“On the grounds a local planter, Jefferson Davis, launched his political career,” reads the website of the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. “Several years later, during the War Between the States, Confederate Generals Stephen D. Lee, John C. Breckinridge, and Earl Van Dorn watched from the cupola as the Confederate ironclad Arkansas battled its way through the federal fleet to safety at Vicksburg.”
The War Between the States.
I’d heard this Lost Cause circumlocution used by museum guides — the hooped skirted ones channeling their best Vivien Leigh — but I’d never seen it used in museum literature or exhibits. Until…
The Old Court Museum in Vicksburg, housed in a neoclassical 1858 building that was once the county courthouse, is operated by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society. I’ve written before that I love Colonial Revival for what it says about the early 20th century people who resurrected the Georgian period in North America. In the same way, I find Lost Cause artifacts fascinating for what they say about the 20th century people who embraced it.
So imagine my joy when I found this:
It’s a little hard to read (at least to my aging eyes) the Slave Wedding write-up, so I’ll tell you that it starts: “A wedding among slaves on a plantation was a special occasion. Mrs. Jefferson Davis wrote that such an event at Brierfield near Vicksburg included a feast of good food, and wine and a wedding dress.”
Brierfield was a cotton plantation that belonged to Joseph Davis, elder brother of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Joseph loaned it to Jefferson and it’s where Jefferson and his family spent their pre-war years.
Joseph lived on a plantation adjacent to Brierfield. He was, according to the exhibit below, “considered a model master.” Which makes me wonder: is being “considered” a model master different from actually “being” a model master? Was the author hedging?
I know. Overthinking.
When were these narratives written? And what’s behind the decision to let them remain? Inquiring minds want to know.
The Old Court House Museum is also filled with non
Civil War War of Northern Aggression objects, donated by locals. There was a teddy bear, sent by Theodore Roosevelt to a local child, and jackets and medals worn by local war veterans, and loads of dishes, silver and portraits. My favorite object was a circa AD800-AD1000 limestone human effigy ceremonial pipe, found south of Vicksburg. The mirror is a nice touch.
Between the Vicksburg Battlefield and the Old Court House Museum, we had gone to historic center city Vicksburg for a look-see. We had lunch in an early 19th century building, at a restaurant called KJ’s River Town Grille. I actually don’t remember anything about my meal, so it must have been neither great nor objectionable. We then took a stroll down Vicksburg’s shabby three-block commercial downtown area and took a look at the river. Vicksburg is on the Mississippi, but there’s no river walk, so we could only peer at it from a distance.
On to Natchez (and more War of Southern Independence).