1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

The Young Women of Natchez

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by 18thVirginia, May 15, 2018.

  1. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    The antebellum community of Natchez was perhaps the wealthiest enclave of plantation slavery in the Lower South, according to historian Joyce Broussard, who wrote a lengthy article about the way the women of Natchez reacted to the occupation of the community by Union forces, Occupied Natchez, Elite Women, and the Feminization of the Civil War. She goes into a lengthy description of how aristocratic women in this community responded, first to the presence of numerous Confederate soldiers among them during the first year of the War and then to Union soldiers and officers as Natchez became an occupied town. She also discusses the differences between the young women and the more mature matrons and their responses to the presence of military forces that controlled their community.


    0782.jpg

    Steamboats at Natchez-Under-the-Hill
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2015
    Messages:
    3,521
    The unusual concentration of cotton wealth in Natchez, plus the fact they surrendered to the Yankees without firing a shot, is the reason why the city has such a large number of large well-preserved ante bellum buildings. At least that was what the tour guides told me when I visited many moons ago...
     
  4. Southern Unionist

    Southern Unionist Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2017
    Messages:
    801
    Location:
    NC
    Interesting choice of pic. The waterfront was very important to Natchez, but no refined lady would have been seen down there at the waterfront except when boarding a riverboat, accompanied by a gentleman. After dark especially, the waterfront was for women who were not by any means ladies. The civilized part of Natchez was up on the big hill.

    The remaining part of Under The Hill, including the old saloon, is several hundred feet downstream from this location.

    Wealthy owners of multiple plantations clustered together in what became America's first upper class suburban community. Wealthy neighborhoods in Boston and Philadelphia had townhouses packed closely together, but landowners flocking to Natchez wanted larger houses on larger tracts of land, so it became necessary to use carriages to get downtown. They had slaves to maintain their carriages and horses, so being within walking distance of anything was of no value to them.

    Natchez was within a day's sail of New Orleans, where the big money was being made in cotton exports, but these male aristocrats didn't want their families exposed to multiculturalism. New Orleans was an extremely international city. Most of the cropland owned by Natchez residents was across the river in Louisiana, which was flat and flood-prone.

    Back to the OP, the different reactions of different generations to Union occupation ties in to the fact that older women remembered life before the most luxurious era of Natchez, the 1850's. The younger women were spoiled brats, having known no other life. For at least 15 years before the war, for the wealthy, life in Natchez was all about what you were going to wear to the next party, and when you were going to schedule a social event of your own to show off what you bought on your last trip to Europe.

    And then the war came, and it was all gone.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  5. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    According to historians, there were 30-40 of these very wealthy families in Natchez. One example would be that of Ellen Shields, who in the early 20th Century wrote a lengthy memoir of her family in the Civil War. The Shields owned Montebello Plantation, on the southeast edge of Natchez, and some 455 slaves. Many of the families in Natchez had plantations in the lowlands along the River in Mississippi or across the River in Louisiana, where cotton could be grown on the alluvial ground. According to tour guides I've heard, during the seasons when the River flooded, the planters would take their families to their homes in Natchez.

    steamboats-and-under-the-hill.jpg

    Steamboats and Natchez Under the Hill
     
  6. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    Having lived in a port city on the Mississippi River, I spent some times sitting on the industrial side of the River, watching barges and ocean going vessels travel up and down the waterway, so my view of Natchez is perhaps more that of the port city that it was in its heyday during the 18th and 19th Centuries. There's a wonderful vitality, as well as a grubbiness and griminess to a port city and a strange Disney kind of quality to the tourist attractions that often characterize those communities when the port has died.

    I've also read my family's history of establishing mercantile ventures on the River further up in Arkansas, so I'm particularly aware of the traffic to and from the ports on the great River downriver to New Orleans and upriver to the cities of the Midwest. Also, one of the young women often quoted is diarist Elizabeth "Lizzy" Brown, whose family mansion and sawmill was next to Natchez Under the Hill.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  7. RobertP

    RobertP Major

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2009
    Messages:
    8,990
    Location:
    on the long winding road
    Many Mississippians in the post-war era did not feel kindly toward Natchez and its citizenry precisely because the place was surrendered without a shot. That was certainly true in my father’s branch of the family who were from not very far away at Port Gibson and on lands along Bayou Pierre inland from the river. Dad was raised in part by his Confederate vet grandfather, learned it early on and he retained that prejudice the rest of his life.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  8. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    natchez-courthouse.jpg
    Confederates Enlisting at the Natchez Courthouse, 1861. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/civil-war-
    pictures/navy/enlisting.htm

    While the white voters of Adams County where Natchez is located were often Unionists who sent "cooperationist" delegates to the secession convention, they supported the Confederacy once secession had been declared. Natchez became a recruitment and staging ground for Confederate soldiers, a "beehive of activity."

