“War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Carol writes: In terms of total casualties, our Civil War was the deadliest of any war we have ever fought. It is all the more horrific when one considers that throughout this awful grisly war we were killing each other. Although the South ended up on the losing side of this horrendous conflict, there was a fierce desire—and rightly so—to hang onto their culture and historic heritage.
And so it was at Biloxi's beloved Beauvoir,
the historic post-Civil War home of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. After two years of imprisonment at Fortress Monroe in Virginia, Jefferson Davis was released and lived the last 12 years of his life at Beauvoir, where he wrote his memoir Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government on the porch of Beauvoir’s library cottage.
Musing to himself in a rocker on the porch of that same cottage, Al wondered: Should I add that book to my reading list?
Hurricane Katrina inflicted enormous destruction on Biloxi’s Beauvoir. Now fully recovered from severe storm damage, present-day Beauvoir was a jewel with all the grace and elegance of her antebellum days.
present-day Beauvoir still had that incredible front porch panorama of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Inside, the main floor-plan was simple—four rooms, two on each side of a central entryway
that has been restored post-Katrina to its past elegance with walls and ceilings hand-painted in the design of the original wallpaper.
The library showcased the actual “partners desk” that was used by Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina.
From 1902 to 1953, Beauvoir functioned as a home for Confederate veterans. Many of these veterans and their wives were buried on the grounds of a good-sized Confederate veterans cemetery,
complete with the tomb of an unknown Confederate soldier.
The most interesting artifact in the museum was the newly restored catafalque that carried the body of Jefferson Davis during his funeral procession in 1889.
KATRINA RECOVERY IN MISSISSIPPI
On August 29, 2005, the monstrous eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, bringing with it a storm surge of 28 feet. While much of the nation fixated on the damage caused by levee failure in New Orleans, equally catastrophic devastation had tragically unfolded in every town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
To our eyes, the ensuing nearly 12 years of recovery has been remarkable—admittedly more so in some communities than in others.
During our two weeks along the Mississippi Gulf Coast at the Seabee base in Gulfport, Mississippi,
we looked forward to reconnecting with Mike and Mary, friends of ours dating back almost 40 years ago when we moved to Slidell, Louisiana, as a newly married couple.
We had a delightful outdoor evening dinner with Mike and Mary in their town’s trendy restaurant and retail area. Tiny Bay St. Louis seemed to have healed its scars better than most,
and now sported a lovely new marina awash with pricey yachts.
We noticed that every new house and business along the Mississippi Gulf Coast was designed in compliance with new building codes that had conspicuous height requirements. Even the iconic Gulfport lighthouse had been relocated atop massive concrete piles.
Yet sadly, to the careful eye, we noticed many, many vacant lots with only concrete stairs or faint remnants of driveways that bordered grassy fields where homes and businesses once stood. Truth be told, it will take many more years to recover fully…
STENNIS SPACE CENTER
During this visit to the Gulf Coast, we decided it might be interesting to take a tour of Stennis Space Center, where Al hoped to go down memory lane and revisit the Navy days when he worked there as a part of the Navy’s oceanographic research command. To our complete surprise, it turned out that memory lane had no memories! Over the past four decades at Stennis, there had been so many changes with new or redesigned buildings that it was impossible, with any certainty, to identify the building where Al worked…
Over the decades, one of the missions at Stennis that hadn’t changed was its role as NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility. Stennis was the site where testing was performed on the Saturn V rockets
that took U.S. astronauts to the moon. Our bus tour from Infinity Science Center
took us past sites of the rocket test complex.
So… all in all we had an interesting afternoon checking out the ole workplace… only to find out that memory lane had been redesigned.
THE HOUSE OF GOOD FRIENDS
On our last weekend in Gulfport, Mike and Mary graciously invited us to Sunday dinner along with several members of their large extended family. Two of Mike and Mary’s children plus their wives and their five children made for a lively meal around a very large table. Food was scrumptious, and laughter abounded…
… couldn’t think of a better way to conclude a relaxing visit along a familiar part of the Gulf coast than to spend it having dinner in the home of cherished friends.
At the close of our two-week stay, the southern way of life had started to come back to us—those aspects which encompassed a long historic heritage, good food, fun times, and taking it slow—and that suited us just fine.
Good friends never say goodbye. They simply say "See You Soon."