The Letters of Two Historical Families: Jackson and Koch

By Marco J. Giardino, Ph.D. and Russell Guerin


The East bank of the East Pearl River is high and dry land, built during the Pleistocene period, tens of thousands of years before the present. The west bank of the East Pearl River is low and swampy, mostly contained in the hugeness of Honey Island swamp, where stories of a “Bigfoot” and Lafitte’s treasure still abound. It is also part of Louisiana, not Mississippi as is the east shore.

There is a West Pearl River, also a part of Louisiana and a Middle Pearl River, present only in the southernmost stretch of this basin. But it is the high terrace of the eastern side of the East Pearl that merits historic study, since for 50 years it was the international boundary between European colonial powers. Here the British granted land to the officers and soldiers that fought in the Revolutionary War. Here the Americans drew the boundary line separating the new Louisiana Purchase from Spanish Territory. It was on this high land that turn of the 19th century slave traders found staging areas to import Africans into the New World, after Jefferson had prohibited this horrid commerce in the newly bought territory.

The East Pearl River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, or it almost does. It bifurcates around an island at its mouth where the British camped on their way to being defeated by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. It empties then into Mississippi Sound, protected from the open Gulf by a series of barrier islands with names like Ship and Cat, given to them by the French explorers in 1699 under the leadership of the Canadian brothers Iberville and Bienville.

There is ample evidence buried along the East bank of the East Pearl River that Native Americans favored the place from earliest times. The land was there during the time of the Paleo-Indian big game hunters, but few artifacts from that period have been discovered. At that time the Gulf of Mexico was dozens of miles to the south of its current location, and those earliest archaeological sites are likely under its waters.

There are numerous archaeological sites dating from the Archaic period, and particularly from the mound-building times called Poverty Point. As early as 1500 BC and continuing until historic tribes like the Pascagoula and Biloxi were described as living here by the early French, Native Americans hunted, fished and navigated the Pearl River drainage, building earthworks, mounds and leaving a great deal of evidence of their trading acumen and artisanship.

It was archaeology that brought us to the topic of this book. One of the most interesting and well-preserved prehistoric sites to be found in Hancock County, on a distributary of the East Pearl River, is variously known as Jackson’s Landing on Mulatto Bayou. To mid-19th century occupants, it was known as Clifton Plantation. Here Andrew Jackson Jr. attempted one more time, without success, to make a profit from one of his land ventures. Near here, John Claiborne, “the historian of Mississippi,” profitably grew Sea Island cotton and “worked” both sides of the Civil War. Here Christian Koch, his wife Annette, and their seven children came to get the mail during the Civil War. 

It is commonly prescribed to professional archaeologists, that they recount the history of a site’s occupation, even if perfunctorily, prior to immersion into the prehistoric deposits many prefer. As we began this normally expeditious research, we began to encounter family names of National import, like Bienville, Pintado, Jackson and Claiborne. As we attempted the standard deed search, we came face-to-face with the reality of four different methods of land granting and recording: French, British, Spanish and American. And most fascinating, we discovered a treasure of primary documentation, mostly family letters, written by Andrew Jackson, Jr., Sarah, his wife and their children. These documents arer housed at the Hermitage, in Tennessee and provided a new view of the Southern US before the Civil War. Further, they shed light on the trials and difficulties of President’s Jackson’s adopted son, who due to his excesses and poor business dealings caused great hardship on his father. Andrew Jr. bought Clifton in 1856, and the documents shed new light on the prehistoric and historic archaeological remains still buried at this site.

Through the documents mentioned above, as well as others from the Koch family, we find new information about John Claiborne, famed author, historian and Legislator. He probably knew Andrew and his famous dad, since his own father, General Ferdinand Claiborne, had fought alongside General Jackson during the Creek Wars. John Claiborne facilitated Andrew Jr’s move the Pearl River.

Claiborne also assisted, at least initially, the large family of his neighbor to the north, Christian Koch, Danish sea captain and landowner, who married a local girl and raised seven children near Logtown, Mississippi. Although less known than Jackson, Jr. and Claiblorne, the legacy of the Koch family, locally and perhaps nationally, is most enduring. His vast number of descendants gather regularly at the Bogue Homa homestead, where Christian, his wife Annette and several children and relatives are buried. There is no home at Bogue Homa anymore. It was moved north when NASA selected this portion of Hancock County for its newest Space Center, to test the rocket engines that would fly man to the Moon. The graves are in the woods, preserved with that of Asa Russ’ little daughter who died prior to Asa selling the land to Koch in the mid 1800s. The descendants of Christian and Annette have traveled the world. Some became famous explorers and surveyors. There is even a mountain named after one of them in Montana.

The Jacksons left nothing behind but their name, ubiquitously found along the Hancock County Coast and up the Pearl River, but normally associated with some assumed exploit of the President rather than the failed exploits of his son. Claiborne left Hancock County in 1870. His beautiful home, Laurel Wood, was torn down in the 1960s.

In the final analysis, the most enduring legacy left by all three men and their families, at least for the historian and archaeologists, are their private letters and documents. They provide an irreplaceable window into American southern life just before and during the Civil War. We are most grateful to them all for this priceless gift.

The site of Major Andrew Jackson’s Clifton Plantation had not changed very much by 1860. It was then that Eugene Woldemer Hilgard, Mississippi State Geologist, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Benjamin Wailes and visited one of the holdings of Andrew Jackson, Jr, adopted son of the seventh President of the United States. Hilgard also visited the plantation of the famed Mississippi historian John Claiborne, Jackson’s neighbor and associate. Both were Sea Island cotton plantations, located near the shell hammock whose soil, mulatto in color, is “most esteemed along the coast” [1]. Hilgard stated that cotton thrived on these hammocks.

The site, said Hilgard, was crowned with a “magnificent growth of Magnolia” along with sweet gum, bay, white oaks, ironwood, sassafras, hickory, pitch pine, French mulberry, Hercules club, prickly ash. The shells, deposited hundreds and even thousands of years before by the Native American inhabitants of the Mulatto Bayou site, were visible on the surface at the Bayou on Andrew Jackson’s property, where they extended for about 300 yards along the bayou and were 10 yards wide and 10 feet high. Colonel Claiborne’s land contained a smaller hummock of shells, mostly oysters unlike those previously described on Jackson’s property, which were primarily clam. These observations would provide significant clues to 20th century scientists who excavated these shell sites and began unraveling the climatic and cultural changes that are recorded in the archaeological sites along Mulatto Bayou.

 It was the pursuit of archaeology that brought us to discover the Andrew Jackson Jr. family letters, and from there, the vast archive of writings left us by Christian Koch and his wife Annette, citizens of Hancock County during the Civil War.

These two families are part of the rich history of the early settlers who made their homes along the lower reaches of the Pearl River in Hancock County Mississippi. Their presence can be documented through official records, including deeds and probate records, in spite of the fact that the courthouse at Gainesville burned in 1853. Names that evoke the historian’s interest, like Jackson and Claiborne, are found here in deed searches. Others, like Favre, Seal, Russ, Poitevent, Graves, Gaines, Carre, Nixon, Weston and Baxter are carved still on the tombstones of cemeteries at Pearlington and what used to be Logtown and Napoleon. The latter two towns no longer exist as such, as they are inside NASA’s restricted area, but they show on old maps and are known mostly only to hunters and fishermen.

But deed searches and probate records, while valuable, cannot give a good understanding of the day-by-day lives experienced by early settlers. Happily, the writings that have been preserved from the two families are in sufficient volume as to create a virtual dialogue within those families about conditions before and during the Civil War.

The Jackson and Koch families, through their letters, are revealed in a more intimate way than any amount of arduous research could accomplish. It is in their self-described joys and despairs that we may participate in what archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes defined as her ultimate goal, “to understand what it is to be human.” (Archaeology magazine)

In the process of sharing in the personal lives of the Jackson and Koches, the letters add to our knowledge of cultural, social, economic and political events experienced before and during the Civil War by the inhabitants of South Mississippi. The Jackson letters show an almost casual approach to the build-up of hostilities. Even during the last days before the outbreak of hostilities, when some panic is observable in others’ correspondence, Andrew Jackson and his family demonstrated little fear or concern in their letters.

The Jackson documents show also the effects of the war on civil administration. This is observable in the fact of an important legal action that was taken in 1861, to wit, the sheriff’s sale of his Hancock County property for taxes, did not become effective until 1870.

The Koch papers show the reality of the Civil War away from the battlefield: privations, desertions and conscriptions; the need to hide in the swamps; lawlessness, Jayhawkers, and vigilante committees. At the same time, families are observed striving to feed themselves while feeding enemy cavalry and their horses, and even attempting to carry on normal commerce. In the letters we find evidence of stiff competition in the pursuit of business, sometimes reflecting cheating and espionage.

While historians sometimes report that the southern part of Mississippi was under Union control early in the war, the Koch letters show that this was not so, at least in the strategically important Pearl River area of Hancock County. Much new historical information can be gleaned from the Koch’s correspondence to add knowledge to the Civil War years.

In Hancock County as elsewhere, little is known of the Jackson and Koch families. A great deal, however, is known about another settler, John Francis Hamtrack Claiborne. The enigmatic Col. Claiborne has a prominent place in this study because of his close relationships with the Jackson and Koch families. Claiborne himself recorded much. In addition to his writings, Claiborne left a wealth of historical papers now housed in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, MS. But it is in the fact that Claiborne served almost as a foil to Andrew Jackson, Jr. and Christian Koch that it is necessary to review his character and personality, thereby giving insight to the other men.

This study of Andrew Jr. will reveal on the one hand a man who bore a great name, for which he and his family were given extraordinary advantages but who nonetheless ran hell-bent to failure. On the other hand, an immigrant sailor from Denmark, with no privilege or advantage, persevered through years of adversities and raised a family whose descendents today number in the hundreds and return to the Koch homestead regularly to celebrate their deep family roots in this part of Mississippi.

The Jackson letters predate the Civil War; the Koch family exchanged most of their writings during the war. Not only in observation of chronology, but also because of the Claiborne connection, Jackson is treated first. And with respect to timing, it is probable that this story began long before the1850’s, perhaps on the battlefields of the Creek War in Alabama in 1813.


The first recorded non-Native settlement of southwest Hancock County, Mississippi begins in 1767, when Jean Claude Favre of Mobile was granted land along the east Pearl River. The British owned the area at that time. The local Choctaws were causing problems. Jean Claude, like his father, Jean Baptiste, before him and his son, Simon after him, was a renowned Indian interpreter and guide. He might have been granted land to interact with the local Native American groups and in some ways pacify them.

France had claimed the region at the turn of the 18th century. The French hunted in the Pearl River area and often sailed along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi as they traveled between their two main towns: Mobile and New Orleans. In 1732, Bienville sponsored the expedition of Captain De Regis du Roullet to visit the Choctaw villages starting in Mobile Bay, and then traveling through Jackson, Mississippi and eventually sailing down the Pearl River. The young Captain camped near the site of Gainesville (currently the location of NASA at the Stennis facility) on August the 6th, 1732. He reported that the Choctaw called the Pearl River “Ecfinatcha” or “White River” On August the 8th, Regis du Roullet passed the abandoned site of the Biloxi village on the Pearl River. Du Roullet did not report the presence of any European settlements along the east bank of the East Pearl River.

The British and their ally Prussia emerged victorious from the Seven Years War known in North America as the French and Indian War (1756-1763). The losers, France, Austria and Russia, had lured Spain into the War just one year before its conclusion. Spain had lost Havana and Manila in the war. In an effort to strengthen Bourbon ties, France gave all of Louisiana west of Mississippi to Spain, and including the “Isle” of New Orleans. In order to retrieve Havana, Spain ceded Florida to Britain. Consequently, by 1763 all lands east of Mississippi River (except Isle of Orleans) were ruled by Great Britain until 1782 when Spain conquered these lands again. New Orleans and the western portions of the Louisiana Territory were purchased by the United States in 1803. The Spanish possessions east of the East Pearl River were not included in this historic land deal. In fact, the land that was to be the home of Andrew Jackson, Jr., John Claiborne and Christian Koch was added to the United States territories in 1812.

After Louisiana was admitted to the Union as a state in 1812, the land east of the Pearl River, west of the Perdido River, and south of the 31st parallel was annexed, by an Act of Congress on May 14, 1812, to the Territory of Mississippi. The annexation became effective when federal troops entered Mobile Bay in April 1813. Hancock and Harrison Counties were formed in 1812 from the newly annexed Mobile District. In 1813, Hancock County became part of the Mississippi Territory[2].

John F.H. Claiborne

Besides the Jackson and Koch families, there were other, contemporary personages involved in the area. One of the most important bore a famous name and was a pivotal character in the life of the Jacksons and Koches. J.F.H. Claiborne was born of a famous father and was nephew of the governor of Mississippi Territory. His father, Brigadier General Ferdinand Claiborne, was commander of the southern wing of the army during the Creek War, serving with Major General Andrew Jackson. Thomas Jefferson appointed his uncle, W.C.C. Claiborne, first governor of Louisiana.

J.F.H. Claiborne had a multi-faceted life. An educated lawyer, he was at various times a United States Congressman, orator, editor, historian, slave dealer, defender of Choctaw lands (and possibly exploiter of Choctaw land legislation), grower of Sea Island cotton, anti-secessionist, buyer of Confederate bonds, spy for the Union, and father of a Confederate officer killed in battle.

With regard to the American Indian “problem,” not all Americans chose to look the other way, including J.F.H. Claiborne. Claiborne had already won national recognition by becoming the youngest member of Congress in 1835. In that capacity, he had urged the passage of a bill creating the Chickasaw school fund. He was not reelected in 1837, but was sufficiently respected to be appointed president of he Board of Choctaw Commissioners in 1842. The purpose of this body was to adjudicate claims by which the Choctaws may be entitled under the terms of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Greedy speculators had purchased many of these claims, and a bitter fight ensued. Claiborne exposed the schemes, calling the attempts to get rich on the part of the speculators frauds. Influential people were behind the claims, and they employed S.S. Prentiss on a contingency fee of the astronomical fee of $100,000.  

Claiborne had written a pamphlet detailing the schemes and placed copies on the desks of all members of Congress. Prentiss then challenged Claiborne’s competency, subsequently inviting Claiborne to a duel. One Forrester issued another challenge of honor, but Claiborne had the good sense to decline both. Nonetheless, there were threats on his life. Finally, he succeeded in having the commission adopt a plan recommended by him, intended to allow the Choctaws the value of their claims and paying them annual interest on the funds after their removal West.

Claiborne’s move to Hancock County was to be significant for his personal and professional development. “Indeed his decision to settle at ‘Laurel Wood’ in 1853 was a turning point for Claiborne, for it was at his plantation that he rebuilt his personal and political fortunes, and it was there that he produced most of the writings that brought him recognition as Mississippi’s foremost historian of the nineteenth century.” [3]

Without question, Claiborne’s father and Andrew Jackson, Jr.’s adoptive father, President Jackson, knew each other; and any reading of the Creek War will attest to this fact. As will be explored herein, there were other connections which were not likely merely coincidental, and it is probable that John Claiborne and Jackson, Jr. also knew each other at a time previous to the latter’s move to south Mississippi. What is known for certain is that Claiborne was the instrument of at least two purchases by Jackson in Hancock County, and that he offered his hospitality to the family during their transition to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He also continued to be friendly and helpful to young Samuel Jackson, left by his father to oversee the plantation neighboring Claiborne’s. It is an unfortunate detail of history that not long thereafter, Claiborne would be a party to a suit against Andrew Jackson, Jr.


