BILOXI, Miss. -- The life and writings of Jefferson Davis, the
president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865,
are on display at the newly opened Jefferson Davis Presidential
library, resolutely presidential, stands on the grounds of Beauvoir
House, the National Historic Landmark that was Davis' gulfside
retirement home from 1877 until his death in 1889. "Jefferson Davis
had, after all, been a president and deserved the same type of
recognition and respect given to other chief executives," said
Keith Anderson Hardison, executive director of the Beauvoir
The library's components were designed to mirror the libraries
of U.S. presidents and thus include a theater, exhibit gallery and
research library. One difference is in the funding. Presidential
libraries normally are constructed using private as well as
nonfederal public funds. Once built, they are operated and
maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. The
Jefferson Davis Presidential Library's $4.5 million budget came
from the state of Mississippi. The library is maintained by the
Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate
The two-story, 13,500-square-foot, Palladian-style library is
fronted by a reflecting pool and simulates the architecture of
Beauvoir House and its flanking pavilions. Its theater, where
visitors can view a film of Davis' life -- his West Point training,
Mexican War leadership, government service as a U.S. senator and
cabinet member and his Confederate presidency -- provides space for
symposiums, lectures and plays.
The exhibit, displayed in a 3,500-square-foot gallery, is said
to be the most comprehensive ever mounted on the life of Davis.
Exhibits include his funeral catafalque, figures of Davis in the
Mexican War and as Confederate president and a re-creation of his
prison cell in Fort Monroe, Va., where he was jailed for two years
after his arrest by Union soldiers in 1865.
The second-floor research library houses materials devoted
mostly to the Davis era. But among the multitude of volumes on the
stacks, a diligent scholar also can find some rare volumes on
Southern history. Materials from the 19th century and the
post-Davis era include original Davis family and wartime documents
as well as books from libraries compiled by Davis and other
occupants. Noteworthy among them are Confederate veterans who
resided there when Beauvoir served as the Confederate Men's
Hospital from 1903 to 1957.
Other points of interest are the Confederate Cemetery and the
Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, located behind the
Beauvoir House. The cemetery contains the graves of 771 Confederate
veterans and their wives.
The 52-acre estate hosts a number of public events throughout
the year. On Oct. 17, 18 and 19, Beauvoir will sponsor the annual
Fall Muster Reenactment. Each year, approximately 400 "soldiers,"
accompanied by their wives and children, return to 1860s Beauvoir
for two days of camp life. The highlight is a mock skirmish between
the Blue and the Gray, featuring original Civil War artillery.
Other activities include music and dancing, a medical
demonstration, an infantry drill, an artillery drill, 1860s church
services and children's games. Period apparel, equipment and
memorabilia will be offered for sale along with food and beverages.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 and 18, and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30
p.m. on Oct. 19. The fee for this event is still undecided, so call
ahead and confirm. Daily tours are $7.50, adults; $6.75, military,
seniors and AAA members, and $4.50, children ages 6 to 15. Younger
children are admitted free with a parent.
Beauvoir House holds five or six special events a year, Hardison
September and October feature a Children's Shakespeare Festival
and a one-woman play. On Dec. 11 and 12, from 7 to 9 p.m., Beauvoir
House will open for candlelight tours. Decorated for Christmas in
the Victorian style, as it had been when the Davis family lived
there, Beauvoir will feature a 14-foot fir tree and a live,
Victorian Santa Claus. The house will remain decorated for tours
until Christmas Eve.
There is free on-site parking for up to 90 vehicles. During
special events, free overflow parking is available at the
Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum & Convention Center, adjacent
to the property.
The regular tour hours for the Jefferson Davis Home and
Presidential Library are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The home and
library are closed Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, Phone: (800)
570-3818 or (601) 388-9074, Web: www.beauvoir.org