Beauvoir was the last
home of Jefferson Davis and it was the site of his retirement.
The house was built by James Brown, a wealthy plantation owner from
Madison County, Mississippi. The house was started in late
1848 and was completed in 1852. The house was built as a
summer home for his wife and his (eventually 13) children. It was
then called Orange Grove, due to the Satsuma Oranges being grown on
the property. Mr. Brown died in 1866 and his widow continued to own
the property until 1873 when she was forced to sell the property at
public auction to pay and satisfy the taxes due on her husband's
estate. Frank Johnson, a land speculator purchased the house
for taxes and then sold the house and property three months later.
Sarah Dorsey was the next
owner of the property and when she first looked out over the
Mississippi Sound from the front porch of the house, she said "Oh
my, what a beautiful view - that's what I am going to call this
property: Beauvoir!" (Which is French for beautiful view or beautiful
to look at). From that point on - the property was known as
In 1877, Jefferson Davis was
looking for a quiet retreat to write his books and papers.
While inspecting property on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he paid a
courtesy call on Mrs. Dorsey (a family friend). He told her of
his plans to try to find a place to write his books and papers.
She encouraged him to stay at Beauvoir in one of the two pavilions
in front of Beauvoir House to write his books. He agreed to do
so only if he paid $50.00 a month for room and board. After
two years, he fell in love with the property and he wanted to buy
it. She in turn wanted to sell it to him, so they agreed upon
a selling price of $5,500.00 dollars to be paid in three payments.
He made the first payment and six months later, Mrs. Dorsey died.
At that time he found out he was her sole heir and he eventually
inherited the house along with other property.
Jefferson Davis died in 1889.
His daughter, Winnie, then inherited the property and when she died
in 1898, Varina, Jefferson Davis' widow inherited the property.
Mrs. Davis sold the property to the Mississippi Division of the Sons
of Confederate Veterans with two stipulations. The first was
that the property be used for a Confederate Veterans Home for the
veterans and or their widows at no charge to them and that was done
from 1903 until 1957 when the last three widows were transferred to
a private nursing home in Greenwood, Mississippi, when it was no
longer practical to keep them at the site. The second
stipulation for the sale of the property was that it be used as a
memorial to Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Soldier; and that
has been done from 1903 until the present time.
survived Hurricane Katrina in the
Jefferson Davis Presidential Library.
in 2000 by
national office of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
(reproduction—original destroyed by Hurricane Katrina).
used this cottage as
rented it for $50 a month
with the help of his wife Varina,
the Rise and
Fall of the Confederate Government.
(reproduction—original destroyed by Hurricane Katrina).
James Brown built this cottage as a
of Jefferson and Varina.
James Brown, using slave labor and hired craftsmen,
built this Louisiana Raised Cottage from 1848 to 1852.
with a roof
of English slate.
The house was elevated on 62 eight-foot-tall
brick piers to provide antebellum air conditioning—not
to avoid high water. But, elevating the house saved it
from the storm surge of Camille and Katrina.
The heavy slate roof is sealed around the edges
and so constructed that high winds blow the slate roof
down on the house rather than up and away.
The structure has withstood eighteen hurricanes
since it was built.
(reproduction—original destroyed by Hurricane Katrina).
The 500-gallon wood and brick cistern collected
rainwater from the roof as a source of fresh water for
associated with cooking.
(reconstructed from a hand-drawn chart made by Varina
The garden covers an area in excess of an acre.
It is named for the variety of roses that it
contains, but it also contains many other types of
flowers as well as a kitchen vegetable garden. Flanking
the garden are orchards of Satsuma oranges and fig
original name of Beauvoir in the
period it was owned by James Brown was “Orange Grove.”)
of a concrete
in 1981, the
14. Jefferson Davis
in 1903 as
Jefferson Davis Soldiers’
and widows, some members of the Davis Family and other
Jefferson Davis Facts
On June 3, 1808, Jefferson
the tenth and final child of Samuel Emory Davis and Jane
Cook Davis was
Wilkinson County, Mississippi
In 1815 Samuel
his son to
St. Thomas Aquinas School
in Washington County,
1818 Jefferson Davis entered Jefferson College at
Washington, Adams County, Mississippi.
On October 21, 1821, he
entered Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky.
July 4, 1824, his father died, and his
September 24, 1824,
entered the US Military Academy at
New York, as a cadet.
1, 1828, Davis graduated
23rd in a
of 33 and was
In 1832 Davis served in the
Black Hawk War, and so did his later nemesis, Abraham
In March 1835, Jefferson,
having fallen in love with Sarah Knox Taylor (his
commanding officer’s daughter), faced a dilemma-Zachary
Taylor did not wish his daughter to be an army wife.
Jefferson took a furlough to talk to his brother,
Joseph, at Davis Bend on the Mississippi River south of
Joseph advised him to resign from the army, marry Knox
(as Jefferson called her), and become a cotton planter.
Jefferson followed his brother’s advice.
On June 17, 1835, Jefferson
Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor were married.
In July 1835 Joseph divided
his 4,000 acre plantation at Davis Bend in half. He
retained the southern half as Hurricane Plantation,
while Jefferson and Knox took the northern half as
In August 1835 both Jefferson
and Knox were stricken with malaria.
