Jefferson Davis Soldiers' Home Dining Hall Record
To see a digitized version of the entire Beauvoir dining hall record, with the ability to enlarge the images, go to http://digilib.usm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/manu/id/5212.
The images above are from a dining hall record containing daily entries from January 7, 1919 to October 31, 1920. The entries list the food served at each meal during the day at the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home, as well as brief notes of daily activities.
When Jefferson Davis’ widow, Varina Howell Davis, inherited Beauvoir on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from her daughter in 1898, she was living out of state and unable to maintain the property. Turning down an offer of $90,000 from business interests hoping to turn it into a hotel, Mrs. Davis chose instead to sell it to the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans under two major conditions. First, she wanted Beauvoir house to be used as a memorial to Jefferson Davis. Second, she asked that the property be used as a home for those who had served in the Confederate military, as well as their wives, widows, orphans, and slaves.
Under those conditions, the U.S.C. took over the Beauvoir property on October 10, 1902. Immediately, the organization began working with the United Daughters of the Confederacy to furnish and stock the property for use. The first resident (known at the time as an “inmate”) was admitted on December 2, 1903. The U.S.C. and the U.D.C. also worked to obtain state support for the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home. This goal was accomplished with the passage of Bill 179 by the Mississippi Legislature, which was entered into law in 1904. The law did not provide for Confederate orphans and slaves, but otherwise Mrs. Davis wishes were fulfilled.
The state built twelve barracks to house the residents. Each barrack contained six rooms which could be shared by four residents per room. Rooms were heated first by wood and later by coal. A porch ran the length of each barrack. Though the maximum capacity of the Soldiers’ Home was 288, the most that ever lived there was closer to 250.
By 1940, there were only 55 veterans living on the property, and since the need for the Soldiers’ Home had greatly lessened, part of the property was returned to the U.S.C. for inclusion in the Jefferson Davis shrine. In the 1940s, the property was home to more widows than veterans, the last veteran to die there did so in February of 1947. Other veterans lived there for a time before moving on. The last one was admitted at the age of 97 in August 1949. He moved out in 1951 and died a few months later.
Finally, only two widows remained as residents. In February 1957, they were moved to a nursing home in Greenwood, Mississippi. The rest of the property was returned to the U.S.C. a few months later. Approximately 800 of the residents of the Jefferson Davis Confederate Soldiers’ Home are buried in the Beauvoir Confederate Cemetery on the property, along with Davis’ father, Samuel Emory Davis.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed five buildings on the estate and severely damaged the two remaining buildings in August 2005. Though there are currently no plans to rebuild the Confederate Veterans Hospital Building, parts of Beauvoir are currently being restored. On June 3, 2008, the facility was officially re-opened, and it continues to be operated as a memorial shrine to Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy.
For more information about Beauvoir: Bassett, Martha B. The History of Beauvoir - Jefferson Davis Shrine. 1970. Call number LD3425.1 .B319 1970 (Cook Library). For questions about this item or other materials in the Historical Manuscripts collection, contact Steve Haller at Stephen.Haller@usm.edu.
Beauvoir website: http://www.beauvoir.org/
Beauvoir: Memorial to the Lost Cause [videorecording]. Gautier, Miss.: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, 1991. Call number F349.B5 B43 1991 (Cook Library).
Bilbo (Theodore G.) Papers, 1837-1972 (M2) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home Records (M6) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home Dining Hall Record; 24 September 1917 - 10 February 1918. Held at Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. To see a digitized version of this dining hall record, go to http://digilib.usm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/manu/id/5212
Jones, Wilbur Moore, Mrs. Historic Beauvoir : Souvenir Booklet of Beauvoir-on-the-Gulf, Harrison County, Mississippi. Hattiesburg, Miss. : Hattiesburg American, Commercial Printing Dept., 1921. Call number F349.B5 J66x 1921 (McCain Library).
Stewart, Jason Andrew. Comforting the Vanquished : A History of the Beauvoir Soldiers' Home. USM Master’s Thesis, 2004. Call number LD3425.1 .S84984 2004 (Cook Library).
Thompson, James West. Beauvoir : A Walk Through History. Biloxi, Miss. : Beauvoir Press, c1988. Call number F349.B5 T48 1988 (McCain Library).
Thompson, James West. Beauvoir : The Last Home of Jefferson Davis. Bowling Green, Ky.: Rivendell Publications, 1984. Call number F349.B5 T47 1984 (McCain Library).
Thompson, Ray M. The Confederate Shrine of Beauvoir: The Last Home of Jefferson Davis. Biloxi, Miss., C.C. Hamill, 1957. Call number E467.1.D26 T45 (McCain Library).
United Daughters of the Confederacy. Mississippi Division. Beauvoir : Jefferson Davis Shrine. Gulfport, Miss. : Mississippi Gulf Coast Group no. 8, United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1945. Call number F349.B5 B42 1945 (McCain Library).
NOTE: The images above are from the following collection: Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home Records (M6) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by Diane DeCesare Ross.