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!
The McNutt House: A House of Stories (Part 2)
by Meshea Crysup, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg,
Civil War Bloggers...& More Network, & RHV Books
The McNutt House is not only unique due to its greatly varied history, but it is not your typical “Bed and Breakfast” either. The story here is, it is actually a “Bed and you fix Breakfast” kind of place!
Confused? Well, it is actually fairly simple—rather than spending a night, getting up for a nice breakfast, and going on your way, guests at The McNutt House usually are more long-term or extended stay in nature. The McNutt House is a very workable mix of “old and new”. The “feel” is old—the look, the furnishings, etc. but one lives very much in the “new” with Wi-Fi, television, modern appliances, very nice modern, private bathrooms, etc.
The McNutt House also serves as a wonderful venue for events! The Courtyard is ideal for a wedding! The Magill House is perfect for an anniversary celebration, school reunion, or educational event! Space, kitchen facilities, a dance floor, scenic picture backdrops--McNutt House has it all!
(At the very end of this, you will find pictures and excerpts from The McNutt House website as just a sample of what they have to offer!)
As you know, I highly recommend letting Elvin take you on a tour! Tours are offered daily, by appointment. They last about 75 minutes and are only $5! You get far more than your money's worth!
However, you do not have to book a tour or wait very long to have a very good opportunity to visit this wonderful historic home! To raise funds for the further restoration of The McNutt House, Elvin and Pam are hosting the First Annual McNutt House 4th of July Festival, Blues, Brews, and BBQ in just a few weeks! This 4th of July, start your celebration at The McNutt House! Live music, beer, and BBQ will be available from 12-7 PM. You will be ahead of the game when it comes to parking for the city’s activities later that evening. You can leave your car where it is, and just take a short walk—3 blocks—down the hill to the riverfront more live music and fireworks! (Details on logo! For more information, go to the website, McNutt House 1st. Annual Blues, Brews & BBQ or call Pam and Elvin at 601-529-2695.
The McNutt House features old world charm blended with modern conveniences and amenities comparable with most local hotels. The main house has 3 Suites with well equipped kitchens containing electric range, refrigerator, microwave oven and a variety of small appliances. Efficiency suites in the Magill House include kitchenettes with refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave oven and large toaster oven adequate for preparing meals; or use the full kitchen just a few steps away. All include dishes, cookware and all customary amenities found at hotels including hairdryer, soap, shampoo, iron and ironing board.
Guests receive a complimentary guided tour of the facility, HDTV, Starz/Encore premium movie package and wireless internet in addition to use of laundry facilities, courtyard, picnic area and BBQ grills. Out of courtesy to our current and future guests, all rooms are non-smoking. Smoking is permitted on the balcony, porches and grounds. Short term rates include daily housekeeping.
The McNutt Suite
This large 3-room suite (approximately 840 sq') once served as the Governor's 2nd floor living quarters with hardwood floors, coal burning fireplaces and panoramic views of the courtyard and spectacular sunsets. The bedroom includes an extremely comfortable hand crafted cherry king bed and ample dresser space. The living room has a sleeper sofa, two reclining chairs, flat panel TV. The kitchen includes dishes, tableware, pots, pans, small appliances, microwave oven, stove and refrigerator. The suite also has dedicated central heat/air and a private bath with tub and shower. Amenities include HDTV programming with 20+ Starz and Encore premium movie channels, wireless internet and complimentary laundry room. If a tranquil setting is your preference, relax in our lovely courtyard featuring multiple decks, patios and gardens that beckon your use.
Named for Mrs. Elizabeth "Bettie" McNutt. This two room Suite is situated on the 2nd floor with a balcony entrance overlooking the courtyard and at eye level with the expanse of the region's oldest Japanese Magnolia tree. The bedroom is quite large featuring a very comfortable hand crafted queen bed, original heart pine floors, ample dresser drawer space and dedicated central heat/air. The Suite includes a kitchen and private newly remodeled bath with tub and shower.
