Peace on Earth? What Peace?
By Morgan Gates
Peace on earth, goodwill towards men… famous words indeed! Words uttered by the Heavenly Host in Luke 2:14 ! Yet there has always been war, and strife and suffering and this side of heaven I suppose there always will be both then and now…
This Saturday (12/9/2017) the Old Courthouse Museum will have their annual Christmas Ball, a reenactment of an actual Christmas Ball thrown for the Confederate officers and their ladies on Christmas Eve 1862. This ball was famously interrupted by a messenger warning of an impending attack by General William T. Sherman and 32,000 men. Sherman's men sat aboard crowded transports that Christmas day, their Confederate counterparts spent the day hastily marching and digging in! No peace on earth that day!
Briefly, Sherman's men land along Chickasaw Bayou a tributary of the Yazoo River a few miles north of Vicksburg, they find themselves in the disadvantageous position, of being in a partially flooded swamp while the Confederates hold the high ground. The battle lasts three days and ends in a Confederate victory. (We will delve more deeply into this almost forgotten battle at a future date) .
By the Christmas season of 1863 the War had moved on to other regions of the South, but Vicksburg was in shambles and many around Vicksburg, were hungry and impoverished. Some say the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day arose in Vicksburg during this time. In the antebellum years, this legume was reserved for animal fodder and was thus one of the few crops not burned or confiscated by the Union Army during the war. Of course, Vicksburg recovered quickly post-war, and soon there were times of plenty and peace again.
War and personal strife, and suffering, I am afraid are just part of the human condition. I doubt that there has been a point in all of history where there has not been a war raging somewhere on God’s green earth, and I am absolutely sure there has not been a time without personal strife. So, what was the point of these words spoken so long ago by celestial beings at the birth of our savior? God has always been more concerned with us as individuals than as a species and with the condition of one person’s heart (yours or mine)!
So how do we find peace on a troubled Earth, or offer goodwill to our fellow man! We find it through him!
We here at Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and pray that you will find your own peace and goodwill towards men!
Vicksburg’s “Main” Street
By Morgan Gates
In many small cities, at least “back in the day” as they say, the main shopping district was almost always “Main Street” and Vicksburg does indeed have a street named “Main” but a quick drive down Vicksburg’s Main Street today shows that it is just a quiet residential street. In 1837, a tremendous fire swept up Main Street, and when Vicksburg rebuilt, it moved its “main” street to Washington Street. Washington was named of course for the first president and paralleled the Mississippi River, which was the highway of 19th century America, and Vicksburg’s reason for existing.
Washington Street soon became the thriving shopping area of Vicksburg's antebellum period. Emma Balfour, Vicksburg's most famous siege diarists, speaks of doing her Christmas shopping on Washington Street in letters to her Sister in Law in Alabama. Vicksburg's antebellum period, of course, ended with Grant’s triumphal entry into the city on July 4th, 1863, at the conclusion of a 47-day siege. Washington Street’s location, within sight of the river, caused it to suffer grievous damage. Not many buildings from the prewar period remain along Washington today, but those that do still bear their scars if you know where to look!
Vicksburg rebuilt its shopping district once more. Postwar, Vicksburg became the realm of the "Wholesale Merchant" supplying the post-war tenant farming system. King Cotton was still on his throne post-war and the domestic and international demand remained high. Plantation owners, however, found themselves with a bit of a problem: No labor force! Few Freedmen, given the choice, which they now were, willingly returned to the fields. Attempts to coerce them eventually failed and attempts to recruit immigrants also came up short. Soon the South settled into a system of tenant farming, renting out the plantation lands in manageable parcels to small farmers (black and white), who, in this area, bought necessary supplies on credit either from Vicksburg’s wholesale merchants directly or from plantation stores supplied by Vicksburg’s merchants. These sharecroppers, as they were known, paid not only their rent but settled all mercantile accounts at harvest time with wagon loads of cotton. Many a fine old home in Vicksburg today is linked to this post-war Washington Street recovery. By the early 20th century Washington Street was the finest shopping district between Memphis and New Orleans.
The reign of King Cotton ended with a long, slow whimper in the first third of the 20th century. Vicksburg reinvented itself once more. The Mississippi River Commission located its headquarters here and Vicksburg became a focus for understanding and taming the Mississippi River. By mid century, Washington Street was still a thriving shopping area. Then, on December 5th, 1953, an F5 tornado (this was before such measurements were invented, but it was calculated years later based on damage reports) took aim at Washington Street. By the time this terrible storm dissipated, 38 people were dead and much of Washington Street’s shopping district lay in ruins. Vicksburg rebuilt, and by the 1960’s, Washington Street thrived once more.
Washington Streets most serious challenge was yet to come, however! In the late 60's and early 70's the interstate system nearly did what War and Mother Nature could not: It killed Washington Street! As business moved to Vicksburg’s new “main” street, Interstate 20, Washington Street, nearly died of neglect! A much vaunted “Urban Renewal” attempt, in the late 70’s, likely did more harm than good, and the patient lay in a semi-comatose state through the 80’s and 90’s. In the early 2000’s, it finally looked like the patient was on its way to recovery but a recession caused a turn for the worse. Now, however, it seems full recovery is nearly at hand. The area is returning to vibrancy as an arts and entertainment district. Restaurants, museums, and art galleries now line Washington Street, and old buildings that have stood vacant for decades are being refurbished. There is still much work to be done, but it warms the heart of any old Vicksburg resident to see the area revive! Come visit us and see!
The Christmas Ball
Hosted by The Old Court House Museum
Dec 9th 7:30-9:30 PM
It's that time of year again folks! The Old Court House Museum will be hosting The Christmas Ball on December 9th, and all are welcome. Come enjoy a night of good food, drinks, and period style dancing! Tickets are $30 each or $60 a couple. We also rent costumes for the evening. For more information contact us at 601-636-0741 or firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas 1862
by Morgan Gates
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore
On Christmas Eve 1862 a Christmas Ball that was being held at the home of Dr. William T. Balfour and his wife Emma was interrupted by a messenger warning of the approach of a Union task force supported by Ironclads. The Confederate General M.L. Smith famously ends the ball as he orders his officers to their stations. Each year as a fundraiser the Old Courthouse Museum reenacts that ball. This years Confederate Ball will be held on December 9th.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, at the Balfour House
The guests were all dancing, maybe even the mouse!
The officers conversed by the fire without care,
No one was worried, about the Yankee’s up there;
The soldiers were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of back home, danced in their heads;
Emma in her ballgown, was the belle of the night
With war all around us no one thought of the fight!
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The patter of rain on the muddy ground below,
Gave a feeling of gloom to objects below,
When what to my straining eyes did appear,
But an exhausted messenger drawing quite near,
The messenger’s hobnails came on with the click,
He needed the General and needed him quick!
More rapid than an eagle, so I do claim
He called for the generals, he called them by name
Oh Forney, Oh Bowen, no, he’s near Port Gibson!
Oh, Martin Luther Smith – to tell you - I’m fixen--
At the top of his lungs – ore the noise of it all!
The Yankee’s are coming – how many – seems All!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount up to the sky,
So up on the staircase the General he flew,
Bad news was a coming, this we all knew!
Some how all knew it, tho I have no proof,
Even the horses, I swear, were prancing their hoof.
As I drew in my hand and was turning around
General Smith, opened his mouth, we all dreaded the sound.
His uniform was splendid, from his head to his boot,
His buttons so shiny, though we didn’t give a hoot.
The news he conveyed was like a weight on his back,
We all feared the trouble he was about to unpack.
The Yankees are sighted, they’re just north of town!
On gunboats and transports, they are coming right down.
This party is over, all officers must report,
Civilians evacuate, it’s your last resort!
He sprang to his horse, to his men gave a whistle.
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim as he rode out of sight,
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
Those Who Stand! by Morgan Gates
On this day ninety-nine years ago, the war we now call World War I ended! On that day it was not yet known as WWI though it was called: The Great War, or the War to end all Wars! It ended with an armistice that was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month! The day we now use to remember all Veterans! Of course, we know today that WWI was not the last war nor even the greatest!
War is, unfortunately, part of the human experience. We are by nature an aggressive and predatory species it is the reason we have large brains, predators must be smarter than prey! The brain is a biologically expensive organ! There must be a high return on investment to be able to afford it. War is, therefore, perhaps a necessary part of man’s existence here on Earth! But war does not have to be our constant state of life, for we are the most intelligent of God’s creation, smart enough to figure out how to not fight! We trade, we negotiate, and we, set up laws and other deterrents to restrain our baser emotions. As time has passed we have grown and progressed and done a fairly good job of keeping the peace, at least in this country. The USA has become a beacon of peace and prosperity in our modern world. If history has taught us anything, however, it is that the wolf always lurks near the door waiting for us to let our guard down so that he can pounce.
We here in the United States have been marvelously blessed in that we have seen very little of the specter of war on our doorsteps. Since the end of the Civil War, most of our fighting has been on faraway shores thanks to "Those Who Stand"--the men and women of our armed services--that have taken our fights to the enemy’s doorsteps rather than allowing it to come to our own!
But wait a minute you ask, aren’t you a son of the South? What about the Civil War – what about your great grandfather the Rebel soldier you ask?
True! I write about the South during the War of Northern Aggression, and in some people’s eye’s today anyone who remembers that time must be disloyal, but that could not be farther from the truth! The Civil War was a terrible tragedy for all involved. In effect, it was a massive domestic dispute. But when it was over some of the same men who fought each other worked together to rebuild the South, build the West, and make the U.S.A into the great nation it is today. Some later fought beside each other in our next war. Their descendants fought the Germans and the Japanese, and Chinese and North Vietnamese in our 20th-century wars. Perhaps one of America’s greatest assets is to make those who were once our enemies our friends!