    Mary McMurran, mistress of Melrose mansion and wife of John T. McMurran, a prominent lawyer and planter, describes one of the Confederate units raised in Natchez:

    The Natchez Troop left yesterday week—cavalry composed as an old negro said of the ‘bloom of the county,’ which means all our young aristocrats proud rich & lazy, unaccustomed to any hardships in fact nothing but luxury—yet with a spirit to do & sacrifice anything rather than submit.

    Broussard, Joyce Linda. Stepping Lively in Place: The Not-Married, Free Women of Civil-War-Era Natchez, Mississippi (p. 163). University of Georgia Press. Kindle Edition.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
    AshleyMel and connecticut yankee like this.
  9. Southern Unionist

    Southern Unionist Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2017
    Messages:
    801
    Location:
    NC
    I've been told this feeling was quite strong in Vicksburg. I understand. I get it.

    The truth is, Natchez wasn't in favor of succession in 1860, and by the time of the Union army's arrival there, there was nothing of military value left; just houses, women, children, and a few elderly men. Nobody to fight, and nothing to fight over.
     
    alan polk, bdtex and Eleanor Rose like this.
  10. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    Young men from around Natchez filtered into the community to join the Confederate army, with the region sending 1500 men in 15 volunteer companies to the conflict. Every public space in Natchez was filled up with young men parading and drilling. Women both old and young, married and single went out to see the young warriors who filled up the parks, squares and woodlands.

    The young women baked cookies for the Confederate soldiers, raised money through tableau, visited their campgrounds and gunboats and danced with them. Some of them gave their hearts to the young warriors during this first year of the Civil War. A young aristocrat, Elizabeth Brown, started out sewing shirts for the Confederate but had to give that up when she made a mistake while cutting out a pile of shirts and had to work on knitting gloves, making biscuits and preparing flowers for the soldiers. "What a comfort it would be to know that our army is well-clothed and did not lack for any necessaries," Brown wrote.

    Kate Foster was one of the young aristocrats who performed in tableaux to raise money for the needs of the soldiers, but some of the men away in the Confederate States Army were not so happy with the young women back in Natchez flirting with the soldiers and being in the company of uniformed strangers.

    Kate’s brother, a soldier in Virginia, wrote to his sister to address his disapproval of her participation in a tableau to raise money for the war--that he didn't agree with “the appearance of young ladies on the public stage for any purpose.”

    Broussard, Joyce Linda. Stepping Lively in Place: The Not-Married, Free Women of Civil-War-Era Natchez, Mississippi (p. 164). University of Georgia Press. Kindle Edition.
     
  11. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    Melrose Plantation Natchez.jpg

    Melrose Plantation, mentioned in post #7.
     
    AshleyMel likes this.
  12. Southern Unionist

    Southern Unionist Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2017
    Messages:
    801
    Location:
    NC
    Do you happen to know exactly where it was? There's no trace of it today. The oldest surviving courthouse is built right behind the sidewalk, no yard at all.

    Now a National Park Service property, for those who haven't been there.
     
    Bruce Vail and Eleanor Rose like this.
  13. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner
    Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    9,025
    Location:
    East Texas
    Ironically, as an important port and commercial city, Vicksburg wasn't either! Vicksburg had too many commercial ties with the North, with which it was connected not only by the Mississippi, but also by rail via the State Capital, Jackson, and voted against secession. So it's especially tragic that it suffered more than most other Southern cities, becoming the only city in the entire United States to suffer the effects of true siege warfare. (All the others, whether Boston during the Revolution, or Petersburg in 1864-65 were never really completely cut off by their erstwhile besiegers.)
     
  14. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
  15. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    So, I'm not entering into a discussion of the citizens of Natchez versus others in Mississippi, because I don't know that much about it, but for those who are interested in contrasting attitudes of those in Natchez and Vicksburg, I came across this Master's Theses by Ruth Poe White, A Tale of Two Cities: Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi During the American Civil War, University of Southern Mississippi , https://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcont...psredir=1&article=1030&context=masters_theses.