This first floor suite originally served as Gov. McNutt's private office and then later in the 1920's as the office for the Vicksburg Flower Company operated by the long-term owning Wright family. The suite features a Monroe Street entrance (that once also served as access to the staircase to the second floor until 2004), a comfortable 4-post queen bed and HD TV plus Starz/Encore movie channels. Tasteful art and the original cast iron fireplace mantle complete the decor. The Suite includes a small but very functional kitchen with electric range, refrigerator, coffee pot and microwave oven and includes cook ware. The private bath includes a jacuzzi whirlpool tub.
The Magill House
This structure was built around 1980 and is named in honor of a Louisiana Confederate soldier (Lt. David Weeks Magill) who was mortally wounded during the Civil War Siege of Vicksburg and buried on site. The center room serves as a common area for guests with laundry room and a fully equipped kitchen for guests desiring to prepare more elaborate meals.
The nicely landscaped terraced courtyard sits center stage of the property with a large deck protecting the region's oldest Japanese Magnolia tree while overlooking multiple gardens and water features forming a tranquil setting teaming with cardinals, wrens and an occasional visit by a pair of "hoot" owls. Gazebos, ample lawn furniture and charcoal grills awaiting use by our guests.
The base of the courtyard is a featured stop for local history tours as it includes the final resting place for Lt. D W. Magill who perished during the Siege of Vicksburg and an unexploded Union Mortar Shell on display.
Fortress Vicksburg? Part II
By Morgan Gates
In the long history of warfare on this planet, it seems there were long stretches of time when the technology or warfare was somewhat stagnant, then there is some new invention or breakthrough –or new application of an existing technology—that will change the whole face of the game. The Battle of Agincourt, in 1415, when English longbowman first rained their heavy armor piercing arrows on French Knights was a notable example. This epic battle ended the centuries long rule of the armored horseman on the battlefields of Europe. As we mentioned in our last installment the application of artillery as siege weapons largely ended the day of the castle as well. In the American Civil War, however, there was not one new technological innovation, but several that were coming on to the battlefield for the first time (on a widescale at least). Let’s discuss two… Steam and Rifling!
Steam power was not exactly new. The ancient Greeks were the first to build a primitive steam engine almost two thousand years ago, but they never used it to accomplish anything practical. The first steam engine with a practical application was in the late 1600’s, when large stationary engines drew floodwaters from deep coal mines. In the early 1800’s, Robert Fulton successfully applied a steam engines to riverboats and a few years thereafter steam trains came online in America and steamships plied the oceans. The Civil War was not the first war to see “any” use of steam but it was the first to see it in widespread use by both sides. Steam was revolutionizing transportation on the land, the seas, and the rivers, but it was the steam powered riverboat that had the most effect on Fortress Vicksburg.
It was with the power of the wind that man had ruled the waves for centuries, but sailing on rivers had always been problematic. The narrow width and strong directional currents in rivers made sails much less useful on inland rivers than they were on the high seas and coastal waterways. Flatboats powered by the current and keelboats powered by muscle had been the only effective way to travel the Mississippi before Steam. The Navies of the world – primarily concerned with “blue water” warfare- had never given much thought to what we would today call “brown water” conflict. The naval academies taught that one gun on land would be equal to three on the water! Which made Fortress Vicksburg even more formidable than it already seemed. But steam threw all the old rules out the window and the Civil War was where these rules were being rewritten.
Powerful steam engines meant vessels could maneuver under their own power and carry heavy loads of men and materials up and down stream relatively quickly –AND—they could carry heavy artillery –AND-- armor – AND – they could maneuver independently of the wind, making them harder to track, and therefore, be hit by land based artillery! The decades of river commerce along Mississippi the had perfected the technology of shallow water ship design. So, during the Civil War, Fortress Vicksburg faced a fleet such as had never before been seen in the history of the world. Self-propelled, shallow water, iron armored, gunboats mounting the most powerful guns in history to that date! Steam power also allowed Grant’s army to be quickly resupplied from far upriver, with food, reinforcements, ammunition, and artillery.
The second technological innovation that was changing the rules of war was rifled artillery. The artillery that laid low the medieval castles were heavy bronze or iron tubes throwing a spherical projectile of stone or iron at a modest velocity. The ranges were rather short and accuracy poor, but when your target was a castle, less than one hundred yards away, neither of these short comings mattered much. Exploding shells came into the inventory in the early 1800’s, making the smooth bores more versatile. Just about the time the Civil War began, the rifled cannon was developed.
