Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rosswood Plantation

As it happens, our 40th wedding anniversary falls on Easter this year.  Since we wanted to go to church on Resurrection Sunday, we decided to celebrate a week early with a trip to Natchez and a stay at a beautiful plantation.

Rosswood is actually out in the countryside a good 30 minute drive north of Natchez.  It was built in 1857 at a cost of $10,735.64.

The owner was wealthy Doctor Walter Ross Wade and he had a cotton plantation of 1250 acres and 105 slaves.  The architect was David Shroder, the architect of nearby Windsor, whose ruins I posted about earlier.  

When the mansion was completed, Dr. Wade had a big celebration and mothers from miles around brought their single daughters to, hopefully, attract the widowed doctor.  Dr. Wade met the widowed Mabella Chamberlain and they were happily married until his death from Yellow Fever a few years after the Civil War started.

Mabella continued living at Rosswood, losing her kitchen to a cannonball fired during  the nearby Battle of the Cotton Bales.  Yes, it was a battle over valuable bales of cotton and was eventually won by the south. 

After the battle, Mabella went out, gathered up the wounded, from both sides, and brought them into her home to nurse.

In the library are volumes of diaries kept by Dr. Wade, including a list of slaves and their monetary value.  However, he wanted to free his slaves and eventually paid passage for many of them to return to Liberia, Africa where they settled a new town and called it Mississippi.

At the end of the war, the remaining slaves had no where else to go and begged Mabella to be allowed to stay on the plantation.  However, it was against the law to keep slaves without paying them wages.  To do so could result in forfeiture of your land.

Mabella had no money now, so she made a deal with them.  In return for planting and harvesting the cotton she would take it to New Orleans, sell it and, then, share the profit with them. 

Eventually, Mabella died and the plantation fell into ruin.  But, in 1975, Colonel Walt Hylander and his wife, Jean, looking for a southern mansion to call their own, purchased the house and the surrounding 100 acres.

They began a five year renovation project with Jean furnishing Rosswood with the antiques she had collected from their travels in the military, and trips to auctions in New Orleans where she purchased this rare dining room set.

Upon the suggestion of friends and family, the Hylanders opened the house to tours and overnight guests.

We were very comfortable in our room!

All the rooms were beautiful though.

Jean says the second floor veranda is her favorite place in the house calling it "a little slice of heaven."

I think we would agree!

And, remember the slaves who had been freed and returned to Africa?  A few years ago Jean had a knock at her door.  There stood a number of people visiting from Africa.  They had come to see the Rosswood Plantation they had heard so much about and to learn more about the doctor that had freed their ancestors. What a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Monroe, Louisiana

Vicksburg is right on Mississippi's border with Louisiana so we have the opportunity of exploring both states while we are here.  We wanted to give Maggie a chance to spend the weekend at her new kennel so we took the opportunity to visit the Duck Dynasty gift shop in Monroe, Louisiana.

We found their shop not far off the freeway in an industrial area of West Monroe.  They have a separate parking lot for visitors so you have to walk across the lot you see on the show.

They have a couple large vehicles parked outside so you don't miss their place.

And, of course, there is the loading dock featured on several episodes of the show.

But, inside, is where the real action takes place - and it was crowded!  And, yes, I bought a duck call.  Several of them.

We had time to see one other place and Hubby chose the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum over a tour home.  Big surprise.

The museum is named after General Chennault, founder of World War II's Flying Tigers and a native of Monroe.

Inside, they had an excellent short film about the Flying Tigers and the service of our military men and women.  I don't mind telling you I had tears in my eyes afterward.

The museum is larger than it looks like on the outside and had displays on every war the United States has ever participated in.

They didn't forget women in the military either.

Hubby could have spent all day at this museum!

We had a good time in Louisiana - but next time, I'm looking at a house!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vicksburg National Military Park

No visit to Vicksburg would be complete without a tour of the Civil War battlefield.  That 1863 battle had such an impact on the city of Vicksburg you can still see the effects of it today. President Lincoln called Vicksburg "the key" to winning the war and sent General Grant to clear the Mississippi of 
Confederate resistance.  We had toured the battlefield many years ago but we were in a hurry to get home then and didn't really take the time to understand everything we saw - so it deserved a second look!