Today descendants of these soldiers in Blue and Gray plus those whose descendants came to the land of the free at later dates still stand ready! Ready to fight to preserve our country, but then offer a hand to those who we have just defeated. Our men and women in uniform still stand ready to protect us, so thank a Vet when you meet them! Happy Veterans Day – but wait there is more!
Our country is welded together with the fires of war and the blood of patriots and made stronger by the glue of forgiveness. It is also true that many of yesterday’s enemies are today’s friend, but never forget that evil still exists and it is always looking for new ways to bring us down. Our nation faces new and even more insidious enemies. Not so much a wolf at the door this time, more a virus in the blood. Those who hate America, both foreign and domestic, are spreading hate, fear, and division among us by any means necessary! The time is at hand for all of us to be prepared, for we must all be ready to be among “THOSE WHO STAND” for America!
Col. Preston Brent of the 38th Mississippi
Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg While in Paducah, KY—Whhhaaat?
As you all know, I am not from Vicksburg. This past week, I was back “up home” in Paducah, KY, to see family and attend my sister’s wedding. This could be entitled “It’s a Small World After All—Part Two” because while I was in Paducah—well, y’all guessed it—I Rediscovered Historic Vicksburg, again!
RHV, RHV Books, and Civil War Bloggers & More Network Founder
As we were leaving from our recent trip to Paducah, KY, I received the usual notice in my email to rate or review the place we had stayed. We had been very pleased with our accommodations, so I was happy to do so. (I do not enjoy when I have negative things to say.) Upon completion, I zipped the gentleman a quick message to let him know I had given him “rave reviews”. He thanked me and said he hoped we came back to stay again. He then added that his family was from Mississippi and that he actually had an ancestor with a monument in Vicksburg National Military Park. He gave me a name, and, of course, my search was on!
Col. Preston Brent
Col. Preston Brent was born in Pike County, Mississippi, near Holmesville, on May 25th.—that is my birthday too—in the year 1833. (One source listed Copiah County, MS as his birthplace.) His father, Preston Brent, Sr. was born Feb 27th. 1799, in Fairfield District, South Carolina. Most sources list his mother as Elizabeth Briley, born May 1st. 1804, in the Mississippi Territory. (One source listed her name as “Unknown”.) All sources agree that he married Frances E. “Fanny” Brent, a distant cousin, Sept. 14, 1854. The best I can tell, confusion in sources about his parentage comes from the fact her sir name was the same as his—Brent—and her parents are at times listed as his parents. From what I gleaned, her father, John A. Brent served as a private under his son-in-law, and her mother was Rebecca Kaigler Brent.
Col. Preston Brent, a doctor, had very good organizational skills. Before the war, he served as an officer in the Mississippi State Militia. At the beginning of the Civil War, he started the Quitman Guard and Company K, also known as The Brent Guards or The Brent Rifles, a part of the Mississippi 38th Infantry Regiment.
Timeline of Col Preston Brent’s Civil War Service
(According to WikiTree.com https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Brent-312 )
1861—Became Major of 1st Regiment of Mississippi
1862—Became Captain of Company K 38th Mississippi Infantry Regiment following Col Adam’s Injury
1862—Became Lt. Colonel of 38th Mississippi Infantry Regiment
1862 – 1865—Became Colonel of 38th Mississippi Infantry Regiment
1863—He was wounded in face during battle at Vicksburg, Mississippi
1863—He was captured and paroled at Vicksburg, Mississippi
Col. Preston Brent died in 1884, of pneumonia. Frances, his wife, lived until 1909. Both are buried in Brent Cemetery, the family cemetery, which is near where they lived. Today, there is a gentleman in Paducah, KY, who is proud of his relative and there is indeed a monument with his name on it in Vicksburg National Military Park. However, Col. Brent and Fanny had eight children. If you “Google” Col. Preston Brent, you will not just find articles about him and service during the Civil War, but also about a Daughters of the Confederacy group named after him, an impressive historic home built by his family, and more. Yes, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg often leads me to information on the Civil War, but that almost always leads me on to so much more. In this case, I found a colonel—a son, husband, father, and doctor—who served as he felt he must then returned home leaving a legacy including and extending well beyond the Civil War.
Rediscovering Historic Vburg© Visits McRaven Tour Home
I am ashamed to admit that, until very recently, I had yet to tour McRaven. When an out-of-town-guest visited however, it proved to be an excellent time to correct that! In fact, an alternate title could have been Martha & Meshea Tour McRaven! Special thanks to my friend, Martha Workman, for going with me, taking some awesome pictures, and embracing my passion for Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg©!
~Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
Civil War Bloggers & More Network
We had to leave the higher-traffic area of Vicksburg, and wander to the very end of a backstreet to get McRaven Tour Home, but what else would one expect when going to “Mississippi’s Most Haunted House”?
It was about 9 a.m., so I must confess the place did not come across as “spooky” or “haunted”. I imagine we would have felt differently had it been night time. Day or night, I am positive we would have felt differently had we encountered a ghost or some other strange experience while there. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it—we did not. What we did experience, however, was a step back into time during our guided tour of this wonderfully preserved time-capsule. Never one to re-invent the wheel, this excerpt from their website does an excellent job of setting expectations:
Named Mississippi's "Most Haunted House," visit the McRaven Tour Home where ghostly demeanor has been broadcasted on A&E, The Travel Channel, 48 Hours, and "Look Around Mississippi." Step back in time to Vicksburg's finest, totally authentic, pre Civil War home with the most complete way-of-life tour. Built and remodeled in three different time periods, every room is lavishly furnished and reserved with museum-quality antiques including a pioneer kitchen. National Geographic Magazine has labeled the McRaven Tour Home the "Time Capsule of the South." Enjoy strolling through the three-acre gardens, once a Confederate campsite and field hospital. Discover and experience the famous and infamous people of McRaven, and why their spirits have never left. (www.McRavenTourHome.com)
The basic, daily tour we took is chalked full of history and was well worth the time and money. There is also a Haunted Tour option. Special events, such as paranormal investigations, a fall day in the Pumpkin Patch (complete with face painting, games, and a photo booth), special candle-light ghost tours, and a variety of other events are also available throughout the year.
Martha and I learned a great deal, were in awe of the period furnishings as well as the home itself, and had a full morning, including browsing in a gift shop, by making just this one stop. Of course, between the two of us, we took a lot of photos! Be sure to check them out at the end of the blog post! We certainly concluded that McRaven Tour Home is indeed an excellent way to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg!
McRaven Tour Home
Located at 1445 Harrison Street, Vicksburg, MS 39180
Mon-Thurs: 10am-5pm • Fri-Sat: 10am-5pm, 7-9pm • Sun: 1-5pm, 7-9pm Extended Times and Dates for October!
For over a year now I have been sharing with all of you--and anyone else who will listen--all the ways I have found to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg. Today, I am curious...
How Do You Recommend to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg
by Meshea Crysup, Founder RHV, RHV Books, & Civil War Bloggers...and More Network
Not from Vicksburg or know how to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg? Well that is ok because I would love to know how YOU Rediscover Your Historic 'Burg (or area...) so KEEP READING!
Believe it or not, I do not wear a sign around my neck saying, "Hey, I'd love to tell you about things to do in Vicksburg!" Those who are with me believe I must, however, because rarely do I go downtown without being stopped and asked about places to eat, things to do, etc. Personally, I just think I am "approachable" and folks can just tell. Whatever the reason, I find myself, on a very regular basis, helping folks map out their evening--sometimes their whole weekend--here in Vicksburg. I know how I go about it--what I say, what I recommend, etc.-- but I am not from here. So, today, I just started wondering what those of you who are from here would have to say. So, please, if you are from the area or simply know the area well, fill out the form below! I cannot wait to learn how YOU recommend how to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg!
Not from Vicksburg or know how to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg? Well that is ok because I would love to know how YOU Rediscover Your Historic 'Burg (or area...) so KEEP READING!
He Was a Good Soldier by Morgan Gates
A certain lady called the other day. She was in Vicksburg’s Cedar Hill Cemetery, in the section reserved for the Confederate dead, and she was having trouble finding a certain marker. I was out at the time so she talked to my long suffering wife/bookkeeper/receptionist/CFO/love of my life. She seemed quite upset that she could not find this particular grave. She had already called the Military Park desk and they didn’t know, they had referred her to me. She seemed genuinely disturbed that my wife could not help her either!
This is not in and of itself surprising, as there are literally thousands of unknown soldiers buried around Vicksburg and more than a few lost graves! The Confederate Cemetery, “Soldiers Rest”, has about 1600 tombstones (out of 5-6,000 bodies that were actually interred there during the siege) inscribed with names and units, all standing in neat orderly rows, but not a one (that I am aware of) actually marks a particular grave. They are memorial stones, for the actual bodies were interred in pits. When you are picking up a hundred or more dead men a day, as they were during the height of the siege, the niceties of individual graves are dispensed with. The particular soldier she sought, does have a stone with his name and unit engraved on it! It was placed there long after the war as a memorial stone, but his body is not interred in any of the pit graves either!
This soldier, like many in that era, was not born in the U.S. but emigrated as a young adult, arriving in Texas in 1855. He found work as a laborer with the U.S. Army, in west Texas and the desert southwest, before the War. When succession came he joined the Confederate cause. By the summer of 1862 he was in northern Mississippi and became part of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry. He served at Iuka, and Corinth, and of course the Vicksburg Campaign. During this bloody campaign, the 43rd had one of the highest casualty rates of any of the Confederate regiments at Vicksburg, and this soldier was one of those casualties. He was felled by a Union sharpshooter, not a particularly unusual way to die at that moment in time!