Rifling was simply a spiral groove cut into the interior wall of the cannon tube. That imparted a rotation to the projectile that stabilized it in flight. To better take advantage of this, the projectiles were redesigned into a more aerodynamic “bullet shape”. The tighter tolerances required by rifled tubes also increased velocity. Suddenly the game changes again. Distances that were considered “safe” by the defenders were now “in range” and walls that were “thick enough” were woefully inadequate!
So now that we know what had changed let’s look at what fortress Vicksburg really was and how well it dealt with these new technologies………………Next time!
Image: Fort from The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Fortress Vicksburg? Part One
By Morgan Gates, Author, Blogger, & Tours
Historic Vicksburg Tours, Haunted Vicksburg Tours, Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg, RHV Books, & Civil War Bloggers...& More Network
Vicksburg, in the Civil War, was often referred to as “Fortress Vicksburg” or, the Gibraltar of the South. (Actually, in the day, it was Gibraltar of the West, but that often gives people images of the “Old West” which did not yet exist in the Civil War, so to avoid confusion, I substitute South!) While these statements are true, they can be somewhat confusing to some. So, allow me to make a few more generalized points before I get too specific.
If you say the word fortress or fort –to be fair fort is just a shorter form of fortress-- and ask people to describe the first thing that pops into their minds, you might get a wide variety of answers. Quite a few people might think of a Medieval Castle--even those with only a passing interest in history are familar with these glowering stone fortresses from recent movies and TV series and/or video games. These impressive citadels still dot the European countryside today, but of course their era had passed many hundreds of years before the Civil War began. Massive stone or brick forts were not unheard of on this side of the pond either. While not castles like the European forts were, Forts like Ticonderoga, of American Revolution fame, were very impressive defensive edifices. These however would have been useless at Vicksburg.
Many people would picture a wooden fort of the old Western Movies! These were perhaps the most common fortification in North American history. Some of these could be substantial structures with block houses made of interlocking logs lain horizontally, but many were the rather simple log palisades that were widely used in frontier areas in both the pre and post Civil War eras. Martins Station, in Virginia, is an excellent reproduction of one of these frontier outposts. These types of forts would have been worse than useless at Vicksburg.
Why would these traditional historic forts have been useless? Artillery is the answer! It was the introduction of artillery, in the form of heavy siege guns, that reigned in the warlords of Medieval Europe. The kings, with their greater resources, could equip their armies with artillery that could batter down the strongest castle wall in time, and the nobles finally had to toe the royal line, bringing about the modern nations of Europe. Wars continued to rage as the Armies of now kings marched back and forth across the largely open, treeless fields of Europe, but by the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, castles had been abandoned or converted into luxurious palaces for the kings and their favorites.
Artillery is, however, very heavy and slow to move about. In the heavily forested, and often mountainous, semi-wilderness of the Americas, it was not very mobile, and thus could not be as easily employed. Ships were the only way to move significant amounts of artillery to a battle. Ships of wood powered by wind and buffeted by wave could not match the firepower of a solidly built fortress, so forts like Ticonderoga and the Spanish Caribbean Forts were, for a time, useful once more. The Native-Americans had no artillery and not even a preponderance of firearms in most of their long losing fight against the westward expansion. So, wooden forts maintained their usefulness on the frontier almost until the turn of the twentieth century. The area in and around what would become Vicksburg did have some of these wooden palisade forts. The most notable being the French Fort St. Pierre (1719-29) and the Spanish Fort Nogales (1781-98).
Things, however were beginning to change in the early 19th century. The introduction of two new technologies would, by the Civil War, mean that fort of wood and brick could not be counted on to defend Vicksburg. The changes can be summed up in two words, steam and rifling………………………….to be continued.
The McNutt House: A House of Stories
by Meshea Crysup
Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg, RHV Books &
Civil War Bloggers...& More Network
I do not know about other bloggers, but for me, the best posts tend to take on a life of their own. I no longer wrestle with creating them. Each topic, place, event, etc. has its own unique energy. Their stories already exist and need not be created by me—only felt, sensed, or recognized, then shared. I revisit each subject matter literally, and, via pictures or memories, and allow it to turn over and over in my mind. Consciously and unconsciously, I follow it down one path, then another, as feelings, facts, and words converge until, ultimately, it writes itself.
