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An Introduction to the Research

Welcome to the official website of the Beauvoir Veteran Project (BVP), directed by University of Southern Mississippi faculty members Susannah J. Ural, Ph.D. and designed by Allan Branstiter. Run through the Department of History at Southern Miss, the BVP seeks to use the Beauvoir Confederate Veteran Home as a lens through which to gain a better understanding of the late-nineteenth century lives of impoverished Confederate veterans and their families.

The post-Civil War South is remembered for its economic chaos and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. It is studied as an age of great possibility as enslaved peoples embraced their hard-won freedom, and it is popularly remembered for its Tara-like plantation crumbling amid broken fortunes and dark futures.

Rarely mentioned, though, are the white Southerners who lacked the education, funds, or security needed to preserve and publish their experiences in one of America’s defining conflicts. Existing studies of Confederate veteran homes reveal that those who lived there were often treated more like inmates than residents (indeed, the census records list them as inmates), complaining of the controlling habits of home administrators. Homes also served as monuments to the Lost Cause where the residents became caricatures of “old times . . . not forgotten.” Indeed, historians of Civil War veterans have argued persuasively that our understanding of these men and their families have been shaped more by what the public–then and in subsequent generations–chose to preserve, share, and remember than any true sense of who these men and women were and what their postwar lives were like.

The Beauvoir Veteran Project seeks to cut through the film of memory to formulate as realistic a sense as possible of the experiences of veterans, wives, and widows who found themselves at the “Jefferson Davis Soldier Home–Beauvoir” in Biloxi, Mississippi, between 1903 and 1957. Of course, the challenges in analyzing the experiences of impoverished people remain; we have found few new letters, diaries, and contemporary accounts. But modern digitization efforts make it easier than ever to learn about the veterans, wives, and widows who spent their latter most years at Beauvoir. Digitized census data, compiled service records, pension applications, and nineteenth-century newspapers can be searched quickly now, allowing us to paint a far more detailed and accurate image of the men and women who, until now, have remained in the shadows of the Civil War era. Our work is also benefiting from descendants who are generously sharing copies of private letters, newspaper clippings, and other information about their ancestors who lived at Beauvoir.

The purpose of this website is to allow you to follow and participate in the BVP as it progresses through its research stage. If you would like to help with our research, please click on the “Participate” link on the top menu or here. If you have any questions of comments, please contact us at beauvoirveteranproject@gmail.com

Special thanks are due to Jane and Charles Sullivan, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, for the wealth of source material they have shared and for their unfailing support of the Beauvoir Veteran Project.

27 thoughts on “The Beauvoir Veteran Project”

  1. My great grandfather William Andrew Jackson Kemp is buried @ Beauvoir.
    His grave marker is A J Kemp
    I have a god bit of information about his service in the Civil War & will be glad to share. He was enslisted in Pickens County, AL & was wounded several times in Virginia. Spent time in Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond.;
    Let me know if I can help in your research.
    I live in Corinth MS
    Thanks

    1. Mr. Kemp — we’ve uploaded the material you sent and will process it along with the others. Thank you so much for sharing your ancestor’s story with us!

    2. My great grandfather was Andrew Jackson Kemp Married to Jennie and father to Grace, Jesse, William, Thomas, & Leon and I would greatly appreciate more info if you are related to the same tree. Sincerely, Jeanne

      1. Ms. Jeanne, we’ve actually been working with another Kemp descendant and have quite a bit on your great grandfather. Not as much as we’d like, but a good bit. If you’ll email me at susannah.ural@usm.edu we’ll be happy to share what we have!

        Best,
        Susannah Ural
        Director, Beauvoir Veteran Project

  2. My great grandmother lived there at the end of her life. She died in the hospital that was on the grounds at that time. She was one of two women who died in a fire. I had visited a few years back and the tour guide remembered the story of her. Her dress had caught fire standing in front of the fireplace and she died from her injuries. I have tried to get her records but at the time, the hurricane had damaged much of the building there and they were in the process of building the new library. I was told to contact them after the construction was finished but I have yet been able to get in touch with anyone. I would like to know more about this research and any information about my great grandmother that you may have or have found. Thanks.

    1. Dear Ivy Birkner,

      Can you give us your great grandmother’s name? I’ll be happy to see if we have anything on her.

      Best,
      Susannah

  3. Elnathan & Helen Mosby Tartt (my wife’s great aunt) are buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Meridian, Miss, I have a copy of each’s obit. They were connected to Sen. Bilbo as was my wife’s father.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Calhoun. We’re trying to learn more about the Tartts during their time at the home. If you’re open to sharing copies of any letters or photos you might have from/of them, we’d love to see these, as well as the obits. As always, we’ll be happy to share anything we find, too.

