The Great Civil War Tour   Leave a comment

Day 1-2 Vidalia, Louisiana

We started our tour with a get acquainted party and orientation. We have 25 guest RVs on this trip. 54 people counting the staff. We had great food prepared by the 4 of us (staffers). We had pulled chicken sliders, pimento tea sandwiches, fried zucchini corn fritters, bread pudding with bourbon sauce/amaretto sauce. We have a great group. We already have a “walking group” and a “game” group. It seems like everyone, with the exception of one couple (only because this is their first trip), knows someone from other trips. Our first timers have fit right in and our “old timers” have taken them under their wings. It’s going to be a great trip.

Our second day began with a “Prevost” bus tour. We started at the Natchez Visitor Center where we watched a movie about the Natchez Story.

Natchez was inhabited by the Natchez Indians, discovered by La Salle, settled by the English, developed by the Spanish, capitalized by antebellum cotton barons, and enriched by enslaved and free African Americans.

Looking out over the bluffs to the Mississippi River is amazing. As you can see in the photo below, the bluffs are covered with a “greenery.”

The bluffs of Natchez were planted with kudzu in an effort to control their erosion. It is a member of the bean family. The roots are so deep that if the vines are killed by frost, the deep roots remain alive. The vine blooms in the late summer and the clusters of wisteria-like flowers can be used to make jelly.

Kudzu is known as “the vine that ate the South.” It can grow more than a foot a night. It will devour everything in its path, abandoned automobiles, buildings, and you, if you stand in one place long enough. The Chinese have made a medicinal tea from its roots. It is used to treat dysentery and fever. The fibers from the vine were used to make cloth and paper. The Japanese used starches from the roots to make cakes. Kudzu powder is still used as a thickening agent in cooking and as a coating for fried foods.

Once home to half of America’s millionaires and 200 free people of color, Natchez was one of the most prestigious and powerful cities in the South. I love the architecture of the south. There were so many beautiful homes, but one stood out. It is owned by a retired New Orleans policeman. This is what’s known as “yard art.”

Longwood was designed in 1859 and begun in 1860 for wealthy cotton planter Haller Nutt and his wife Julia by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. It is the largest octagon house in America. Today it is kept up by The Pilgrimage Garden Club in Natchez with Sears donating the paint to help preserve this great American home.

The basement and principal floors measure 10,000 square foot each. The upper floors are a little smaller, with the house being a total of 30,000 square foot.

The great octagonal rotunda is open to the entire six stories.

When the Civil War began, Sloan’s Philadelphia craftsmen dropped their tools and fled North. Haller Nutt completed the basement level as living quarters for his family with local workers. He died in 1864, but Julia and their 8 children lived in the basement level until her death in 1897. Many of the family’s original furnishings are on display and photography was prohibited. We were allowed to take photos on the upper floors. The staircase was intriguing.

We had a delicious lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at Stanton Hall. Stanton Hall was built in 1857 for cotton magnate Frederick Stanton by Natchez architect-builder Thomas Rose. No expense was spared, from immense Corinthian columns topped with iron capitals to silver door knobs and hinges, extravagant Italian marble mantles, massive gold-leaf mirrors, and grand chandeliers. Frederick Stanton died in 1859, but his family remained there until 1894.

As I turned around from this beautiful building, I looked at the trees in the front and could not resist taking a picture. I’ll bet the kids would have a lot of fun climbing in these trees.

Before returning home, we stopped at St. Mary Basilica for a self-guided tour.

Built in 1842, it is the only church in Mississippi built as a cathedral, costing $78,000. The bell was a gift from Prince Alexander Torloni of Italy dated 1848, made by Giovanni Lucenti of Italy. It was erected on May 27, 1850, weighing 3,000 pounds.

Tomorrow we begin our scenic drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

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