Archived Story

Do you know real Civil War stories?

Published 12:00am Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is your level of Civil War savvy? Do your eyes glaze over at the very thought of dry historical facts and military science details? Or do you sit up nights glued to The History Channel? How willingly do you connect with real people and their real stories from this “postage stamp” of soil?

The commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial in the Old Natchez District will provide many opportunities for in-depth experiential learning about our predecessors here, and how they lived, and sometimes how they died. We walk here among the shadows of some of the most significant acts of American history that shaped the country we live in today.

By paying attention during the next five years as we note the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, 1861-1865, and by taking advantage of the events and offerings in our own backyard, we can trace the war’s unfolding in real time across the landscape around us.

So why do we care?

In the Old Natchez District we share in the heritage of loyal Unionists who opposed Mississippi’s secession from the United States in hope of peaceable remedy to the issue of states’ rights as it applied to slave-owning.

We live as well with the heritage of the courageous Secessionists who, in the face of overwhelming odds, chose to use military force against what they perceived as tyrannical political oppression in the spirit of the American Revolution.

Our heritage here is shaped by the suffering and the strength of enslaved Africans and African-Americans whose oppression in slavery gave them reason to hope for a new way of life. The war eventually brought freedom for all, with military opportunity for many but hardship for others.

Our world also bears the scars of those women who sent loved ones away to battle and faced an invading army alone, who endured the agony of not knowing until they sometimes learned the worst, and the little ones whose childhood was forever imprinted with the horrors of battle and deprivation and disease.

Even more than the northern border states where brother sometimes enlisted to fight against brother, this part of southwest Mississippi experienced a deep divide in its population between those who supported the United States’ cause — including most freed slaves in the areas under Union occupation, thousands of whom enlisted in the Union army — and those who remained loyal to the state of Mississippi, and thus, the new Confederacy.

You have an opportunity at the Natchez Historical Society meeting on Tuesday evening to experience a quick introduction to the facts and figures of the Civil War in this area, and to gain a brief introduction to some of the people involved — on the battlefield and on the home front. Social time begins at 6:30 p.m., and the presentation will start at 7 p.m. For more information, or to schedule this talk for your school or group, call me at 601-442-7049, extension 13.

Kathleen Jenkins is the superintendent of the Natchez National Historical Park.