The reason this lady could not find his marker was that the 43rd has its own little plot about 100 yards south of the rest of the Confederate markers. In this little plot there is indeed a marker for this soldier, but his body does not rest anywhere within this cemetery. For you see with the rest of the 43rd nearing starvation, this good soldier made the ultimate sacrifice--his body was cooked and eaten by his famished regiment! ----------- Oh, but wait! I need to tell you one or two more important facts about this good soldier before we end his tale! First his name “Old Douglas” and that … Old Douglas was a Camel--part of a failed experiment to use camels as pack animals in the desert southwest before the war. For the 43rd Mississippi called themselves the Camel Regiment and Old Douglas was their mascot and he was indeed a very good, maybe even delicious, soldier!
Battle flag picture from Flickr
A Man with Connections Upstairs
by Morgan Gates
The Reverend Doctor William Wilberforce Lord was a man with a close walk with God. As the shells rained down on Vicksburg from the Union mortar boats on the Mississippi, he kept the doors to Christ Episcopal Church open daily to the beleaguered citizens of Vicksburg. Just days before his home, next door to the church, had been destroyed, when a heavy exploding shell had dropped through his roof, through the second floor, and landed on his dining room table, which had just been set with his family’s supper by his cook. It was only by God’s grace that he, his wife, and children had not been sitting at that very table when the shell detonated.
Reverend Lord was a man who had a strong faith. He moved his family into the basement of the church until he could have a proper “cave” constructed. Once his family was snugly ensconced in their subterranean shelter, no man would have blamed him for closing the church doors and joining them there. W.W. Lord, however, did not answer to any man, he answered to God, and if God stands with you, who can stand against you? So, while most of Vicksburg’s Churches remained shuttered during this deadly siege, Christ Episcopal was open! All but one of its beautiful stain glass windows had been shattered and pieces of glass and brick littered the sanctuary, yet the doors were open and Reverend Lord was present each day to minister to those who wished to come and pray.
On July 4th, the guns fell silent, and the Union Army marched down Jackson Street, within sight of the church-- the siege was over! Reverend Lord met with General Grant sometime later and Grant offered him safe passage through the Union lines to Mobile, but Lord refused, opting to leave the city with the paroled Confederates. He later served as a Confederate chaplain for the duration of the conflict.
After the War was over, Vicksburg quickly returned to prosperity, as the river reopened and the cotton trade resumed. A group of former Christ Episcopal congregants decided that post war Vicksburg was now big enough for a second Episcopalian Church, and in 1870 construction began on the “The Church of the Holy Trinity”, about seven blocks to the south, and Reverend Lord was called to serve as its first Rector.
This beautiful Romanesque Church was to feature a steeple that towered nearly two hundred feet above the streets of Vicksburg, and be topped with a cross nearly as big as a full grown man. When time came to set the steeple in place the question was asked, “Who was to do it?” Of course, none other than Reverend W.W. Lord stepped forward. Lord had worked on high masted sailing ships as a young man, so he knew a thing or two about maneuvering at lofty altitudes, but he was now a man of fifty-five years, a time when most of us prefer to keep our feet firmly on the ground. Perhaps Reverend Lord simply considered this task as putting him a little bit closer to heaven, for he shimmed up the towering edifice and successfully anchored this symbol of his saviors’ love to the highest point in the city.
That very cross cast it’s shadow across this city for many years thereafter, through wind, hail, lighting, and tornados. Finally, after nearly a century, it was decided this “old rugged cross” was due for retirement. A modern high crane was brought in which, quickly and efficiently, and with almost no risk, plucked Reverend Lord’s cross from the summit and replaced it with a replica. The replacement lasted just a little over a decade, before it was stuck by lighting and had to be replaced again. I guess the crane operator didn’t have the same connections upstairs.
That original cross today sits at the head of an enclosed prayer garden on the church grounds as a reminder of the love of our Lord Jesus, but also of unquestioning uncompromising faith of a latter day disciple of his, the Reverend Doctor William Wilberforce Lord!
Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg Discovers
It Really is a Small World After All!
by Meshea Crysup
As you all know, it is Fall Pilgrimage time in Vicksburg, MS, again, and here, we go a little “above and beyond” most pilgrimage tours. We do not just sell you tickets to see homes on a self-guided tour. We actually have Morgan Gates, of Historic Vicksburg Tours and Haunted Vicksburg Tours, transport you in his van. As you drive to each location, Morgan also throws in his Vicksburg City Tour! It just so happened that Hubby was working this Sunday and Pilgrimage was covering three places I had not yet been to. You guessed it—I tagged along!
Our very first stop was The Martha Vick House, at 1300 Grove Street. It is an Antebellum, Greek Revival home, circa 1830. Built by Martha Vick, a daughter of Vicksburg’s founder, Newt Vick, it is the last original Vick House. I had stopped to look at it and had taken pictures from the outside many times, but I had not yet been inside. I was certainly looking forward to doing so! (There is a gallery of pictures at the end of this blog. Be sure not to miss them!)
Our tour guide was owner Bill Longfellow. What a charming, quintessential Southern Gentleman! Even more than that, however, it is obvious how passionate he is about the home he has devoted so much of his time and energy into. He was telling us about the home and a gentleman that had come to see it many years ago who then built a home essentially just like it. As smooth-as-silk, Mr. Longfellow added, “And his wife and daughter are here with us today!” At first, I thought I had misheard him, but no, I had not!
Of course, being a blogger, I had to ask if I could take a of Mr. Longfellow, Mrs. Dorothy Bell, and her daughter, Cathy Bell. They graciously allowed me to do so and to include it in today’s blog.
Seeing The Martha Vick House—its authentic restoration, antique furnishings, and vast art collection—was indeed a treat, but sharing Mr. Longfellow’s guided tour with these two ladies was certainly an added bonus I had not seen coming! Even when rediscovering Historic Vicksburg, it really is a small world after all!
The Martha Vick House is available for private parties, receptions, and tours by appointment. 601-638-7036
The City Too Beautiful to Burn
by Morgan Gates
I was approached by a publishing company not long back about the possibility of writing a book. The working title would have been “The Hidden History of_____” and there we hit our impasse. I tried to convince them of the rich history of West Central Mississippi, but in the end, they really wanted a History of the Mississippi Delta, and as we know:
“The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends at Catfish Row in Vicksburg” –David Cohen, Author
That small quote says a lot and puts it largely out of my area of expertise. So, anybody out there who know a good bit about “The Po Monkey Lounge, B.B. King, hot tamales, and Kool Aide Pickles, contact Arcadia Publishing.
My point is that this area- the area along the Mississippi River, roughly between Vicksburg, on the north, and Natchez, on the south, and extending east about 30-40 miles, are some of the most historic lands in American history, but we don’t have a catchy name for the region. I like “The Lands Along the River”! What do you think? --So, for today’s installment of Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg, I thought we might drift a little south and visit another historic town of “The Lands Along the River”: Port Gibson, Mississippi.
The little town of Port Gibson lies 30 miles south of Vicksburg, on Highway 61. Last week My “partner in time”, Meshea, and I loaded up, along with my better half and a couple of friends, and went to visit my friend Joshua McCrane, and take his “Port Gibson Historical Ghost Tour”. It was a lot of fun! (Call the P.G. Chamber of Commerce at 601-437-4351 if you want to go.)
Port Gibson is a beautiful little historic town and one of the oldest in Mississippi. It was founded in 1803, by Samuel Gibson, at a landing on Bayou Pierre, a tributary of the Mississippi. Thus, it was Gibson’s river port or Port Gibson. The town is named for Gibson but there were French settlers there as early as 1729, making it one of the oldest settlements in Mississippi. It was home to Mississippi’s first library and second newspaper. The town was important enough in the antebellum period that it was visited by Henry Clay, one of the most important politicians of the period, who made two campaign speeches there during one his unsuccessful bids for the presidency. Considered one of the most beautiful towns of the old south, U.S. Grant fought and won the Battle of Port Gibson about two miles west of the city in 1863, and allegedly remarked, as he passed through on his way to Vicksburg, that the city was too beautiful to burn.
The town has many beautiful homes and public buildings, including A Presbyterian Church, which features a gold-plated hand, pointing toward heaven, in place of a cross, and a former synagogue that is the only example of Moorish Revival Architecture in the state.
Its Greenlawn Cemetery is one of the best maintained historic cemeteries in the region, with markers going all the way back to Samuel Gibson himself. Very nearby are the Natchez Trace Parkway (the original road actually came through the town) and Grand Gulf State Park, which commemorates the Civil War Battle of Grand Gulf. It has a museum and a number of reconstructed historic buildings, and it is one of the few places you can get up close and personal with the Mighty Mississippi without a boat. (I strongly advise against swimming in it though)! The beautiful Ruins of Windsor are just a few miles west and the Ghost town of Rodney is not far southwest. The town and its surroundings are well worth a visit.
Ok, so now the bad news. Don’t come expecting a thriving tourist Mecca. Long gone are the prosperous days of old. The town has fallen on hard times. There are no “quality” restaurants in town. There is, however, a McDonalds and a couple of other fast food establishments. I can highly recommend the “Old Country Store” (a restaurant) in Lorman, 10 miles south of Port Gibson, on highway 61. As for lodging, one of the bed and breakfasts such as Isabella or Oak Square are your best choices. Port Gibson is also an easy day trip from Vicksburg or Natchez. So, the next time you are in a mood for some “off the beaten track exploring” go check them out.
