NATCHEZ ’14 NEWSLETTER #1
I am sitting on a wrought-iron bench on the bluff of the Mississippi, “Father of Waters”, in Natchez, Mississippi. I am watching bolts of lightning landing on Louisiana, and thunder is now audible as a breeze blows. The storm will soon be over the water, where a thin barge the length of a football field is being pushed by a tugboat, a knife gliding downstream. Last evening I watched a multi-hued sunset as the fiery orange ball went down between the metalwork of the bridge to Vidalia. It was a fitting end of a day filled with many meetings and sights in planning your exciting 2014 A.L.P. convention in Natchez, oldest city on the Mississippi River and fabulous capital of the cotton empire of Civil War days.
.This is my 5th visit to Natchez and Vicksburg in the last 3 years. I still haven’t seen all the wonderful sights. The area is alive with history, culture, beauty–a feast for all 5 senses.
.When I first learned of Vicksburg’s role in the Civil War and toured the battlefield and military park, I was blown away. For those of you who have not attended our convention the past 3 years, I fought hard and persistently and promised to create a fabulous annual convention for us here. I have been the sole planner, living far way near San Francisco. It has been a struggle, but fun. In this first report to you, I shall describe many of the great events I have lined up for you next April 10-13. Then I shall ask you to fill out a brief survey, as I need your opinions in order to plan and cost things out best. For those who have heard my earlier pitches, please be patient and realize that somehow quite a number of our members have not been attending the conventions; my hope is to make it easier to come on down by putting on the most rewarding and stimulating program ever for all.
.Lincoln did walk on Mississippi soil, probably in Natchez or Vicksburg. In The Battle Cry of Freedom there is a quote that Lincoln stopped along the Sugar Coast to pick up supplies on his flatboat trip to New Orleans in 1828, where he saw the gut-wrenching slave market. He commanded the Anaconda strategy in the War to control the Mississippi, saying Vicksburg was “the key I have to have in my pocket.” He got it the day after Gettysburg, following a 6-week siege and shelling that forced the people to live in caves eating rats. But Natchez was politically and economically a North-leaning city full of hundreds of (mostly Northern) mil- lionaires (“Nabobs”) from cotton, sugar, and lumber. They built incredible mansions in Natchez. It had no military importance and was occupied but preserved. Only its slave market (2nd to New Orleans’, but run in a gentlemanly way) perished. Natchez became a Nat’l. Historical Park in the 1990′s. The citizens in the Deep South have mellowed in these 150 years, and I have encountered zero ill will toward me, Lincoln, or the North in all my trips. In fact, everyone has been very friendly, and often highly excited and enthusiastic about us.
.I am incorporating in this convention all of the great features of the last few meetings. We shall stay at the National Historic Landmark Eola Hotel of 1927 with its sumptuous lobby. There will be a half-day academic session with 2 featured speakers, both from Mississippi State University. One is a 5th generation local, the other a northerner. They are world-famous and will give balanced views we may never have heard. Our own members as well as invited impersonators will give 20-minute lectures on a number of topics. After all, we are the largest repository of knowledge on Lincoln and the War! The theme of this convention is Civil War and Reconciliation with the South. The local schools will be sending reps to the session, also open to the public.
.We’ll tour the Frogmore cotton plantation across the river, learn of its slavery days and the effects of the Civil War on it and the people, breaking for hoe cake and mint julep. We’ll also have a short, very moving program at the site of the slave market in Natchez with gospel music and National Park Service participation.
We’ll spend a half-day Sunday on the Spring Pilgrimage, since 1932 a pageant in which the ante bellum mansions are opened to the public for tours, many by the family members still living there 160-220 years later. This is a really fascinating peek into how people contended with their environment and developed a highly sophisticated society (albeit unjust). The folks dress up in period costumes and are full of neat stories. On Friday evening we’ll have a mini-feast in 2 of the best homes (they used to show off their wealth at 17-course dinners). We’ll learn about southern cuisine and music.
