Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Days of War and Roses

During my visit last week to the grounds of the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, I enjoyed capturing in pictures the memorial garden honoring Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina.

On a February day in 1861, much like the one on which I visited the memorial, Jefferson and Varina Davis were pruning the roses in their garden at Brierfield, their plantation home several miles south of Vicksburg, when a messenger arrived with the news that Mr. Davis had been elected President of the Confederate States of America. He left the next day for the inauguration, and he and Mrs. Davis "forever took their places of honor on the pages of history."

The "Varina Howell Davis Floral Garden" is tucked away in a corner of the court house grounds, under the branches of a large oak tree.  Just steps away, there are rose gardens, and I managed to find a couple of early bloomers that withstood the heavy rains and cold winds that moved through Vicksburg the day before I was there.


Two Crape Myrtle trees form an arch over a brick path leading to the memorial, which features an ivy-covered brick wall that is home to impressive bronze busts of Jefferson and Varina.

It is a quiet and peaceful place, surrounded with flowers, with elegant benches that beckon you to come sit a spell in the shade of that old oak tree, while reflecting on the history that occurred almost on that very spot 150 years ago.

I found it interesting, and heartwarming, to know that the statues were placed so the Davises would forever be facing toward their beloved Brierfield.


There is also a mural honoring the Davises, which can be found at the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals near downtown ...

Painted by renown mural artist, Robert Dafford, the painting depicts the Davises at Brierfield, receiving the message that he had been elected President of the Confederacy.  You can click on the pictures if you would like to get a closer look at the remarkable details found in the painting.

There are two statues of Jefferson Davis in the Vicksburg National Military Park.  I captured these pictures several years ago ...

This is the Kentucky monument which features Davis and Abraham Lincoln, and honors the soldiers from Kentucky who fought on both sides during the Vicksburg Campaigns.

After the War Between the States, Jefferson Davis was a greatly-revered Southern statesman and predicted for America, "a future full of promise, a future of expanding national glory, before which all the world will stand amazed."  

In the late 1870's, the Davises retired to Beauvoir, a beautiful summer home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi, where Varina cultivated and tended her rose garden, which flourished in the temperate Gulf climate.  The roses, she said, were "so splendid they looked unnatural," and she "could pick 500 a day," if she wished.

Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans in 1889, and his body was eventually laid to rest in the Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond, Virginia, the old capital of the Confederacy.

When I left the memorial garden at the Old Court House Museum, I headed downtown to photograph the mural at the waterfront.  But, as I neared the wall of murals, my attention was drawn to what was behind the wall, and I knew the murals would have to wait.  Please join me next time when I  share with you the wonderful lagniappe I found "behind the wall."

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