson Davis and his surviving daughter, Varina Anne
Davis. His wife Varina Howell Davis was
also living there and the three of them lived in the house until Davis' death
the death of Jefferson Davis’s daughter in 1898, Davis’s wife, Varina Howell
Davis inherited the plantation. In 1902
she sold it to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
with the stipulation that it be used as a Confederate state veteran’s home and
later it was to be used as a memorial to her husband. Barracks were built nearby and the property
was used as a CSA Veteran’s Home until 1953, when the last Confederate States
Army veteran died.
historic site almost disappeared in 2005…
was Beauvoir House after Hurricane Katrina… The home was a shambles! The house has been restored but the
Presidential Library is still a work in progress… The storm destroyed the Hayes
Cottage, the Library Pavilion, a barracks replica, the Confederate Museum and
the director's home. The first floor of
the Davis Presidential Library was gutted by the storm and about 35% of the
collections were lost.
thousands of homes in Mississippi were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane
Katrina, construction work was diverted to all of the disaster areas in the
state. As a result, restoration of
Beauvoir proceeded slowly. However, as it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark,
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials approved Federal support for
the efforts to the repair and rebuild the Beauvoir complex. The house opened in June of 2008 and the new
museum opened in 2013.
you’re wondering why Beauvoir suffered such damage, you only have to take in
the view from the front porch of the home.
That is the Gulf of Mexico right across US 90 from the home…
looking forward to our tour of the home… However we soon learned that we were
to be joined on tour by a couple of 4th grade classes. The tour was a ‘circus’ in the worst sense of
the word! The docents and teachers
didn’t keep the kids under control and the information offered was minimal…exclusively
aimed at the kids. We would have skipped
Beauvoir if we’d known how bad this experience was going to be…
Note: Just to add to the experience, the boy
sitting on the step and one other were so sick, that their parents had to be called to
come and get them. Yikes!
house has been handsomely furnished but with all of the school kids on hand and
the uncontrolled chaos, we weren’t able to learn much about the furniture or
original owner used slave labor and hired craftsmen to build the Louisiana Raised
Cottage. The single story home was
constructed of cypress and heart pine, with a roof of English slate. The raised design, along with the porches,
tall windows, high ceilings, and the arrangement of the rear wings, promoted
ventilation. The house was elevated on
62 eight-foot-tall brick piers to provide antebellum air conditioning—not to
avoid high water. As it turned out,
elevating the house and sealing the heavy slate roof around the edges saved it
from the storm surges of Camille and Katrina.
The basic structure has withstood eighteen hurricanes since it was built!
Davis’s first wife was Sarah Taylor, daughter of Colonel Zachary Taylor…who
later became the 12th President of the United States. Sadly, Sarah died of malaria only 3 months
after the wedding. Davis survived his
bout with the disease…but bad health plagued him for the rest of his life.
midst of the 4th graders, Dawn Marie managed to take this photo of
Laurie and me…not the happiest of tourists!
a reproduction of the Library Pavilion…the original was destroyed by Hurricane
Katrina. The original owner used this
cottage as a schoolroom for his children. Jefferson Davis rented it for $50 a month from
Sarah Dorsey from 1877 to 1878. Davis
enclosed the eastern porch for additional living space and lined the original
room with bookcases. Here Davis, with
the help of his wife Varina, wrote the “Rise and Fall of the Confederate
a reproduction of the Hayes Pavilion which is located at the right side of the
main house. Again, the original
structure was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The builder of Beauvoir built this cottage as
a haven for itinerant Methodist circuit riders.
The building was later named for its later use by the family of Margaret
Davis Hayes, the elder daughter of Jefferson and Varina Davis.
‘borrowed’ this photo of the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum
from the Internet… It's located right behind Beauvoir.
know that, in addition to being President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis
previously served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a
Senator from Mississippi? He also served as the U.S. Secretary of War under
14th American President, Franklin Pierce.
Davis was a graduate of West
Point and he served 6 years as a lieutenant in the United States Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War
(1846–1848), as the colonel of a volunteer regiment.
was another bit of incongruity that we noted… First it was the grazing animals
in the cemetery and then there was this statue of Jefferson Davis outside the
museum and library… I’m not sure that he would have appreciated the “Santa
Claus” hat and other decorations.
the War, Jefferson Davis operated a large cotton plantation in Mississippi. He had over 100 slaves and he was well known
for his support of slavery during his time in the Senate. Although Davis argued against secession, he
believed that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to
secede from the Union.
the Civil War he kept his view to himself but privately he expressed opinions
that federal military rule and Republican authority over former Confederate
states was unjustified. He considered
"Yankee and Negroe" rule in the South oppressive. Like most of his white contemporaries, Davis
held the belief that blacks were inferior to whites.
exhibits in the museum were interesting but one has to wonder what was lost to
the fury of Katrina… We felt that this museum was a bit sparse, really a work
historians attribute the Confederacy's weaknesses to Davis’s weak leadership.
He was preoccupied with detail, reluctant to delegate responsibility, lacked
popular appeal, feuded with powerful state governors, showed favoritism toward
old friends, and generally was unable to get along with people who disagreed
Davis met with his Confederate Cabinet for the last time on May 5, 1865, in
Washington, Georgia, and officially dissolved the Confederate government. Davis and his wife were captured by Union
forces on May 10 at Irwinville in Irwin County, Georgia.
that month, Davis was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe on the coast of Virginia. Irons were riveted to his ankles at the order
of General Nelson Miles who was in charge of the fort. Davis wasn’t allowed any visitors, and no
books except the Bible. His health began
to suffer, and the attending physician warned that the prisoner's life was in
danger. He was finally provided with better
quarters after several months.
wife and daughter were finally allowed to join Davis, and the family was
eventually given an apartment in the officers' quarters. Davis was indicted for
treason while imprisoned but there was no consensus in President Andrew Johnson's
cabinet to try the case. After 2 years of
imprisonment, Davis was released on bail of $100,000. It was posted by several prominent citizens
including Horace Greeley and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Davis
remained under indictment until he was released from all liability through a presidential
amnesty issued by President Johnson on Christmas Day in 1868.
portrait that we noticed in the Jefferson Davis Museum provides an interesting
footnote for me to end this posting with… This is Stand Watie. (1806 – 1871) He
was also known as Standhope Uwatie, Degataga, and Issac S. Watie. In Cherokee, his name meant "stand
firm". He was a leader of the
Cherokee Nation and a Brigadier General of the Confederate States Army during
the American Civil War. He commanded the
Confederate Indian cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. This force was made up mostly of Cherokee,
Muskogee and Seminole Indians. Stand
Watie was the last Confederate general in the field to surrender at war's end.
course, one of the questions that came to my mind was why a Cherokee leader
would fight for the Confederacy? The
answer was rather pragmatic. Fearful of
the Federal Government and the threat to create a State (Oklahoma) out of most
of, what was then the semi-sovereign "Indian Territory", a majority
of the Cherokee Nation initially voted to support the Confederacy in the Civil
War, though less than a tenth of the Cherokee owned slaves.
was an interesting historical site and we probably would have really enjoyed
learning more about the history if our tour had been focused on adults… To
learn more about Beauvoir, go to http://www.beauvoir.org/.
click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
for stopping by for a visit!
Care, Big Daddy Dave