    Ms. White gives a lot of background about Natchez and its residents and their antebellum society.
     
  16. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    15,684
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    The ladies seemed to be offered the chance to defend themselves, with war on the horizon? March, 1861- cool stuff, from Natchez. You see women shooting, a little, but not offered classes. Specifically ' Ladies '.

    shooting school natchez 1861.JPG
     
  17. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    louisiana miss map (1).jpg

    Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 8.07.42 PM.jpg

    Maps showing the location of Natchez on the Mississippi River. In 1860, it was the largest and wealthiest community in the state with 6,000 citizens.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
  18. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    15,684
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    mississippi natchez chalk.JPG
    Sorry, forgot the artist- an 1850 " Natchez, under the hill " sketch from NYPL digital collection.
     
  19. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    15,684
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    Unclear which house, must be one of the feted antebellums? Hopefully still around?
    mississippi natchez house.JPG

    mississippi natchez print.JPG
    Even earlier, pre-pre-pre war!
     
  20. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    Thanks, JPK, we're always on the same page about seeing what it looked like.

    Ruth Poe White theorizes that Natchez had less of a spirit of Confederate nationalism than other smaller communities. This is important in understanding the way in which the women of Natchez reacted to occupation.

    For these reasons, most Natchezians were neither pro-North, nor fully supportive of the war effort in 1861 and 1862. This response separated them from similar Southern cities and towns, as they believed the Union and old Whig traditions offered the best route for protecting their interests.
    A Tale of Two Cities: Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi During the American Civil War, White, p. 60.
    According to White, the young men of Natchez were more likely to be married than those of a comparable community like Vicksburg, and the unmarried young males were more likely to live at home. White feels that the Unionist attitude in Natchez--of believing in slavery and that the South was correct but not wanting to leave the Union--was based more in a fear on the part of Natchezians of the disruption of their wealth and their community. In 1860, there were 340 planters in the Natchez area who owned more than 250 slaves.

    When secession had happened, the mature women of Natchez threw themselves into creating gloves, socks, "Confederate handkerchiefs" and meeting at the city center for sewing bees and to participate in putting together whatever the newly formed Military Aid Society thought that their soldiers required. They often appeared with their enslaved seamstresses along with them. By late 1861, the ladies had made at least 1,000 blankets, 800 undergarments, 1,300 shirts, and 500 pairs of pants to send to Virginia. A Tale of Two Cities, p. 86.

    9820864.jpg
    Natchez
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
    alan polk and Southern Unionist like this.
  21. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2012
    Messages:
    7,807
    As mentioned above, the young women of Natchez were excited by so many Confederate soldiers now in their midst. Diarist Elizabeth Brown noted that strangers watched her ankles as she walked around in town, which sometimes made her uneasy. But, it didn't stop Lizzy or her friends from going to town whenever possible and flirting with the young men.

    One young woman from a well off family, Charlotte Mandeville, became pregnant by a soldier from St. Louis and suffered societal disapproval and that of her own family. She married secretly and moved to Vidalia, Louisiana, which is just across the River from Natchez. Her grandfather and her uncles were scandalized and turned against "Carlie" for years.

    This vignette from the diary of her aunt, Rebecca Mandeville, gives us an idea of the limits of women's lives in the pre-Civil War period which was all to change with the numbers of first Confederates and then Union soldiers headquartered in the community.

    [I was] carrying some lunch up to Joe when I heard a man’s step on the porch—a stranger—but I saw that he was a gentleman who wanted to see father about banking—Gibberish to me—as I was directing him to Mr. Walworth’s house . . . when all of a sudden I became aware that his eyes were fastened upon my face and then thought how carelessly I had twisted up my hair and put on my clothes—I can only congratulate myself though, on my good fortune for one minute later and I would have met him with my hands full of toast—rather an embarrassing predicament for a young lady and gentleman, strangers to each other.

    Broussard, Joyce Linda. Stepping Lively in Place: The Not-Married, Free Women of Civil-War-Era Natchez, Mississippi (p. 51). University of Georgia Press. Kindle Edition.

    dess at rosalie.jpeg

    Dress at Rosalie Plantation
     
    alan polk likes this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)