Vicksburg After the Siege: Part I
By Morgan Gates
And they all lived happily ever after… THE END! Every fairy tale ended that way remember? Or perhaps you don’t, it seems fairy tales are becoming things of the past as well. Oh well that’s a different story. But you get the picture, all stories, be they fairy tales, books, or movies necessarily come to an end. Some end well others not so well, but inevitably the story ends. But real life … not so much! Life goes on, changed perhaps, seen through the eyes of others perhaps, but still it goes on. When I am giving a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park I pretty much wrap it up with the surrender on July 4th 1863, but of course Vicksburg’s story goes on as well. The war was not over, there were not quite two more years of conflict left before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House and of course there would be men under arms in the South for months thereafter. So, I thought I would just briefly discuss a few things that happened in and around Vicksburg after the Siege ended but while the War was still going on. Some of these I may expand upon in later Blog articles:
No Show Joe: We know of course that Joseph E. Johnson had been ordered to Jackson in mid-May to command the “Army of the Relief” and raise the siege of Vicksburg and yet he found reason after reason to delay his march until it was too late. When he finally reached to the line of the Big Black River (15 miles east of Vicksburg) he discovered that Grant was ready for him (big surprise) and had heavily fortified his rear. He probed this formidable “Exterior Line” in vain as Pemberton surrendered his beleaguered army and the city. Then Grant turned to his “Pit Bull” William T. Sherman and said “sic ‘em” and he crossed the Big Black with his own army of maneuver in hot pursuit. Johnson raced back to Jackson he delayed Sherman by poisoning the water sources with animal carcasses, just as the Union had done to Vicksburg’s defenders. Johnston made it to Jackson and slammed the door shut, and that city was briefly besieged, but Johnson was not a man who would hold his ground at all costs. He and his army sliped across the Pearl River in the middle of the night and left Mississippi and Jackson burned for a second time. For more on this little known event, read Jim Woodrick’s
The Civil War Siege of Jackson https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781626197299 .
Grant on Ice: The surrender of Vicksburg was of course a long sought goal of the Union and on the surface Grant was the man of the hour. But for the next four months he would not be fighting but doing garrison duty in the captured city. He would watch as much of his valiant army was siphoned off to other parts of the war. Here we must remember that while we know Grant as a great hero today, at the time he was not well liked by many of his peers, many of whom considered him a “stumbling little drunk”! Grant also had political enemies, especially John McClernand whom he had relieved of command during the siege.
Grant had been relieved of his command by his superior General Henry Halleck after the Battle of Shiloh (only fifteen months in the past) and he had disobeyed Halleck’s orders when he pushed inland from Grand Gulf on his way to Vicksburg. There must have been more than a little doubt about his future in his mind when he lay down at night during this time. Did he turn once more to his alleged and much debated drinking? We know that on a visit to New Orleans during this period Grant had another incident with a falling horse, that would leave him badly bruised and in great pain for a period of time. Then he received the message from the War Department, to report to Cairo Illinois to meet with a representative of the department. We know today that this will be good news, but what did Grant think? Oh shit! Or about time!
That looks like about enough for one entry, so we will continue this line of thought in our next installment………
Meshea writing about Vicksburg’s history rather than ways of rediscovering it—what’s up with that? Well, Morgan is a very busy man of late and I know our history-diehards like this sort of thing better than “tourist advice”. Plus, I am still discussing yet another way to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg. There is something here for history lovers and history rediscovers alike, making this piece a win-win! Speaking of winning in two different ways…
Van Dorn: More—or Less—Than the Man That Saved Vicksburg Twice
by Meshea Crysup, RHV
While I have been an avid history lover my whole life, I am not good with remembering the names of all the generals, battles, etc. Like everyone, I know who Grant and Lee were, about the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and of course I can remember Lincoln and Davis by name. Van Dorn however, not so much.
Who is Van Dorn and How Did I Stumble upon Him?
First, the “how”.
My husband’s ancestor fought in the Civil War, right here in Vicksburg, and, if family tales are to be believed, he “walked all the way back to Texas” afterward. Hubby also just happens to work with a very active member of our local Sons of the Confederacy group, so while it took a while to get him there—Thank you Bryan Skipworth—Hubby is now a member. Like Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable, the Sons of the Confederacy have a speaker each month. This month, it was none other than author Brandon H. Beck! (Did you catch that? I just threw in yet another way to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg! Two actually! The Sons of Confederacy and a very knowledgeable author and passionate, enthralling speaker, Brandan H. Beck! Yes, the links can be found at the end of the article!)
Now, for the “who”.
Major General Earl Van Dorn was “colorful and controversial” according to Dr. Brandon H. Beck. In fact, the cover of Beck’s book, HOLLY SPRINGS: Van Dorn, The CSS Arkansas, and the Raid that Saved Vicksburg, features the pictures of the two men Van Dorn fought most: U.S. Grant and Earl Van Dorn. This is exactly how Dr. Beck began his presentation and I was hooked!
Van Dorn did indeed save Vicksburg twice. Once by preventing the U.S. Navy from taking it and once by causing U.S. Grant to abandon an attempt to take it. There is no doubt, each of these was a major accomplishment, and having done both of them, one would think that secured his legacy and assured Major General Van Dorn a place in history. It might had, if only Grant has been his only enemy—alas, he was not.
He survived the horrors of war only to have his drinking and fondness of the ladies to be his undoing. His was not the brave and glorious death of a general in battle, nor was it the quiet passing of an aged, respected war hero. Instead, he was shot by a jealous husband and angry father. His less-than-inspiring death was then overshadowed by the incredibly misfortunate, friendly-fire shooting of General Stonewall Jackson, which eventually lead to his death just three days after Van Dorn’s. Thus, the highly respected Stonewall Jackson has become legendary—I easily remember his name too—but Van Dorn, again, not so much.
Like many great men in history—Caesar, King David, and Henry the Eighth—Van Dorn had his weaknesses and personal demons. Unfortunately for him, the Victorian sensibilities of that era were not as forgiving of such things as we are today. To his contemporaries and peers, Van Dorn was a lesser man, in spite of his accomplishments. With the gift of hindsight however, I see him as more than a man who lost the exact same internal battle we all have of Sinner-Saint. General Earl Van Dorn, the military man, certainly should be remembered for saving Vicksburg, not once, but twice.
For the complete story, I highly recommend Dr. Brandon’s book, HOLLY SPRINGS: Van Dorn, The CSS Arkansas, and the Raid that Saved Vicksburg. I also thoroughly enjoyed his speaking style and recommend him for any group wanting to learn more about Civil War history.
For more information about our local Sons of the Confederacy, contact Bryan Skipworth.
Rediscover Historic Vicksburg Via
In the interest of full disclosure, yes, Morgan Gates, my “partner in time” at RHV founded, owns, and operates Haunted Vicksburg Tours and Historic Vicksburg Tours. I am not shamelessly plugging his business, however. His tours really are awesome—would I have him as my blog partner if they were not? Also, his is the only tour business available in Vicksburg, outside of the military park. If others were available, I would write about them as well! That said, let me tell you about my experience on the Haunted Venues Tour I took last week and why I really believe this is another great way to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg!
Meshea Crysup, Founder Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
Founder Civil War Bloggers, Authors…& More Network
Founder Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg Books
Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable VP
Like all of Morgan’s tours, we started out in the parking lot of the Vicksburg Outlet Mall. It is very easy to find—just head for Cracker Barrel and instead of turning into their parking lot, look to your left and you will see the Historic Vicksburg and Haunted Vicksburg Tours van, and, most likely, Morgan will be standing beside it watching for you! The tour starts at 8 PM, so as instructed, we—I enlisted my friend Kim Steen, Vicksburg Realtor Extraordinaire, to come along—arrived by 7:45. We were joined by a vacationing couple. Rain was moving in, but had not started yet. No matter—while the tour does involve getting out of the van several times, it is a driving tour and does not have to be canceled due to a little rain!
I expected to enjoy the tour, certainly, but I am around Morgan a lot! We are constantly talking about RHV, his business, the books, and other projects we have going, etc. I really did not expect to hear anything that had not already come up in conversation one time or another over the past year of Coffee Klatches and collaboration. Boy was I wrong!
The tour covers four neighborhoods, with a stop in each, plus a drive along the riverfront. While driving to our first area/stop, Morgan discussed a bit of Vicksburg history while also setting the tone for the topic of the evening: Haunted Venues!
Baer House Inn
Kim and I are at Baer House Inn frequently—attending Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable as well as other meetings there and other events, such as the Detective Comedy Dinner Theatre productions. To be honest, neither of us expected anything unusual so we both opted to leave our phones locked in the van. This was a mistake because, like the rest of the world, our smartphones are also or cameras and there is a “photo op” at Baer House that is very cool, and on this particular night, was also “eventful”. As per usual, I am not going to give away the details—I do not want to spoil the tour for you—but it involves a photograph in the house! The inn had a couple of guests that decided to join us for Morgan’s stories. After the very—hmm, I will just say “out of the ordinary photographic experience”, Morgan ended that part of our tour by telling the inn patron who were staying behind to “sleep tight!” RIGHT!!!
Our next stop was on the street with most of the businesses and restaurants in the historic part of Vicksburg—Washington Street. Kim and I are certainly on this street often, however we did NOT leave our cameras behind this time! There is another interesting photo op—outside of the doll museum. Yes, I said DOLL MUSEUM—creepy already, I know! We were all armed with our trusty smartphone cameras this time. Unfortunately, you know how it goes when you are prepared for something—nothing happened, this time, at least not with the photo. What did happen? A local business owner was just stepping onto the sidewalk as we went by. Of course, Morgan knows everyone, so the gentleman stopped to say hello. Since he was there and we were taking a haunted tour, he shared two of his own, most recent, Haunted Vicksburg experiences with us! Freaky!!!
Tourist Alert! I live here, so I should have known better, but I did not prepare for the Mississippi mosquitos! Riverfront, muggy, summer night in Mississippi—you get the picture! Think “Backwoods Off”!
