Davis Island: A Confederate Shrine, Submerged

37 Responses

  1. N Theriault says:

    Beautifully photographed and written.

  2. j Parker says:

    thanks for the very interesting research and commentary regarding the unfortunate circumstances of Brierfield. Was watching The civil war in color on History2 channel and they showed a pic of Brierfield and that is what led me to your site.

  3. Teddy Walworth says:

    Is this similar to the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson to the floodwaters of the Mississippi and the Tennessee Rivers. Those pivotal battlefields are submerged due to the careless whims of early 20th Century dam and dike construction. What an unfortunate loss.

    • Brian Hamilton says:

      Thanks for your comment. I hadn’t heard these stories, but they do sound similar. I wonder if there were discussions within or surrounding the Army Corps of Engineers about the risks dams posed to historic sites. That would be a fascinating research project!

  4. What’s most noteworthy about the Davis Bend narrative is Benjamin Montgomery, indeed. What a remarkable accomplishment to have come out of the peculiar institution of slavery to attain the ultimate prize of ownership, for over 12 years, the very plantation(s) and home front on which he was enslaved by of all people Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy and his brother Joseph Davis. What an accomplishment!

    • Brian Hamilton says:

      You said it, Ms. Turnipseed. The Montgomerys’ story has a lot to teach us about this era. As do you! I hope everyone keeps an eye out for your important work on Delta cotton pickers.

    • William David Grady says:

      I have studied some of the accomplishments of Benjamin Montgomery. He and his family were well thought of by the Davis family, and the Jefferson Davis family and the Montgomery family periodically communicated via letters during the post-bellum years. In one of these letters, Jefferson Davis praised B. Montgomery for his efforts and answered some questions Benjamin Montgomery had asked him about farming issues on the island. It was several years ago when I read this particular letter, so I do not remember any specifics.

      • Brian Hamilton says:

        Thanks for your comment, Mr. Grady. There were, in fact, hundreds of letters exchanged between Benjamin Montgomery and Joseph Davis. Many are today available the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. They reveal the deep knowledge the Montgomery and their associates possessed about agricultural production along the Lower Mississippi River, more knowledge than that of the Davis bothers. Benjamin Montgomery’s relationship with Joseph Davis after the war was beneficial (and profitable) to both men, but his relationship with Jefferson Davis was contentious. Jefferson Davis, with scant evidence, claimed to hold title to a portion of the land his brother sold to Montgomery and successfully sued to force the Montgomerys off of it. Jefferson did not share his brother’s recognition of the agricultural expertise of the former slaves, writing of Davis Bend in 1868, “It is no doubt that the property is too large for the administrative capacity of a negro.”

  5. judy amith says:

    very much enjoyed reading this .

  6. Linda Davis says:

    Well written I enjoyed reading this article,Jefferson Davis is a relative of mine and reading this is so great. Shame the river has ruined the graves of so many,
    May I with permission copy this and place it on my very large family tree of Davis’s.

  7. Arlene O'Donnell says:

    Very well written and informative. Your photographs are amazing! With your permission may I use several of the cemetery markers in my family tree? Did you,
    by chance, take any additional photos of other cemetery markers?

    • Brian Hamilton says:

      Thank you for your kind words. If you contact me at the email address linked to in my bio above, I’d be glad to send you what I have.

  8. Tom Bolton says:

    A very concise and well written article. As an SCV member, I can appreciate the trials of trying to keep the graveyards maintained near these rivers.

  9. Connie Hughes says:

    Thank you for the article. Being that I am a descendent of Joseph Davis it is much appreciated!

  10. Daniel Bailleau says:

    Amazing article! I know this is a couple of years late, but i stumbled upon this while doing research. I’m a 6th gen louisianian, from the parishes immediately opposite Davis Island. Before that my family resided in the other side in Mississippi. My father used to occassionally be invited to hunt on Davis Island, but i never did. This area was hit hard by the civil war and not much survives, what little was left became a victim of the changing economic landscape and general apathy and poverty. To me your photos capture the one abiding thing, the haunting natural beauty of this area. It is reverting to the state it probably was when Joseph Davis first saw it.. its a hauntingly beautiful area, thank you again. And thank you for telling the story of Davis former Slave who along with his family managed to rise up from a most abject and detestable state of life to become masters of their own fortunes.

  11. Linda Jackson says:

    Mr. Hamilton,

    I just recently discovered that I am a descendant of Mr. Benjamin Montgomery. Thank you for the insight. I truly would like to obtain a copy of those letters.

  12. Jim Thompson Jr says:

    Were you able to locate the site of the Joseph Davis house on Hurricane Plantation, further to the west of Brierfield? Are there any remnants of it to be seen today?

    • Brian Hamilton says:

      I gave it my best, but ended up getting a very nice truck (belonging to someone I had only just met) very stuck, leaving me out of cell range, several snake-filled miles from camp.

      Midcentury accounts describe an extant foundation, but the landowners I spoke with hadn’t seen it.

      • Jim Thompson, Jr. says:

        Thanks for the quick response. I grew up in Vicksburg, and share the same June 3rd birthday as Jefferson Davis, but I’ve never been able to get an invite to Davis Island. Your article provided some great insight and fine photos. Thanks.

  13. Colleen Kerrigan says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. I am a descendent of Joseph Davis and was looking up some information online when I stumbled on the article. If there is ever a chance to get to Davis Island to see the ruins and the cemetery, I would love the opportunity.

  14. Roger Moore says:

    I never tied the name Jefferson Davis, just thought it was some local people that named it. I live in Vidalia and you didn’t mention the lawyers name. I hunted and fished on Davis Island a number of years ago by way of a man that was employed by J.M. Jones lumber company of Natchez, Miss. Do you know how Jones Lumber fit in?

  15. Earl Barnett says:

    I WAS BORN ON DAVIS BEND MISSISSIPPI IN 1943 .we the Barnett family left the island in 1958 and move to newton Louisiana in 1958

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