Spring Pilgrimage houses offer new storiesPublished 1:07am Sunday, March 10, 2013
NATCHEZ — A black-and-white photograph of three Union soldiers who stayed at The Burn in 1864 will help tell a new story this Spring Pilgrimage that Bridget Green hasn’t been able to share before.
Green, who owns The Burn with her husband Glenn, knew that Union soldiers occupied the house for three years.
But the stories she’s told visitors on pilgrimage tours for the last seven years were about what John P. Walworth, a wealthy planter, merchant, banker and politician who built the house in 1834, and his family did during that time.
“We knew what the Walworths were doing for those three years, but we had no idea what was going on at The Burn,” Green said. “We kind of had a gap there in the house’s history for that time period.”
The photograph, which has been at the house since before the Greens became its owners, has always given Green an insight into what might have happened at The Burn during that time.
“We’ve had that picture on display since we’ve owned The Burn but before, all we knew was that they were three union officers on our front gallery,” Green said. “You kind of let your imagination run wild when you don’t know and you think, ‘Who were these people?’
“And now we know.”
Through Natchez National Historical Park Service historian Jefferson Mansell’s research into Fort McPherson, the identity of one of the soldiers and letters he wrote to his family have recently come to light.
The Burn, Green said, was located within Fort McPherson, the Union fortification in Natchez, and family tradition had maintained that the house was used as a Union hospital during the war.
Mansell’s research revealed one of the Union soldiers in the photograph to be Lt. Col. Samuel Glyde Swain of the 12th Wisconsin Volunteers.
The research also showed the chances the house was used as a hospital is slim to none.
“Major John P. Coleman was instructed to take possession of the house for his headquarters of his regiment,” Green said. “The new material we’re seeing shows it to be more of an office type scenario than a hospital.”
The recently uncovered material of Swain adds an extra layer of history that Green said was something she wanted visitors touring the house to experience.
“I think it brings a real human characteristic to life here at The Burn to know who this soldier was and to get an insight into his visit to Natchez,” Green said. “When you read and hear about what he was thinking and writing about, it lets you see the other side of the story.”
The hosts that will be showing visitors around The Burn during pilgrimage tours will stop in the library and read one of Swain’s letters.
“They’ll actually read one of the letters the soldier wrote to his sister while he was here,” Green said. “The soldier writes about what he thinks of the people that live here in Natchez and how he thinks they’ve lost their way of life after the war.”
The Burn is on the peach tour, which kicks off its Pilgrimage season at 1:30 p.m. today.
Spring Pilgrimage officially began Saturday with 24 houses on tour on a rotating schedule through April 9.
Tickets are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or by visiting natchezpilgrimage.com.