I go to the Riverfront frequently to take pictures, but never at night. Not only is it a different visual experience, but Morgan has a whole other set of stories and facts to share. I informed the group and Morgan that obviously he had been holding out on me. In truth, however, he just knows so much about the area and its history that, as with all of his tours, he switches up what he tells. They are all great stories and you never get exactly the same tour twice!
This part of the tour takes you to an entirely different part of town and much further than one could go on a walking tour. We actually stopped at Cedar Grove, which is one of my favorite B&B’s to eat at. At night, it was beautiful! While we were there, a young man that had been on the tour a few days before showed up. He had a friend with him and he was basically recounting his tour experience with her. He actually came up and showed us all a picture he had taken on yet another night that he had returned to the tour site! Obviously, he was enthralled by what Morgan had shared during the tour! As for the picture he shared—wow! And, as if on cue, a hoot owl joined us, adding to the haunted ambience!
Southern Cultural Heritage Center
Our last stop was also too far from the downtown area to have been reached by a basic walking tour. I have been to this area with Morgan on other tours, but again, he shared stories I had not yet heard! The ambience at night here too is very different than during the day. It is certainly a great area for discussing haunted history!
Just as we were finishing up the tour, the rain moved in—Perfect timing! As for my over-all impression of the tour, it is truly a great way to Rediscover Historic—and Haunted—Vicksburg. I actually enjoyed it even more than the Haunted History Ghost Walk tour. Alternating between walking a bit and driving allows you to cover more of Vicksburg—more Haunted Venues! Like the very popular—and rightly so—walking tour, whether you believe in hauntings or just like history with some unexplained and unusual twists, you will certainly come away agreeing with Morgan’s tour catch phrase, “You never know what is going to happen in Haunted Vicksburg!”
by Meshea Crysup, Blogger, Author, Speaker
Founder of RHV, RHV Books, Civil War Bloggers...& More Network, & MesheaCrysup.com and Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable VP
Rediscover Historic Vicksburg
Night at the Museum
September is upon us and one of the things that means is “Night at the Museum” is near! In fact, Night at the Museum III will be Saturday evening, Sept. 23rd from 6-8 PM, at Vicksburg’s Old Courthouse Museum. ( https://oldcourthouse.org/ ) The first year’s theme was basically a walk through the history represented at the Old Courthouse Museum. The second year’s theme was the Civil War. This year, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood, the theme is “Mississippi Before Statehood”.
Great theme, but what exactly is “Night at the Museum”?
Night at the Museum is a fundraiser for Vicksburg’s Old Courthouse Museum, which is privately funded. Remarkably, it is also open frequently and very reasonably priced! For more information, go to https://oldcourthouse.org/
This year, the event will be held inside to avoid issues with Vicksburg’s unpredictable weather. Priced at only $10 a person, over a period of about forty-five minutes, participants will take a walk through the history of pre-statehood Mississippi via the stories of five historic figures and facts about their particular contributions, location, etc. In character, event presenters will represent:
-Davion a Jesuit priest – St Pierre Mission 1698
-Monsieur de la Tour – overseer of French plantation at Fort St. Pierre 1721
-William Selkrig – small farmer at 3 islands 1778
-Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos – military governor of
West Florida (fort Nogales) 1790’s
-Tobias Gibson – founder of modern Methodism in this
Night at the Museum is a great event for everyone! Whether you are young or old, by yourself, in a group, on a date, or a night out as a family. Whether you are mildly interested in history or a serious history buff, a tourist visiting the area or were born-and-raised right here in Vicksburg, this is a great way to spend a Saturday evening Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg and you can feel even better about it knowing you are helping to support the privately funded Vicksburg Old Courthouse Museum!
Vicksburg Featured on the September 12th Episode!
Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage
by Meshea Crysup, RHV
It is almost that time of year again folks and I can think of no better way to share the info than "directly from the horse's mouth"! So, today's blog is taken directly from the Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage website! www.VicksburgPilgrimage.com
I am very excited about seeing the new homes that have been added! Maybe I will run into YOU along the way!
~Meshea Crysup, RHV
Dog Days of Summer—Rediscover Historic Vicksburg Anyway!
According to “The Google”, we are still in the Dog Days of Summer—July 22nd.-Aug 22nd. 2017. Yes, it is still a bit warm and muggy here, but, as Corey Rickrode of Baer House Inn says, “It’s hot in Florida too, but people are still going to Disney World!” My point? In spite of the heat, there is still plenty to do in Vicksburg, as we finish up August, and move into September, and Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage time! This is the first in a series of blogs that will be covering exactly that: Ways you can Rediscover Historic Vicksburg now through Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage!
–Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
Now Through Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage!
by Meshea Crysup, RHV
Yes, things are heating up here in Vicksburg as we enter the final part of the Dog Days of Summer—and I am not just talking about the weather! Leading up to the Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage, and all during Pilgrimage time, there are a variety of ways to have a good time, eat a great meal, have a refreshing drink, hear some fantastic music, take an entertaining and educational—maybe even haunted—tour, and more!
What is going on at
The Baer House Inn?
Detective Dinner Theatre: August 18th! Always a great choice because ONE fee covers food, drink, and entertainment—an entire evening of fun!
Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable: August 21st. at 6 PM! A bit different this month. We are not having a speaker. Instead we are getting together to grill, eat, and discuss the next year of our Roundtable! Whether you have been attending or not, now is a great time to come join us and see what we are all about! www.VicksburgCivilWarRoundtable.com
What is going on at
McRaven Tour Home?
Date to be announced in September at McRaven Tour Home, "Confederate Camp and Living History"
What is going on at
The Old Courthouse Museum?
Night at the Museum will be Saturday, Sept. 23rd!
This year's theme is
Mississippi Before Statehood
An entire blog dedicated to this is coming soon!
What is going on with
Vicksburg Blues Society?
Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage
is Almost Here!
An entire blog will soon be dedicated to this!
Mainstreet Market Café!
Need a place to stay or hold an event?
McNutt House & Duff Green Mansion
Vicksburg Preservation Celebration
Sept. 30- Oct. 1, 2017
Event co-hosted by
Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Presevation
Heritage Guild of Vicksburg and Warren County
Saturday, September 30, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.:
Tour Catherine’s Palace at 1501 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Artist Jerry McWilliams will have his Vicksburg Campaign painting “A Crushing Blow” featuring General Grant and the 1839 building as it appeared on July 4, 1863. General Grant, Mr. Christian Fleckenstein and Mrs. Catherine Coccaro will visit with you.
4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.:
A Ballet of Vicksburg: “The History of Vicksburg and her River” by River Pointe Dance Academy at the Vicksburg Convention Center. No Charge
5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.:
Social Reception for ballerinas, their families and Y’all, Vicksburg Convention Center
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.:
Preservation Banquet dinner with guest speakers Mr. Walt Grayson of Mississippi and Dr. George McDaniel, retired director of 1738 Drayton Hall near Charleston, South Carolina at the Vicksburg Convention Center.
$15.00 dinner ticket required prior purchase by September 27, 2017 (Wednesday)
8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.:
Concert-Dance by Vicksburg Band, The Chill at the Vicksburg Convention Center.
No charge with cash bar, wine and beer complimentary.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.:
Ecumenical church service by Reverend Beth Palmer, Rector, Church of the Holy Trinity, using historic church liturgy.
900 South Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:
Celebration concert by the Vicksburg Chamber Choir and the Vicksburg Orchestral Society at the Vicksburg Convention Center. In 1982 Church of the Holy Trinity organist and choir master, Mr. David Stokes composed “The God of History” for orchestra and choir at the request of Carol and Lamar McMillin, Jr. Maestro Crafton Beck, composer and conductor of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra has enlarged the composition for full orchestra and chorus for our Preservation Celebration Concert.
5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.:
House Blessing and tour at “Catherine’s Palace” for the Fleckenstein-Cocaro Grocery building and home, 1501 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard with Reverend Beth Palmer and THE VICKSBURG BRASS BAND. No Charge
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.:
The Vicksburg Convention Center: The Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation and the Vicksburg and Warren County Heritage Guild Preservation Celebration Dinner with concert and dance by Vicksburg’s Nicholas and Julia Blake (violin and key board). Featured speaker is Dr. George McDaniel of Atlanta, Georgia, Memphis, Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina. Cash bar with wine and beer complimentary
$15.00 dinner ticket required prior purchase by September 27, 2017 (Wednesday),
Tickets ordered via U.S. Mail should be purchased by September 16, 2017
through mail order with a check payable to:
Gilbraltar Vicksburg, LLC
Vicksburg, MS 39182
or at the below locations:
The Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation
1107 Washington Street, Vicksburg, MS 39180
River Pointe Dance Academy
3429 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180
The Heritage Guild of Vicksburg and Warren County
Walnut Hills Restaurants
1214 Adams Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183
Vicksburg has multiple hotels and Bed and Breakfast accommodations.
Baer-Williams House Inn, an Eastlake Victorian B&B providing full breakfast and an evening social hour
1117 Grove Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183;
20% room discount for anyone who books a room for this event
Duff Green Mansion, a Greek Revival Antebellum B&B providing breakfast for two and a tour of the mansion
1114 First East Street, Vicksburg, MS 39180
Courtyard by Marriott
1 Underwood Drive, Vicksburg, MS 39180
group rate $104.00 plus tax
100 Berryman Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180
group rate $96.00 plus tax which includes a complimentary hot deluxe breakfast buffet.
Guests should call the two hotels directly and request the Preservation Celebration Weekend group rate by August 30, 2017.
Certainly, over the next few weeks, it is obvious, EVERYONE can find SOMETHING they enjoy to Rediscover Historic Vicksburg!
