Monday, November 7, 2022

Jefferson Davis Came to Danville Twice

Most Danvillians know the story of the Confederate government evacuating from Richmond to Danville.  President Jefferson Davis, his cabinet, and many other officials arrived in Danville by the Richmond and Danville Railroad on Monday afternoon, April 3, 1865.  Here they received a warm welcome from the mayor and the townspeople. 

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

President Davis became a guest at the stately home of Major William T. Sutherlin on the outskirts of town.  Other cabinet members also became guests at other fine Danville homes.  And space was assigned for the necessary government offices.  It was hoped that the government would remain in Danville for a time.

However, the situation changed quickly.  Less than six days later, about noon on Sunday, April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Word of the surrender reached Danville the next day.  It was feared that Union troops could arrive at any time, so the decision was made to move further south.  President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government left Danville for Greensboro on a Piedmont Railroad train at 11 p.m. on Monday, April 10, 1865.

The Confederate First Lady, Varina Howell Davis, passed through Danville a few days ahead of the President’s arrival. For her safety, he had sent her ahead to Charlotte where he had rented a home for the family.  Varina traveled with their children (Maggie age 8 or 9, Jefferson Jr. age 7, Willie age 4, and Varina Anne a.k.a. Pie Cake or Winnie age 9 months), an informally adopted black son four- to six-year-old Jim Limber, Varina’s sister Maggie Howell, two servants, and the President’s trusted private secretary Burton Harrison as escort.  The party also included the two daughters of Treasury Secretary George Trenholm and Midshipman James Morris Morgan.  In addition to his duty as a guard for the party, Morgan was also the fiancé of Betty Trenholm.

Davis Children -- Jefferson Jr., Maggie, Varina Anne, and Willie with Jim Limber


Historians disagree on when the party left Richmond – either March 29 or March 30, 1865.  Due to the poor condition of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, they did not arrive in Danville the next day.  While Danville extended its usual hospitality and offered for the party to stay, they continued on, arriving in Charlotte on Tuesday, April 4.

Skipping ahead many years, the Davis family took up residence in Biloxi, Mississippi.  While traveling, Jefferson Davis died in nearby New Orleans on December 6, 1889, at the age of 81.  A grand funeral was held drawing larger crowds than even for Carnival.  Jefferson Davis was temporarily interred in the tomb of the Army of Northern Virginia at Metairie Cemetery.  


Soon after, Varina moved to New York City to be near to publishers of her husband’s memoirs and because the hot climate of the Mississippi coast was bad for her health. She likely passed through Danville when she moved and perhaps on other occasions.  Danville was, after all, a railroad hub at that time and is still on the line to New Orleans.

It was not until July 1891 that Varina Davis decided that her husband’s final resting place should be Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.  She visited Richmond later that year to select a specific site.  It was also decided that the reburial would take place on May 30, 1893, though this was later changed to May 31.  Of course, Jefferson Davis’s body would be transported from New Orleans to Richmond by rail.

At the request of the state governments, the body would lie in state at their capitals – Montgomery, Atlanta, and Raleigh – and then be carried north through Keysville, Virginia, to Richmond.  However, the people of Danville pleaded urgently to have a stop in their town – the Confederacy’s last capitol.  This was agreed once officials of the Richmond and Danville Railroad assured the organizers that this would not affect the schedule in Richmond. 

Thus, the funeral train backtracked to Durham and Greensboro, and then north to Danville.  It arrived at 9:00 p.m. on May 30, 1893.  As it rolled into the station, a choir sang “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”  About 6,000 people were assembled and so crowded the train that soldiers were forced to press them back with their rifles.  Few ever saw the casket in the funeral car. 

Every church bell in Danville rang on the second visit of Jefferson Davis as the funeral train departed for Richmond.



Sources:
Ballard Michael; A Long Shadow (1985)
Clark, James C.; Lat Train South (1984)
Collins, Donald E.; The Death and Resurrection of Jefferson Davis (2005)
Davis, Burke; The Long Surrender (1985)
Johnson, Clint; Pursuit (2008)
Swanson, James; Bloody Crimes (2010)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Five Days in Greensboro – April 11 to 15, 1865

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

On alighting in Greensboro on Tuesday, April 11, 1865, President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet found a much different welcome than they experienced in Danville. Greensborians knew of the raids being conducted nearby by General George Stoneman and feared that assistance to the Confederate government would worsen their plight. The doors of their homes were closed.  But during their stay, the men of the own assured an ample supply of liquor for the Cabinet and the ladies provided pies and other delicacies.

