Sunday, January 10, 2010

Haller Nutt

"Longwood is frozen in time, its future unrealized, unknown."

Last week while in Mississippi, we visited the Longwood Plantation at Natchez. The house was conceived by wealthy cotton planter Dr. Haller Nutt and designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. It is unique for several reasons. It is the largest octagonal house in the United States (and maybe they said North America). Unlike most plantations, it is styled after an "oriental villa" and possibly looked out of place in the antebellum South. When the war began in 1861, the northern artisans laid down their tools and went home. Even to this day, only the basement of the home is finished.

The home tells a somewhat sad story of its owners, but also tells some of the complicated story of the war between the Northern Union and Southern Confederacy. To many it is a simple story of slavery versus freedom. But consider Haller Nutt who, like many planters who thrived in the slave-based economy, opposed Mississippi's secession from the United States. Not only that, he also refused to support the Confederacy when the state seceded. Even as the Union army invaded Mississippi, he welcomed their presence.

"During the war between the states [Haller Nutt] was known to be unmistakenly not only an opponent of secession and of the Southern Confederacy, but absolutely devoted to the Union and the cause of the federal government. He was so devoted, and to such an extent, that he welcomed the invasion of the Union armies." The property of Nutt was placed under "safeguard" by the Union commanders. But their subordinates, partly due to the reality of war and partly due to its excesses, did not maintain the safeguard and much supplies and property were used, destroyed or vandalized. -- The Southern Report, Volume 36, March 26--July 23, 1904 St. Paul: West Publishing Co. 1904, p. 248

The northern invasion and ultimate victory proved the financial ruin of Nutt, who is said to have pined away in his unfinished home until he died on June 16, 1864. His wife Julia blamed her husband's death on "Union indifference and treachery", and actually won a small claim against them and recovered a small amount of money.

(Much information from Natchez, Mississippi: Past, Present, Perfect by Martin Northway)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of so many grand structures that are still rock solid after many years. Quality took precedence over quantity in the past. Today it is quite the opposite. It seems "a job well done" is rarely to be heard.

Regarding The Civil War, there now seems to be elements in America which eeerily resemble the conditions which lead up to the Great Conflict of 1861. Of course the landscape is entirely different. But would there be a faction determined and willing to put it all on the line for their beliefs as was done in 1861? For some reason I just cannot see it happening. But who knows? God may have other plans.