Book I

The Family of Andrew Jackson Jr.

John Claiborne was instrumental in bringing down to Hancock County the adopted son of President Andrew Jackson, and helping him to invest widely throughout the area. He was also the one who gave written references to his suppliers so that Jackson Jr. would be readily accepted financially. There must have been some serious questions about Major Jackson’s activities in Hancock County between 1856 and 1861, especially in the minds of Claiborne, Asa Russ, and other locals, as well as W.R. Adams of New Orleans. W. R. Adams was to appear just a few short years later as the chief creditor in the suit in which all of Jackson’s land was sold in an 1861 sheriff’s sale. Those who knew him and his illustrious adoptive father might have predicted Andrew Jackson, Jr. financial problems in south Mississippi.

The Adoption of Young Andrew

Rachel Donelson Jackson was childless throughout her marriage to Andrew Jackson Sr, but the wife of her brother Severn had twins, one of whom was adopted from early age as the son of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. According to one story, his biological mother was sickly and could not care for twins. While this may not be factual, it was accepted that the Jacksons would adopt one and raise him as their own. He was given the name Andrew Jackson, Jr. His foster father cared for several other wards, including a Creek infant adopted during the Creek war. It happened that he was orphaned in one of the battles in which the Creeks were nearly annihilated, and the general, on hearing the crying of this child, asked that he be given to another Indian woman. On being told that there was no one who could care for the baby, General Jackson took the baby to himself, named him Lincoyer, and raised him fully as one of the family. Unfortunately, the young Indian died in his teens of tuberculosis. None of Jackson’s wards, not even Lincoyer, however, was doted on and spoiled, as was Andrew Jr.

History records that enormous amounts of love, affection, money and other privileges were granted to Andrew Jr. from the beginning. He never made good use of his advantage. Instead Andrew Jr. squandered his father’s resources and his own in ill-planned ventures and excessive indulgences.

Early Financial Miscalculations

The President himself had enormous money problems through much of his adult life. While strong in character and of a resolute disposition, he clearly was unable to deny much to Andrew, Jr. who most likely was the primary cause of the President’s fiscal difficulties. When the President died in 1845, his assets included the Hermitage, its slaves, and other real estate, but no money. He borrowed $2,000 not long before his death, raising his total debt to $26,000. In 1840, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, he agreed to attend the celebration in New Orleans in spite of his declining health and advancing age. The reason: to borrow some much-needed cash from some of his loyal friends, including General Jean B. Plauche.

Andrew Jr.’s pattern of wasteful spending was evident from an early age. As a student, he accumulated a debt of $309 to his clothing outfitter in six and a half months. He bought a new wardrobe, including a ten-dollar hat, a $26 suit, and silk hose at $1.50 a pair. He had his own horse, his own body servant and imported kerchiefs.

In 1834, at age 26, he repurchased Hunter’s hill (which was adjacent to Hermitage and had been lost by forced sale by Jackson many years before) for $10,000. He signed one and two-year notes but could give his father no copies or details for nine months. It was a gross overpayment and the contract allowed the proceeds of cotton sales to go directly to the seller. As he was to do in Mississippi, Andrew Jr. overestimated his cotton yields and went further into debt. The following year, when the second note was due, there were seven late frosts, killing half the crop. Still Jackson, Jr. was optimistic.

The Hermitage was severely damaged on October 13, 1834 by a disastrous fire during Jackson’s second Presidential term. Since Jackson Sr. was busy in Washington running the affairs of the Nation, it fell to Jackson Jr. and his wife Sarah in 1836 to supervise the reconstruction and furnishing the new Hermitage. That year, the President had written to his son: “Our real wants are few, our imaginary wants many, which never ought to be gratified by creating a debt to satisfy them.”[4] The cost to rebuild the Hermitage was four times the estimate. Still, in 1838, the President paid $7,000, mostly to satisfy the obligations of Andrew Jr. who had endorsed notes of others.

Jackson Jr.’s poor real estate investments continued with the purchase of Halcyon Plantation for which the President had to pay the first note in 1839 in the amount of $5,176. In the same year, Jackson Sr. refused to pay a two-year overdue note amounting to $550 for a carriage; his son had lied about the purchase[5].

In 1840, Jackson found it necessary to restructure the obligation for Halcyon Plantation. In the same year, ill after his return from New Orleans, the father wrote to his son, “Recollect my son that I have taken this trip to endeavor to releve [sic] you from present embarrassments, and if I live to realize it, I will die contented in the hopes that you will never again encumber yourself with debt that may result in the poverty of yourself and the little family I so much love.” [6]

No manner of reasoning or parental appeal swayed young Andrew from his wasteful ways. The same year of the President’s plea, Andrew told his father of a $6,000 debt which was in truth $12,000 and in just a few months grew to $15,000. Defending his son, Jackson blamed $10,000 of the debt on “swindlers” who had taken advantage of his son[7].

But Andrew Jr.’s mismanagement continued and the President’s resource dwindled. During this time, the slaves of Halcyon Plantation were cold and hungry and the plantation overseer sought legal means to recover back wages. Jackson resorted to selling off his saddle mare; he sold beef from the smokehouse. One of President Jackson’s other ward was suffering with terminal cancer but the money that had been saved for a medical visit went to pay off more of Andrew Jr.’s debts. To make matters worse, Jackson’s political enemies, the Whigs, made political hay of the situation.

By 1844, Jackson Jr. was again endorsing notes for others, including one for his cousin. The following year, President Jackson, now an invalid and approaching death, was informed of a new $6,000 debt incurred by his adopted son. Still before his death, Jackson Sr. resisted the advice of others with regard to the disposition of his estate, still favoring Andrew Jr.

Andrew Jackson, Jr in Hancock County

May 1856
A perspective:

Charles Sumner, the senator from Massachusetts and an outspoken anti-slavery man, gives a vituperative speech against the pro-slavery elements in the Senate. Three days later, as Sumner is sitting at his Senate desk, a South Carolina representative, Preston Brooks, beats Sumner with a stick. It will be three years before Sumner fully recovers, but he is regarded as a martyr by Northern abolitionists – while many Southerners praise Congressman Brooks. In Kansas, late in May, pro-slavery men attack Lawrence, center of the anti-slavery settlers, and kill one man. In retaliation, a band of slavery men, led by the fiery abolitionist John Brown, kill five pro-slavery men at Pottawotamie Creek.

– John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 17


Also in 1856, the State of Tennessee bought the Hermitage along with 500 acres for $48,000. It was with this money that Jackson Jr. went on a spending spree in Hancock County buying plantations that he would soon lose for want of funds.

Andrew Jackson the General and President had been enormously popular in Mississippi. He was, after all, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, and a favorite in the hearts of the Gulf Coast population. During his presidency, he had favored Indian removal in Mississippi and millions of acres previously occupied by Native Americans had become available to white settlers for as little as a $1.25 per acre.

PerhapsAndrew Jr. chose this region for his new home hoping to ride his father’s bandwagon. An open question is whether he hoped that his creditors would ignore or be unaware of his previous failed enterprises. Maybe the move was in large part facilitated by some previous relationship between Andrew Sr and Ferdinand Claiborne. As stated above, Col. J.F.H. Claiborne, General Ferdinand’s’ son, was instrumental from the beginning in introducing Andrew Jr to prominent citizens in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. John Claiborne’s letters of introduction allowed Andrew to secure credit, and to purchase several properties at relatively reasonable prices.

Letters between the fathers of the two men are included in the J.F.H. Claiborne collection in Jackson, MS. They manifest certain cordiality between Generals, and indeed Gen. Claiborne addresses Gen. Jackson as “Esteemed General.”[8] Ferdinand Claiborne was active in state politics, having served as Speaker of the Mississippi legislature. The Claibornes surely would have been useful contacts for the young Tennessean starting anew with a sizable amount of newly found cash.

J.F.H. Claiborne probably knew President Jackson. Claiborne was listed among twelve “managers” on an invitation to a ball given in honor of the general in January 1828. The ball was sponsored by leading citizens of Natchez, and was held at the Mississippi Hotel of Natchez.[9]

John Claiborne, who belonged to the same political party as Andrew Jackson, was elected to Congress during Jackson’s second term. His election was by a large majority, and at that time, he was the youngest member of that body.

Additional connections between the Jackson and Claiborne families may have involved W.C.C. Claiborne, the first governor of Louisiana. W. C. C. Claiborne defeated Wm. Cocke for the unexpired term in the House of Representatives in 1797, when Andrew Jackson was elected to the Senate. It is known that Jackson favored Claiborne and got into a dispute with Cocke, almost resulting in a duel. [10] William C.C. was a younger brother of Ferdinand, and like his brother, and later his nephew, entered politics at a very early age. Having moved to Tennessee at an early age to practice law there, he was elected to Congress at age 22. Probably not coincidentally, he was to complete Andrew Jackson’s term. It is perhaps noteworthy that he married a Nashville native, Eliza Lewis. Elizabeth Lewis was the daughter of William Terrell Lewis, a prominent Nashville leader. She died, along with her three year-old daughter of yellow fever on September 27, 1804, in New Orleans. Another Lewis, apparently not related, was William B. Lewis, who was Andrew Jackson’s closest neighbor when Jackson married Rachel. The latter Lewis also married a daughter of William Terrell Lewis, that daughter being Margaret, a sister of Elizabeth. At the time of that marriage, Eliza would already have been deceased several years; nevertheless, the connection between the Jacksons and the Claibornes seems inescapable. The latter Lewis also received several high-ranking appointments during the Jackson administration. In a letter dated March 15, 1813, to General Andrew Jackson, Governor Claiborne wrote, “The friendship which I formed for you in early life, is still ardent and sincere….”[11]

Despite the numerous connections between the two families, not all relationships were cordial. Gov. Claiborne resented Gen. Jackson’s authority prior to the battle at Chalmette, and Jackson is quoted as saying that Claiborne was “…much better qualified for great pomp & show, & courting popularity – quiet life – in civil walks – than military achievement amidst peril danger.”[12]

A third Claiborne brother, Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne, in his book about the war, does not make any significant connection between the Jacksons and the Claibornes, other than the service by the two generals in the Creek War. There is no mention of an intercession by Jackson when WCC succeeded to Jackson’s Congressional seat; instead, Nathaniel attributes the happening to “friends.” Indeed, he does devote a short chapter to Gen. Jackson, but in the process shows little familiarity with the general. It is apparent that Nathaniel was not a close friend of Andrew Jackson as there is a statement in his book, published in 1819, that Jackson “is at least sixty.” In fact the President at that time would have been only 53 years old.[13]

John Claiborne in Hancock County

John Claiborne owned at least two properties in Hancock County. One, Laurel Wood, was located along the lower reaches of the East Pearl River. The other, the Zama Plantation, is less well known to archaeologists and historians. We have the records and deeds, but its original location is still not totally clear, although it was adjacent to, or very near, Laurel Wood.

Laurel Wood was Claiborne’s Sea Island cotton plantation.[14] He did not settle there until 1853, but the manor house, according to some records, had been built about 1804 by Francois Saucier with slave labor. The house was one of several constructed around 1804 along the East Pearl River and the Gulf Coast of Spanish Florida, possibly in response to the Louisiana Purchase. Thomas Jefferson outlawed the slave trade in he newly acquired territory, forcing slave traders east across the Pearl, then the international boundary between Spain and the United States.

Also in 1853, Claiborne received an appointment to a government sinecure from his friend, President Franklin Pierce. This resulted from Claiborne’s suggestion that the timber management of the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana be combined and that he be given authority over the district. For this he was paid a salary, which together with the successful plantation, made for a comfortable life.

Just south of Laurel Wood was the Clifton Plantation. Judge Lewis Daniell from South Carolina had purchased the Clifton in 1826 from the heirs of Don Louis Boisdore.[15] Daniells, referred to as a judge, may have arrived into the area as early as 1823. By 1836, he was paying the second highest tax in the county, to cover his 884 acres, 700 meat cattle, a carriage of $200 value, and 41 slaves. In 1846, The Gainesville newspaper reported, “Hancock claims the finest specimen of sea island cotton exhibited in the Liverpool market last year. It was grown on the plantation of Judge Daniells.”[16]

The state geologist, Benjamin Wailes in 1852, visited Clifton just four years before Andrew Jr. purchased the place. He noted in his journal that Daniells had sold his cotton for fifty cents per pound, saying, “…it brings upon an average of three times as much as the short staple cotton.”[17]     

Having received the payment from the state of Tennessee in 1856, Jackson Jr. made his first purchase in Hancock County in December of that year, buying the Clifton plantation, for which he paid $8,525. It was comprised of 647 acres, a working plantation adjacent to Judge Claiborne’s Laurel Wood Plantation. The heirs of Judge Lewis Daniells, who had died earlier that year, sold Clifton.[18]

John Claiborne acted as intermediary in the sale and he also promoted to Jackson the purchase of a second plantation, that being 318 acres “on the Lake Shore” owned by Asa Russ[19]. Claiborne was obviously anxious for Jackson to move down and in fact offered his own house until the latter could get settled. He also recommended his own suppliers and had written them letters of introduction for Jackson. He offered his personal endorsements and those of Mr. Russ. Was John Claiborne familiar with Jackson’s often-ruinous business deals? The Clifton place had been a working and profitable plantation at the time of Daniells’ death, so Claiborne could not have had duplicitous motives for encouraging Jackson to move to the Coast in hopes of profiting from the latter’s apparent lack of business acumen.

