Today’s post is a reprint from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902). This post is particularly timely, since we are now in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Vicksburg Campaign, which ended up on the steps of the Shirley House and really messed up the garden.
For more images of the Shirley House, see the HABS collection.
Wexford Lodge – The Shirley House
In the center of the conflict that raged around Vicksburg in the year 1863 stood the plantation home of Captain Shirley (a native of New Hampshire and a noted Union man), called “Wexford Lodge.” The house was built after the prevailing style of Southern homes in the early 40’s, a story and half in height, a wide hall through the center, on each side large rooms with high ceilings, upper and lower galleries in front, a broad veranda in the rear. The long dining room was in the basement.
The house stood on a high elevation some distance from the public road; a driveway describing a semi-circle passed the door, a wide walk extended from the gallery steps to the front gate, thence by a flight of steps to the road. This walk was bordered with red flowering quinces, fragrant syringas, and roses, while close to the edge bloomed violets, jonquils, and hyacinths; at one end of the porch was a beautiful pink crape myrtle, at the other a white althea gave shade and perfume throughout the long summer months. A rustic summer-house made of grape vines and roots with borders of flowers was a great delight to the only daughter of the house. Here she spent many hours reading; she had few companions of her age, and books were her chief delight. She tells of reading “Paul and Virginia” many times, Mrs. Sherwood’s books for children, and Hannah More’s works.
The gardens and orchard were at the side and rear of the house; the kitchen was some distance away, typical of the old South. During a storm, or on cold days, the biscuits and cakes that left the kitchen hot, were sometimes rather damp and cold when they reached the dining room, but small thought was given to such matters then.
When war came to Vicksburg the fiercest of the fray was around “Wexford Lodge,” which was called the “White House” by the Federals; and the battery posted there was known officially as the “White House battery.” This house, the only one of the ante-bellum houses now standing on the battle grounds, is known as “The Shirley House,” and is considered the most precious relic of the siege of Vicksburg, and by direction of the Secretary of War will be restored as nearly as possible to its condition at the beginning of the siege.
It has been conceded that “Shirley House” is the only truly historic building within the limits of the park area. It formed a familiar landmark to both armies, both from its elevation and color, standing as it does at the point where the first important attack was made May 19, 1863, and where the siege operations began a few days later. The apex of the Confederate lines of defense was also near this place; and in front of it was the “Third Louisiana Redan.” The illustration shows the condition of “Shirley House” June, 1902.
Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902), pp. 258-259.
For this and other images of the Shirley House/Wexford Lodge, see the HABS Collection online at the Library of Congress. For current information about the house, which the National Park Service recently restored, see the Vicksburg National Military Park website.
This post is part of a series taken from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” published in 1903. Want to read others in the series?