Blandwood Mansion

Only one Cabinet member was taken in by a local resident – the ailing Treasury Secretary Trenholm by former North Carolina governor John Motely Morehead at his Blandwood Mansion (above). Some historians say this was less an act of kindness than an effort to have the Secretary exchange Morehead’s Confederate securities for gold or silver.

John Taylor Wood

While President Davis may have been offered other lodging, he stayed with his first wife’s nephew, John Taylor Wood.  Wood, the grandson of President Zachary Taylor, a Confederate naval hero, and an aide to the President, had moved his family from Richmond to Greensboro several weeks earlier. Much of what we know about Jefferson Davis’s flight comes from Wood’s diary.  In his family’s modest apartment, he furnished President Davis with a small second-story room. In Flight Into Oblivion, A. J. Hanna reports the house was located on the site that later became the National Theater – about a block from the depot.


National Theater

The National Theater in its heyday (above) and the site today (below). The site of John Taylor Wood's apartment will soon be lofts.


Meanwhile, the rest of the Confederate Cabinet occupied a dilapidated leaky passenger car and a boxcar on a siding nearby.  The cars served as both their quarters and their offices.  The railyard today is shown below. 

Shortly after the arrival of Davis and most of his Cabinet, General P. G. T. Beauregard also arrived in Greensboro by train from Raleigh and set up his headquarters in boxcars near the Cabinet car.  

Greensboro Rail Yard -- Location of Boxcars

The next day, April 12, General Joseph E. Johnston also steamed into town and set up offices in one of Beauregard’s boxcars. The two generals conferred that morning before being summoned by President Davis to his own boxcar offices.


Johnston and Beauregard expected to brief the President on military conditions. Instead, the President spoke of gathering conscripts and deserters to quickly field an army large enough to continue the war.  On hearing the generals’ opinions that this would be impossible, Davis dismissed the meeting until the following day.

On the morning of Thursday, the 13th, President Davis called a cabinet meeting in the small apartment of John Taylor Wood. The generals later joined this meeting. Neither Johnston nor Beauregard offered any hope of carrying on the war.  They estimated Confederate strength at 25,000 men while Union forces totaled 300,000.  Johnston suggested it would be a crime to continue the effort and urged the president to negotiate for peace.  Polling his cabinet, Davis found all but one in agreement.  Reluctantly, Davis dictated a letter to be transmitted to Union General Sherman.

Late on the 13th or early on the 14th, the President received official word from General Robert E. Lee about his surrender at Appomattox.  This telegram convinced the President that the government must move further south for its safety.  

Packing began on Friday the 14th.  Because Union General Stoneman had cut the railroad lines, travel would have to be by the unpaved roads and trails of the time.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Union President Lincoln was preparing for the ill-fated evening at Ford's Theater.


On Saturday, April 15, at about the time of Lincoln's demise, the Confederate government left Greensboro in wagons, ambulances, and on horseback.  As in Danville, the government’s departure resulted in rowdy troops and Greensborians raiding the Confederate warehouses for food and supplies.

It should have been during the Confederate government’s five days in Greensboro that President Davis realized the futility of additional combat.  It seems, however, that he vacillated between the desire to remain true to Confederate cause and to return to his beloved family that he believed to be in Charlotte.

Overall, the Confederate government was not treated to the fine southern hospitality for which Greensboro is still so well known. This was a harbinger of things to come. 

Sources:
Ballard Michael; A Long Shadow (1985)
Clark, James C.; Last Train South (1984)
Collins, Donald E.; The Death and Resurrection of Jefferson Davis (2005)
Davis, Burke; The Long Surrender (1985)
Hanna, A. J.; Flight Into Oblivion (1938)
Johnson, Clint; Pursuit (2008)
Swanson, James; Bloody Crimes (2010)


Danville to Greensboro – April 10 and 11, 1865

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

Lt. John S. Wise
On April 8, 1865, Lieutenant John S. Wise arrived in Danville after a hard ride from General Lee’s headquarters at Appomattox. He appeared just as President Jefferson Davis and others were dining at the Sutherlin mansion. Lee had authorized Wise to make an oral report for fear that a written document might be intercepted. Though Wise, Lee reported that his army was now too far west to turn south to Danville and that his only hope was to break through Union lines. Wise also offered the opinion that Lee would be forced to surrender in just a matter of days.  As we now know, surrender occurred at Appomattox the next day.  The first word of that surrender was received in Danville on Monday, April 10.

