Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Haunted Antebellum Houses of Vicksburg: Duff Green Mansion

Duff Green Mansion

In preparation for my fourth in a series of posts featuring some of the "haunted" antebellum houses of Vicksburg, I visited the lovely Duff Green Mansion and enjoyed meeting its owner, Mr. Harry Sharp, and Chad Bockman, Innkeeper and Tour Guide. Chad also "introduced" me to Missy, who is a sweetie.

I appreciate Chad taking the time to share a few stories about his personal encounters with the "spirits" who have made their presence in the house known.

Before I share these stories, it's important that I provide a little background about Duff Green's history and introduce a few of the "characters" who may still be rambling around the house and grounds today.

For over 150 years, the Duff Green Mansion has stood majestically in the center of the historic district of Vicksburg. Built in 1856, by successful businessman Duff Green, as a wedding gift for his bride Mary Lake, the mansion was well known for the many lavish parties that set the standard for hospitality and good taste.

When the Civil War made its way to Vicksburg on May 18, 1863, the house came under fire. After five cannonballs fired by Union troops hit the mansion, the Greens had little choice but to hoist the yellow flag, signaling that the mansion could be used as a hospital. It quickly started to fill with both Union and Confederate soldiers and the Greens retreated to a cave on the property. In one of those caves, Mrs. Green gave birth to a son and named him William Siege Green.

Both Union and Confederate wounded were moved to the Mansion. The Union troops were placed on the top floor (in case their allies fired additional cannonballs), with Confederates housed on the main floor. The kitchen on the bottom floor was converted to an operating room where hundreds of soldiers were treated.

After the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the Mansion was leased to the United States Government for use as a Soldiers' Home where wounded soldiers could recuperate before their respective journeys home.

In 1866, after all the soldiers had left, the Greens moved back into the home where they continued to live until Mr. Green's death in 1880. The mansion would change hands over the years and would serve as an orphanage, retirement home, the headquarters of the local Salvation Army, and a home for transients in need.

In 1985, the mansion was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Sharp of Coral Gables, Florida. The Sharps completely restored the Mansion to its former glory over a two-and-one-half year period, and Duff Green Mansion is considered to be one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Mississippi. As many as 27 layers of paint were removed, 13 fireplaces restored, and 15 bathrooms added. Magnificent chandeliers grace the 15-1/2-foot tall public reception rooms which are painted in vivid historic colors. The entire mansion is decorated with period antique furnishings, and it now serves as a bed and breakfast inn.

The Front Entry Hall

Guest Rooms

The Dixie Room
The Confederate Room

The Magnolia Room

The Camellia Room

To find out more information about the inn and its amenities, you can visit the website by clicking on this link: Duff Green Mansion.

The "Spirits"

It seems that the Sharps share their lovely mansion with a few "otherwordly" spirits that have made their presence known countless times, to the Sharps, the staff of the inn, their guests, and investigators of paranormal activity. Probably one of the most well known spirits is that of a Confederate soldier who has been seen in the Dixie Room of the house, which was used as a surgery room in the midst of the Siege. The figure, who has one of his legs missing, is usually seen sitting by the fireplace.

There is also a picture that was taken by a policeman which clearly shows the figure of what appears to a Confederate soldier on the steps at the front of the house.

A spirit believed to be that of Mary Green (the original mistress of Duff Green) has been seen on several occasions as well.

One of the breakfast cooks told a story about when she came to work one morning, upon entering the house she heard music coming from the ballroom, and when she looked in the room she saw "swirling figures" that appeared to be a couple dancing.

It is said that Mary Green loved the house so much that she couldn't bear to leave it. Perhaps she and Mr. Green loved to dance, too?

This beautiful marble mantel is in the Ballroom. I love the contrast between its elegance and its primitive brick hearth.

This oil painting depicting Duff Green Mansion in all its glory hangs in the Ballroom ...

The spirit of the Greens' daughter has also been seen and heard on several occasions, running up and down the staircase and playing with a ball.