In hopes of escaping the worst effects of the
disease, the couple journeyed to Jefferson’s sister’s
plantation (Locust Grove) near St. Francisville,
On September 15, 1835, Knox
died only three months after her wedding and was buried
in Locust Grove Cemetery.
In late 1835 Davis,
heartbroken, withdrew from public life and spent most of
the following decade as a planter at Brierfield.
On February 26, 1845,
Jefferson Davis, in a match engineered by his brother
Joseph, married Varina Banks Howell at The Briars in
On November 4, 1845, he was
elected to the US House of Representatives.
On December 8, 1845, Davis
took his seat in the US House of Representatives in
Washington, D. C.
In June 1846 he resigned his
seat to lead troops in the recently declared Mexican
22, 1847, as colonel of the volunteer regiment called
the Mississippi Rifles,
On July 12, 1847, Davis
mustered out of the US Army.
August 10, 1847, Davis was appointed to the US Senate
seat of the late Jesse
On December 6, 1847, he took
his seat in the US Senate.
On December 30, 1847, he was
appointed as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution.
In February 1850, Davis was
elected to a full six year term as a US Senator.
On September 23, 1851, Davis resigned from the US Senate
to run for governor of Mississippi.
He lost the election to Henry S. Foote.
On March 7, 1853, Davis took the oath of office as
Secretary of War under newly elected President Franklin
this position Davis reorganized and improved the US
Army. He is regarded as one of the best US Secretaries
December 30, 1853, Davis was instrumental in the
approval of the Gadsden Purchase which secured the best
route through the Southwest for a transcontinental
not only devised the best route, but he also
In May 1856, Davis engineered the importation of 33
camels for use by the US Army in the desert southwest.
He was convinced that the camels were superior to
horses in desert conditions, and the camels’ performance
proved him correct.
However, the later building of the
transcontinental railroad rendered the camels obsolete.
4, 1857, Davis,
having been elected again to the US Senate,
as Secretary of War
to outgoing President
who had lost the presidential election to James Buchanan.
in as a
On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected
President of the United States.
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first
Southern state to secede from the Union.
On January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state
to secede from the Union. Davis, who opposed secession
in practice but supported it in principle,
the US Senate and returned
On February 18, 1861,
was sworn in
on the veranda of the Confederate Capitol in the
Confederate capital city of Montgomery, Alabama.
On April 12, 1861, the War
Between the States began when Confederate forces fired
on US Army occupied Fort Sumter located on an island in
the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
With the beginning of hostilities, four states of
the upper South, including Virginia, seceded.
On May 8, 1861, Richmond was
named capital of the Confederacy due to Virginia’s
demands for this honor.
The Davis family moved to the White House of the
Confederacy in Richmond 21 days later.
On April 3, 1865, the Davis
family evacuated the Confederate capital as Union forces
On April 9, 1865, Confederate
General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern
Virginia to Union General U. S. Grant at Appomattox
County Courthouse, Virginia. In Lee’s words, he yielded
“to overwhelming numbers and resources.”
May 10, 1865,
On May 19, 1865, Davis was
incarcerated at Fort
and kept in
in the early days
Despite his demands for a trial, he was
In May 1867,
In 1868, Davis
On December 25, 1868, the US
government dropped all charges of treason against Davis
because of the fear that secession might be declared
Constitutional in a trial.
November 20, 1869, Davis
became president of the Carolina Insurance Company based
in Memphis, Tennessee.
August 15, 1873, Davis
resigned his position at the Carolina Insurance Company.
January 1, 1876, Davis’
daughter, Margaret, married Memphis banker, Joel Addison
(Since Margaret was the only one of Davis’ six children
to marry, she and her husband first gave their children
the name “Davis-Hayes.”
The name was later termed “Hayes-Davis” in order
to preserve the Davis surname.)
In February 1877
Davis visited Sarah Ellis Dorsey at her home, Beauvoir,
on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and rented a small cottage
on the grounds of Beauvoir.
Varina joined him there later to aid him in
writing his memoirs.
On February 19, 1879, Davis
purchased the Beauvoir property from Sarah Dorsey for
$5,500, and Dorsey moved to New Orleans.
On July 4, 1879, Sarah Dorsey
died in New Orleans and was buried in Natchez.
In 1881 Davis, with Varina’s
help, completed his two-volume
Rise and Fall of the
In March 1889, Davis made what
was to be his last speech to a group of young men at the
Harrison County Courthouse in Mississippi City, six
miles west of Beauvoir.
He started by saying, “Friends and fellow
Then he paused and told them that he was no longer a US
was not a citizen because he refused to apply for a
pardon after the war feeling that he had done nothing
fact, he had stated that if he had it to do over, he
would do exactly what he had done again.
He did, however,
tell the young men to “lay aside all rancor” and to be
good citizens of a “reunited country.”
9, 1889, Jefferson Davis died
and was buried in Metairie Cemetery
On May 31, 1893, his body was
reinterred in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery in what then
became the Davis Family Plot.
On October 17, 1978, though
Davis died a man without a country, his citizenship was
restored by Act of Congress signed by President Jimmy
Carter and deemed retroactive to December 25, 1868—the
date he had been denied a treason trial.
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