By that time, preparations were being made to move the President and the Confederate government further south. It was feared that Danville would soon fall into enemy hands. 

(As it turned out, the absence of President Davis and his Cabinet meant Danville was no longer a primary target.  The mayor surrendered the town to Union forces on the morning of April 27, more than two weeks after Davis’s departure. Civilian control was returned in May just a few weeks later.)

Travel to the south for the President and many others would be by the Piedmont Railroad. This road, constructed between 1862 and 1864, was not in the best of condition. Due to shortages when it was built, the ties were spaced too far apart. Fully open for only a year, it had seen heavy use transporting supplies from further south to Danville and on to Richmond in support of Lee’s army. It was only a hope that that the Piedmont Railroad had not been cut by the forces of Union General George Stoneman. 

An overloaded train with the President and his Cabinet left the Danville depot near eleven o’clock that night. The train proceeded at a walking pace during the night so the engineer could verify there were tracks ahead.  Whether there were any depots along the line is unknown, but there were stations at Pelham, Ruffin, and Reidsville (the only real town along the line).  While stops were likely made for wood and water, the only known halt was to replace a failed engine five miles from Danville and still above the North Carolina border. 

The tracks, now part of the Norfolk Southern, still follow their original route. While there is little evidence of the Piedmont Railroad per se, there is a Civil War Trails marker in Reidsville. It is across Market Street from the rails in front of the retirement home of antebellum North Carolina governor David Settle Reid.  


(Having first served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1843 to 1847, David Reid was elected the 32nd North Carolina governor seated in 1851.  In late 1854, a month before his term as governor expired, he was named to fill a vacant seat in the U. S. Senate until 1858. Later, he was one of five North Carolina delegates to the February 1861 Washington Peace Conference just before President Lincoln was inaugurated. The unsuccessful Conference sought compromise between the states and to avoid additional secessions.)

Moments after Davis’s train crossed the Reedy Fork Bridge (see map above), about ten miles north of the Greensboro depot, the bridge was burned by Brigadier General Palmer’s brigade as a part of Stoneman’s Raid on North Carolina. The Confederate government had escaped destruction by minutes.

Present Greensboro Depot


Early Greensboro maps show a wooden passenger depot near South Elm Street about two blocks west of the newer 1927 depot (above).  An historic marker for the Piedmont Railroad stands in front of the new depot.  The older depot (later part of the Richmond & Danville Railroad) was at the approximate location of today’s McGee Street at the railroad underpass (below).


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

To Danville – April 3, 1865

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

President Jefferson Davis and members of his cabinet left Richmond sometime between 10:00 and midnight on April 2, 1865. They traveled on a special train via the Richmond & Danville Railroad (R&D RR) – the only railroad remaining operable from the Confederate capitol. Many historians agree the train was pulled by the engine “Charles Seddon,” but as with most information about Davis’s flight, that name is uncertain. 

The Charles Seddon
The Charles Seddon

After the Civil War, the R&D expanded aggressively laying new track and purchasing other railroads. By 1890, it had grown to over 3,300 miles of track but was on shaky financial footing. In 1894, the R&D and other lines emerged from a reorganization as the Southern Railway. The Richmond & Danville was no more.  The Southern Railway became the Norfolk Southern in 1982.

Much has been written about the Confederate government’s 1865 trip on the R&D. Perhaps the most complete account is Jefferson Davis’s Flight from Richmond by John Stewart. My purpose was not to add to that detail. Instead, I wanted to follow Jefferson Davis and, to the extent possible, see what he saw in 1865.

Railroad Map from 1864

The tracks of the R&D are still in place west from Richmond to southwest of Keysville (just over halfway to Danville), from Clover to South Boston, and from Ringgold to Danville. Except for a few miles southwest of Keysville operated by the Buckingham Branch Railroad, the tracks are owned and operated by Norfolk Southern. In every location I visited with tracks in place they were shiny suggesting they are currently used.

Norfolk Southern Routes in 2016

Railroads always have stations – a location where trains come to a stop perhaps for fuel or water. Some stations have depots – one or more buildings for use by passengers and for handling freight. R&D locomotives were wood fired and stopped often for supplies of wood and water. Depots were often targets of Union raiders seeking to disrupt the Confederacy’s transportation system.

