Sesquicentennial of Natchez occupation topic of forumPublished 12:03am Wednesday, October 30, 2013
By VERSHAL HOGAN
The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — In 1863, like much of the South, Natchez was deep in the throes of the Civil War. The Union Army had come up the Mississippi River, the home front had become the front lines for a brief moment, and then the city had become a Union-occupied territory.
But unlike other parts of the South, that occupation wasn’t notably violent and didn’t result in the destruction of huge swaths of the city.
Instead, Union officers occupied Natchez’s grand homes for a time and even became to some degree part of the city’s social scene.
The Pilgrimage Garden Club’s 36th Natchez Antiques Forum will explore that history Nov. 7 to 9 with the program “On the Home Front: Antiques Behind Union Lines.”
“The forum has to do with the Yankees coming in, and when they did, they only burned down two houses here,” forum founder Jeanette Feltus said. “Whenever the people had parties here, they always invited the Union generals so they wouldn’t burn our houses, and it worked.”
Because this year’s forum happens during the sesquicentennial of the Union occupation of Natchez, the theme “kind of fell together,” forum chair Donna Callaway said.
The Natchez Antiques Forum is one of the nation’s longest-running antiques forums. Every year it has a different focus, but always centers on a Southern theme.
Over the course of three days, attendees have the opportunity to hear presentations by experts about history and antiques and to take tours and attend social events related to the forum.
Keeping with this year’s Civil War theme, the forum will have presentations by Ulysses Dietz, the great-great-grandson of the Union general and later President Ulysses S. Grant, and Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America.
“We have representatives from both sides of the war, and have sort of come full circle,” Callaway said.
Dietz is senior curator at the Newark Museum and a member of the family of the Dietz Lighting Company. He will make a presentation, “Lighting the North and the South,” which will discuss his family’s company and its role during the Civil War.
Hayes-Davis is executive director of Beauvoir, the Davis family’s post-Civil War home in Bilouxi, and will deliver a lecture titled, “Mrs. Dorsey’s Beauvoir: Home of Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Davis.”
Nov. 7, the forum will take a tour to Woodville to visit Rosemont, Jefferson Davis’ boyhood home. The tour will also visit two other homes in Woodville and will visit St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which has in one wall a plaque noting that Jefferson Davis’ mother was baptized there.
Upon returning to Natchez, the tour will visit the grave of Natchez native Sarah Dorsey — who donated Beauvoir to Davis after the war — and will visit Magnolia Hall, which houses a piece of furniture that was in Beauvoir at the time it was donated to Davis.
The tour will end at The Briars, where Davis was married, for cocktails and hors d’ourves.
The discussions of other lectures during the forum will center around the Fort McPherson area of Natchez, the north side of the city where the Union occupation was concentrated, Callaway said.
Tickets to the forum can be purchased from Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.
A full forum ticket is $275. Single-day tickets are $135 for Nov. 7, $125 for Nov. 8 and $175 for Nov. 9.
Tickets to a Nov. 7 dinner at Dunleith, The Elms or Twin Oaks are $50 per person.
Tickets to the forum can be purchased from Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. Tickets are available online at nptshop.com/Antiques-Forum_c17.htm or by phone at 601-446-6631.