Claiborne wrote to Andrew Jr. the day after the Clifton deed was executed:

Pearlington, Mi, Dec. 3d, 1856

My dear Sir,
We have bid off the Clifton plantation for you at $8,525, 1/3 to be paid immediately, & the balance in 1 & 2 years at 6 per. cent. ….
It is all important therefore, that you should be in New Orleans forth with. And your team should be here at work, as soon as possible. The land should be turned up immediately. Your plows, grubbing hoes &axes should be at work….
If you wish to buy anything in New Orleans, & have no merchants there, I would refer you for hardware to Sam. Locke. For provisions to Boyle & Crone 102 Tchopitoulas Street, now F.A. Boyle & Co; and for grain to I.W. Wilder, 5 New Basin. Groceries—R.W. Adams & Co. These are my merchants, & if you apply to them you will find that I have written to them & you will meet with friends….
Mrs. Russ is willing to sell at $6,000. She says that will not pay for the improvements. I think the place very cheap at that price. She says you can have it, at that price, or on the same terms; of if you prefer it you can take possession, at any time you choose to make the first payment. They will keep it til the 1. Dec. next when you can make the first payment, or it you choose. I have said to them that they may consider the trade as made—for I think it a bargain & would be perfectly willing myself to buy it at that rate.
Hoping to see you soon, I remain

Truly Yours,
JFH Claiborne

Our best regards to Mrs. Jackson.
PS. You must consider my house your home until you are settled—If you need endorsers here in any of your arrangements Mr. Russ & myself will with pleasure endorse for you. [20]


Andrew Jr’s Land in Hancock County

So, in quick succession, Jackson bought the two spreads described above, and as well as the Mitchell Place, located near Clifton. While the price of the third site was less than the priceof the others ($2,760), it was the largest at 1920 acres, fully three square miles. The seller was James Mitchell[21], who had married one of the daughters of Lewis Daniells and had participated in the December sale of Clifton. In addition to these three major sites, Jackson bought two minor properties, one of 40 acres and the other of 80 acres[22].   As in the transactions for Clifton and the Russ place, Claiborne was intimately involved. On March 17, 1857, he receipted the draft and two notes tendered by Jackson, with the commitment that they would be handed over to Mitchell upon the completion of an agreement. [23]

Young Samuel Jackson, son of Andrew Jr and Sarah, preceded his parent to the Gulf Coast. On March 26, 1857, he wrote to his mother, providing a good description of the major properties just purchased:

I will endeavour to give you a description of the three places, beginning with the Dannial <sic> place you know now days all the attraction in this world is money, on that account and for that reason I am pleased with the place, I expect to make this year About $10,00 <sic> in cotton. [the land] was filled with sedge grass, which makes it very difficult to get it to the propper <sic> state for cultivation we will not have quite two hundred acres this year, we should I think cultivate about three hundred and fifty next year. we never get less than $120.00 pr bale, so you see it is quite a money making place, but as a Residence I do not think you would like this place. Col. Claybourn’s family is the only one you would visit unless it was at the Bay of St Louis which is eighteen miles distent <sic> and at times a wretched road The house is a very old one and in quite a delapidated <sic> state. It is about three miles distent <sic> to the gulf and between the house and the gulf is mostly marsh. The Bayou which you heard Pa speak of is little to the right of the house we can get to one place on it, that is at the landing[24]. we have a very nice road leading down there, on eithe <sic> side of the bayou is long grass or rather rush as I believe it is called there is some large trees at the landing which makes a very shady place for fishing I have been several times but have been as unsuccessful as I generally was in Tennessee. We have very fine large Magnolia trees, [illegible but probably “sweet”] Bay the Live Oak and any number of Pine and others not worth the while to mention It is sayed <sic> that this place was at one time noted for its fine fruits, but the orange and lemmon <sic> trees are ded <sic>, excepting those orange’s that are in the [illegible], but we have the finest fig orchard in the country, the cabins are situated in a row which are also in bad condition, and will have to be torn down next fall. the greatest objection to the country is the moschitos <sic>, and they are awful, but as Col Claybourn says he would prefer their sting to sickness. the latter they say we never have. [25] Mitchell place has been cultivated but little. there is but little land that can be cultivated with out it is the pl[illegible] which will have to be drained, and then we will have about 1,000 acres in one field of the finest soil, but it will take a great deal of labour <sic> to drain it. the improvements are not worth any thing that are on it and I do not think there is a prettie building site on. The magnolia joins it but I have not seen it, but from what I ear <SIC> I do not like it, it has no timber on it. The Russ place[26] I think very prettie one, the house is a very good size the rooms are I think to <sic> small they are very little half more than half as large as our place. their <sic> are a great many prettie flowers, also some very nice fruit trees. it can be made one of the most valuable places in the country. the cotton stalks grow eight to ten feet tall and as large as my arm. the <sic> were about three inches in diamiter <sic> and sixteen feet tall. there is a marsh, which if once drained, the soil of of <sic> the richest kind, will be everlasting, and about 200 acres. it is quite dull in the winter season, but pleasant in the summer season, and very few moschitos <sic>[27], to what there is here. I do not like the [Poor] place…their <sic> was two deed given me by Col Claybourn which he told me should be recorded. one of them was given by Mr. James Mitchell the other one held by a Mr. Russ was given also, which I sent by an old man by the name of Gallender to have it recorded at Gainsville <sic>”[28]


As stated previously, the Daniell Place was known as Clifton Plantation, and the Russ Place eventually became Sea Song.[29] The letter from Samuel is one of many found at the Hermitage relating to the Jacksons’ experiences in Mississippi.

A close study of these letters, necessitated by the many travels of Andrew from the Coast while Sarah and Samuel stayed behind, provide vivid character studies of Jackson Jr., his wife, Sarah Yorke Jackson, and the second of their sons, young Samuel, only nineteen in 1856 when he penned the letter extensively quoted above. Already Samuel was running the day-to-day operations of a large plantation with many slaves. It is evident from his many letters that he is a loving, dutiful son; but also a rather lonely young man while living at Clifton, as will be documented below from more of his letters.

In addition, the letters provide insight into the life and character of Andrew Jackson, Jr., who, once he had purchased these properties in south Mississippi, was often absent. Also evident is his penchant for changing his mind easily, almost whimsically, about important things, and his lack of accountability with regard to his commitments.

Sarah Yorke Jackson was a well-bred Philadelphian who had served for a time as First Lady in the White House during President’s Jackson second term .[30] Prior to her marriage to Andrew Jr., she and her sister had been orphaned with limited means when their father died, having just lost two ships at sea. [31] Sarah can be described as a patrician who stayed at the Hermitage for a protracted period after the purchase of the Hancock County properties. She was devoted to her family, some of whom remained in Nashville. [32] The letters indicate that she seldom if ever countered her husband’s bad decisions, and often supported his walking away from obligations.

The person revealed by the letters as the one with real strength of character is Samuel: respectful, usually optimistic, intelligent, long-suffering and courageous. Even when aware of his father’s inadequacies, he seldom complained. Though often lonesome, he was apparently too shy to accept a New Year’s dinner invitation form Judge Claiborne.[33]


In March 1857, the Supreme Court decided the Dred Scott case, which declared that Scott, a black slave, is not a citizen with the right to sue in Federal court. As a result, it is claimed that slaves are chattel, and therefore the property of their owners wherever they are. Northerners and Republicans react in protest.
– John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 17.

Samuel Jackson at Clifton Plantation

Dred Scott was not as important for Samuel as a bad toothache.

His father was apparently too engaged in heady financial transactions to assist his suffering son. In a letter to his mother dated March 13, 1857, Samuel complains of a severe toothache.[34] Two weeks later, apparently still in pain, he asked his mother for money to go to a dentist in New Orleans. He said that his father (whom he called “Pa”) had promised to send him some money but he had not received it and had only “two dollars to my name…I have not the means to have it attended to Pa told me to go to Col Claybourn when I was in need of any, but I do not like to do it.” [35]

On April 10, he reported that he was relieved. He had written “a few lines to Missers MacGregor and Co. to send me the amount I thought would be sufficient, which was $30. I dont <sic> know whether I did right or not. I was in such pain both night and day that it seemed impossible for me to wait till I received a little from Pa it was a few days ago I wrote them, but I have not yet heard from them. But the way I got relief Billie [apparently a slave] found an ole Pair of tooth drawers in the garden with the point broken off. I made [Canser] file them so he might draw with them I then got old Ben to pull it out for me which of course relieved me. And I am now as well as ever.” [36] Less painful but still aggravating was Samuel’s lack “… shoes and boots and all of my summer clothes are too small” as this still a growing boy, mentions to his mother in the same letter. 

As Samuel struggled at Clifton, Andrew Jr. already was allowing his enthusiasm for Clifton to wane. In a letter to his sister, Rachel Lawrence, dated May 22, 1857, Samuel says that Pa had returned, but “does not like this place as well as he did at first…He spoke of going to see a place near New Orleans…the prise <sic> of the place is $30,000. I told him I would not think of buying it. I would keep this place, three or four years any way and then if I sold and bought I would try to get our old home.”[37]

Although his father was subject to swings of highs and lows, Samuel was normally positive, sometimes to the point of exaggeration. He advised his sister: “We have a very good stand of cotton, better than any I know of, much better than Col Claiborne.” His youthful thinking was evident in this letter in which he proudly announced that he had been selected as a “deligate <sic> to the state convention to elect officials for the state,” a seemingly mature duty, while also asking that his sister give Miss Martha Jones “my best and duble <sic> twisted love.” [38]

Samuel’s hard work and best intentions, however, were not sufficient to offset his father’s constant financial problems. In a letter to his father written from Clifton on July 22, 1857, Samuel stated:  “You told me to say to Judge Beasley you would take the 80 acres next to Mr. Bass. Judge Beverly told me you had bought when you came down the last time And wrote to me to know if I had received a check from you he sayed <sic> you told him you should send it as soon as you arrived at Nashville. And he is very anxious to receive it, And has been expecting it every day since you left.” On a positive note, Samuel continued: “The cotton is doing finely, Henry counted 125 forms and 15 boles on one stalk yesterday. Old Man Gallender…says we will make 150 bales if we have no storm to blow it out. “ [39]

But luck was not on the side of the Jackson family. On August 16, 1857, Samuel wrote to his mother that it had rained for nearly four weeks, ruining some of the cotton. “The servants don’t think now we will make more than 50 bales. I don’t think we will take near that much the boles are rottning <sic> and the shapes falling off. I had no idea it could be injured so.” Still, as if wishing to keep his parents from abandoning their south Mississippi enterprise, he continued along a more positive track: “You seem to think I am in a most horriable <sic> place. I am living as well as I could wish. I have irish potatos <sic> riser and And <sic> tomato every day. when my hams give out it was some time before I could get use <sic> to midling but every morning I eate <sic> half a plate of middling four buiskets <sic> two cups of coffe <sic> and some nice honey…As to my health I never had better health in my life, my dinner and supper are the same as my breakfast…I don’t think Pa could have done better never mind where he bought. I firmly believe a person can make a fortune here.” [40]

Still, not all was pleasant at Clifton. Samuel wrote: “I have to stay in the house the most of my time, as the mosquitos are so bad I can scarsely <sic> go out side of the door. they are worse now than they have ever been. in riding out you could scarsely tell what colour the horse is.” He worried that his mother would not like the place: “I don’t think she will like this place. there is no pleasure or comfort for the mosquitos, and never any preaching…she would have to learn to eate old bacon and [chicken].” There were ants, and roches and heat. The mail service was poor; a post office nearby served only the Claibornes and Clifton, “ for no other persons on this side of Purlington has any correspondence.”[41]

As often as Samuel and his family complained of mosquitoes, it seems that they were never concerned about the possibility of yellow fever. Certainly, they were aware of the dangers of the dreaded “yellow Jack” in New Orleans and on travel down the Mississippi River. This is brought out in a number of letters. For example, in a letter Sarah wrote in one of the warm months to her daughter, she advised: “people are flying from the city, and many from their plantations on the river have come to the coast…a sickly season is anticipated if Saml. has not already started it wold be imprudent for him to travel on the river now…I would not have him upon any considera[illegible] risk coming down or pass threw <sic> New Orleans so late in the season.”[42] Again, in the following summer, Sarah showed that the risk was seen as life-threatening: “there are some reports of fever in the city, and I fear if it prevails at al <sic>, it would be to a considerable extent as this season has been said to have been so unusually warm, and the weather favorable for the spread of yellow fever. I think it will be unsafe for our dear Saml. to venture down, unless he finds the reports untrue. I would not have him to risk his life and perhaps his life (???) by coming down.”[43] The reason for their lack of fear for the coastal area is evident in a letter from Samuel to his mother on March 26, 1857.[44]

It seems truly a remarkable indication that people of the time appear to have made a connection between yellow fever and a certain kind of mosquito, being other than the kind that afflicted their own area. Samuel’s words were, “The greatest objection to the country is the moschitos [sic], and they are awful, but as Col Claybourn says he would prefer their sting to sickness, the latter they say they never have.”[45] It did happen that Bay St. Louis had a minor epidemic before the turn of the century, with 150 cases and several deaths, but such occurrence has to be considered the exception. [46]

By October 1857, Sarah had arrived at Clifton. She had gone through Memphis and then to New Orleans by boat. From there she took the mail boat to the bay (Shieldsborough) where they arrived at 7:00 pm. and then walked to a boarding house. It is likely that Mrs. Claiborne and other prominent wives met her, as Samuel had noted to his sister in a September letter, “..Mrs. Claiborne and all of the ladies at the Bay are very anxious to see her…”[47]

The day after her arrival, Sarah took the six- hour horse and wagon ride to Clifton. On the way, Sarah “saw all the BEAUTIFUL beach, pine forest, waving moss, &c &c &c…” and when she arrived Tuesday afternoon at Clifton she “found Sammy upon our arrival sitting on the poarch <sic>…reading his news paper.” She reported to her daughter, Rachel Jackson Lawrence that “the negroes are well, and all delighted to see us…”[48]

In the same letter, Sarah described an evening walk toward Mulatto Bayou and provided interesting observations of Mulatto Bayou shell bank and the Clifton plantation, five years following the visit of Benjamin Wailes to Judge Daniells, Clifton’s previous owner. “I walked down to the shell bank last evening, and was surprised to find a stream of water much larger than Stones river even when full of water. a beautiful stream, but the way to it is rough and disagreeable, and some mosquitoes, but not a great many – the house we are in is very open and very old but much more comfortable than I expected to find it. I have visited all the houses on the place Gin house, Smoke house, chicken houses and mill house & in fact every thing in the inclosure <sic>…”

June 1858

Abraham Lincoln is nominated by the Republican Party of Illinois. In his acceptance speech, he states, “I believe this government cannot endure half slave and half free.”
– John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 17.

Tragic Losses

In February 1858, Samuel returned with his father to Clifton. It took them thirteen days to come from Nashville, after a brief stay in New Orleans. They had hired a schooner to take things (possibly furnishings from the Hermitage), to go to Mulatto Bayou.

Samuel’s homecoming was marred by a disturbing event. Sometime before his trip north, Samuel had taken in two puppies. Although he found them well on his arrival, he presently heard one of them, named Bounce, barking. A snake, probably a water moccasin, had apparently just bitten the other dog, Dash. Samuel called Ben (probably the senior or most trusted slave since he figures prominently in most of the significant events related in these letters) and together they gave Dash some brandy “but he commenced swelling very rapidly and in half an hour he was dead…I feel lonesome and lost because I can’t see him. I feel as if I had lost an old friend.”[49]

This was by far not the least tragedy to befall the Jacksons in 1858, just as they were settling on the Gulf Coast. After recounting his sad loss to Sarah, Samuel advised his mother that Andrew Jr. would probably be back in Nashville before the letter arrived. He had spent only two or three days at Clifton before going to Mobile, and then on to New Orleans. Before leaving, Jackson had sent some of his workers to the Russ Place, with the intention of renovating the house in preparation for Sarah’s move there. Sarah had said that Clifton was better than she thought. However, as Samuel had suggested in an earlier letter, his parents most likely would prefer the Russ Place. Andrew’s renovation plans indicate that Sammy’s initial assessment had been correct especially since the Russ Place was larger and closer to Shieldsborough.

Disaster struck the Jacksons on March 30, 1858. It was Colonel Claiborne who was the first to send the very distressing news to Samuel. From his place at Laurel Wood, Claiborne had seen the eerie glow to the east and learned that the Russ Place was on fire. Samuel wrote first to his sister on March 31, telling of “…the entire destruction of the Dwelling on the Russ place by fire last night. Col Claiborne had the kindness to send me word to day of the entire destruction of the Dwelling on the Russ place. by fire last night, The repairs were just compleated <sic>. the Carpenters had finished their work, and the painters would have finished to day. The painters bearly <sic> saved them selves. they awakened as the roof was falling in, and escaped by jumping from the window in their night clothes. their paint clothing &c burned up. Some persons attribute the fire by accident, but it was no such thing.” 

In fact, Samuel explained, two slaves, Uncle Ben and Creasy[50], who had been staying, according to them, in the outbuilding that Russ used as a kitchen, reported that a French-speaking man had been seen prowling around the property over the last two weeks. At one point, the man set his dog on Old Ben who had “to run to get out of his way, but he watched him so closely he could do nothing, so the man left about day light.” [51]

Samuel continued to relate to his sister the story told him by Uncle Ben concerning those last hours before the Russ Place burned to the ground: “Uncle Ben was again disturbed last night by the dogs. and went out but could see no one, he went to bed again. and was the second time aroused by the dog, went out but could see no one. he waited out there till, he supposed eleven oclock <sic>, and again retired. the third time the fire awakened them. the whole side of the building urupted <sic> in flames, and part of the roof falling, and the flames shooting through the whole building. Col C—awakened and seeing a large light, awakened Mr. Berry, a preacher staying with him. they ran down as quick as possible <sic> and passing Dr. Whitters called to him. all three went down, but it was too late. being a fat fire it burned like tar. Mr. Berry told me to day, that he never saw any one so much affected as Col C—was. Mr. B—had to hold him up, and sayed he cryed <sic> as if he would break his heart and old Uncle Ben and Creasy cryed like children.”