Manchester Depot on Hull Street
Manchester Depot

Every train stopped in the City of Manchester – once the county seat of Chesterfield County but now incorporated into the City of Richmond. There is a Southern Railway station there on Hull Street, but it isn’t near the R&D tracks. The depot appears to be from the 20th century and is now the Richmond Railroad Museum.  The museum is open only on Saturdays and Sundays and I was traveling on Wednesday. Jefferson Davis would not have been here.

The next stop of any certainty by the Presidential train was Moseley Depot in Powhatan County some 22 miles down the tracks. There is no evidence of a station or community today except for a Moseley Road paralleling the tracks for about 700 feet. Less than a mile past Moseley the tracks change general direction from west to south / southwest.

The rails continue to Chula in Amelia County. There are some older homes there. Reportedly, Chula depot was destroyed by Union forces in 1864 but was soon rebuilt.

Amelia Sign
About three miles further on, in the community of Winterham, U.S. 360 begins to follow the route of the R&D. Drivers on 360 will often see the rails over the next 40 miles.

The next station with a depot, 36 miles from Richmond, was Amelia Courthouse. In The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Davis himself reports that no stop was made at Amelia.

Jetersville
Jetersville

Rather, the train stopped at Jetersville about seven miles on – then a comfortable village with several stores and a depot. One store, possibly from 1865, remains next to the tracks. Two days later, General Lee’s retreating army followed the same route from Amelia Courthouse to Jetersville.  He encountered Union forces here forcing him to turn north toward Amelia Springs and Farmville.

Burkeville Depot ca. 1890

Burkeville, in Nottoway County, was the junction of the R&D and South Side (Petersburg and Lynchburg) Railroad making it a special target for Union raiders. The President’s train pulled in just before sunrise at about 5:00 a.m. for wood and water. Here the Presential party left the train for the first time to see the raiders’ ruins. 

The New Burkeville Depot Today
Present Burkeville Depot

Burkeville presently has a beautiful depot, but it was constructed in 1915 and moved across the railroad tracks to its present location in 2001. 

The Norfolk Southern leaves the tracks of the R&D here to follow the old South Side Railroad toward Appomattox and Lynchburg.

Twin Bridges in Green Bay

The hamlet of Green Bay also had a depot destroyed by raiders in 1864 and quickly rebuilt. The Presidential train did not stop here. Interestingly, Green Bay has a beautiful, trussed bridge of uncertain age over the tracks of the Buckingham Branch Railroad – the former R&D.

Keysville Depot
Present Keysville Depot

Keysville Water Tower

While there is no record of the Presidential train stopping here, Keysville is still a delightful little town with a block-long main street. The town once centered on its railroads – the R&D mainline and an R&D spur to Clarkesville built in 1875. The depot is likely from the very early 1900s and stood in for depots in Eastport, Maine, and Warm Springs, Georgia, in the 1976 filming of the TV movie Eleanor and Franklin.  The Keysville station retains its water tower.

Charlotte Hotel
Charlotte Hotel

Across from the depot is the 1907 Charlotte Hotel. This and two other hotels were busiest when gold and copper were discovered in the area. The gold didn’t amount to much. The copper played out in the early 1920s.

Lt. John S. Wise


The rails of the R&D in Clover exist primarily to serve the coal-fired Clover Power Station near the Staunton River.  In 1865, Clover certainly had a depot and the Presidential train stopped for wood and water. In an account that some say is unreliable, Lt. John Wise, stationed in Clover, stepped aboard the train to chat with his brother-in-law Dr. Alexander Garnett – physician to the President.  During this visit, Wise noted that the President’s face showed physical and mental exhaustion.

We learn of Lt. Wise again as the messenger between Davis in Danville and Lee in Appomattox just a few days later, a well-documented account.

About two miles before reaching South Boston, the presidential train was delayed by a wreck. The train ahead of the President derailed following the collapse of the floor in a boxcar. Five lives were lost.

Location of South Boston R&D Depot

South Boston certainly had a depot by 1854 as it was the end of the R&D Railroad at that time. It is also the end of the line today as the trains from Clover proceed north on the tracks at this point.  It is not known whether the Presidential train made a stop at that depot adjacent to the Dan River and the covered bridge across the Dan. 

South Boston Depot
Present South Boston Depot

South Boston has a depot today built along the tracks of the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad (now Norfolk Southern) by 1917. This depot is far from the R&D rails.

