Beauvoir Veteran Project Data

Over a three-year period, researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi studied the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home in an effort to understand the experiences of the 1,845 men and women who lived there from 1903 through 1957. The team created a random representative ten-percent sample from a list of residents, and located more information about them in the original home Register. This included their date of admission, name, age, county of residence, and the military unit in which the veteran or the widow’s husband served. Death or discharge dates are usually included as well, and sometimes notations about residents’ re-entry, burial location, and family contact information are added. Researchers used this information to dig more deeply into each sample resident’s history through digitized census, military service, pension, and newspaper records. These sources offered insights into veterans’ and their families’ prewar and postwar wealth, slave holding status, educational levels, literacy rates, property ownership, wartime injuries, infant and adult mortality rates, and early-twentieth century financial stability. Supplementing all of this were surviving Beauvoir board meeting minutes and biennial reports, along with some hospital and supply ledgers, limited superintendent correspondence with residents and their families, and a few personal accounts from inmates, as they were known at the time. 

Some of the key findings from this project include:

  • Most white residents of Beauvoir enjoyed significant financial stability in their youths and into the twentieth century
  • The majority of residents lived in upper-class households in 1860
  • The average age of Beauvoir residents in 1860, when President Abraham Lincoln was elected and the first southern state seceded from the Union, was 16 years old.
  • White prosperity faded significantly after the war, but the majority of Beauvoir residents still enjoyed middle-class status in their communities.[1]
  • Residents may have been “the poorest of the poor,” as historians have described them, when they arrived at Beauvoir, but that misleading phrase ignores the benefits of wealth that many residents enjoyed as children and adults.
  • The vast majority of residents described themselves as literate, and more than fifty percent had attended school.
  • Home ownership records were only available for half of the sample, but among those residents, two-thirds owned their owned homes in 1900 and 1910, indicating, along with the other data, that many of Beauvoir’s residents enjoyed financial security through most of their lives.[2]

Beauvoir Veteran Project Complete Data File

List of Male and Female Residents at Beauvoir, 1903-1957

[1] “Middle class” is a term that can have diverse meanings in nineteenth-century America. The Beauvoir Veteran Project utilizes the financial class parameters for poor, middle, and upper class utilized by Joseph Glatthaar in Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 7. He defined the poorer economic class as having a combined wealth (real and personal property) as ranging from $0-$799, the middle class as $800 through $3,999, and the upper class ranging from $4000 or more. In 1860, residents lived in families that enjoyed an average household wealth of almost $12,000. In 1870, that wealth dropped to $1,100, but remained solidly middle class.

[2] Of those home-owners, nearly fifty-percent had paid off their mortgage.