Civil War expert to speak in town

Published 12:13 am Sunday, January 23, 2011

Natchez area residents have a rare opportunity Tuesday evening to hear a lecture given by nationally acclaimed Civil War expert William K. Scarborough as he addresses the Natchez Historical Society on secession attitudes among the elites of Natchez and Charleston on the eve of the Civil war.

Dr. Scarborough, professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi, has built his career around exhaustive research on this period of Southern history. Scarborough has proven time and again how willing he is to locate those elusive primary sources which are necessary to develop any period in time. This is just what he did with his recent book, Masters of the Big House, and Tuesday we will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of his research in this lecture which is being drafted solely for this occasion and will be titled, “A Study in Contrasts: The Natchez and Charleston Elites on the Eve of Secession.”

Secession, and Mississippi’s decision to embrace it on Jan. 9, 1861, had a profound and far-reaching impact on our lives. It may well be possible to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it is not so, but, while we might not be “fighting the war still,” as many Northerners often accuse us, we are most certainly “living with the result.”

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This subject is particularly important to Natchezians and surrounding residents. Natchez was a city of the very wealthy, by the standards of that day, and all of it resting on an economy based heavily on the ownership of slaves. The ramifications of this follow us well into the 21st century.

Dr. Scarborough’s talk will focus on the differences between the Natchez and Charleston residents and their responses to secession. Closely examining thousands of slave owners from that period produced a set of results which led to a surprising series of conclusions about the people of that era.

Many Natchezians, philosophically, were opposed to secession. On the other hand, almost all Charlestonians were in favor of secession. Although it would seem that Natchez and Charleston were woven with a common thread at the dawn of 1861 and on the consideration of secession, these two pivotal Southern cities differed enormously. How?

You’ll just have to wait and see! If you are one of those lucky enough to attend Dr. Scarborough’s lecture at the Eola Hotel at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, then you will give yourself a treat you will not soon forget.

To reserve a seat, please call: Candace Bungard at 601-446-6899. Leave a message if the voicemail activates, and provide her with your name and the number of seats you are requesting.

This is a banquet and a fine dinner will be served. The cost is only $25 per person.

Dr. Scarborough has graciously drafted this talk especially for Natchez and this occasion and those of us interested in history in this area should make every effort to attend this important lecture.

Holmes Sturgeon is a member of the Natchez Historical Society.