Ringgold Rail Trail Sign in Sutherlin

Sutherlin was a station but there was no known depot. Later, in 1878, the narrow-gauge Milton & Sutherlin Railroad terminated here.  Sutherlin is presently the eastern terminus of the Ringgold Rail Trail on the railbed of the R&D. 

Ringgold Freight Depot
Ringgold Freight Depot

Ringgold, just five miles from Danville, had a freight depot in 1865 but no passenger accommodations. Today that depot it is the western terminus of the Ringgold Rail Trail. Norfolk Southern operates just west of Ringgold to Danville serving local industries.

Location of Danville Depot

On the afternoon of April 3, 1865, after about 18 hours of travel, the Presidential train crossed the Dan River on its wooden trestle and arrived at the Danville depot. The depot too was a wooden structure. It was immediately adjacent to Craghead Street – in front of today’s station. 

Sutherlin Mansion
Sutherlin Mansion

Danville’s Mayor Walker organized an official welcoming committee. President Davis was escorted to the stately home of Major W. T. Sutherlin near the outskirts of town. He stayed until April 10 before continuing his flight south.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

In Richmond – April 2, 1865

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

Much of the history of Jefferson Davis’s flight from Richmond on April 2, 1865, until his capture in Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10 is imprecise. There was no one whose purpose was to record the actions or the location of the Confederate President. What we have is often from the diaries and recollections of those around him – and from his own writings completed many years later in 1881. This post is about the first day of his flight.

All who were in Richmond on Sunday morning, April 2, described the day as “bright.” Some said beautiful, clear, balmy, or springlike. One chronicler even said peaceful, though that seems unlikely with the skirmishes occurring in nearby Petersburg. For my visit in August 2022, the day was oppressively hot and humid.

Executive Mansion a.k.a. White House of the Confederacy, April 1865

On April 2, Davis left the Executive Mansion, now referred to as the White House of the Confederacy, in time for the 11:00 service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The church was about six blocks away. 

The Executive Mansion was erected in 1818 at the corner of 12th and K streets – now 1201 East Clay Street.  It was built by Dr. John Brokenbrough, president of the Bank of Virginia. The mansion was updated just before 1861 by merchant Lewis Crenshaw adding its third floor, gas lighting, and a bathroom. 

Acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia for use by the President, the mansion was near the edge of the city in the posh Court End neighborhood. It had commanding views of valleys to the north and east as well as Shockoe along the James River to the south. I had expected some of the same, but instead found the mansion on a tiny plot of land surrounded by the high-rise hospital of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). I’m sure President Davis would have found the parking garage quite interesting.

The Clay Street side of the mansion is Federal and, in my view, not very attractive. The rear, however, has an attractive columned portico. Across a small courtyard there is a welcome center and gift shop located in a VCU building.

Executive Mansions -- Rear / Garden

During Reconstruction, the mansion served as a military headquarters. It was returned to the Commonwealth in 1870 when it became the Central Public School. When the city proposed to replace the building with a new school, local ladies formed the Confederate Memorial Literary Society and received the house from the city in 1894. They opened the home as the Confederate Museum in 1896. In 1976, a new museum opened and restoration of the mansion to the time of the President’s occupancy was begun. It reopened to the public in 1988 in its present form. 
Center Parlor and Drawing Room

That form is quite accurate with rugs and carpets recreated from the many descriptions of the mansion by contemporary visitors.  Much of the furniture is original as it was the property of the Commonwealth, not the Davis family. My tour guide was entertaining and supplemented his presentation with a folder of original photographs. Tour reservations are required.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Like President Davis, I left the mansion to go to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at the corner of Grace and Ninth Streets.  The Greek Revival building was consecrate in 1845.  The style complements the Thomas Jefferson designed temple-form Virginia Capitol across Ninth Street. The church is open for prayer and meditation from 10:00 to 4:00 daily. It also has an underground parking garage.

At the time the Davis family was in Richmond, it was customary for parishioners to buy or rent their pews. Davis had pew #63. He shared that pew with Robert E. Lee when General Lee was in the city.  That pew remains available to visitors, and I took the opportunity to sit there for my meditation.

In 2015, the congregation removed all symbols related to “the lost cause.”  This included several plaques and changes to some stained-glass windows. There is no visible evidence of Davis’s membership or attendance. The church and Richmond in general are becoming more and more devoid of their history.