Samuel expressed his sorrow and anticipated the great pain that the news would bring to his parents, who were still en route from Gainesville to Nashville. “Words cannot express my sorrow,” he wrote his sister, “I will try and cast all into forgetfulness. And try and (illegible) to disperse the dark and threatening cloud that seems to o’re hang our fortune. All my labor last year proved fruitless. This year may be the same but I will not look on the dark side of the book of ffortune <sic?>, but will buckle on my armor and battle my way through this broad Universe.” As usual, Samuel finished his letter on a positive note when he spoke of the ripe strawberries that he had eaten two weeks ago, and how well the potatoes, radishes, lettuce peas and corn were doing at the Clifton Plantation.

A few days later, Samuel once again related the loss of the Russ Place to his older brother, Andrew Jackson III, a graduate of West Point. In that letter, he mentioned that the parlor and dining room had been made considerably larger. Earlier he had sent his father a diagram of the house, giving him the dimensions of each room [52] Samuel also related to his brother news about his plantings, and mentioned that there had been a case or two of smallpox twenty-odd miles from Clifton. He had therefore vaccinated all the little children on the plantation, numbering twenty-five or twenty-six.

Samuel may have been reticent to break the news to his father; that task fell to John Claiborne. Even though his parents had just left the coast and were possibly still waiting for their transportation from Gainesville, Samuel explained to his brother in an April 4th letter that Colonel Claiborne had telegraphed the news to Nashville.[53] There is no record of a letter concerning the fire written from Samuel to his father or mother. It was Andrew Jr. who broke the news to Sarah that their waterfront home had been consumed by fire in two very tragic letters dated April 7 and April 8, 1858, written from New Orleans. It is not clear why Sarah had not accompanied him. His letters are remarkable in illustrating the depths and heights of Andrew’s mood swings.

On the 7th Andrew Jr. told Sarah that he was writing “a very unpleassant <SIC> and melancholy letter, announcing “a great misfortune… our beautiful Little Residence there is all Burned down and lies in ashes …alass, alass—what will become of us It is a hard case—well it is done and it cannot be mended—let us never despair – but hope for the best — I shall go I shall go <SIC> on tomorrow to Clifton –& there deposit all our Furniture until we can arrange things to suit us better…but alass—alass—alass—what shall we do.” [54] The letter, obviously written very extemporaneously, then laid the blame for the fire squarely on the carelessness of the servants Ben and Creasy whom he suspected of lighting a fire while surreptitiously sleeping in the house. It is perhaps illustrative of Andrew’s personality that he had also blamed the servants for the burning of the Hermitage in 1834. On that occasion, he wrote: “Oh had I been there, it might have been prevented. The cursed Negroes were all so stupid & confused that nothing could be done until some white one came to their relief”[55]

In the most recent fire, he ignored the story that Ben and Creasy had told to Samuel, if indeed he had heard that story, or had contrary evidence. He continued, saying “…my god it is too bad—there seems a (illegible) hanging over us—what shall we do—.” His depression continued the next day when he again wrote to Sarah: “My God – how dreadful and apaling <sic> it is – what is the matter and what is to become of us – it seems our heavenly Father intends to punish me for my sins – of that his rod may now cease – and that we (I) may alter the course of my life – if spared a Little Longer.” Then, in the very next lines, his spirit turned apparently optimistic and positive: “I shall go to Clifton — & do the best I can – I intend to put Ned and Phill – with a good carpenter – Mr. Johnson – and rebuild – this summer and hole by the Smiles of Providence – to have all ready for us – by the Fall – say by November or the 1st of December – so cheer up – never despair ([?]) I trust all will come out right yet.” He then advised Sarah to remain at the Hermitage till fall. [56][57]

On May 4, 1858, Samuel wrote to his mother to say that his father was making arrangements for the building of the house. He also mentioned that he expected the cotton crop to be a good one, although his estimate had become more realistic. “The cotton looks beautiful and we will have a splendid stand. It looks a hundred percent better now than it did this time last year, and a better season of cotton, I have never seen. I hope and trust a large crop will be the reward for our labour. I have about fifty acres in corn…I am eating every kind of vegitable <sic> and have been for some time. I have a fine mess of strawberries very near every day. We will have any quantity of figs, grapes, and at the Russ place peaches, plumbs, and one or two trees filled with [nectorns].”[58]

Cotton Production at Clifton

Even though the Jacksons had experienced great misfortunes, their cotton production and that of Claiborne were doing well. In June 1858, the New Orleans Picayune reported enthusiastically, “We yesterday examined the sample of 22 bales of Sea Island cotton, sold in this city a few days since. This cotton was grown upon the plantation of Col. J.F.H. Claiborne and Major Andrew Jackson, on Pearl River, Hancock County, Mississippi and was sold at the handsome price 35, 40 and 44 cents, 16 bales bringing 40 cents per pound; the whole consignment of 22 bales netting to the enterprising planters something over $2250, after deducting freight, commissions, and all other charges.”[59]

Cotton production in mid-19th century Mississippi as elsewhere in the pre-Civil War south was enabled by slavery. Samuel provides a first hand account of a run-away slave who was defeated by the bane of Clifton: mosquitoes.

The Negro was initially apprehended and tied hand and foot but he managed to escape during night. Samuel and others employed bloodhounds in the search, but without success. However, the runaway returned voluntarily, begging Samuel to return him to his master, because the mosquitoes were so bad.

Samuel wrote to his mother on July 18 about the ubiquitous bug: “If Pa were here now, I think he would have some excuse to return, and pay me a very short visit. Since I am to think of it he has never seen them at their worst stage.” [60]

As if these problems were not enough, Samuel had to contend with a stubborn mule, as he related in the same letter to his mother: “I do wish I could get me a fine horse when I was at the Bay or rather at Col Claibornes I rode my mule and she stopped and I could go no further. I whipped her for an hour, and finally had to cave in from exhaustion and return after being laughed at by ladies and gentlemen. I was wriding <sic> along some week’s ago with three or four gentlemen up at the Bay and she threw me about ten feet over her head so I declared never to wride <sic> another mule as long as it can be avoided. I have her now for sale, I ask two hundred and fifty dollars.”

Samuel also reported that the new building was progressing and that he was ginning the cotton well with the old gin. The new one, however, was giving him trouble. Benjamin Wailes, during his 1852 visit to Judge Daniells at Clifton, gave a detailed description of the ginning process, the gin probably being one of those mentioned by Samuel. Wailes wrote of Daniells operation: “His ginning operation consists of a large wheel os the usual size, without cogs but carrying a chain in the manner of a band which turns a driver or cylinder, placed horizontally about ten feet long and five ft in diameter….A small band of cord is required to each roller, or two to each gin and two persons (generally children) one to feed with seed cotton, the other to receive and draw out the fibre….Each gin or pair of rollers may be said to average 75 lbs of cleaned cotton per day.”

In the December 8th letter, signed, Samuel said, with a turkey “quil,” he was still optimistic about the crop. “Our cotton I am confident will bring the first price…” Other problems existed, however: “I am now giving my hands potatos <sic> instead of meal. I have but little corn and consequently have to be paring with it. And most of the mules look thin and badly they need high feeding to get them up for spring plowing. I wish Pa could send me some corn, as quick as he can…” He then requested of his mother that she sell the “ugliest” of his ponies as he is very much in need of clothing: “I am almost coatless, pantless, vestless, &c.” A year earlier, it may be remembered, he was still growing.[61]

On December 26th, Samuel was happy to inform his mother of a surprise visit to Clifton by his father, his brother and Dr. Lawrence (his brother-in-law, husband of sister Rachel). It was, however, a short visit. A comment about Andrew III’s military status is curious. “I thought brother of course had resigned, when I saw him, but there is but one thing that will cause him to resign, and that you know.” It may have been that already loyalty to the government of the United States was beginning to wane.[62]

While he apparently did not have much time for Samuel, Andrew Jr. was concerned with his other son, Andrew III, a young officer in the Army of the United States and a recent graduate of West Point. In a letter dated September 7th, prior to their visit to Clifton, Andrew Jr. may have been reading Hamlet, specifically Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes when he told his son:

 “My Son I may not see you again for a long time – I therefore earnestly [address] you a few words of admonition as a Father – you are now going out into the world young and inexperienced – the artful cunning hypocrites will take every occasion to ?fleece? & to lead you astray – be not deceived—some will profess great friendship – at the same time stab you the 1st chance if you have Money – you will have a host of friends – but beware there is but little real friendship to be found now a days – Self and Self interest is the first principle in our nature – the study of mankind now a days seems to be how to cheat – defraud—and slander – the honest and upright man – therefore beware of too many companions of too Librall kind and generous – every advantage will be taken of you – you will be kept as poor as a church mouse – and no thanks for it – be kind and ?Liberal? to a certain extent – but firm and unyielding Learn to say — the Little word no – emphatically positively – and by so doing – you will soon be found out to be honored – respected and beloved – by your Officers above you…Lay up a little for a rainy day.” [63] His father, President Jackson, had often warned his son, to no avail, of the very same things.

Andrew Jr. continued his advice by saying that if young Andrew wished to leave the army, he could “fix you off with a farm and hands to make you comfortable.” He then reported that they were having a fine crop of cotton, and that if all went well he would be totally out of debt and has enough to build the new house.

Meanwhile, Samuel was the only member of the Jackson clan who continued the hard work that would produce the cotton crop that would help his father rebuild the Russ Place and presumably serve to buy Andrew III his farm. The cotton ginning was progressing, with the help of the new gin. Samuel had baled ten bags averaging 300 pounds each, expecting to make a total of 50 or 55 bales. The new gin could do two to three bales per day. The women were “taking the yellow cotton from the white.”

Even around Christmas, Samuel did not overindulge in the festivities. After inquiring about his mother’s Christmas, Samuel wrote that he had been invited to “take my dinner with judge Ogden but did not accept the invitation, they had a dance there also the same night. “Willis Claiborne and my-self dined together at his house. Col C—invited me to dine with him on new years day but I don’t know whether I shall go or not. The Negroes are dancing and enjoying them selves (December 26th letter).”

Sarah Jackson and Sea Song

On February 19, 1859, Sarah had just arrived at Clifton, along with Andrew Jr. and her sister Marion.[64] She wrote to Andrew III, telling him that they had brought down 20 more Negroes, and that Samuel was building cabins for them. New plans were being made. “We expect to remain here until the last of May, and hope your Pa will then be able to employ an overseer, and that will enable Sam to go up with us and to remain until fall. Pa has promised to give Sam the Kentucky mines, and with them to purchase a place for him on the Hiwassy River, in east Tenn. if he likes it, and to establish a stock and grain farm there. This will determined on in the summer then Sam says he will expect you to resign and to come there to his mountain home and live with him.” [65]

Andrew Jr. had expected the new house at the Russ place to be completed the previous fall. Sarah stated in this letter that it was not near finished. “Your Pa thinks it will be completed in one month, but I think there will not be sufficient time in three months…I like the building very much. it presents a very [pretty] fine appearance from the Bay, and I think it will be very comfortable and convenient, and the large balconies will make it cool – if it is not too expensive for the means that can be counted on, I see no fault with it.” She then commented on a sale that Andrew Jr. hoped to make on a trip to Memphis, but it is not clear what was for sale. In any event, a “great deal depends upon it.”

The sale does not appear to have involved the Hermitage, as in the same letter, Sarah expressed her regret that Congress had declined to accept the Hermitage. “I do not know what will be done with it…I begin to realize that I am soon to loose it.”

In June, writing from Clifton, Sarah finally communicated to Rachel that the building was now ready. Samuel had been gone for six weeks, and Sarah was concerned about his returning at a time when yellow fever would be a consideration. “[The Bay] it is crowded all up the coast –not a house or room vacant, and many more could be rented. people are flying from the city, and many of their plantations on the river have come down to the coast. it never was as much crowded. a sickly season is anticipated if Saml. Has not already started it would be imprudent for him to travel on the river now.” [66]

It appears that they had put Clifton up for sale. “Your Pa has had two letters respecting the property for sale –which he has replied to, inviting the gentlemen to visit the place and judge for themselves – Col C- says he would not take less than 50$ an acre for his – it is thought the ship island terminus[67] will be at the Bay of St. Lewis – if so it will increase the value of the property there as well as all through this portion of the state.”

Sarah’s letter of July 27th to Rachel was written from the new house. Except for the heat, she seemed fairly content. “…we have a good deal of fruit, peaches, grapes, figs &c, and soon will have shrimps…we get very good beef every other day, have tongues, corn beef, ham & a few chickens this is our bill of fare. we also have plenty of milk, in all its varieties, pies, preserves, &c—the weather here is too warm to kill mutton, or any thing to keep on hand more than one or at farthest two nights. Consequently every day has to provide for itself – money is very scarce. We can procaure <sic> any thing and every thing if we had plenty ready cash. Our city folks, and old resident live like nabobs…I have two good dairies built under the house which I shall find a great convenience. They are airtight, and I think will be cool.”[68]

Sarah continued in a tone that indicated her general contentment with her current situation: “You perceive we have as yet found no name for our place. We cannot all be pleased with the same one. I proposed as yours was bird song ours should be sea song, but Saml did not like it—Pa says Ocean Wild, Saml. Ocean View, I Idle Hall with many more I wish some of you could settle it for us.”


October 1859
John Brown, with a group of armed men, seizes the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.


On October 23, as the Nation’s political situation worsened, Samuel informed his mother that he had cast his very first vote (he had turned twenty-one the previous year, having been born June 9, 1837). He had to ride 20 miles to the Bay to do so. He reported that Willis Claiborne, John’s son, had been elected to the House of Representatives. In this brief letter, Samuel’s thoughts have turned also to the fair sex: “Miss Fannie Ogden looks as sweet as a pink. So you must not be very much “disprisied” if you see me come driving up in a “Cabroushe” one of these cool winter evenings.” [69]

As winter of 1859 approached, the Jackson’s financial fortunes were still deteriorating. On November 27, Samuel wrote to his mother, that Logan [Sovit][70] & Co. seemed to be “very uneasy, and write they can not and will not wait any longer. I think they have heard of his changing his house. Mr. Russ has been here spent one night with me and sayes he can not wait any longer on Pa that he has borrowed money on very short time and is compelled to have it. Mr.[Lenard] has also written and sayes his merchants have also written him Pa had failed to settle some business matters with them early in the Fall…Tell Pa I have not a grain of corn on the place.”[71] The cotton crop must have been harvested by this time, but it must have not been sufficient to pay all the debts. Still, in spite of their financial problems, it appears from the letter that Samuel was expecting his parents to move down soon along with the furniture and Negroes.

