Defending Southern Heritage

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Posted on Tue, Sep. 13, 2005


Beauvoir, after the storm



Following is an excerpt from Charles Sullivan's diary, recounting his first impressions of the damage he found on his first visit to Beauvoir following Hurricane Katrina:

Sept. 8:

I loaded up a ton of stuff of all types � medical, tools, office supplies and took it all to Beauvoir, as they said in the 19th century.

The sight beggared description. All porches, front and side and the steps are gone (utilitarian steps have been built). Chimneys are exposed on both sides. The back porch has collapsed. Only a little of one overhang is left on the east side of the front porch. I looked in the room at the end of the porch and could see a mirror on a dresser.

The wood cistern is gone � not moved � gone. The brick well house, behind Beauvoir, is rubble. The brick hospital is rubble. I can see the cannon on its back and one metal wheel rim is visible next to it. The broken wheel on the other side is still on the cannon.

Only brick steps and pediments of Hayes cottage and library cottage remain.

The replica barracks is gone except for brick pediments. Same is the case with the director's home over east of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Library. The lower floor of the presidential library is gutted. The only thing standing in there is a statue of Jefferson Davis and a 3-by-5-foot Confederate Battle Flag the statue holds in its hands flutters in the breeze. One can see through all the way, side to side, end to end. The upper two floors of the presidential library are in tact. The steel upright beams in the presidential library are tangled in wires but stand tall.

Patrick Hotard, director of Beauvoir, told me my 15 boxes of documents have been taken to Jackson, thank God. He said Mississippi Department of Archives and History took a load of artifacts back after the storm.

Next to the presidential library is a truck belonging to Beauvoir. All you can see is part of the cab, so thick are the trees and timber on it.

Standing in front of Beauvoir, here is the view: The 1917 Memorial Gateway post and lintel structure looks like Stonehenge. It is shattered. The monoliths are broken into many pieces. Bits of inscriptions are readable. Oddly, the metal Mississippi magnolia marker next to the shattered stone titled "Beauvoir" is still standing. The marker top leans and moves in the slightest breeze, but it is there.

The huge monolith for the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway is on the ground next to the gateway. The whole front fence is gone, all of it. A hand lettered plywood sheet sign in front of Beauvoir says, "Katrina 1; Beauvoir 0" and something to the effect of "but the game is not over."

Looking at Beauvoir from the road, one can turn one's head to the left and just west of the coliseum is the huge (and I mean huge) barge of the President Casino. Swivel to the right, looking east, and the Pirate ship of the Treasure Bay Casino is on the beach. U.S. 90 is gone.

If the President Casino barge had come in a little straighter, it would have wiped out the Beauvoir presidential library, Beauvoir house and the coliseum. (As far as I can tell, the Grand Casino barge flattened Tullis-Toledano Manor). . . .

The gardens of Beauvoir look like they have been sprayed with Roundup. They are salt-water burned. I think all the great oaks are gone, many of them split down the middle. There are so many trees down that you can't really see if any are alive.

Well, we don't have the problem we had in Elena, with thousands of little branches down and creating a fire hazard. This time the trees are down and the branches are stripped, absent, gone.

The lagoon looks like and smells like Love Canal. There is a scum on the water and trees and planks and debris of all kinds are in the water. Just north of the little bridge is a huge ice container like those outside convenience stores. The container is askew atop a pile of debris.

The monument to the Unknown Soldier is fine except for a little erosion around one end. The big monument to the soldier from Logtown is undamaged. The cemetery is in terrible shape, but most of the stones are upright or flat where they fell backwards.

Camille moved a lot of stones around but Katrina left them mostly in place. The broken stones I mended with stone glue long ago are rebroken at the same place. I'll re-mend them some day.

At the north end of the cemetery, debris came in and covered the stones. They are standing upright in the detritus. The arched gateway by the Beauvoir Drive is OK.

Apparently, the flow was from east to west, and it stopped just short of the railroad here. It did not take the two caretaker houses or the tin barn. The tractor still works.

Two maintenance workers told me they thought the world had forgotten them. I told them I came the first moment I could. I couldn't get gas until the day before. Almost all their hand tools were gone. They had dug something out of a mud-filled tool box. I brought hammers, pry bars, sledge hammers, wrenches, socket sets, axes, house jacks (to jack up the house), screws, nails, bolts. I buy all this stuff at estate sales, flea markets, because I like to. I never knew we would be blown back to the era before power tools � I brought lots of power tools, too, but can't use them yet � sabre saw, drill and a big saw I can't recall the name of.

The debris line stopped right in front of the tin barn and the caretaker houses. Nail-studded timber is piled up 3 feet with TVs and furniture atop it. I gave the maintenance guys a can of fix-a-flat. If their only vehicle gets a flat, oh well.

By the way, no one stayed at Beauvoir through the storm, as far as I know, but they came in quickly after the storm passed.

We're not reenacting the antebellum world at Beauvoir, we're living it now.

Charles Sullivan is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Archivist and the MGCCC Perkinston Campus Social Studies Department Chairman. He has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at Beauvoir since 1981, and past commander of the camp. He spent two years along others creating a video documentary titled "Beauvoir Memorial to the Lost Cause.".




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