We began our visit in the small visitor's center where we saw....

.....exhibits on the life of soldiers and officers in the field......

.......and exhibits on the lives of the citizens of Vicksburg who left their homes and waited out the bombardment, and siege, in caves they dug into the hillsides.

When Grant's direct attacks on the city failed, he began a formal siege.  He set up artillery batteries to hammer the Confederate fortifications from the land side while gunboats blasted the city from the river.  Massive trenches were dug by both sides of the conflict and they remain today.

The Shirley House is the only surviving wartime structure in the park.  During the siege it served as headquarters for the 45th Illinois Infantry.  The owners refused to leave and took refuge in the basement.

This battlefield, like all the other ones we have visited, has it's share of war memorials and cannons.  But, perhaps, the nicest one we've ever seen in the Illinois Monument built near the Shirley House.

However, the most impressive sight in the park is the miles of trenches that were hand dug by thousands of men in an attempt to avoid being hit by enemy sharpshooters.

Many of the trenches were within hailing distance of the enemy.

Union troops dug a tunnel beneath this road to avoid crossing a ridge where they would be exposed to Confederate fire.  It was said they "fought with a gun in one hand and a shovel in the other."

The important Navel contribution was not forgotten either.  This monument is flanked on each side by the important commanders of the gunboats that pressed Vicksburg from the water.

Also, along the 16 mile tour, is the first vessel ever sunk by a mine.  On December 12, 1862, the Union ironclad gunboat Cairo, along with several other vessels had tried to destroy Confederate batteries when, suddenly, two quick explosions tore holes in the Cairo's bottom.  It sunk in minutes.  

In the 1960s the boat's remains, and many of the crew's personal gear, were salvaged from the bottom of the river.

Unlike most of the other states, Missouri has a monument to men who fought on both sides of the war since it's citizenry were divided in their beliefs.

Finally, after 46 long days of siege, Confederate General Pemberton met with General Grant to discuss terms of surrender.  On July 4, 1863 Vicksburg was officially surrendered.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Out and About in Vicksburg

One weekend, we just drove around Vicksburg scouting out places we wanted to see while we are here.  We also ate at a couple of wonderful restaurants so I thought I'd just share a little of what is in our new neighborhood.

There are lots of beautiful homes in this town that are now bed and breakfasts.  This house was a bed and breakfast when we stayed here on our way home from my parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration over 10 years ago.  Now it appears to be a private home but it was nice to see it again.

Cedar Grove is one of the many B & Bs and is also a tour home.  It was built in 1840 and survived the siege and bombing of Vicksburg by becoming a hospital for the Union wounded.  It is on my list!

Looking very similar to Cedar Grove is Anchuca Mansion built in 1830.  It is also a B & B and available for tours.

The Duff Green Mansion, built in 1856, is also a B & B and tour home.  During the Siege of Vicksburg it was hit numerous times by Union cannonball.  In an effort to save their home the owners allowed it to become a field hospital for both Confederate and Union wounded.  Meanwhile, the owners waited out the bombing with many of Vicksburg's citizens in caves dug into the hillsides.

Walnut Hills Restaurant has quickly become one of my favorite places to eat.  It is located in a home built in the 1880s and has delicious food.  Southern Living Magazine agreed with me and featured the restaurant in one of it's issues.

Strangely enough, one of the best buffets anywhere is at the Ameristar Casino.  Their all you can eat Friday night seafood buffet is fabulous!  I've never seen so many crab legs in one place before.

Even stranger still is the absolutely delicious fried chicken served up at the Old Country Store in nearby Lorman, Mississippi.  From the outside it looks like an old store.

But, inside, between shelves lined with antiques to buy, are tables where we chowed down on the best fried chicken we've ever tasted.  Southern Living Magazine did an article on this place too.

The Food Network's Alton Brown declared that if he was going to eat fried chicken he wanted to eat Mr. D's (Davis) chicken or his own.  Richard has a new best friend!  Mr. D even serenaded us - and he has a great voice!

When we left, Mr. D wrote a note to us on a copy of the Southern Living Magazine article.  I wonder if he gave one to Matthew McConaughey when he ate there a couple of weeks ago.

There's lots to see and do in the area - and we have just begun!