We finally made it to the historic town of Natchez (3:00 PM!!!! and it was only 15 minutes away from the campground!!!!!!)
Natchez is right on the Mighty Mississippi River.
While Mississippi was a Confederate state, there were many Union sympathizers in Natchez. They definitely wanted and believed in slavery as their businesses, homes and lives depended on it, but they were not in favor of the dissolution of the Union. That, coupled with the fact that the Union army was more concerned with overtaking Vicksburg as it was seen as a more strategic military target and crucial to winning the war, the Union army basically left Natchez alone.
We were able to see the home of William Johnson who was a slave as a boy and freed by his master. He was freed because his master was his father and he acknowledged this fact. William Johnson went on to own a thriving barber shop, property and eventually slaves of his own. This certainly brought up a lot of questions with the kids, and neither Mike or I had solid answers. It brought the Stephen Douglas conversation full circle as we once again had to try to put hindsight aside and put ourselves into one popular mindset of the time which is that slaves were property and valuable assets for any man trying to work the land. It was easy to see Stephen Douglas, a white politician, as evil for having that opinion, but what should we think of William Johnson, a free black man who was once a slave for holding that same opinion? We now could see and hear firsthand through Johnson's original journals, that this was truly a marked opinion of the day.
We ended up discussing with the kids what they thought people in 100 years would think we were evil for.
- the environment
Next we toured an amazing antebellum home called Longwood.
Longwood is the largest octagonal home in the U.S. (Both Mike and I turned to eachother and said the old Sammy house at U of I was octagonal but it burned down.)
There were original chamber pots, tools, dresses, suitcases, artwork, etc. which was eerie and fascinating. Though the entire exterior of the home was completed, the interior upper levels were not because the skilled workmen from the North who were brought in to work on the home laid down their tools when the war broke out and went back North because they were scared to get caught in the South. Luckily for history and us, the tinner (roof guy) knew this beautiful home would be useless and would decay and destruct without the roof so he snuck back across the border and finished the roof in secret at night.This enabled the very, very wealthy Haller family, who owned Longwood to at least move into the basement level (10,000 square feet / whole house was 30,000) and live there. They eventually lost everything they had because of the war and many of the unbelievable artifacts they had paid for and ordered for their home were never received as they were stopped and absconded at the Northern borders. The tour guide and others working at Longwood were so gracious and interested in Family Off Track. They surprised us with a much appreciated gift of a great children's book about this phenomenal home.