St. Paul's Episcopal -- Interior

While in pew #63 on April 2, 1865, Davis received a telegram from General Lee announcing his withdrawal from Petersburg and the need to evacuate Richmond. According to Davis, he then arose, went to his office, assembled his cabinet, and instructed them to be ready to leave that night at 8:00. 

Executive Office Building

The Confederacy’s Executive Office Building was at 1000 East Main Street with Davis’s office on the third floor. That same building is now the Lewis F. Powell, Jr., United States Courthouse. (Powell was a Supreme Court Justice at the time of Roe v. Wade.)

Davis then returned to the Executive Mansion to pack his personal belongings and make final arrangements for the contents of the house. He reportedly left for the Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D RR) Station at dusk – about 7:00.

Richmond presently has an historic train station – the Main Street Station and Trainshed. It is a familiar sight to anyone traveling I-95 North through Richmond. But that building was not erected until 1901. 

Richmond & Danville Railroad Depot

Finding the site of the R&D station proved a bit of a challenge, especially because the fleeing Confederates burned the adjoining area, the depot, and parts of the railroad bridge.

R&D Depot Ruins

Old maps suggest the R&D depot was on Virginia Street just 100 feet or so from the James River. That site that now contains a high-rise condo. The R&D also had freight yards a little further along 14th Street. It seems the Southern Railroad, the R&D’s successor, erected a newer building on that site, shown below.

Southern Railway Building

The actual time the Presidential train left Richmond for Danville is uncertain. While an 8:00 departure was planned, the crush of people and the many last-minute details slowed things down. Some say actual departure was at 10:00 while others say 11:00 or even midnight. Due to the poor condition of the railroad and frequent stops, the President did not arrive in Danville until late the following afternoon. 

Richmond to Danville by car takes less than three hours. My trip took much longer as I searched for the remnants of the R&D RR.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Where Is Ocean Springs
Commissioned by French King Louis XIV, Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur D’Iberville, explored the upper Gulf of Mexico in 1699. He first located what we now call Ship Island about twelve miles from the mainland. He then sailed into a bay where he spotted a high, defensible bluff. There he founded Fort Maurepas, the first capital of the French Louisiana Colony.  The surrounding area and the bay into which he sailed was called Biloxy after the local Native American tribe.

In 1720, the area we now know as the City of Biloxi was settled for the first time. The original settlement across the bay was known as Vieux Biloxy or Old Biloxi. In 1811, the area became part of the Mississippi Territory, with Mississippi becoming a state in 1817. 

In 1854, Old Biloxi, the site of Fort Maurepas, became known as Ocean Springs because a New Orleans physician believed the local springs had medicinal qualities. Many tourists visited the local spas.

In the early stages of the Civil War, Ship Island was captured by Union forces, enabling them to take control of the area. No major battles were fought in the area saving Ocean Springs from direct damage from the war.

In 1870, the Mobile to New Orleans railroad came to town returning Ocean Springs to a tourist destination. It also allowed the easy shipment of Ocean Springs’ seafood to regional markets.

US 90 Bridge 2005

Life changed again in 2005 because of Hurricane Katrina’s 28-foor storm surge. The US 90 bridge from Ocean Springs to Biloxi was destroyed as were many bay-front estates, homes, and businesses.

Downtown

The town has a reputation as an arts community. Its historic downtown streets are lined by live oak trees. It is home to several art galleries and over 150 shops, boutiques, and restaurants. There is nightlife in abundance.

The Office Bar & Lounge

My favorite spots are The Office Bar & Lounge ($3 happy hour) and Maison De Lu for its Escargot Stuffed Mushrooms. They’re amazingly good. I also get to visit my daughter and grandson who have chosen Ocean Springs as their hometown.

Maison De Lu

Just before our visit in June 2022, Ocean Springs was named the best small coastal town in the United States by USA Today. Well-deserved in my opinion.

Ocean Springs is also an excellent stepping-off point for other Gulf Coast communities and attractions.  Both New Orleans and Pensacola are less than two hours away.  The luxurious Biloxi casinos (I like the Beau Rivage) are just minutes from Ocean Springs.

Presidential Library

For the Confederate history buff (like me), the retirement home and library of President Jefferson Davis are also located in Biloxi. It was here at Beauvoir that Davis wrote The Rise and Fall if the Confederate Government. Beauvoir barely survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and much of its collection of artifacts was lost. The adjoining library was replaced with a new building that has a bit of an empty feel. Excellent guided tours of the mansion are available every day.

Beauvoir Mansion after Katrina
Beauvoir Mansion Today