Perhaps it is because of the fibro flare I have been in, but this post seemed to be resisting my process. It was not that a story was lacking—just the opposite! Today, the fibro fog cleared a bit, allowing me to see, feel, and articulate the obvious…
The McNutt House is a House of Stories.
The McNutt House: A House of Stories
My first experience with McNutt House was as part of a local tour and limited to the outside of the house and the grounds. After meeting one of the owners, before writing about it, I drove back by at various times of the day, stopping to take a few pictures. Then, twice before meeting with Elvin and Pam, I spent some time in the courtyard and gardens. I took more pictures, but I also spent some time just taking it all in. Though a stranger, I felt welcome. Though just visiting, I felt the kind of peace one feels “at home”. Though there for “just a story”, some part of me was already in touch with much more, but not because I am gifted or special in any way—but because McNutt House is special!
Each time I have been outside of the McNutt House, I have been struck by this feeling that it does not belong to any one period in time. It does not have one period-specific look, but then it is not just one house either. There are actually three houses on the property: The McNutt House, The Magill House, and Maggie’s Hall. Then, there is the property itself! The grounds are a series of intimate gardens and a courtyard accessed by a pathway here and a stairway there. Before even entering the main house, the reverberations of a varied history—not just one story, but many stories—are evident.
Once actually inside the main house—McNutt House—the predominately antebellum legacy of Vicksburg’s third oldest surviving home, circa 1826, is initially visually evident. A closer look, however, reveals hints that this is not a house frozen in time. It is actually a home, still alive with the stories of more than one family and more than one era.
As if this were not enough to draw one to McNutt House, thankfully its stories have been entrusted to the right couple. Whether one believes that some things are just “meant to be” or not, one need only spend a few minutes with the owners, Pam and Elvin McFerrin, to sense that they belong there.
Pam, a Vicksburg native, has a familial connection to the property. From this, unique insights and information have been gained, beyond the usual, “Well, legend has it…” or “The story goes…” She is literally a modern extension of this home’s story. However, while embracing and aware of this, Pam lives her part in this home’s continued, evolving history, in subtle ways—tending to her gardens, her business, and her guests, metaphorically tending to her legacy.
Elvin, however, beyond what even he realizes, is enthralled by it all! From the moment he opens The McNutt House Tour until the very end, his enthusiasm in sharing all he has learned during his evolution from accountant to historic homeowner/innkeeper is infectious. As if he were born for just exactly this purpose, the stories flow from him, one-after-another—each with such zeal and gusto that one could easily believe he is telling them for the very first time!
Elvin does not rely on “just the stories”, although they are indeed interesting enough that he could well do so. Having gone the extra mile, he and Pam have drawn from both of their family’s heritage, creating a unique collection of furnishings, household items, and other collectables that bring many of the stories into view, literally. As he actually takes each piece of the past into his hand, Elvin skillfully melds history and heritage into a tour that encompasses far more than an antebellum home in Historic Vicksburg.
Starting with the fact that it is a “Virginia Farm-style” rather than the traditional Vicksburg-antebellum one might expect, moving on through the list of interesting historic figures and characters who have owned and lived there—and are still there in some ways—the tour never lags, nor does the main house, the other structures, and the grounds ever run out of interesting facts and tales!
The twelfth governor of Mississippi and his wife lived there, among others. Although not the original owner, Governor McNutt’s name, as is usually the case when someone famous—or infamous—has been involved, is the one that has remained attached to the property.
There are love stories—possibly a love triangle—to hear. Tales of politics, finances, death, and murder will unfold! Even the purchasing of the “Family Silver Service” is not without its own interesting twists!
Having survived the “Siege of Vicksburg”, of course there are Civil War stories and related items on site associated with the house and grounds.
The property also served as a school for a period of time and was formerly also known as The Governor’s Inn.
I never give away the actual stories when writing about a tour home or historical location, but I assure you, McNutt House is the house that, as far as stories go, just keeps on giving!