Chad related a story about one evening he and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Sharp's one-and-a-half year old granddaughter Lydia were having dinner in the ballroom (at the table shown below), and Lydia kept looking at the corner of the room and saying, "Ga-ga, ball," over and over. Mr. Sharp said "ga-ga" was Lydia's word for baby, so perhaps she saw the spirit of the little girl playing with her ball.

Another "sighting" of the little girl was related by a guest whose three-year-old son was making motions like he was throwing a ball, and when his dad asked him what he was doing, he said, "I'm throwing the ball to Annie."

Another personal experience Chad shared involved a champagne flute. Chad said that he and Dorothy, one of the breakfast cooks, were washing dishes and heard the sound of a glass breaking in the ballroom. When they walked into the room, they saw what remained of a champagne flute sitting on a table. The bowl part of the glass had broken completely off and was on the floor, but the stem was left standing perfectly straight on the table.

Chad also told of a night he spent in the Confederate Room and was awakened when he felt the bed covers (which had been pulled back) moving up his leg and settling just below his knees.

The Confederate Room

He said he kept perfectly still for about 20 minutes before he could muster enough nerve to get out of the room.

Mr. Sharp has also clearly seen the figure of woman standing in the dining room and looking out the window on the left ...

Here are a few more pictures of the lovely dining room ...

I love this beautiful placesetting ...

Other odd events include a strange smell (sometimes of ether), and lights and/or disembodied footsteps walking up and down the halls. And beneath its high ceilings and richly decorated walls of cardinal reds, deep blues and rich greens, the polished floors of Duff Green Mansion still show signs of the bloodstains from the soldiers' wounds of over 150 years ago.

Chad showed me a place in front of the mantel in the Library where two boards were replaced in the floor because of damage caused by a minie ball hitting the fireplace.

Mr. Sharp is a fifth cousin, twice removed, of Robert E. Lee, and the library is graced with this picture of General Lee, and decorated with Civil War memorabilia.

I love the tile hearth of the fireplace in this room:

The library is also home to this exquisite 1799 Italian alabaster chandelier ...

This is the downstairs sitting room that separates the guest rooms ...

Duff Green's front verandah beckons you to "come sit a spell."

I would be torn between the verandah and the pretty brick courtyard ...

If you are planning a trip to Vicksburg, I hope you will visit Duff Green Mansion and experience its history and amazing stories for yourself. Who knows ... perhaps you'll be able to play ball with Annie, or see the Greens dancing in the ballroom.

If you would like to read my posts featuring some of the other "haunted" antebellum houses in Vicksburg, you can click on the links below:

Cedar Grove Mansion


Tonja said...

I have so enjoyed your series of posts on the ghosts. Don't you wonder what they saw? If I was to see something like that, I'd be long gone!
Loved those plates and that light fixture...beautiful! I think it is great that there have always been those who see the importance of preserving these important homes and furnishings of our heritage. How sad if they had all been lost.

Thanks....I learned a lot.

Marlene said...

I have so enjoyed your beautiful writings and pictures. I would love to visit Vicksburg and surrounding areas that you portray so amazingly well. Always look forward to your blog! Thank you for our "mini-vacation tour."

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

Janie, what a wonderful post to return too. I just love the old homes of the South and the History that goes with them. I was just fasinated with this story. The pictures were so professionally done. I will try to catch up with your other post this week end. Can't wait to read about the great old homes in Vicksburg.

Carolyn said...

Janie, I have been trying to catch up on visiting some of my favorite places and I just finished your wonderful tour. I love these antebellum homes and I think the Duff Green was my favorite.
Such a beautiful restoration and the reported "sightings" add to the charm. Your beautiful photography captures the elegance and grace of the old south so well!

Kate Blackburn said...

My husband and I are staying at the Duff Green Mansion next week and your pictures and post were what sold us on it! You should market you talents to the innkeepers!

Lois Hunter said...

Thank you so much for your post. A really interesting story and just love the empathy shown in your outstanding photographs.
Lois Broom from New Zealand.