A Castle on a Hill
by Morgan Gates
Let’s take an imaginary drive through Vicksburg, shall we? We’ll start at the Old Courthouse Museum. This iconic landmark is one of the most familiar in Vicksburg. In fact I like to call it Vicksburg’s “Eiffel Tower”. Let’s drive south two blocks on Cherry Street (named for the tree) until it intersects with Clay Street (named for Henry Clay). Here we will turn right and descend the hill two blocks until we reach the intersection of Clay and Walnut Streets (the tree again). To our right is the Old Hotel Vicksburg, completed July 4th 1929, sixty-six years after the end of the Siege and approximately three months before the beginning of the Great Depression. It was the tallest building between Memphis and New Orleans at the time; however, this is not our destination today. Turn left and drive up the hill, and in one block, you will pass between the 1903 Beaux Arts City Hall and the 1894 Romanesque Mississippi River Commission building. Keep going. Oh, we seem to be running out of beautiful buildings--a parking garage, the public library (built in the 1970’s, need I say more), and Central Fire Station. Walnut Street ends at its intersection with Madison Street (named for the president). Stop, we have arrived! What, you say! There is nothing here! Yes there is! Its right in front of you--the big hill!
Rising up over your head is a large hill, covered in Kudzu, topped with a few shabby houses and a very large radio tower. What’s so special about this hill you ask? Ok, here is a clue. Turn right and, about half way down the block, there is a small side street that runs up the hill. You see it, right behind the liquor store? Notice the street sign--it says “Castle Alley”!
There is something undeniably romantic about a castle on a hill. So many beloved tales, both old and new, contain a castle. Castles summon images King Arthur and Knights of old slaying dragons and rescuing princesses. Disney has made untold fortunes in an empire built around a “Magic Castle”. Many epic adventures like “Lord of the Rings” feature castles. Yes, there is something about the castle that captures the imagination and that fascination is not particularly new.
In our recent series on Fortress Vicksburg, we discussed how the City of Vicksburg has been called a fortress, but it was not a castle! The rich planters of the Antebellum south knew well the romance of the age of chivalry and in many cases identified with the “Cavalier” attitude of these days gone by. They even built houses that they felt were modernized (in there day) versions of palaces. Sturdy brick homes were given the even more permanent look of stone masonry by skilled artisans who applied coats of stucco for a “faux” stone appearance.
There was however one actual castle in Vicksburg. Sometime about 1840, banker Thomas E. Robins built a replica of a medieval castle on a high hill, just south of what would have been the southern city limits (mid-town today). He imported hexagonal bricks from England especially for this purpose. It had four towers and was even surrounded by a moat. It changed hands in 1852, and again in 1859, and was owned by a lawyer named Burwell, who had recently moved to Vicksburg from Virginia.
The Castle survived the siege, but not the occupation. After the city fell, it became a Union stronghold on the river. Grant’s battle-hardened troops were too valuable to be left sitting in garrison duty, so they were peeled off and sent on to other hotspots. A much smaller garrison of less experienced soldiers were left to guard the city. The old siege trenches were filled in and the defensive line around the city was shortened to only five miles. To strengthen the line, several batteries of “heavy artillery” were emplaced on the landward approaches to the city. The castle occupied a high hill in an ideal position to anchor this southern approach to Vicksburg. Though the home resembled a military fortress, it was in fact, not a suitable military strong point in 1863-4. It was torn down and replaced by earthen revetments mounting heavy siege guns.
The hill on which the castle set has undergone many transformations in the over 150 years that have passed since its demise. It is still known locally as “Castle Hill” but the only real reminder that Vicksburg’s most unique home once topped this promontory is that little green street sign behind the liquor store!
(My friend and assistant on the Haunted Vicksburg Ghost Tour, Marie, discovered the Bamboo Forest here in Vicksburg recently this inspired me to repost this blog from last winter)
In the Bamboo Forest
by Morgan Gates
Today I stood in the middle of a bamboo forest and listened to the wind in these giant reeds. The sound was that of a bamboo wind chime, just like those sold in the gardening stores, you know the ones that say made in China! The sound was the same yet different, larger grander, but not really louder. The sound was around me it came from above and behind, and in front, and either side! Perhaps it even came from inside? The sound was soft and melodic and hypnotic, it soothed and caressed me, in a way no words can truly describe. Perhaps this is the reason the Orient has been such an inspired place throughout history, a place of philosophy and art, for the wind in the reeds whispered them to sleep each night.
I did not come out to visit the forest today, I was on another mission to explore an old cemetery nearby. The old cemetery is off a dead-end road. It seems there is always something interesting at the end of a dead-end road. We are such a road bound society, that we almost never venture beyond the road. A dead-end sign might as well read “Here thar be Dragons”! Indeed, where the road ends the forest begins. The Bamboo Forest is no secret, I have known about it for years, in fact I often drive right by it. I have never before taken the time to step off the pavement and walk into it. Today however, as a low winter sun hung in a bright blue sky and a cool winter wind chased a few high thin clouds across the sky, I walked past the road closed sign, past the pavements end and stepped off the edge of the world. This is not a typical southern “canebrake” as described by Faulkner, this is true Chinese Bamboo. It is not a big forest as are the vast hardwood and pine forest that cover much of my home state, it is only about an acre or two, but it is an acre or two plopped down from the other side of the world.
Of course, I know its history, that is what I do, I always know the history, and if I don’t I’ll find out! The Bamboo Forest is old at least 160 years old, the man responsible for it died before the Civil War began. The shafts are enormous compared to southern cane, more than 3 inches in diameter, I wear an extra-large glove but my fingers will not close around it. It was not deliberately planted; its origin was an accident. This land once belonged to a man named William W. Williamson –no I’m not kidding, that was really his name, perhaps his parents weren’t very imaginative. Mr. Williamson loved cock fighting – roosters, get your mind out of the gutter – and the best fighting roosters came from China. The fighting cocks arrived in bamboo cages, Mr. Williamson, just like a kid on Christmas morning ripped the cages apart to obtain his prize within and carelessly tossed the bamboo gift wrapping on the ground. The fertile soils and warm rains of the south did the rest, and today I Rediscovered a part of Historic Vicksburg.
John C. Pemberton: Part 2
by Morgan Gates,
Owner Historic Vicksburg Tours, Owner Haunted Vicksburg Tours, Author, Blogger, & Historian
In our last episode: John has followed his heart south, and become embroiled in the nation’s most tragic conflict. Thinking himself among friends, he finds himself betrayed on every side and fighting for his very survival against a relentless and overwhelming foe. Can he survive? Will Pattie still be waiting for him? Let’s find out…
Okay, sorry I couldn’t resist!
Last time, we learned that John C. Pemberton was a good solid soldier, a man with a good deal of military experience, a clean record and he had a good deal of opportunity to learn from the best. He was generally well liked by his superiors. Yet history remembers him as one of the biggest losers of the war. So, what happened?
Criticisms of Pemberton included lack of combat experience, too much reliance on “councils of war”, and a failure to act decisively to counter Grant’s moves toward Vicksburg. So, let’s break these down.
Combat experience: If you mean leading large units in traditional battles using the Napoleonic tactics that were the rule of the day in the early to mid-nineteenth century, then yes, you are correct. But you must remember that the same can be said for almost all of his contemporaries. Since the end of the Mexican-American War, 14 years before, the United States had seen no such action, and those who had done so, for the most part, were gone or too old to lead another war. Grant had seen some small unit action, but had not made the high-level decisions of a senior officer in Mexico. Pemberton, as an adjutant, had looked over the shoulders of those who had. He had also seen small scale action in Florida, against the Seminoles, before the war in Mexico, and was a member of the Utah Expedition against the Mormons in 1857. Pemberton often served as a staff member to those who were in command and as such he was in an excellent position as an “apprentice” of sorts and thus was no stranger to the demands of high level command.
Grant had no pre-Civil War command experience! He had resigned his Captains Commission in 1853, shortly after receiving it, and returned to civilian life. Prior to Vicksburg, Grant had experienced a baptism of fire in 1862 with a decisive win at Fort Donaldson, and a bloody nail biter at Shiloh. It could, however, be strongly argued that, in both cases, luck played a much larger role in these victories than skill, but as Napoleon once said “I would rather have a general who was lucky than a good one”
Councils of war: These are seen by some a sign of lack of confidence. This may in part be true, several of his recent experiences would have been enough to rock any man’s confidence. On the other hand, the same could have been said of Grant after Shiloh, as he sat with no duties as another man led his army. Grant even contemplated resigning again, but Sherman talked him out of it. On the other hand, one of the tenants of good leadership is to hire good people and let them do their jobs, and even the Bible endorses the concept of listening to wise council in Proverbs 12:15.
Failure to act decisively: Other criticisms leveled against Pemberton have to do with his failure to stop Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi on April 30/May 1, and his subsequent, and unprecedented, 19th century Blitzkrieg approach to Vicksburg. The reply to this is that Pemberton did not have the man power, the reconnaissance (cavalry) or the transportation assets, to counter Grant’s movements and he knew it! His pleas for the return of his cavalry (from Tennessee where Johnson had ordered it), and reinforcements fell on deaf ears.
Pemberton’s performance at the Battle of Champion Hill is perhaps his most damming failure and a debacle it was, but as with most really great disasters, a whole series of failures occurred in quick succession. Contradictory directions from his President and his immediate commander. A break down in chain of command that delayed his move from Bovina due to inadequate supplies. Not to mention, a lack of good reconnaissance, due to lack of sufficient cavalry. Top this off with Loring’s insubordination and ultimate abandonment of the Army of Mississippi upon the retreat, had left Pemberton badly shaken before during and after the battle. Still, he managed to extract the army back to Vicksburg.