But Sarah remained at the Hermitage while Andrew Jr. traveled. On December 5th, he wrote from the steamboat Daniel Boone near Vicksburg, telling Sarah that he had transacted “a little business” in Nashville, and “my business partly in Memphis – with a promise to have it all [fixed] in a few days and sent to me – if they will do so, all will be right – but I doubt it very much – now a days there is Little or no confidence to be placed in most of mankind — &c. &c.—” [72]

On January 1, Samuel’s short letter stated that Pa had made two visits since he left Sarah, but remained only a day or two each time. He had saved about one thousand oranges, but “Pa sayed he could not take them up, and they were rotting. I give out great many of the negros christmas and very near all the rest to Mrs. Claiborne.” [73]

Andrew Jr.’s letter of February 22 contains a dateline “Sea Song — Bay St. Louis, Shieldsborrough.” It appears that they had finally moved.[74]


April – May 1860
The Democratic Party holds its convention in Charleston, South Carolina. When the pro-slavery platform is rejected, delegates from eight Southern states depart.

Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 18

The Winds of Hurricanes and War

By July, Sarah was enjoying living on the coast, and so advised Rachel in a letter from Sea Song, “… today the white caps are rolling beautifully. We have such a splendid breeze. your Pa has built a very fine, large bath house, and a wharf 600 feet long…We have a great abundance of splendid peaches of every variety, cut stewed, in pies & fresh from trees…the late rains have benefitted <sic> the crops very much, both cotton and corn… the cotton is opening very fast… your Pa hopes to make a fair crop… the peas…are splendid, more than waist high. some cotton he put in here as an experiment surpasses any thing he ever saw, both in size and in the number of bolls. he regrets very much this whole place is not in cotton.” [75]

On July 27th, Sarah again wrote to Rachel, indicating there were some reports of fever in the city, and that the weather was “favorable to the spread of yellow fever.” She told again of the fruits and vegetables, and also of the turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese. She wrote that the sea bathing would be of service to all.[76]

If Sarah was satisfied in late July, things must have come to a head financially by September 3rd. In a letter from Sea Song to Andrew III, she expressed a willingness “to abandon it, and move elsewhere.” Before detailing the financial troubles, however, she exhibits the stress that must have been felt by many having to do with the divided loyalties between the Union and the political realities pressing upon them. She first acknowledged his last letter, “written in camp on the Arkansas River,” saying, “I have great solicitude about you, and your situation and profession is one of my sorrows.” Still at Sea Song, she wrote, “Your Pa is very much dissatisfied with this country. He has been sinking money ever since he purchased here, nothing has been made. Some disaster befalls us every year. He has been obliged to sell negroes, and to buy [illegible] meat and corn; and nothing to do it with. Consequently debts are incurred at high interest rates, and we never know what it is to have peace of mind. Last year he sold about 16, and was nearly free; but the interest on the remainder with the expenses of the year will make it necessary to sell as many more this fall. He is very much cast down and discouraged, and he is resolved to sell out. If he cannot find any purchaser at private sale he will put all up at auction this fall and sell for whatever he can get. I think he would do better to abandon it, and settle elsewhere…I will return to the Hermitage until something is determined upon. Samuel has secured it of the state for two years… know I will find it very disagreeable there now for I will be considered as a hireling and all who visit there will look upon it as belonging to them. You know the feeling my dear Son of a certain class of people who have been in that neighborhood for some time, and who will be gratified to see the change in our condition but I have made up my mind to it, and will endeavor to bear my cross with submission.” [77]

Unfortunately, it was no longer the right time to sell. She continued, “there are a good many places offered for sale, at this time, land, Negroes [sic], stock &c…abolitionism is I think alarming the negro holders, and many of them are anxious to realize a large sum of in cash for them now, while prices are high.”

Sarah wrote from Sea Song on September 8 to Samuel, who had been away for some time. She stated, “Your Pa is well also, but troubled about his affairs. He is anxious to sell and purchase higher up in the country. “ She also informed him of some bad news about a friend: ‘Mrs. Ogden has had more trouble. Her little Cornie is dead he was afflicted in a way similar to [Leanmers] baby. We passed there on Wednesday evening and them all walking out. The baby was with them perfectly well, and last evening (Friday) we received an invitation to his funeral. He was taken with convulsions on Thursday evening and died on Friday morning, to be buried to-day.” [78]

Besides the financial problems, the Jacksons had experienced adversity from many natural causes: mosquitoes, freezes, heat, rain, and lack of rain, ants, roaches and snakes. A new experience – in fact, three new experiences – presented frightening times in the summer and the fall.

History records two hurricanes very close together, one having been August 10 to 12, 1860, which made landfall between Biloxi and Pascagoula. The other storm struck the coast just a month later, September 14-15, and its eye passed directly over Bay St. Louis. A third storm went inland west of Grand Isle, LA on October 2.

From Sea Song, Sarah wrote of her horror to Rachel on October 1. “You have no doubt e’er this received our dear Saml’s letter giving you an account of his journey…as well as his happy escape from accident or injury during the storm, to which he was exposed on the lake. it was truly terrific you cannot form any idea of it by any description I can give you on paper. the wind was blowing most fearfully, from the north, but notwithstanding its violence was not strong enough to counteract the influence of a more awful storm out at sea, which was causing the waters from the Gulf to roll in upon us until we were almost surrounded. the waves were dashing on each side of us within eight feet of the house like a sea and in front they were inside our gate, and nearly meeting in the rear. if it had continued to rise for half an hour longer, as they had done for some time we would have been in the midst of a roaring sea. the water was higher than our fence. sometimes the tops of the palings could be seen when a wave would roll back with great force and break over some thing that would divide it. and worse than all we were all alone. Your Pa had gone to the plantation a day or two before, and we had to try to comfort each other, all so much alarmed we were almost afraid to speak or could scarcely do so for our voices were tremulous with fear. at last after about twelve hours of suspense he came, astonished and almost confounded. he had no idea of any thing of the kind. the wind was blowing at the plantation but in the direction to remove all fear of the rising of the water, and he did not know any thing of our situation until within about two miles of this place he then had to swim his horse in several places, in water so deep he could not touch the ground.”[79]

 Not being familiar with hurricanes, Sarah probably knew nothing of their counterclockwise circular motion and therefore perceived the storm that Pa and Samuel experienced as being a separate storm from the one she knew. With the eye passing over Bay St. Louis, she may have received the worst of the winds and tidal surge, whereas on the lake (probably Lake Pontchartrain) and at Mulatto Bayou, the winds would have come from the north, blowing the water out.

Even as Sarah wrote her letter, another hurricane was about to enter coastal Louisiana west of Grand Isle. This was the third hurricane of the 1860 season; it made landfall on October 2.

Sarah’s letter continued, “it was a fearful time…but the storms are not over. last night the wind commenced blowing again, and continued with great violence until about nine this morning it subsided a little but still looks very threatning <sic> I am very anxious to get off”. If all the other adversities had not yet convinced Sarah to leave Hancock County, she was now resolute. “I am very anxious to leave this place, and no earthly power will ever induce me to return to it. I will break rock on a turnpike road first. I have lived in dread since the eleventh of August, the time of the first storm.”

Great tension must have pervaded the politics of the country in 1860. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi had proposed resolutions in February to the effect that the federal government could not prohibit slavery. In April and May, delegates from eight Southern states walked out of the Democratic convention when a pro-slavery platform was rejected. The presidential campaign aroused fears in many citizens, and some Southern leaders predicted that the election of Lincoln would surely result in secession.

 Andrew Jr. and Samuel were not to know of Lincoln’s election until two or three days after the fact, and only then by having visited New Orleans.

November 1860

Abraham Lincoln is elected president with a clear majority of the Electoral College votes but only a plurality of the popular votes…For the first time in its history the United States has a president of a party that declares that “the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom. Within days of Lincoln’s election Southern leaders are speaking of secession as an inevitable necessity.

Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 219.


Samuel’s letter to his mother, written on November 13th, reflected the growing anxiety about the tensions. “We met several members of the court of Hancock County and they told us they intended putting in force the law requiring every owner of slaves to have some one to overseer for them or be on the place them selves or they would be subject to a heavy fine or other penalties…When you write let me know how the election was taken, & what the excitement is are the people for seceding <sic>? do they favor the South Carolina movement? that is all the rage here every one wears the blue Cockade. Miss Martha [80] is making me one. I have no apprehension here atall, of the negroes.” [81]

The rest of the letter dealt with the anticipated sale, which was to occur on the 15th of December, apparently of Clifton Plantation. The bales of cotton and hay were to be shipped the following Friday. Andrew Jr., in spite of the troubled times, was looking to buy another place, and hoping to “get it payable in cotton.” Samuel seemed certain of the impending sale. “We will be able to sell this place without any trouble I think there are good many that are anxious to purchase the shell b[illegible]k? [82] Pa’rs price is ten thousand dollars, cash.”

Continuing the November 13 letter, Samuel, dutiful as usual, did not express doubt of his father’s judgment. He did, however, comment that others urged caution. “Pa and I went over to the City on last Friday expecting to start up to the Ark. River & other places but on arriving in the City & hearing the election news & finding so much excitement found it necessary one of us should return…So I returned and left Pa in N.O. Mr. Nelson, Mr. Woodlief & others advised him not to purchase at present.”[83]

One week later, Samuel advised his sister of their status. “We went over to New Orleans two or three days after the election but found Lincoln was elected and so much excitement we thought it prudent for me to return. I left Pa in N.O. not knowing what he would do, but we are compelled to leave this place and seek one where we can make a living, it is impossible to stay here another year…I hope he may success in Ark. I would prefer having a cotton farm, for I don’t think we would be able to pay for a place in town but by buying a cotton place, we would be able to make the payments and purchase the Hermitage…The Russ place or rather Sea Song looks beautiful it is surrounded by an entirely new fence. I hope Pa will be able to sell it to our advantage I think he will have no trouble in selling this place, the shell bank will make it sell.” [84]

In a postscript written perhaps several days later, Samuel said that his father had arrived unexpectedly: “… he has been up onn <sic> the bayou (illegible) in the upper portion of Louisiana and says it is the finest country undoubtedly in the world and there is a place for sale containing 800 acres, I expect he will buy it.”

On November 25th, Samuel communicated his excitement to his mother regarding the prospects of the farm on Bayou Macon, near Delhi, Louisiana. “This place is offered at $35 per acre payable in four years…the land is as rich as it possibly can be.” [85]

It is evident in the letter that neither Clifton nor Sea Song had yet been sold.

Another letter from Samuel, dated December 3rd, advised Sarah that Andrew Jr. had been in New Orleans attempting to trade one of the plantations for the one on Bayou Macon. In the postscript, Samuel enclosed a clipping from a New Orleans newspaper, with the comment, “You can judge by the prices of the hard times in New Orleans and how cheaply things can be bought.”[86]

In December 1860, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. That same month, Samuel wrote what was probably the last letter written from Clifton. It is evident that Andrew Jr. has bought the place on Bayou Macon, and has hired an overseer. Still optimistic, Samuel wrote: “It will be necessary to make a very large crop the first year…it is the general opinion Cotton will command a better price next fall than this.” His final paragraph, however, tempered his optimism with realism: “Pa will not be able to sell either of his places until financial affairs are easier. Consequently cannot meet his engagements either here or at Nashville as he anticipated. S.O. Nelson and Co. have suspended payment…I know his creditors are very uneasy and only waiting to see him to pounce upon him.” [87] Andrew Jr’s poor business sense once again put his family in danger. In contrast, John Claiborne was progressing handsomely. It is said that by 1861 he was “out of debt and had an annual income of six thousand dollars,” a very large amount at that time. [88]

On April 12, 1861,on the orders of General P.G.T. Beauregard of Louisiana, a    Confederate cannon at Charleston fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.

On the first day of May, 1861, the Circuit Court of Hancock County rendered judgments against Andrew Jackson Jr. totaling $36,727. Among the petitioners were Asa Russ, John Toulme, a prominent citizen of Shieldsborough, J.F.H. Claiborne and John Martin. (Earlier, in a letter to his mother dated December 1, 1858, Samuel included a rather cryptic comment about someone named “John M.” who is by Samuel’s reckoning a “grand scoundrel.”) [89]  

The largest debt was to W. R Adams, in the amount of $28,980. [90] The Civil War having intervened, Jackson’s properties were not offered for sale until the first Monday of February 1870. Four parcels were auctioned to the highest bidder at the courthouse door, including Sea Song and Clifton plantations. Roderick Seal purchased the first for $1,000, and the second for $3,650. Seal also bought the other parcels, one of 40 acres for $50 and the other of 80 acres for $100.[91] Thus ended the short, mostly unsuccessful, experience of the Jacksons in south Mississippi.


Samuel would never know whether the place at Bayou Macon would be paid off in four years. He joined the Confederate Army, specifically the 44th Tennessee Regiment, Infantry Company I.. He died of wounds received at the battle of Chickamauga, in his beloved Tennessee on September 19, 1863. He was a 26-year old Captain.[92] His commanding officer, Lt. Col. John L. McEwen, Jr. wrote that Samuel “has since died of his wounds. Known to me long and familiarly in youth and manhood as Capt. Samuel Jackson has been, I feel unable to do justice to his many virtues, his pure and admirable character or his merits as an officer and a soldier.” He went on to describe him as “a gallant and able officer.”[93]

Jackson’s Company encountered a murderous barrage during an advance: “We did not advance exceeding 700 yards when the enemy had planted a battery which struck about the center of the Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, and which opened upon our advancing lines, throwing in rapid succession grape and canister, and supported by infantry, whose fire of small arms was heavy, well directed and disastrous…In this engagement the Forty-fourth Tennessee suffered heavily, sustaining a loss in killed and wounded. A portion of Robertson’s extreme left (Texans) and part of the Forty-fourth Tennessee had been driven back, but about two-thirds of the Forty-fourth crossed the road [LaFayette Road?]. Here Lieutenant-Colonel McEwen, jr., 5 company officers (Captain Jackson one of the number), and 50 men were wounded and 6 were killed.”[94]

Samuel’s brother, Andrew Jackson, III, became a colonel and commanded a Confederate artillery battery at Vicksburg during the war.[95] Their father survived the war, but on April 17, 1865 at Hermitage, he died of lockjaw, caused by a hunting wound. [96]

After the war, Sarah was able to have Samuel’s remains returned to the Hermitage, where he is buried near his father and grandfather.

Under a special arrangement with the state of Tennessee, Sarah continued to live out her days at the Hermitage as a “tenant at will.”[97] She died in 1887, and is also buried at Hermitage.

Samuel’s brother, Col. Andrew Jackson III, survived the Civil War. He spent ten months in a prison camp in the North before returning to the Hermitage. He was the longest resident of the Hermitage, remaining until 1893. He died in 1906.

Though the Jacksons’ difficulties are an unfortunate part of history, the little corner of southwest Mississippi where they lived represents more than the brief presence of folks who bore a great name. It also harbors the residuals of a family who strove mightily against natural and financial adversities. Some of their dreams and ambitions were surely left on this place.

Although not profitable for them, their stay along the Gulf Coast resulted in a series of extremely interesting and informative documents that illuminate the conditions of pre-Civil War Hancock County.


Book II

The Koch Family at Bogue Homa

About the time that the Jacksons were moving to Louisiana, still almost oblivious to the omens of war, Christian Koch was busy raising his family on a mid-size farm near Logtown, a major logging and mill community of the day. It was just upriver from the Claibornes and the Jacksons. In addition to farming, the Koches tended to their other interests, including a modest logging operation. Their home was on a small bayou that today is usually dry, but in the 19th century was a tributary of the East Pearl River.

There is no evidence that the Koch family and the Jacksons knew each other. They were of different backgrounds and interests.