  4. Dear Prof. Ural,

    We recently had a telephone conversation about some research I am doing on the history of Beauvoir as a soldier’s home. I have uncovered some fascinating stuff, but it is proving difficult to obtain confirmable details in the limited amount of time and travel I have to complete my work. This is clearly a long-term project, and worthwhile historically for uncovering how the home interplayed with the growing Gulf Coast community.

    I believe, but have not yet found solid evidence, that Superintendent Elnathan Tartt’s wife, Helen Mosby Tartt, was the daughter of an earlier superintendent of the veterans’ home. I am working on this topic today (26 February) on the internet, but so far without success. Do you know if this this coincidence, or is there substance to it?

    Likewise, I have been searching for the remains of one of the barracks, thought to still be standing in Gulfport. No luck so far, but if I can locate it, it would be wonderful to take measurements and do an architectural recovery of artefacts.

    Bob Pickens

    1. Hi Bob, Good to hear from you again. I discussed your idea with my top researcher, Lisa Foster, who reminded me that Helen Tartt was the daughter of McRae Mosby, not Capt. Mosby, though they are all from Lauderdale County and possibly related in some way. If you want to contact Mr. Ward Calhoun, whose comment is immediately above your own, he may have more information on Helen Tartt.

      Best,
      Susannah

  5. Iverson Wren Hughes Co. K. 16th MS. Inf. was my great great grandfather and lived at the soldier’s home

    1. Mr. Hinson, Iverson Wren Hughes is not in our statistical sample, but considering the unusual nature of his death at the home, I’m adding him to our list of supplemental projects to research and include at the website. Thank you so much for reaching out to us, and if there is anything else you’d like to share about Iverson Hughes, please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Best,
      Susannah Ural
      Professor of History, University of Southern Mississippi
      Director, Beauvoir Veteran Project

  6. I just stumbled upon this site. My father remembered, as a boy in the 20s, walking passed a place where he could see Civil War veterans sitting/standing out in front of their small individual houses. I also seem to remember him saying these houses flanked or were near a grand home and perhaps able to be seen from a large road near the ocean. He lived in Biloxi, MS. Trying to put the pieces together. I think it’s amazing he saw that and also lived to want a smart phone!

  7. My grandfather, Willie Albert Wooten, cooked for the Civil War veterans until the last soldier died. Willie stayed in one of the cabins during much of the week. He contracted malaria at one point, but fully recovered. My 90-year-old mother remembers frequently visiting with her father (Willie) at the home during the 1930s. She remembers the vets enjoyed macaroni and cheese meals. She recalls having many conversations with a vet named “Jeff.” She says that the soldiers were fond of my grandfather and expressed great appreciation for his services.

    1. What fascinating memories, Ms. Ladner – thank you for sharing them with us. I’ll have to do some digging to see if we can find a record of Mr. Wooten’s time working at the home, and, if possible, narrow down the veterans named “Jeff” who were at the home in the 1930s.

  8. I am beyond thrilled to find your web page and read about your research project. I am writing a family history about my father’s family. His grandfather Eber Andrew Barry lived at Beauvoir for many years before he died in 1936 and he is buried in the cemetery there. I do have a record of the day he entered the home somewhere. He also married while there. The 1930 census shows him living with a woman who was not then his wife . He was 88 and she was 71 at the time. She is only listed with his initials E. A. Barry(same as him).
    On his death certificate his wife is listed as Josie V. Adams .Before the hurricane I did find her listed as his widow in a list of widows living at Beauvoir. I have not been able to find the list since,
    I also have 3 letters he wrote to my father when my father was about 11. The first one was written soon after he arrived at Beauvoir and describes the eating arrangements (6 persons at a table and 36 or 46 tables total). He describes the food as very plentiful and good .On Sundays they all carried a bucket for lunch so that the cooks could have some time off. Later when he was caring for his “little girl” (wife, I suppose), he cooked in their room and said he spent all his money buying extra food for her.
    I am anxious to see what records you have made available for research
    Thank you for your effort.
    Pat Dunbar

  9. My 2x great grandmother lived at Beauvoir before her death act 1928. Mary Emily Brown Mills. I would love to know if there are any residents lists or records that could help me determine how long she lived there, and any info about the date of her death. Love seeing the pictures. Thank you so much for working on this project.

  10. I was very blessed to view some of Beauvoirs records not long after Katrina at the Archives at USM/Hattiesburg. It was excited to see my ancesters name, Martin Kelly and his wife Annie Virilla Richardson Kelly. I’m not quite sure, but I think Mr. Kelly may have started a bit of a fire. There was one reported in one of the board meeting notes, the following month states “what are we to do about Mr Kelly”…hmmm. Its rare you get to hear personal accounts of your ancestors.

  11. My great grand father, Thomas Sidney Walston, is buried at Beauvoir. I talked to Greg Stewart when he was there and sent him a picture and information on him. Greg says he is still working on a book, but is no longer with Beauvoir. Did you get to keep that information or does he now have it?? I also contributed to a brick for the walkway and loved the photo i received of it.

    Danny Wolf
    Texas

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