Once besieged, there was little he, or anyone else, could do but hold on and wait for help to arrive. The ultimate failure of Johnson to act decisively was Vicksburg’s, Pemberton’s, and, ultimately, the Confederacy’s doom. The political fallout from the loss of Vicksburg is compounded by a lingering prejudice among the people of the south against Pemberton’s northern birth and he becomes the scapegoat for the loss in the minds of many. Post War, Johnson attempts to deflect any tarnish from his own reputation by blaming the loss on Pemberton in his memoirs, rubbing salt into the wound so to speak.
Pemberton, by all objective standards, was a good, solid military man, who understood the military world of the day (pre-war). At any other point in history, he would have been remembered as a successful, if not imaginative, career officer. He lived, however, in a time when the rules of war were being torn up and rewritten. His opponent was considered to be very unmilitary in bearing and actions by many of his contemporaries. He did, however, have a good bit of experience in things not working as planned and coping on the fly, and in the chaotic world of the Civil War, this proved to be a positive asset.
He fell into Pattie’s arms, his spirit broken, his reputation in tatters, she softly whispered “I love you no matter what comes!” Together, they turned to face an uncertain future!
Saving the Wall!
By Morgan Gates, Historic Vicksburg Tours & Haunted Vicksburg Tours
The dominant feature, in the oldest picture we have of Vicksburg, is the structure we now call the Old Courthouse Museum. Construction was begun in 1858, by the Weldon Brothers and a team of one hundred enslaved, but highly skilled, laborers. It was practically brand new when the Mississippi Succession Ordinance was read from its steps and Confederate Generals watched the Union fleet from its clock tower. As the shells began falling in earnest on Vicksburg, the courthouse became a target for Union gunners. To save it, Union prisoners were housed in the courtroom to shield the building from utter destruction. When the city surrendered, on July 4th 1863, U.S. Grant reviewed his troops from the western side of the bluff, on which the courthouse was built. At that early date, this quintessential Vicksburg Landmark stood on a ragged, unimproved bluff. Left alone, the forces of the elements would have eventually done what the Union had not accomplished: bringing down the courthouse!
In the post war period, the city rebounded quickly from the War and actually became richer than it was before the War. Sometime in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the war damage to the courthouse was repaired. The ragged edges of the bluff were terraced and landscaped, and a formidable retaining wall was constructed to stabilize the hill.
As Vicksburg/Warren County grew, the need for a larger courthouse was felt and, in 1940, this Antebellum beauty was replaced as a working courthouse by a newer, more modern structure across the street. This reminder of a bygone era once again faced destruction by short-sighted elected officials who sought to demolish it. Eva W. Davis saved it by turning it into the Old Courthouse Museum!
But today, the building again faces destruction and the forces of time and nature are the culprits this time. The retaining wall that stabilizes the hill on which the museum sits is crumbling and the Museum does not have the funding to make extensive repairs. The Museum does not accept state or federal funding (and is thus largely shielded from the current forces that seem intent upon erasing our history). It operates entirely on admission fees and private donations. The Old Courthouse depends on you and me, and history lovers everywhere, to keep its doors open!
We are asking you and other lovers of history to pitch in and make a contribution to help save the wall, and thus save a vital part of our history!
No donation is too small! Please help! All donations will go to repairing the retaining wall! Thank you! Click the link below to donate!
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Becoming John C. Pemberton
by Morgan Gates, Haunted Vicksburg, Historic Vicksburg, author & speaker
Sometime last summer, my friend Cory Rickrode, asked me to portray Lt. General John C. Pemberton for Vicksburg’s first annual Breakfast with the Generals, which took place on July 4th 2017. This was something I had never considered doing before, but it sounded like fun, so I said, "Why not!"
I am a historian and a storyteller but I had not, at that time at least, done much reenacting. I have portrayed Dr. William Balfour, host of the annual Confederate Ball, a fund raiser put on by the Old Courthouse Museum each December, for several years but that is a small rather one-dimensional role. To do the role of General Pemberton justice, I had to attempt to crawl inside Pemberton’s head. Fortunately, I have had previous experience crawling inside heads--I am a retired public-school principal who spent much of his career trying to figure out what made troubled children tick. Also, I had a good role model in Dr. Curt Fields, of Memphis, who has been portraying U. S. Grant for years. So, I dug in and started studying the Defender of Vicksburg!
The first thing I discovered is that there is not a great deal of information out there about Pemberton. Losers don’t make as good a story as winners I suppose. The second thing I discovered is that Pemberton, at the time, got a really bad rap! The superficial “picture” of the commander of Vicksburg is that he was (A) incompetent or (B) if not incompetent, then, at least, in way over his head! I am now convinced that neither allegation is true, let’s explore this some more over the next several posts, shall we?
Pemberton and Grant were in many ways very different men but they also had very many things in common. Then again, don’t we all?
First the commonalities:
Both were born in the north; Pemberton in Pennsylvania and Grant in Ohio. Both were West Pointers. Both struggled in some subjects and excelled in others. Both had graduated just below the half way point in their respective classes. Both had aspired to be engineers but wound up serving in other branches of the Army. Both served in Mexico in the same division and they had met during that earlier war. Both had “Seen the Elephant”. Both had served in far-flung frontier outposts and detested them. Both had fallen in love and married girls with southern roots.
Pemberton was from and upper-class Philadelphia family, Grant middle class small town Ohio. Pemberton embraced life at West-Point and was quite social, and very much a lady’s man. Grant less so, and somewhat kept to himself. Pemberton did well in language but struggled with math. Grant was just the opposite. Pemberton, after West Point, was assigned to the Artillery Grant to Infantry. Pemberton, who was older, spent many years in postings in the south and grew quite fond of the people of the south. Grant spent much less time in the south. In Mexico, Pemberton attained the brevet rank of Major. Grant was a brevet Lieutenant. Pemberton served in the U.S. Army right up to the day he resigned his commission to join the Confederacy. Grant resigned his commission in 1853 and spent a number of years in civilian life – rather unsuccessfully-- before rejoining after the Civil War began.
The two men really had a lot more in common that than we might at first realize, and up until the spring of 1863, John C. Pemberton had, in most aspects, been the much more successful of the two! To put it in modern terms, if you had no prior knowledge of either man and their resumes (ca.1862) were placed on your desk, you would have very likely hired John C. Pemberton, and consigned Ulysses S. Grant’s to “File 13”! So where did it go wrong for General Pemberton? Let’s talk more next time……………
The Town That Did Not Celebrate Independence Day
By Morgan Gates
Two hundred and forty-one years ago, one of those interesting little quirks in history transpired when a ragtag army led by a group of backwoods intellectuals and a Virginia tobacco farmer fought the world’s greatest superpower to a standstill, and won its independence. As if that were not enough they then proceeded to establish a type of government that had not existed in the world since 27 BC and they made it work! Even more impressive it started a movement that eventually toppled the great monarchies of Europe. If that is not a cause to celebrate I’m not sure what is! Yet there was a time that is still within the memory of living men when Vicksburg did not celebrate July 4th!
Independence Day is celebrated nationwide with parades and picnics and celebrations. Hearts are filled with pride, stomachs with good food, and streets with happy children. Vicksburg, too, was filled on July 4, 1863 … its beds were filled with wounded and sick men, the fields around the city were filled with thousands of shallow graves, and the streets were filled with Union occupation troops as the siege ends with the city’s surrender. For the first time in 47 days the skies over Vicksburg are not filled with fireworks of a very real and deadly sort! There was not much to celebrate that July 4, 1863, and for a long time, thereafter the shadow of the siege cast a pall over the Glorious fourth! Believe it or not in those days families actually sat around and talked to each other, so the memory of that terrible war did not fade as quickly as it might today.
Vicksburg was (and is) a thriving city and people from other parts of the country and world continued to settle here, so there were Independence Day celebrations in and around Vicksburg in the years after the War, but they tended to smaller private celebrations. In the South “we’ve always done it that way” or its converse “we’ve never done it that way” tend to be powerful forces so soon enough it simply became the custom! The years rolled by, the century turned and soon we had another great war – it seems every century has its great war—and Americans from both North and South pulled together and made great sacrifices to fight not one but two great enemies in World War II. When that war ended its memory too cast a shadow –of a different kind! In 1947 General Dwight D Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied troops in the European Theater visited Vicksburg ---on July 4th of all days --- and the town turned out with a FIRE WORKS display and a PARADE! It was said in 1947 Vicksburg REJOINED THE UNION!
We at Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg wish all our readers everywhere
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
Fortress Vicksburg conclusion by Morgan Gates
So now that we know what Vicksburg was not and what kind of new threats it faced What did, Fortress Vicksburg actually look like? Let’s talk about it.
Fortress Vicksburg was first and foremost on high ground! Since man first started throwing rocks at his neighbor, we have understood the importance of high ground in a conflict. It is as simple as gravity being your friend and you opponent’s enemy. Hill forts were the earliest examples of castles, great conquerors like Julius Caesar and Napoleon sought out high ground in their campaigns. Even today the United States makes the ultimate use of high ground with air superiority and spy satellites. Vicksburg is located on a series of high bluffs towering 2-300 feet above the river. In fact, the U.S. Navy’s big guns of the period lacked the elevation to fire directly into Vicksburg. Rear Admiral Porter (Grant’s Naval counterpart); therefore, brought in heavy mortars to target Vicksburg and later dismounted large cannon from his gunboats and re mounted them on high ridges, where they could bring their firepower to bear on Vicksburg.