Danish records document that Christian Koch was born in 1811 in Denmark, that he was baptized in November of the same year, and vaccinated against small pox the following year. He was a Danish sea captain who visited Pearlington and other portions of South Hancock County in the 1830s. He liked the place and settled here, marrying the 15-year-old daughter of Florentine Netto of New Orleans, Annette Netto in 1841.[98] Florentine died October 8, 1858 and is buried in the Doby cemetery near Pearlington. Francis Netto, Annette’s father, died 1836. He had served in the Louisiana militia, in Barthelemy Favre’s Company, at the Battle of New Orleans.

Christian and Annette purchased land near Logtown from Asa Russ[99] in 1854 on the south bank of the Bogue Homa Bayou, which is a tributary of the East Pearl River. There they raised seven children, four boys and three girls. Their house, which was probably standing when they originally bought the Russ property, was moved to a locale near Natchez, Mississippi when the NASA purchased the land for what became the Stennis Space Center in 1962. The land is still owned by their descendants.

Christian was still buying and selling land until his death and his family continued to purchase acreage[100], much of which was donated to or leased for the benefit of the community and its less fortunate, mostly African-American residents. He and Annette, who preceded him in death, are buried near the site of their home, and adjacent to the larger family cemetery where many of their children and grandchildren are also interred. 

Christian and Annette Koch lived out their long lives at Bogue Homa. He died after his wife, in 1893, and is buried next to her on a small, serene knoll just west of the original homestead. The cemetery here is in two sections, one smaller but older than the other. They are on high ground, just before the terrain drops off into ravines, and not far from the site of the Koch house. Its former location is near an enormous live oak measuring ____ inches in diameter. Its age is estimated at ____ years. (Marco has note in notebook).

The Koches were letter writers. Christian wrote letters, Annette wrote letters, the children wrote letters. Even cousins and other friends and relatives were letter writers. Remarkably, hundreds of these letters have been collected and preserved mostly in the Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University. These documents afford much insight into 19th century life in general, but particularly about the suffering, uncertainty, chaos and effects of the Civil War in this region of the United States[101].

The prolific nature of the Koch correspondence can be illustrated by one example. From October 20 to December 30, 1864, no less than 16 Koch family letters are preserved. The letters from the last few months of 1864 report various actions of the Confederate cavalry. Some letters simply mention its presence, often expressing fear for the safety of sons Elers and Emil, and also for Christian. Other letters tell of the killing of Mrs. Blackman at Bay St. Louis by drunken cavalry (December 7th), their disorderly conduct at a Negro dance held in Bay St. Louis (December 7th); and catching of 25 men at Wackia Bluff (November 14th). It was said also that six cavalrymen had been at John Claiborne’s for whisky. We can thank the Union troops who often kept Christian and his sloop embargoed from his home near the East Pearl River, necessitating the large volume of letters.

Early letters (1849-1859)

In 1831, Koch, in his diary, described Pearlington as a small, insignificant town, where the only trade was in wood and cotton with New Orleans.:

Pearlington lies about seventy English miles from New Orleans, eight miles up Pearl River which flows into Lake Borgne and is connected with Ponchartrain by a small sound. As far up the river as Pearlington the banks are low, without woods, and over grown with tall grass or reeds and cattle live here.
In the spring fire is put to the grass and it is a very beautiful sight in the night to see the dry marsh burn. The vegetation is so strong that in a few days’ time it is again covered with dry grass. Above the town the country is still very flat, but thickly grown with woods.
Strange about this river are the so-called “bayous,” small streams with quiet waters which are connected with the river. They are no wider at the mouth than at the source; are often three or four miles long, and very deep….
The soil in the woods is very poor, but higher up the river there are some cotton plantations. At last we got our load of wood and sailed again to New Orleans.
We had several Indians with us, who brought deer hides to town. They dressed in skin trousers and moccasins, and all had woolen blankets to wrap up in instead of shirts. The women and men dressed alike, only the women had long hair. They are not so handsome as the South American Indians, but look more intelligent and savage, but they never had any money until they sold their skins, so they left their guns as security. They all have guns except the children who had bows and arrows.[102]


He commented that Pearlington was situated “…in the midst of a large pine forest owned mostly by the government.”[103] He sailed here to purchase a load of wood, which was apparently a growing industry in the area, even before the earliest receded saw mill had been built in Logtown. It may have been the potential of applying his sea-faring skills to the cotton and lumber trade that convinced Christian to settle here. The cotton was likely the Sea Island variety noted as the important crop on the Clifton plantation owned by Judge Daniell at the time, and later grown by both Claiborne and Andrew Jackson Jr.

After their wedding, Christian continued traveling the world and exchanging letters with his new wife. Throughout the letters is evidence of how difficult life was in the mid-19th century. Diseases often took many lives, as did accidents and even wild animals that roamed the still untamed forests surrounding the early settlements.

In May 1849, Annette received word of the unexpected death of her grandmother, and although the cause of death is not given, the presence of Cholera in New Orleans is mentioned. One month later, on June 29, 1849, Christian Koch wrote from Denmark, apparently commenting on the news he had received from Annette that the Pearl River had flooded causing great loss of life in Pearlington: “It is else a terrible lot of people there is dead since I left you, if they continue to die thus, will there be nobody left in Pearlington when I get back. It was a terrible history, that about the [illegible], I have never heard of a such a thing before; What kind of animall <sic> can it have been? It could not have been a panther because it would have killed the baby with one stroke of the paw.” The last sentence is quite obscure but may imply that wild animals were forced by the flood to leave the swamps and caused some problems for the local populace. There were apparently numerous deaths in New Orleans as well as the Mississippi breached its levees.

Christian’s letters during this period show him to have been an attentive family man and a lover of flowers and gardens. In September, Christian had traveled to Hamburg, Germany, and wrote Annette to express concern for the health of son Elers, their first-born, who would have been 5 years old at the time: “I am quite anxious about poor Elers…I know you will send for a doctor is you find anything serious the matter with him, although I expect you are as good a Doctor…Oh if I could only fly home.” Christian stated his concern about having the children vaccinated.

He was not solely concerned with his children’s health, but also with their education. In February 1852, while en route to Denmark, Christian wrote that he expected Elers to learn his multiplication tables.

While attentive to the needs of his family, Christian did not forget their farm. The Bogue Homa estate was a sizable homestead, which, as late as the 1960s, had a lake, fruit trees, and beautiful gardens[104]. When Christian traveled the world, he often returned to Bogue Homa with exotic plants and seeds, many of which flourished on his homestead. For example, he states, that enclosed with his letter, dated June 18, 1848 were seeds of Polish moss. Several “packets” of seeds are preserved among the Koch Papers curated at the Hill Memorial Library in Baton Rouge.

More relevant to modern historians are the insights gained from these letters about the region prior to the Civil War. For example, one letter dated June 18, 1851, was from a friend, A. L. Howard of New Orleans, to Annette opining that [New Orleans] “is not the place it’s cracked up to be.”

Two years later, in April 1854, Christian was being delayed at Nassau to testify in court about a shipwreck; he took the opportunity to tell Annette that Hancock County is a “great deal better place than here,” that sponges were Nassau’s only export, and that “all they have for sale in the market would not feed us for a week.”

Meanwhile Annette again heard from Howard that New Orleans was continuing to have problems. Although there were a few cases of Cholera among whites, it was prevalent among Negroes, and there was much scarlet fever, mumps and whooping cough.

Christian’s worries about the financial state back home were well founded. In fact, in a letter from Annette, dated 5 September 1854, she stated that she was broke, and was using available money for cutting wood. She continued: “I cannot help being frightened when I think what a long time it will take to get out of debt in you will know by this time that the schooner has been laid up and we had to go still more in debt to get things to live on as I have no money at all what little I had I had to pay out to get some wood cut and it was cut on J. Russ land and he had hauled it off without telling me anything about it. He has payed me for what logs he could get which was 92 for which he paid me $30 and there is only nine more in the bioue…Thank God for one thing and that is that I am not in a family way.”

In a letter dated July 15, 1854 Koch mentions how nice John Claiborne has been to the family, a feeling he will not maintain during the last years of the Civil War. He ended this very interesting letter stating that he believes there is more liberty in Denmark than in southern States. The captain’s feelings were evidently anti-slavery, anti-war, and anti-South and, although residents of the South, Christian and Annette were not aligned with the beliefs of pre-Civil War Mississippi, particularly slavery and secession.[105]

The Koch’s logging business employed Dawsey who was not very useful and in fact was cheating the Koch’s out their timber, which came from their land on Poplar Branch. On July 4, 1857, from Kirkely, Denmark, where Christian had traveled with his eldest son, Elers, then 13, Christian asked Annette about Dawsey, who should “had rafted all the logs on poplar branch before he left and only had to deliver them to Asa Russ.” Russ had sold Bogue Homa to the Koches but still retained numerous business interests in the region. It should be remembered that it was Mrs. Russ, probably Asa’s wife, who sold the “Lakeshore” property to Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1857.

Returning to Dawsey, Christian noted that: “he had already got paid for 60 logs – The old scamp, you tell him, that as soon as I come home, I shall sell the land to the first man who will buy it.” Dawsey was probably leasing Christian’s land for timber rights. The end result of Dawsey’s double dealing was that Annette, at home with six children, was deeply in debt. Christian also mentioned a debt to J. Russ and worries that Annette will have no money for herself.

Writing once more two weeks later (July 15, 1857) from Denmark, Christian tells by continues to worry about Annette, Dawsey and their home. He was disappointed with Dawsey and himself because he had depended upon him to pay all he (Christian) owed to Asa Russ and now he supposed it would take “all we have in Bogue Houma to pay him”.

Christian Koch’s letters during this time often mix business concerns with personal matters. In a letter dated September 5th, 1854, he requested that Hursey postpone making arrangements for the hauling of lumber, and suggested that Hursey furnish family provisions in lieu of payment of note. [106] He, like many of his neighbors, was already engaged in lumbering as this trade rapidly grew to dominate the local economy.

The Koch’s finances during their early years at Bogue Homa were dependent on lumber as much as they were on Christian’s sea faring trade. Lumber ownership and leasing figures prominently in the early Koch correspondence. For example, on July 4, 1854, Koch’s letters from Denmark reveal concerns about his logging business. He had believed that someone named Dawsey (not listed in the census) had rafted all the logs on the Poplar Branch before he left, and only had to deliver them to Asa Russ. He instructed Annette, “You know he had already got paid for 60 logs – The old scamp, you tell him, that as soon as I come home, I shall sell the land to the first man who will buy it.” On July 14th, Koch again expressed disappointment with Dawsey, telling Annette that he had depended upon him to pay all he (Christian) owed to Asa Russ and he now supposed that it would take “all we have a Bogue Homa to pay him.”[107]

The Koch family finances had improved by September 1854 in only a miniscule way. Annette wrote that they were in debt, and that she only got $30 dollars for logs cut on Asa Russ’ land. “I cannot help being frightened when I think what a long time it will take to get out of debt in you will know by this time that the schooner has been laid up and we had to go still more in debt to get things to live on as I have no money at all what little I had I had to pay out to get some wood cut and it was cut on J. Russ land and he had hauled it off without telling me anything about it. He has payed me for what logs he could get which was 92 for which he paid me $30 and there is only nine more in the bioue…Thank God for one thing and that is that I am not in a family way.”

Koch was part of a timber industry that attained national and international importance due to the enormous resources that surrounded the towns of Gainesville, Pearlington, Logtown and even Sheildsborough. John Claiborne in a letter to the editor of the Mississippian in 1857 stated that the mills located on the margins of the small streams which “debouched into the Gulf annually supplied forest products to fifty cargo vessels from all parts of the world. During the latter half of April 1857, lumber, sawed timber, and deals to the value of $28,000 were shipped to England and Australia.” In addition, wrote Claiborne, “our trade in lumber coastwise, that is to say with Texas, Mexico, and the West indies is enormous,” and “Mississippi pine is now sent on almost every steamer that leaves New Orleans for St. Louis.”[108]

The Enigmatic and Omnipresent Mr. Claiborne …Again

It is information contained in such primary evidence that serves to correct the record in some cases. This is particularly true in the case of John Claiborne, whose name appears often in the Koch papers, often not in complimentary terms. It seems clear that his neighbors were aware of his outside dealings, including his secret support for the Union cause. The Koch letters demonstrate an initial cordiality between Koch and Claiborne during the early part of the war, but as the war years moved on, Koch developed a decided animosity and distrust for him.

If Claiborne’s character appears fairly consistent in his earlier life, it was during the Civil War that he divided his activities, if not his allegiance, between the Union and the Confederacy. Considering his devotion to Mississippi and to a son who fought for and was ultimately to die for the Confederacy, his clandestine support of the Union is surprising. In truth, he walked both sides of the road, and might have been motivated strongly to safeguard his own security by duplicitous actions. For example, in August 1861, he resigned his United States appointment as timber agent, and accepted a commission to administer oaths and acknowledge deeds for the Confederate government in southern Mississippi. But by the next year, if not before, he was exchanging significant correspondence with MajorGeneral Nathaniel Banks, the Union commander at New Orleans. Lang, in his well-researched treatment of Claiborne’s years at Laurel Wood, states: “In actuality he was undoubtedly the most active advocate of the Union in southern Mississippi.”[109]

In this regard, a letter to General Banks, dated December 23rd, 1862, serves to show Claiborne’s feeling about slavery: “I have southern views on the subject of slavery; I wish to retain my people…I have ever treated my people more as wards than as slaves. I never had an overseer. I never used a whip. I have clothed & fed them abundantly, and every industrious adult on my place has realized for themselves from $75 to $100 per annum. I had, for the next year, alloted <sic> to them 100 acres of land, to be planted in cotton for themselves, I aiding them to cultivate it with my teams…Surrounded here by armed men, mostly of desperate character & fortunes, my person in danger, and my property liable to be plundered, I have been compelled to be circumspect. But I have neglected no means to further the cause, I have created a strong Union sentiment, which is rapidly developing.” [110]

On five separate occasions in July 1863, Claiborne informed Banks of the activities of salt makers and tannery operators along the Gulf Coast. To his chagrin, the leatherworkers were systematically stripping the bark from live oaks which had been set aside for the U.S. Navy, for tanneries they had set up in Bay St. Louis. Great quantities of salt were being produced for military and civilian use. He reported that salt making was proceeding at a rate of five hundred bushels a day, and that twenty wagon loads of salt had been shipped to General Joseph E. Johnston’s army.

While the above makes the Claiborne position on slavery clear, he was also an avowed non-secessionist. As early as 1832, in a letter to George Poindexter, senator from Mississippi, Claiborne wrote: “ … I have not and do not accord with your course in the Senate. If I be true that you have denounced General Jackson, and avowed yourself a Nullifier in such a sense of the word, as would destroy the Union or involve us in civil war, to get rid of an unpopular tariff, if such be your position, then I state now s I have heretofore stated, I can no longer be classed among your friends.”[111]

But Claiborne was not operating totally in secret, as he may have believed. Captain John Cavanaugh, of the 8th Battalion, Louisiana Artillery, wrote to Lt. General J.C. Pemberton on November 11, 1862, from Pass Christian: “A prominent citizen of Pearlington, Col. J.F. Claiborne, is daily communication with the enemy and no doubt keeps them advised of all that is going on in his neighborhood. He was, until the state seceded, timber agent for the United States government….”[112]. With the exception of some minor harassment by the Confederate cavalry, there seems to have been no formal attempt by the authorities to arrest or detain Mr. Claiborne.