.Saturday will be a very busy day in Vicksburg. We’ll set out early. Our tour guides will beGen. Parker Hills, the world’s expert on Grant’s Vicksburg campaign, and our Larry Clowers, a world expert on Grant. We’ll visit several sites of early battles and canal digging, then the Visitors Center and exhibition of the sunken and restored northern ironclad Cairo. Then we’ll have a narrated tour with stops in the huge military park with its 1300 monuments, some enormous, many with gorgeous bronze artwork. There’s even a new, small monument with Lincoln and Davis, off the beaten path. After that we’ll put on a free program for Vicksburg. I call it a Reconciliation Forum for Reconstruction. Lincoln, recovered from injury, along with Grant, Douglass, Stanton, Lee, and Davis, will have a roundtable discussion of how to reconstruct the defeated South. This mock session should be quite an interesting freestyle event, followed by a press conference and statement. PR will go out broadly, and I expect a packed house. A color guard and playing of Dixie and Battle Hymn of the Republic will take place. Our banquet will end the evening at our hotel, again with auction. But it’ll be more attended, by up to 200 paying public as a fundraiser for us and the Historic Natchez Foundation. There will be some valuable donated items sold at bargain prices. Souvenir photos will be taken at each table. There will be music and an hour of dramatic presentations by our members and the special impersonators.
.On Sunday we’ll view the ornate Natchez Cathedral (yup, the real McCoy!) with its painted ceiling and enormous stained glass panels. Then we’ll have an open Sunday service at Trinity Episcopal Church with its Tiffany stained glass windows. Frederick Douglass will deliver the sermon on Reconciliation, followed by mingling with the public. The last event will be part 2 of the Grant campaign bus tour, visiting battle sites of his daring maneuver to get behind Vicksburg via Jackson to the east. There will be an early, short tour ending at Jackson Airport
.For those leaving Sunday afternoon and a later, longer tour ending up at an inexpensive motel for flights out in the early morning from Jackson (which is often much cheaper than Sunday flying). Thus you will be bussed from and to Jackson Airport, which is 115 miles from Natchez (2 hours) to the southwest. Baton Rouge Airport has far fewer flights (none direct), is 90 miles south of Natchez, but still nearly a 2-hour drive and doesn’t fit in with Grant campaign tour. If you need to come into there, you’ll be picked up there, but it may be more expensive and more wait time. My plan is to reduce your travel expenses by forgoing your car, which is expensive to bring or rent, and of little use there. (More on this concept next month.) Early April is the peak of high season there, nice weather, and the area is a mecca for tourists. So, start planning for this trip now, and save up–airfares are now often very low, but some are already sold out!
.I hope you will attend this hybrid Natchez-Vicksburg convention and feel what it was like to be a southerner (free or slave) during peace and war. There is so much to see and do that I have scheduled events through Sunday around 8 P.M. I am trying to avoid missing major events by those leaving earlier on Sunday. There will be time to stroll on the river bluff and in town, and socializing time before and during dinners as well as on the longer bus rides, with box lunches including southern specialties (ever eaten hushpuppies, or heard of Hummingbird Cake?).
VERY IMPORTANT SURVEY (HELP!)
Please take a few minutes to answer these several questions anonymously, even if you do not intend to join us in Natchez. Just reply to this email (to me at email@example.com), giving the number of the question and a brief answer. If you received a paper copy and don’t have email,reply by letter to Norman Zucker, 484 Liberty Road, Petaluma, CA 94952
I realize you may be drowning in emails, or be busy with coming holidays, but I do need your responses by November 10. Thanks greatly!
.1. Which (if any) of these recent annual conventions did you attend?
A) Washington; B) Hodgenville; C) Greeneville; D) Decatur; E) Columbus. If none, why? Comments?
.2. Are you planning to attend, or leaning toward it, next April? How many in your party? If not, why?
.3. If you attend it, are you planning to drive there, or leaning toward it? If so, how many would be in your car? How many road miles is it to Natchez?
.4. Airport bus pick-up and drop-off cost will depend on number of passengers. For a 115-mile one-way fare, I foresee a ticket price of $35-45. Does that seem OK? If not, tell me what you think.
.5. Since only 13 people evaluated the last convention, tell me, from most to least important, how you rate these issues: a) hotel price; b) meals; c) historical events and sites; d) presentations; e) relax/socialize time; f) getting home Sunday night.
.6. Do you have or might obtain any items (Lincoln or not) for our auction that might bring in more than a small amount (over $25)?
.7. Would you like to do a
A) 20-minute lecture at the academic session on one of a number of topics?
B) 3-7 minute presentation at the banquet?
If so, please give me your name.