Fortress Vicksburg was a layered defense! There is an old adage that says “two is one and one is none” it is simply an acknowledgment of Murphy’s Law “If anything can go wrong it usually will and at the worst possible moment”! No matter how strong one line of defense is, you had better have a backup plan. Vicksburg had multiple lines of defense and they had thwarted many Union attempts on the city already but it appears that “Murphy” had enlisted in the Confederate Army in the spring of 1863 had been acting as General Pemberton’s adjutant! Vicksburg’s first layer of defense had been breached when Porter successfully ran the guns of Vicksburg in April, thus giving Grant the ability to cross Vicksburg’s moat (The Mississippi), the second layer failed when Pemberton could not stop Grant’s amphibious landing at Bruinsburg. The third when Confederate forces could not stop Grant’s march across central Mississippi. And the fourth and final of the outer lines fell when Grant crossed the Big Black River on May 18th. General Pemberton, had essentially retreated into his last lines of defense (the central keep to use our castle analogy) when he pulled back to Vicksburg after the battle on May 17th but just like in the medieval castles of old those last lines were the most formidable!
Fortress Vicksburg had walls of dirt and hot lead. As we have already discussed previously, walls of wood, brick or stone, would have fallen quickly to any well-equipped 19th century army. They were useful in the Indian wars only because the Native-American tribes had no artillery! The walls of Fortress Vicksburg were dirt! Located on the ridges, about one mile outside the city were nine huge earthen forts. Known as Redoubts (square or rectangular in shape) Redans (A “V” with the point toward the enemy) and Lunettes (semi-circles open to the rear). Construction methods were simple, dig a ditch and pile up dirt on the inside edge (closest to what you are trying to protect) as the ditch gets deeper the wall of earth gets taller! The earthen forts were usually 10 feet tall or taller and the walls were many yards thick and too steep to climb without ladders. In between each fort were trenches, and individual artillery positions, the forts were close enough that they could support each other with overlapping fields of fire. Manning the forts and trenches were nearly 30,000 Confederate soldiers armed primarily with the excellent P53 British Enfield rifled musket which in the right hands could drop a man at almost 500 yards. and southern boys knew how to shoot!
Fortress Vicksburg had a moat of sorts. land around Vicksburg had been cleared of forest cover for a great distance out around the city. This provided a clear field of fire for the defenders. The forest trees had not been wasted they were lain down in the bottoms of the ravines below the forts, their branches facing out, sharpened off and even tied together with telegraph wire these abbatis (pronounced A-BO-TEE at the time, it is a French word) slowed or even blocked movement across the ravine and acted as a sort of dry moat about Fortress Vicksburg.
In the end Fortress Vicksburg fell, the way most of the fortresses of old did, succumbing to a 47-day siege. Grant, the man who rewrote so many of the old rules of war in his career fell back on the tried and true classic siege maneuvers. The siege operations conducted by Grant at Vicksburg would have been recognizable by King Richard the Lionheart over 500 years before, but in the end, it was hunger, thirst and disease that led to the city’s surrender on July 4th 1863.
My Experience at the Baton Rouge Civil War Symposium 2017
by Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg
& Civil War Bloggers...and More Network
Attending this symposium was a birthday present from Momma and my husband, Darren. I want to especially thank Darren because he used one of his rare, free weekends to take me and even went to the Friday evening Meet & Greet with me—something not entirely “his thing”. It was a fantastic gift for which I am very thankful! I want to share it now with those of you who did not get to attend.
With a nursing and long-term care background, you can bet I have been to my share of continuing-education seminars, conventions, trade shows, etc. In fact, I used to organize them, present at them, network, etc. This was my first civil war symposium however, and I was not entirely sure what to expect…
I will not keep you in suspense—I will answer the most important question first: The food was fantastic!
Seriously, that may sound superficial and irrelevant, but I assure you, no matter how great the symposium itself may have been, if the food was not good, or the place it was held was lacking in some way, that would be one of the first things people would talk about and they would still be talking about it this time next year! I had never been to Drusilla’s before, but it did not disappoint! The planning committee made an excellent choice in picking a venue, and that alone is no small feat!
The symposium kicked off Friday evening with a “meet and greet” type event. I am not shy, but I had never met any of the people attending in person before—I knew of them via facebook, email, reputation, etc. To my surprise and delight, one of the first comments I heard was the event organizer jokingly saying, “I wonder when that gal from Vicksburg is going to get here?” Optimist that I am, I decided to take that as a good sign! Other than having a terrible time trying to get the backing off of my nametag so I could adhere it to my blouse, the evening went off without a hitch!
There were several tables set up with books, relics, jewelry, prints, etc. for sale. There was also a silent auction being set up and items on display that were being raffled. I spent the most time at Grady Howell’s table. He has authored twenty-two books about the Civil War and he knew who I was! He was a joy to talk to and the highlight of my evening! (Did I mention he knew who I was?)
The most interesting display, however, was by American Battlesite Productions, LLC. owned by R.W. (Robert) Seal, located in Baton Rouge. His table even got Darren’s attention! He had working, remote control models of boats/ships from the Civil War! They were built from foam, but certainly did not look like it! They were very impressive indeed, as was Mr. Seal. He was very knowledgeable and obviously passionate about what he does. He does not have a website but his email is email@example.com and phone is 225-387-3073.
No doubt, however, it was the entertainment that was really the big event of the night. A father-son duet, Hogg Wild, consisting of Jim Hogg, the father, and James Linden Hogg, the 16 year old son that plays fifteen different instruments!
www.JamesLindenHogg.com This young man is going places! He has been to Scotland, he is the Louisiana State Fiddling Champion, and he acts too! If you have the opportunity to see this young man perform, do not miss it!
The next day, there was time before the speakers to network and check out the vendors and exhibitors again. A few more were on site, including Al Arnold, of Lee’s Orderly-fame! His table was quite busy!
The symposium began with a video and tribute to Willam A Spedale, a Baton Rouge native. His book, Battle of Baton Rouge 1862, was a free gift to all attendees.
The first speaker was Dale Phillips—The Capture of New Orleans
My main take away from this was that the importance of New Orleans was highly underestimated by the Confederacy. In fact, Jefferson Davis ciphered off resources from New Orleans for Charleston and Virginia. He made the argument that had New Orleans been handled differently, the South could have won the war, and he was quite compelling actually.
The second speaker was Christopher L. Kalakowski. His topic: “If This is Hell, I am in It”: Battles in the Fall of 1862
The title is a line he borrowed from President Lincoln. He painted a vivid picture of just how bad things were going for Lincoln at this point in the war. General McCullen was actually encouraging a march on Washington DC and imposing a dictatorship. Lincoln actually was considering resigning as President. General Rosecran’s actions at the Battle of Stone’s Creek in Murphreesboro, TN, literally turned this around and bailed Lincoln out of what would surly have been a failed re-election attempt, and allowed him to proceed with the war as he felt he needed to.
After lunch, Bertram Hayes Davis spoke on “The Life of Jefferson Davis”.
For me, personally, this was the most interesting presentation. Mr. Davis is an excellent speaker, mixing humor and story-telling in an engaging manner. (He and his wife had an exhibit as well, where I spoke with them, and both are quite engaging conversationalists as well.) A descendent of Jefferson Davis, he is passionate about sharing the story of his life and does a remarkable job of pointing out how important he was in American politics before the Civil War. He also covers his personal life, painting a well-rounded picture of this man whose role in our history has been inaccurately relegated to having only been the president of the failed Confederacy.
Next, Matt Atkinson presented Vicksburg: A Campaign for the Ages.
I actually met Matt the evening before at the Meet & Greet. We sat next to each other for dinner and during the music. Having been at the Vicksburg National Military Park earlier in his career, he was very interesting to me, personally. He did an excellent job with his presentation. I am sure he knew what he was talking about because I have been on Morgan Gate’s tour, and their content was very similar! Seriously, having taken Morgan’s tour, I was able to follow Mr. Atkinson’s presentation far better than I could the other “play-by-play” battlefield presentations earlier in the day. This just further validated in my mind the importance of not just reading history or attending lectures but of also actually going on the tours with experienced guides. Matt’s style was relaxed, fun, and very informative. His years of experience and expertise certainly showed. I even bought his book, Lieutenant Drennan's Letter: A Confederate Officer's Account of the Battle of Champion Hill and the Siege of Vicksburg!
The last speaker was Don Frazier—“Do something! War on the West Bank”
I would not have wanted to be this gentleman from the proud state of Texas—he had a tough spot to fill! He was following the very interesting story of Jefferson Davis, and Matt Atkinsons’s relaxed, fun style. Plus, it was getting late, and by this time, everyone was wearing out! To his credit, he understood this, and worked hard at presenting in a manner that engaged everyone rather than just speaking “at us”. He covered how food from Texas, meaning cattle, sustained Port Hudson during the siege. He also discussed the Vicksburg Cipher which it turns out was essentially, “You’re on your own!”
The “experts” took questions.
After all the presentations, the speakers gathered for a Q&A session. Of course, the topic of, “What actually caused the war?” came up. Surprise: there was not a consensus. The only thing everyone agreed on was that people are still very passionate and emotional about the subject, and, NOT in agreement! Actually, the attendees were giving their opinions on the matter more aggressively than the speakers!
And the number is…
The last thing was the raffle drawings. You had to be present to win. A lot of people left early, so they had to draw several times for many of the items. For the “grand prize”, I was ONE number off of the winning number!!!
Next year’s symposium?
I certainly enjoyed the symposium. It was entirely a positive experience, especially the networking. I have already been texting and emailing with several of the people I met. I would very much like to attend again next year. The event itself was priced very reasonably. Being from out of town, thus having to have a hotel for two nights, is what made it pricey for me, personally. I could have skipped Friday night’s Meet & Greet, driven up Saturday morning, and only spent one night, but for me, personally, that would have been physically difficult. Two nights at a hotel is inevitable for me on a trip like this. If I do not attend next year, it will not be about the quality of the speakers, the venue, or organization of the event. It will be because of family dynamics, schedules, etc. I do recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Civil War.
Congratulations to John Potts and the entire planning committee of Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable’s first symposium. It was certainly a success!