Meanwhile, Claiborne had been assuring Mississippi Governor Pettus of his loyalty. In a letter pleading for an authorization to import food from New Orleans written during the summer of 1862, Claiborne waxed dramatic: “We are now proving our loyalty by starvation – by the tears of our women and the cries of our children for bread.” Yet, just a few months later, in a memorandum to Banks that accompanied the December 23, 1862 letter, quoted above, Claiborne did not speak kindly of his neighbors: “Few of them can be addressed through their moral sense or convictions of duty. They are essentially animals…. When Civil War broke out they eagerly volunteered…with the hope of plunder. But the mortality that has occurred among them…has disgusted them with the service. Most of all, they feel the pressure of want in their families…. They are now subsisting on sweet potatoes; that crop will be exhausted by 1st Feb…. The Union sentiment is spreading ….a vigorous exclusion could bring this whole seaboard to its allegiance in 3 months.” [113]

Claiborne’s self-serving motivation is clear in a letter written by him to Major GeneralBanks on December 1862 stating he was “confiding in the U.S. military authorities for the protection of my property” and that he had “maintained confidential relations “ with Union officers at Fort Pike. Further, he stated that he was “surrounded by armed men, mostly of desperate character & fortunes, my person is in danger and my property liable to be plundered, I have been compelled to be circumspect. But I have neglected no means to further the cause. I have created a strong Union sentiment, which is rapidly developing.”

Claiborne’s “strong sentiment” for the Union cause did not dissuade him, years later, from dedicating his masterwork, Mississippi as Province, Territory and State To the young men of my native state, and to the widows and daughter of those who died in its defence, these volumes are respectfully inscribed.”[114] In the same year that he published his book, 1879, Claiborne wrote to Rev. Richard Abbey, proudly defending his ability to sell cotton during the war. He wrote, “I lost my negroes, of course, but being within the Federal lines I made some money in cotton.”[115] West Hancock County, along the Pearl River was not truly with “Federal Lines” during the time that Claiborne exported his cotton.

Mr. Claiborne’s espionage for the Union was evident on numerous occasions. He reported to the Union authorities that twenty wagonloads of salt being sent to Confederate General Joe Johnston; he told of fortifications built at Mobile; his provided details concerning smuggling operations between New Orleans and Mississippi coastal towns, including those involving the schooners Alice and Venus and other vessels “that regularly bring out contraband.”

Claiborne named names: “Arrangements are [being made] to run the blockades to Havana from two points on this coast. The parties engaged in it have all been in or are in Confederate service. They have two men in New Orleans – a Capt. Dane or Dean & one Asa Weed…employed to give them information about your movements…Dane and Weed communicate with one of the parties here, by means of a schooner (the Venus) which makes a weekly trip from the city to Toomer’s Mill near Fort Pike, and the information they give is duly sent to Jackson. Weed or Dane, or both of them are soon to visit your camp at Port Hudson.”[116]

One month after the above report, on April 28, 1863, a Major Smylie to wrote to J.V. Toulme, a leading citizen of Hancock County and a member of the Confederate army: “ I have the authority from Richmond to carry our cotton, See Capt. Poitevent and let us go in with him. I think arrangements can be made with some parties on the other side to carry cotton to Havana & from there I care not where it goes. I have full authority to carry our cotton from any port in our possession to any place New Orleans and Memphis excepted. See Capt. Poitevent and let him know what can be done. I am in forit and will be with you. Send a runner up (if we go in) regardless of expense. I will risk all, loose or make something.”[117] This document validates Claiborne’s intelligence to the Union authorities. Captain Poitevent, like Toulme was a leading citizens of Hancock County, a member of the Confederacy, and as a prominent citizen of Gainesville, certainly knew John Claiborne. It is interesting that the document ended up in Claiborne’s own papers. Did the connection with Havana and “some parties on the other side” point to a Claiborne involvement?  

Within a few days of the writing of the above letter, Claiborne was able to obtain a pass from Union Admiral Farragut allowing him to transport cotton through the lines. He continued to grow cotton during the war, and was able to transport and sell not only that which he produced but also the cotton bought from his neighbors along the Pearl. To top it off, Claiborne was appointed by the Confederacy as the purchasing agent for the Belgian consul in New Orleans. Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin became aware of the trade, stating that it was “evidently illegal, and is, in point of fact, a trade with the port of New Orleans, covered up under the disguise of a trade with neutral vessels.”[118] Despite this visibility, neither side arrested Claiborne during the Civil War. It is not surprising that his neighbors, especially Koch, resented the duplicitous Mr. Claiborne, as is documented in the Koch family correspondence.

The Rebels of Hancock County

Popular support of the Confederacy was far from unanimous in Hancock County. In 1851, Hancock and Harrison Counties were among the few southern counties in which the majority voted for the Union party, devoted to preservation of the Union. Most southern counties, including Jackson, Marion, and Pike, all near to Hancock, had voted for Democratic State Rights, which ultimately backed Jefferson Davis and secession. [119] In the election of October 7, 1861, both Harrison and Hancock Counties voted overwhelmingly against Pettus,” the secessionist governor.[120]

Also, it should be noted that counties in southwest Mississippi had less slaves than most other parts of the state. Hancock’s settlers, by and large, were small farmers and lumbermen, with only a small minority having more than a few slaves. By 1861, “there was considerable opposition to secession particularly in the Piney Woods,” according to Bettersworth. “For non-slaveholders in the Piney Woods, the status quo…was sufficient. Secession might bring war and eventually with no attraction…to poor whites, whose main concern was that of sitting under their own vines and fig trees, of remaining in the slaveholding South but not of it.”[121]

As Napier points out, “After Union forces captured the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, Confederate and state authorities virtually abandoned the Piney Woods, concentrating on defense of the strategic railroads and rivers of Central and North Mississippi…As a result, the Lower Pearl fell prey to pillage and robbery by deserters from both armies, draft-dodgers, jayhawkers, and other scum washed up by the war.”[122] This fact is graphically borne out in the Koch papers, as is the reference to deserters, who, due to the local sympathies were by and large accepted by the population. On the other hand, it is also clear from the Koch and from other contemporaneous documents that many citizens of Hancock County served – and died – for their state.

Statistically, the young men of the Lower Pearl responded like the rest of the state to the early calls by the Confederate government. In 1861, four companies were enlisted from the area. Three hundred and sixty seven men, or over 39% of the eligible population from Hancock and Marion Counties, enlisted in the Confederate Army during the first year of the war. The desertion rate of Hancock and Marion was higher than that of the state (24.7% vs. 14%). Still, almost one in five men who served from the Lower Pearl region died in the war. By the end of the war, 43.7% of Marion and Hancock County soldiers were still with their units.[123]

Deserters, draft dodgers, outlaws and jayhawkers ravaged the Pearl River region during the later years of the Civil War. These rampages necessitated action by the Union Army who dramatically increased its operations in the region, particularly using its cavalry.

This intense cavalry activity probably reflected Confederate orders from earlier in the year to clean out the Pearl River area. Orders that possibly originated in April 25, 1864 from Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk (an Episcopal bishop of New Orleans in peace time), and came through Thomas M. Jack, Assistant Adjutant General. They commanded J. S. Scott and Colonel Lowery to move against deserters and conscripts, to picket crossings of the river, and to prevent “all persons between the ages of seventeen and fifty from passing across the river…” They were to “…ferret out the skulkers, and you will see that such young men as have good social positions and have hitherto evaded service be not spared…and if you are resisted by force of arms you will not hesitate to punish the offender with death upon the spot.” Interestingly, the orders included an observation that “…the country which is the theatre <sic> of this campaign has been sadly demoralized and none other than the most vigorous and decisive measures will serve to impress its inhabitants with a sense of their duties to their government and to bring it back to sound and healthful moral condition”. Three companies of the 9th Louisiana Cavalry Battalion were posted near the mouth of the Pearl River to prevent escape to Fort Pike.[124]

Koch Family Letters and Other Writings (1862-1866)

There are no letters in the Hill Memorial Library Koch collection covering the years 1860 and 1861. Christian may have stayed at home, or else, as we speculate below, these letters were destroyed after the Civil War began to eliminate evidence that would have caused the Koches problems due to their anti-War, anti-slavery stance.

Throughout the Civil War, Christian Koch struggled to support his growing family. As the letters resume in 1862, the Koches had four children: Elers, age 18; Emil, age 16; Laurentze, the only daughter, age 15; and the youngest, Stanley, at 12.

Morally opposed to slavery, and clearly aligned with the Union cause, he was still detained and harassed by the Union authorities. His eldest son, Elers, fought for the Confederacy while his other children and his wife attempted to protect their home and property from marauding neighbors and Confederate deserters. Throughout these struggles, Christian wrote letters to his family and they wrote back.

It is the family’s letters that are most relevant to this work. The letters reveal, in wonderful detail, the lives and times of early settlers of the Pearl River area. They cover the prosaic and the tragic, from the mundane but fascinating aspects of farming to the fearful and stressful tales of the Civil War. The lives of the Koch family are intertwined with other important settlers covered in this study, some of whom, like John Claiborne, were national figures.

Moreover, the directness of the information exchanged during troubled times is remarkable. So is the fact that these letters crossed back and forth across Union lines during much of the war, delivered by hand through friends or trusted third parties. Many letters are written on both front and back, sometimes consuming the margins as well. Letters were sometimes folded in such a way as to become their own envelopes, and then sealed with wax.

Through the Koches we derive a clearer sense of why the area’s citizens responded to the war in the manner they did, consistent with their values and customs. The culture of the region was forged from the beliefs brought by immigrants from the early French explorers to the British, Spanish and American settlers. Moreover, the county census for 1850 reveals birthplaces in 15 countries and 18 states. The area was in many ways unique due to its importance as an international boundary. In many ways, however, the population of Western Hancock County was no different than any of the other American towns that suffered and survived the Civil War. The Koch papers illuminate all their stories.

Civil War

Fort Pike: Its Significance East and West

Much of the commerce of the Pearl River area was connected to New Orleans, about 40 miles away by water. In between was situated Fort Pike at the Rigolets, a pass opening into Lake Pontchartrain.

Fort Pike, which guarded the pass to New Orleans from the Pearl River, had been taken by the Confederacy on January 14, 1861, twelve days in advance of the Louisiana legislature passing an ordinance of secession. On February 2, General P.G.T. Beauregard wrote to the Louisiana Military Board from New Orleans, calling the Mississippi River "our most vulnerable point," and suggesting that "the guns, chassis, and carriages of Fort Pike, where they are not required at present ought to be sent at once to two forts on the river."[125]

A document dated April 20, 1861 at Montgomery, signed by Major and Chief of Ordinance, C. S. Army, J. Gorgas, lists armaments at Fort Pike as follows: 24-pounder guns – 18; 24- pounder howitzers (flank defense) – 9; total 27; 5,600 pounds of cannon powder and good supply of balls, strap shot and canister.

Fort Pike having been substantially disarmed, its occupation probably was not a major task for federal forces after Farragut bombarded the two forts mentioned above by Beauregard in April 1862. On April 27, Union Forces recaptured Fort Pike. On May 1, Union troops occupied New Orleans.[126] Soon after the fall of New Orleans to the federal navy in April 1862, the lives of the settlers along the Pearl were drastically changed.

On the same day as the recapture of Fort Pike, General Benjamin F. Butler arrived in New Orleans as Commander of the Department of the Gulf. The son of President Andrew Jackson's highly respected Attorney General, Butler was not trained as a military man. While it has been acknowledged that he accomplished some positive results for New Orleans, like the cleaning of streets and the near elimination of cholera, he was hated by much of the citizenry. Known for his insistence on respect for his soldiers but also as an accused thief of silverware, he was called variously “Beast Butler” or “Spoons Butler.” During his stay in New Orleans, he had the inscription placed of the equestrian statue of Jackson, "The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved," probably echoing Jackson's words when South Carolina threatened Secession in the 1830's.[127]

Fort Pike thus became the outpost marking the strategic eastern boundary of New Orleans, and separating Louisiana from Mississippi. By November of 1862, General Butler had tightened restrictions in and out of New Orleans. [128] On November 8, a decision was made in Washington to replace Butler with General Nathanial Banks, who continued and possibly augmented such restrictions.

It is probable that it was during this period that Christian Koch began to have difficulty continuing to operate his schooner and to get passes to go home to Bogue Homa and environs, thus necessitating communications by mail when possible. This would account for the paucity of letters prior to September 1862.

By the time of the fall of New Orleans, it was evident that the Koch family had become intimately involved with the daily workings of a war of which they would have preferred to have no part. By this time, Koch was engaged in the sailing of his schooner, the Experiment.[129] He wrote to Annette from New Orleans on September 10th, 1862, urging his sons to avoid military conscription. It must be remembered that Koch was Danish and had no sympathy for the Confederate cause (he mentioned in a letter dated July 15, 1854, that there was more liberty in Denmark than in the southern states). It is not surprising that he was working with the Federals. Nevertheless, he reported that he was unable to get a pass for two or three days, and then it would be only to Toomer’s mill, which was at or near Fort Pike, in the Rigolets. That too was in Union hands, but no matter how close the villages on the Pearl River were, they were off limits without a pass.

Koch expressed grave concern for his children in his September 10th letter mentioned above. By this time, his eldest son Elers was 18; the next was Emil, who was 16; among others, there was also Lucy, about 3 years old. Koch reported that he had written to Union Col. Bridgeman, and begged him to send medicine for Lucy and to deliver the letter. It is apparent that the colonel complied, but it is also evident that Koch not only trusted the Union colonel, but also banked on his letter not being intercepted by Confederate sympathizers. His concern for Lucy was innocent enough: “"If Lucy’s eye is (illegible) put out, all the medicine in the world will not restore it…” But his advice regarding his sons is at a minimum desperate: “If they have not yet taken Elers, send him for God’s sake —– let him stay in the swamp with J. Parker. I think Emil had also better keep out of their way as I hear [they] take boys from 16 years.” This is the first recorded urging of many to follow in which Koch advised his sons to avoid military conscription.

In the same letter, Koch reported that his schooner the Experiment had been seized by the Federals, and that he expected to be paid $15 per day for its use; he feared that it would be sent to dangerous waters, and estimated its value at $3,500. Because he could not get a pass, he was unable to accept the $600 offer to transport “registered enemies” out of the area. Meanwhile he indicated that he was able to send supplies via J.F. H. Claiborne.

Meanwhile, Confederate authorities were expressing keen interest in the area along the Pearl. The following letter also indicates their awareness of the doings of John Claiborne.

Pass Christian, Miss., November 1, 1862
Lieut. Gen. J.C. Pemberton,
Commanding Department No. 1:

General: Agreeably to your orders I arrived here on Thursday, 6th instant. On examining the coast and the inhabitants thereon I found there had been many families going to the enemy’s lines and more preparing to go. There have been direct communications carried on between this place and coast with the enemy for some time. There are also several persons employed in trading between this coast and New Orleans, thence forwarding their goods to Mobile, where they get higher prices than the poor of this coast can afford to pay, and many refusing Confederate money. Gold, silver, or U.S. Treasury notes seem to be the only money they want. I find that Pearl River is navigable and open to the enemy’s vessels as high up as Gainesville, and there are persons at that place awaiting the arrival of the enemy’s vessels to go to their lines, and others at Pearlington, seven miles below Gainesville, awaiting the same opportunity. Mr. Trimour, of Pearlington, who owns a saw-mill at West Pearl River, has taken several of the Negroes to the mill for the avowed purpose of sawing lumber for the enemy…. The mill that may be found sawing for the enemy should be destroyed…. All small boats or vessels should be destroyed except those in use of the Government. There are at present several hundred runaway Negroes on Cat Island who have got away by means of small boats, and are now employed in making charcoal for the enemy. Those families who go over to the enemy go for subsistence, and say they are actually starving. I know of cases where they have eaten nothing but corn bread for weeks.
Steps should be taken to prevent general intercourse with the enemy of this coast will be entirely demoralized…. I am informed that there are two launches on Pearl River belonging to the Government…. A prominent citizen of Pearlington, Col. J. F. Claiborne, is in daily communication with the enemy, and no doubt keeps them advised of all that is going on in his neighborhood….

