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  • Ship IslandShip Island Mississippi
    Ship Island is the name for two barrier islands off the Gulf coast of Mississippi, which lies in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and had been one island but hurricane Camille split the island into two separate islands, east and west, in 1969. The island was the only deep water harbor between Mobile Bay, Alabama and the Mississippi River delta area; serving as a wonderful anchorage for all kinds of ships that brought soldiers, explorers, sailors, pirates, colonists, defenders and invaders since the discovery of it in 1699 by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. Pierre then used the island as a base to find the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River, and it later became the point where French colonists came. In 1702, it was named Ship Island because of its portage and became the main port for European colonists from 1720 until 1724. After the Seven Years War ended in the mid 1700s, the island became the possession of Great Britain, and after the American Revolution, in 1783, the Brits gave the island to Spain. It became part of the United States when the Louisiana Purchase was finished in 1810. Then in 1812, when the war with Britain again started, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane anchored some 50 ships between Ship Island and Cat Island, and landed 7500 troops getting ready to fight the Battle of New Orleans; with this island being used to launch the British troops. In 1849, the US Navy came to Ship Island to make sure that there weren't any assemblies of mercenaries preparing for the invasion of Cuba and in 1853, the island got its first brick and mortar lighthouse. In 1858, the state gave the island to the United States and Congress voted to build state-of-the-art masonry fortifications at many strategic locales along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines, which included Ship Island. In 1859, they began to build Fort Massachusetts, but the Civil War stopped them, although it did become a prison for Confederate POWs and base for the US Second Regiment, which was made up of Louisiana Native Guards under the leadership of Colonel Nathan W. Daniels, becoming one of the first African-American combat units in the union to fight in the Civil War. On July 9, 1861, there was a 20 minute cannon exchange between the Confederates and the USS Massachusetts; and that is why the name was changed to Fort Massachusetts in 1862. It was finally finished in 1866. In 1880, it was named the first quarantine station, but the fort closed in 1903, and the station placed in reserve status until 1916. In 1886, a wooden lighthouse was built to replace the brick one that had been damaged severely by the waves and in WWII, the Coast Guard used the island for anti-sub beach patrols. In 1942, the army used the quarantine station as a recreation base, and so did Keesler Air Force base in 1955. Then, in 1969, Camille came ashore with 30 foot waves in the tidal surge that cut that island in two, thus forming East Island and West Island. Today, East Island is mostly vegetation with some wildlife, and the West Island is used for recreation and a tourist destination. In 1972, the wooden lighthouse was accidently burned down by campers, and in 1998, hurricane Georges swept a mile of East Island away. In 2005, Katrina nearly sunk the East Ship Island, but it was the west that received the brunt of it, as the visitor center was washed away, as well as the pier, boardwalk and employee facilities.

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  • BeauvoirBeauvoir Biloxi, Mississippi
    Beauvoir, beautiful to view, is the historical post-war home and Presidential library of Confederate President Jefferson Davis that was built in 1848 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Unfortunately, the main house and library were severely damaged in the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, and it had gone through similar damages with Hurricane Camille in 1969. There was originally 608 acres of land on the property, but today only has 52 acres; and its unfortunate location right across the street from the Biloxi beach hasn't helped. The complex is made up of a Louisiana raised cottage-style plantation house, with botanical garden, Confederate veterans home and soldier museum, gift shop, numerous outbuildings, the Jefferson Davis Presidential library and museum and a historical Confederate cemetery that included the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. Sadly, only two of the seven buildings survived the hurricane and replacements are in the works. The home was originally surrounded by cedars, magnolia and oak trees, with an orange grove in back, and many had Spanish moss hanging down, before the hurricane. The house faces the Gulf of Mexico. Oyster Bayou, which had been connected to the Mississippi Sound and ran across the back of the property from west to east; being supplied by natural artesian springs that are found on the grounds. The plantation was built by James Brown, a planter and entrepreneur, in 1848, and finished in 1852. It was sold to Frank Johnston in 1873, and then a short time later to Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey; who was a novelist and intellectual from Natchez, Mississippi, and avid southern partisan. She lived at the house with her half-brother, Mortimer Dahlgren, and asked Davis to come and stay at the estate while he wrote his memoir, the Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He accepted her wonderful offer, and moved into the library pavilion on the grounds in 1877.   Then his wife, Varina came to live and brought their youngest daughter, Winnie. In 1879, Davis agreed to buy the property and pay for it in three installments, but Dorsey passed on after six months and left the estate to Davis. He and his family moved into the main house and they lived there until he passed on in 1889. Varina stayed there until she finished writing her book Jefferson Davis: A Memoir, then moved with Winnie to New York City. Jefferson had left the estate to his daughter, but she also passed on 1898, and the place reverted back to Varina. She sold most of the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1902, to use as a memorial to her husband and a locale for a home for Confederate veterans and widows. Twelve barracks, chapel and hospital were constructed behind the house and around 2500 vets and their families lived there at one time or another while it existed from 1903 until 1957. They opened the main house for tours in 1941, and after some time, a museum was opened, then the Jefferson Davis gallery, Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, gift shop and the Jefferson Davis Museum and Library.

January 11, 2011