As I was driving with my dad from Columbia, South Carolina to Pensacola, Florida in the summer of 2014, we decided to stop at some historic sites along the way. Both being Civil War buffs, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi seemed like a good choice. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. After touring the mansion and nearby cemetery, we checked out the newly completed Presidential Library. There, sitting on the desk, was something that caught my interest.
A building with a history like Beauvoir (as the Davis home is called) usually has a few ghost stories, so I wasn’t surprised to see an article called “What’s that in the window at Beauvoir?” sitting on the main desk in the research library. Written by Charles L. Sullivan in 2004, it told the story of a photograph taken by Charlie Brock, a Confederate re-enactor, in 1984. The photograph was of his wife and two of her friends, dressed in period clothing, on the east side of Beauvoir. When the photo was developed, two figures mysteriously appeared in one of the windows.
At the time the picture was taken, the house was closed to visitors, locked, and the security motion detectors were in place. Never-the-less, two humanoid forms stand in the window. One is noticeably taller than the other. The shorter of the two figures is also the easiest to see. “She” appears to be wearing a white dress. Two of the three women walking on the lawn were wearing blue dresses, and one was wearing a dark red dress. The window was also at porch level, above the heads of the three women, making it unlikely (unless the window was angled downward) that this was a reflection.
According to Bud Steed, in his book Haunted Mississippi Gulf Coast (2012), the ghost of Jefferson Davis himself also haunts the 162 year old home. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. Later, when they compliment the staff on how realistic his portrayal was, the staff deny having a Jefferson Davis re-enactor on site. One flustered woman even complained that this gentleman appeared out of nowhere and chastised her for stepping in the flower beds!
In August 2014, members of Mississippi Gulf Coast Paranormal spent the night at the historic home trying to find evidence of a haunting. “One (staffer says) he sees Jeff Davis a couple of times a week standing in the main hall,” MGCP team member Scott Rogers told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. “Full-body apparitions are a rarity, but they’re normal there… There’s a file, I’m guessing 30 or 40 photographs, that visitors have sent back to them. There are photographs of full-body apparitions that aren’t supposed to be there. They have captured Jeff Davis, his wife, Varina, his daughter, Winnie, and, they haven’t been captured, but it’s common occurrence for them to talk about a Confederate soldier walking the grounds at times whenever they don’t have people doing reenactments.”
So what did the group find after a weekend of sleuthing? You can read details of the results here, but basically the paranormal activity included a rocking chair swaying in Davis’ bedroom, a table cloth fluttering in the dining room, and one team member claimed something touched her ear while she walked through the cemetery. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home cemetery was said to be particularly active.
Beauvoir has an interesting history. It was built in 1852 by a wealthy plantation owner named James Brown. Jefferson Davis did not reside in the house until 1877, twelve years before he died. His daughter Winnie continued to live there until her death in 1898. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home opened on the grounds in 1903 and operated until the 1950s. It was home to around 1,800 Civil War veterans and widows of Confederate soldiers. Roughly 780 of them are buried in the cemetery located on the property.
Whether you are interested in Civil War history, house museums, or would just like to stroll through the gardens of a historic Mississippi mansion, I would recommend a trip to Beauvoir. It is one of the most unique historic homes I have ever toured. Beauvoir suffered a lot of damage when Hurricane Katrina struck, but thanks to the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, it has been restored to its former glory.