I wanted to put words around the slide show I posted before, but simply ran out of time. The military park was amazing, with such descriptive images of the battle sites until you couldn’t help but leave with an appreciation for what each side in the battle had to endure—the heat, the mosquitoes, the continual tests to their physical bodies. The kids were intrigued by how surprisingly hilly this area was, and I think it brought to light how difficult pulling cannons, riding horses, and even fighting within hundreds of yards of each other must have been.
During the trip, we also took in Natchez, Mississippi, allegedly the wealthiest antebellum city in the country, with more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Some of the tours through the more famous Stanton Hall and the House on Ellicott Hill were a bit pricey for a family of five ($40+ for the tour) , but we found a true treasure in the Natchez Historic Park. This was Melrose, a 16,000-square-foot estate built in the 1840’s. To put the wealth of the owners in perspective, this man made $30,000/year from a law practice when most people brought home an annual $200-$300. Now a national historic site, the home had a perfect picnic area under the beautiful magnolias. Next time, we’ll come better prepared—a couple of hours on the property, and I was starved!
The park ranger explained that the 1st floor of the home was far more ornate than the 2nd and 3rd in order for guests of the family to be impressed. Here are shots of the sitting rooms, complete with gold window treatments and the original wallpaper with gold flakes. The library was especially inviting for us; the oldest and I almost instinctively rushed to compare the family’s bookshelf content to our own. We should have just attached a sign on our foreheads that said HOMESCHOOLERS HERE.
This is a courting chair that kept a safe distance between any gentlemen callers and the girls of the family. I’m thinking to buy one of these for our home! (smile)
Above this dining room table is what I think of as the original ceiling fan. It is called a ponka (sp?), I believe, and has a rope attached to it. A slave about the age of our son would gently pull and loosen the rope while the family ate, creating a pleasant mealtime breeze.
The items below are also interesting. I learned that the 1st child of this family died at about 16 months old. It was a custom of sorts to paint a “death portrait” of anyone who passed, and so this little precious one was captured in oil on canvas. The other device is a carriage to transport another of the children, who was unable to walk on his own. Again, a young slave might have the job of pulling the handle and the child around during the day.
These are shots of the upstairs, which is, again, more simply stated, yet equally elegant. The actual daybed below the full-sized bed was available in case someone wanted a nap during the day–you never crawled back into the bed that is used for overnight rest. Others in our group noticed that the bed was a full-sized bed, but appeared shorter than modern-day beds. Did you know that the average height of a man in that day was around 5’8”, and an average woman was 5’2”? I wonder, what happened?
Outside the rear of the house were separate facilities for the kitchen and the laundry room. Each of these “homes” had one facility below, and on the 2nd floor lived a house slave who was responsible for what was on the first floor. The third picture shows the home of the field slaves, much smaller and much farther away from the rest of the facilities. For the purposes of the tour, these homes were glamorized to look like 3-room cottages, a very different depiction than I’ve found in most of my reading.
It was a wonderful trip, but perhaps equally moving was the opportunity to pray with my dear sister in Christ, bubbebobbie. She and I have had an exchange about our choices for a Presidential candidate over the last several months, and though we disagreed on our ultimate choice, we agreed that prayer and repentance was what this country needed most. So we decided to pray, except that I was on the road, so finding the time to connect was near impossible. We wound up interceding over the phone in the midst of our family transferring to another hotel that was roach-free–YIKES! Suffice it to say that the devil was busy, but oh, what a time, what a time. I could not articulate how good it felt to pray with someone whose heart so sought the Lord. Finding Christians in this time who truly take God at His word and don’t sound like the unsaved is a rarity, and I don’t take lightly the time we spent together. I was so taken by her diligence in praying for each of the candidates and their families, her obvious attention to each person’s special needs, and her passion for this country to return to Christ, our real leader. My life will never be the same.
So, I couldn’t help but reflect on last week as I watched Barack Obama make his acceptance speech on last night. We allowed the kids to stay awake and watch history in the making. I thought so much about my dad, who would have been surprised and proud to see a ‘colored boy’ (the term he used often, and no doubt, had been called a time or two, being born in the early 1900’s) become President-elect of the United States. It was a great day to be alive, and a lot to smile about. I thought McCain’s concession speech was eloquent, and I could only add that whomever God uses and how He uses them, our task as Christians is not to judge or “freak out,” but to pray and trust.
Today, with my heart still full of joy, the kids and I studied the battle at Gettysburg and worked on their learning of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. As I read the words of then President Abraham Lincoln, it all came together as I thought about the slaves at Melrose, my dad, and the fight that led to this historic time:
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated [this land], far above our poor power to add or detract…It is for the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…