I’m curious to find out how many of my ancestors fought in the Civil War and which side they chose. I’m a little tentative to find out, being from the south I expect to find quite a lot of confederate soldiers, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised (so far). I’ve found at least 3 ancestors who fought for the Union and one of them was James Lynn my great-great-grandfather. He was part of 131st Illinois Infantry that fought during the 47 day siege of Vicksburg in 1863.
I already had a trip planned to Atlanta and on my way decided to stay the night in Vicksburg and tour the Vicksburg National Military Park. On a whim, I booked a room at the Duff Green Mansion near downtown Vicksburg just to get a tiny feel for life on the Mississippi.
Duff Green moved to Vicksburg in 1847 and married Mary Lake in 1855. Prior to the Civil war he made a fortune as the owner of Duff Green & Co. Soon after his marriage, Green began building the mansion at the corner of Locust & First East Street. The two lots the mansion would be built on were given to Mary Lake Green by her parents, Mr. & Mrs. W.A. Lake.
Before the Civil War, many social gatherings were enjoyed at the large home. The socialites of Vicksburgs, during this time, were avid followers of the royal family in England, and patterned their homes and social life after the British.
Dinner at the mansion would include multiple course dinners, beginning late in the evening and lasting several hours. After the lengthy dinner, and after the gentleman escorted the women to the lady’s parlor , the men then gathered for a smoke in the men’s parlor. If only one could eavesdrop on the conversations in both parlors. Talk of war and business, politics and generals, sprinkled in with light hearted subjects of the day.
Occasionally, dances were held in the ballroom, with each young lady given a dance card. Social norms of the day required a young man to approach a young lady and ask to sign her dance card. It was frowned upon for her to decline the invitation, saving the young man’s dignity. I wonder if the lady wall-flowers were given the same consideration?
Duff & Mary enjoyed living in their new home only a short time before the Siege of Vicksburg. Following shelling from the river from gunboats, Duff made an arrangement for the residence to be used as a hospital, with the Union wounded strategically placed in the second floor to discourage enemy bombardment. Duff and Mary reluctantly abandoned their home, as did many others in Vicksburg, and sheltered in a makeshift cave carved out of the hillside near their home.
While sheltering in a cave Mary gave birth to her son and named him William Siege. The couple and the people of Vicksburg suffered through 47 days of heavy shelling until Pemberton and his confederate troops surrendered July 4, 1863.
I stayed in the Dixie room, which was downstairs, ground level, it was originally the kitchen and staff quarters. During the Civil War, the kitchen was used as an operating room and became the site of many gruesome surgeries including amputations. According to local historians the pile of severed arms and legs were as high as the ceiling. One would hope this is an exaggeration.
Rumors of a ghost in the Dixie Room include claims of seeing a Confederate soldier, sitting near the fireplace, along with his amputated leg, staring blankly ahead.
The Dixie Room is one of several guest rooms anchored by a large sitting area. It is a lovely room, well appointed with a comfortable antique bed (not an antique mattress), bureau and wardrobe, along with modern amenities of television and wifi. There is a small sitting area near the fireplace. You can share it with the ghost if you dare.
I experienced nothing but a great night’s sleep in the room, it was quiet and comfortable. The next morning I was treated to a wonderful hot breakfast in the dining room upstairs, followed by a guided tour of the house.
I’m glad I decided to stay at Duff Green, it was so much better than a cookie cutter hotel room. I really was able to immerse myself in the history of the area and gained a better understanding of the disruption and hardships caused by the Civil War. If you love history, antiques, gardens and old homes you will love staying there too.