I ran across this picture recently and can’t quit thinking about it. It was taken at Jefferson Davis’ home in Biloxi, MS, during my trip to Natchez a couple of years ago.
The woman on the right is a middle school English teacher who works at an alternative school in Baltimore, MD, which is exactly the same job I had during my last few years of teaching in Texas. How odd it was for us to find ourselves at the same place, a tiny little hurricane-ravaged tourist attraction on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, on the same day at the same hour, when there are new tours every hour.
We met in the movie room, where we watched a 45-minute documentary on the life of the famed Confederate States President. She turned around to make a comment and we connected on some kind of spiritual sister level. I knew almost instantly that we were kindred spirits, and she seemed to know it too. We strolled together for the rest of the tour, while Ernie walked around taking pictures.
Who knows what we were talking about there under the tree? Probably the cemetery or the war. The tour had brought into clear focus the atrocities of the Civil War and how deeply entrenched Davis was in the war effort. We were told that no man apart from Thomas Jefferson had ever held as much power in Congress as Jefferson Davis did in the early 1860s. One by one a total of ten other state senators followed Davis’ lead in walking out of the Senate on January 21, 1861.
Jefferson Davis’ Farewell
By any standard, this scene has to rank as one of the most dramatic events ever enacted in the chamber of the United States Senate. Would-be spectators arrived at the Capitol before sunrise on a frigid January morning. Those who came after 9:00 a.m., finding all gallery seats taken, frantically attempted to enter the already crowded cloakrooms and lobby adjacent to the chamber. Just days earlier, the states of Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama had joined South Carolina in deciding to secede from the Union. Rumors flew that Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas would soon follow. (read more here)
As a topic of study, the Civil War is like a giant rabbit hole that gets deeper and deeper and doesn’t let you out. It’s not for me. However, let me also say that my dream job would be to work with a team putting together a screenplay for a Jefferson Davis movie starring Hugh Jackman. There is little that pulls at my heartstrings quite as much as this man’s efforts to do what eleven Southern states elected him to do; namely, to fight a war against the United States while simultaneously putting together a whole new country called the Confederate States. If that is not valiant, I don’t know what is.
English teacher types are vastly underused because we generally don’t have enough hustle to drum up work like that on our own, but we could be extremely valuable in producing a movie like this one. Somebody needs to make this movie — a sympathetic look at a rather frail little man from Natchez, MS, who for four years actually did succeed in breaking this country in two. That is huge, Hugh Jackman! I am available to help in any way I can.
Here’s a picture of Beauvoir, Davis’ Biloxi home. It looks out onto the Gulf of Mexico. The cemetery is in the back. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina tore up the grounds and flooded the basement. Tour guides say the Presidential papers on display in the basement were lost in the flood. I have a feeling that is not the case, but that is a whole other movie.