Respectfully submitted,

John Cavanaugh
Capt, Eighth Battalion Louisiana Artillery

Sometime before April 3, 1863, Elers was conscripted. He was listed on the rolls as “Kotch, Ellers” 9th Mississippi Cavalry, Company B. His neighbor, Horatio S. Weston, joined the same outfit as a sergeant[130].

On that date, he wrote from Camp Johnson at Monticello in Lawrence County, Ms. that there was not much to eat, amounting to perhaps ½ lb. of bacon and some flour per day. The townspeople helped by giving potatoes and molasses. He indicated that for the five days “coming up and nothing to eat but what they brought.” He also mentioned that a steamboat had exploded, scalding 22 men from Brookhaven.

The Civil War impacted all the families that form the subject of this study. Willis Claiborne, the son of John Claiborne, joined the Mississippi Cavalry, Jeff Davis Legion, Company A. He was later to die in the war, adding unfortunate irony to the actions of his father, who clandestinely supported the Union cause.

Christian attempted to run his farm from his confiscated schooner by way of his letters. For example on April 6th, 1863, writing from New Orleans, Christian inquired about peas, pumpkins, turnips, China sugarcane, black-eyed peas, potatoes, cabbage, corn and rice crops, thus providing modern readers with an interesting inventory of the crops raised on 19th century plantations. He also warned that the fence should be fixed so hogs would not get into the planted fields.

On April 8, 1863, Christian Koch stated that the Federals had again seized the Experiment. A few days later, he wrote that he had taken women and children to Madisonville under a flag of truce. In a second letter, dated April 13, he sent money that he owed the Lotts, amounting to $30 plus $2.50 in Colombian money. He also cursed the “rascals” who started the war, and asked his wife to share their supplies with friends. He continued to send instructions for planting, particularly about the grape harbors.

Annette wrote on April 16th, announcing that George Parker[131] had been taken. On the same day, her husband sent a letter stating again that he expected $15 per day for the use of his schooner, and that he was sending home supplies on the Cloud to be picked up at Claiborne’s place.

With Elers in the Army and Christian embargoed off the coast, Emil carried the weight as man of the house. In a letter dated April 18th, 1863, Annette referred to Christian as “My Dear Father,” and detailed how Emil, currently traveling on a schooner with Mr. Barnard, had saved seven swarms of bees and had got nearly everything planted – “…more sprouts…corn, rice and China sugar cane, also cabbages” – and that the next day Emil was to go to the big pen at Steve Marsonsto tend to their cattle.

The privations of the rebel soldiers was apparent in a letter Elers wrote to his parents, April 20, 1863, from Camp Jackson: “There is no such thing as furlough anymore. They are pretty strict here they make a fellow tow the mark they drill us from 2 to 6 hours a day on horseback, we have not got any tents only 4 tents in the company…We get enough rations just to make out by buying some things are pretty scarce to buy though. We have enough for our horses to eat barely, when you write to me leave some blank paper for me to write back again. I have no need for anything yet I have spent only $15, 10 of them on a bridle.”

The next day Annette sent word to Christian and informed him of still more privations. They had not had meat and coffee since he had left except for one sheep. She mentioned “Old Jacks,” sometimes referred to as “Jacko,” who had been doing some work for her having to do with lumber. She stated: “Old Jacks, as long as he is here I will try to feed him and his family. They are poor, poor. Mary looks like an old woman…Jacko will never get done with the boards…Got little meat and coffee from Charly. Luther very kind. Wrote up to Johnson for more corn; Clarisse needs food. [Need] Muscheeto bar for Stanley’s bed.” She further reported that “the Federals have taken all your lumber that was at Weston mill, perhaps they will pay you for it if you ask them at the Fort.”

Regardless of how dire their circumstances, all in the Koch family from time to time managed to convey some pleasant news. On April 24, daughter Laurentze, age 17 in 1863, sent word to her father that the roses covered the trees.[132] She also proudly announced that she had “fixed up the school house garden again,” and that she was teaching school. She had learned the song “Prairie Flower,” to sing to her father.[133]

In souther Mississippi, the rebel battle flag is still flown proudly in some parts, and so there are some subjects that must be considered delicately. Yet history must be observed as it really happened, sometimes in ways that many would prefer to be kept silent. One of the unpleasant matters is mentioned several times in the letters, specifically in one of Annette’s to Christian. On April 29, she injected for the first time an ugly part of the war: desertion. She related Eler’s statement that the officers are very strict and that there were many desertions. Also mentioned for the first time was the subject of substitutes. Almost in the same sentence she told Christian that Sam Favre had put in a substitute and Luther’s substitute was dead. Of Favre she said “you think truly of S. Favre, I do believe he is a mean man and not to be trusted, but how many since this war began we have found out to be two-faced.” She then advised that since he – Christian – was so apt to tell the truth he should be silent. The letter went on to say that the Yankees burned all the schooners on Mulatto Bioue [sic] and that they had done much damage to Gainesville and “…nearly broke Poitevent up, Monette also and some other families. There is talk that the government will take all the cattle, they put price down to 10 cents pound and if not ok, government will take anyway.” Jacko was still not finished with the first set of boards.

Annette’s letter continued to describe a litany of problems. Wagons passed by with cornmeal, cloth, chickens for the Bay, 70 miles away.[134] Emil’s trip to Johnson took three days by yalle boat. Henry would not take Confederate dollars. Trees were hard to find; they got them out of Duckman’s place. There was a big hill in the swamp.[135] Birds caused corn to be replanted four times. Pepper tea was used for worms, which are bad, and it did not work. Hogs filled the place with fleas.

But there was also pleasant news. “I do wish you could see the flower garden; you never saw the likes of the roses…poppies, larkspur, large red verbinia.” Laurentze had gone with Marselline[136] to get dewberries at the Jackson Place.[137]

And the war continued, not just at Jackson and Vicksburg, but also in their yards and inside their homes. In another letter also dated April 29, 1863, Annette reported that a Yankee with a cocked gun asked for the room key of one Henry, living with Dorsey, and that “N. papers don’t tell all that the Yankees done to Gainsville [sic].” She needed city money, not Confederate; corn was down to 1½ bushels, “but we have to give $4.” “We had very little school, as all the children help in the fields.” Emil had taken to the woods, causing Annette to chastise her husband: “You say you are sorry that Emil run away when the Yankees came up here, but if you had been at home, and heard how mad they were and making conscripts of all such lads as he, and all the Negro men they could catch…George (probably Annette’s brother) over in the swamp…he has a miserable time of it dodgeing about and scared to death all the time.” Most Yankees were nice to her except the one with the cocked gun mentioned above.

May 8th was a brighter day, at least for the Koch family. The government had again chartered the schooner to carry out registered enemies. They were to be taken to Madisonville or Mandeville in Louisiana and had to leave by the 15th. Christian wished the Yankees would take the country so they would know to whom they belonged. Again, he could not get a pass to go home and did not know why. A few days later, the quartermaster “promised that when he was done with me he would give me a recommendation to Gen. Banks to get a pass.”

When Koch read in the paper on or about May 11th that Grant was marching on Jackson, he told Annette, “…Elers may get into the fight. If they do, I hope to God, they may be beat, and dispersed, so they all can run away and come home, which I suppose most of them would do.” In the same letter he mentions that his schooner, the Exposition [138] would be sent to dangerous waters possibly near Berwick Bay in Southeast Louisiana.

Also, the Alice and the Venus[139] were carrying lumber for the government; Mickel was one of them. [140] He instructed Annette to borrow $200 Confederate from Luther to pay Henry. He mentioned General Banks and Captain Bridgeman, and said that the papers had reported Grant was marching on Jackson.

Two days later, Annette was able to send a letter to Christian by way of the Alice. She reported that a letter she had received had already been opened. Nervous, she burned some letters and questioned him as to whether his letter was sealed. Felton (?) had brought news and carried a letter to Elers for her. She also engaged J. Graves[141] to go to the dock to get a letter arriving on the Alice.[142]   Again wishing that Elers would desert she comments: “so many have come home that it looks like it is no shame but that they just do right…”

A letter of May 14 from Christian to Annette indicated that his schooner was sent to the forts to carry water from the Pearl River.[143] He noted that there we re reports of a big fight in Virginia with both parties as usual claiming victory. He also stated that the Government wanted to carry brickbats from Bonfuca to Ship Island. He concluded by saying that he would be unable (for some unstated reason) to accept a $600 offer to move registered enemies.


In April, 1863, Banks…issued severe orders, telling registered enemies of the Union to leave the territory within 15 days, requiring the Oath of Allegiance of all who remained, and promising the death penalty to all who gave supplies to the Confederate Army.
Garvey and Widmer, Beautiful Crescent, p. 148.


May 15th saw major changes. Christian communicated to Annette that Elers had been sent to catch conscripts. Christian announced that he could not come home, for he had taken the oath. He admonished her not to tell anyone, as he was worried that people would disturb her and not think he was a “good Southerner.” Possibly in the same vein, he asked that George have Justice of the Peace J. Favre “make out a deed for the 20 Acres of land so I can sign it as soon as I get home for fear that they might confiscate my property.” In the same letter he mentions that Confederate dollars can be bought for 40 cents on the dollar, and that St. Tammany currency is worthless in New Orleans. Apparently in answer to something Annette had written, he assured her that the Yankees did not steal their cattle for they would have done so openly.

The May 15 letter continued: Charley White had been sent to Mr. White to ask Charley Sherwood about Elers, who had been sent to catch conscripts; Charly was going to Walkia Bluff and would take letter to Elers. Christian had heard that fifty cavalry had taken French Leaf and Jim Miller would be turned out of office. Men were coming home all the time; G. Brown, J. White, John Bradford were in Gainesville.

May 18th, 1863 Siege of Vicksburg begins

On May 16th, L.E. Parker sent word to Christian that Annette had given birth to another son at 9 a.m. He weighed 12 pounds.[144]

A few days later, Annette confirmed the birth of their son, who was blond and blue-eyed. She added that Jim Graves had just come in from Gainesville and said that the Yankees had taken Jackson, but that Elers had not been in the fight. His cavalry outfit was “scattered between here and Monticello.” She again wished that Elers would desert.

Letters of the next few days contain no acknowledgement of the message regarding the birth. Christian discussed Claiborne, the Alice and the Venus, however, without any indication of suspicion of intrigue. He wrote: “Claiborne must indeed have a good deal of influence… or he never could have got out so many things.” He further reported that Claiborne had sent about $4,000 of goods to Confederates and that each vessel that leaves Basin (the turning basin of the Old Basin Canal, New Orleans) gets between $ 300 and $600 to carry registered enemies. There was also mention that the Alice came over with Mickel to Fort Pike, and that Mitchell would let him take the things Christian had bought for Annette. He said he would ask Capt. John of the Venus. Christian regretted “not getting the load to Claiborne” feeling that he could have run the Pearl River all summer. [145]

On May 19th, Christian wrote Annette that he was taking registered enemies to Pascagoula for $300, but “will not make much of it…my pass will nearly cost me $100 and then I have to buy [illegible] and handline and provision, I will not make over $100…I send you 20$ in gold and 55$ in paper. Use the Louisiana Bank money as it is not considered any good here.” He then stated that he had been discharged by the United States.

May 21, 1863, Siege of Port Hudson begins.

Amid the intrigue, privations, fighting, and other inconveniences of the war, life went on sometimes as normal. Emil reported to his father on May 20 that the hay was being mowed and that John Orr and Stanley had finished cultivating. The corn had been planted near the dam. Emil had gone cow hunting with John Orr; they “found Tom and the steer that stays by Uncle Luthers.” Rain was needed very badly, he said.

In the next few days, daughter Laurentze apprised her father that there was cavalry in Napoleon, and that Emil had gone to check on the schooner there. At her request, he inquired about Elers and found that he had been in the Jackson fight, which lasted five hours. The story of the fight was said by some not to have been factual.

Christian wrote to Annette on May 22, explaining that he wanted to return to the United States Quartermaster department because he was in debt, and expressed fear of returning home because of the cavalry. He had sent “stuff” for her on the Venus and was disappointed he had not received a letter from Evans and Claiborne. Claiborne, he wrote, made Evans leave in a hurry because of the Cavalry.

The following day, Christian reported that Claiborne had hurried his vessel off for fear of the cavalry. Also, he expressed worry that he had not heard anything of the baby.[146]   In an earlier letter, Christian seemed to mention that Elers was home. He now stated that if it were not for the oath he (Elers) had taken for the South, Christian would encourage him to “take to the swamp.” Meanwhile, Annette wrote that she feared that the Confederates who were returning home were sure to starve.

A few days later, Christian informed Annette that he could not get a pass yet, and was afraid to return home until he heard it was safe. He said there were many rumors, especially for the safety of Capt. John of the Venus; the lighthouse keeper of [illegible] Island told him to stay out of Pearlington as Federals had laid a trap. [147] He reported having heard that the Confederates had whipped the Yankees at Jackson and Ship Island was taken and all the people were killed.

Christian’s movements were even more restricted as he wrote during this time that he could not even go to New Orleans. He continued to send instructions home as to the cutting and hauling of logs.

On May 27th, Annette told Christian that Toomer’s was the place from which letters leave. She reported that Frank Netto had come home and was very tired; he retreated from Vicksburg, leaving five months pay behind. He said that nearly the whole company had come to the Bay.[148] Having left the army in great confusion, Frank expected that the Feds already had Vicksburg, which in fact did not occur until the 4th of July. A note in the margin seems to read “deserter.”

The Venus had come by and Jim Graves brought letters. In another report in which Annette said that Claiborne thought that the cavalry was after his vessel, she mentioned Capt. John. The connection between Claiborne and the Venus and Capt. John is unclear, but again she said she could not understand his concern because the cavalry was not in the vicinity. She mentioned that Capt. Miller[149] was in Jackson, and so concluded that Elers was there. However, some said the Yankees had taken Miller, and she therefore worried that Elers was captured. She reported that she had received one large bowl and eight small ones and two cakes of soap from the Claibornes.

Once more in the letter of May 27th, Annette mentioned that the baby had been born. Other news included that nothing was heard from Ship Island, and that John Kinmore and Joe Bates were deserters.

When Christian wrote to Annette on June 11, 1863, that he was hopeful to receive a pass after the fall of Port Hudson. He also asked that a newspaper be given to Claiborne.

Annette wrote him on June 13,1863 complaining of no rain resulting in the cistern water being very low. Among other tribulations, the China goose had been taken by a fox and Jim Graves was mooching flour. She expressed her fears that Elers would be sent to Vicksburg. The mail was being sent to Claiborne then on to the Bay, apparently indicating that the Colonel was still pivotal to local affairs. Annette concluded by stating that she had heard that her husband would return with a load for Claiborne. It is not clear what the latter was receiving from Christian.

 On June 14, 1863 Christian wrote to Annette fearing that the schooner would have been confiscated had gunboats caught him leaving the Pearl.

On June 17, more news had been received about Elers. He was on picket duty while stationed with Horatio Weston (Mr. Weston’s brother), who had written of skirmishes on the Big Black on June 2nd. Jim Graves had brought the letter.[150]

Official reports from Union Brigadier General Peter Osterhaus dated the 17th of June described the activities of the Rebel cavalry, which probably included Elers and Horatio, writing that at every point, there was occasional exchanging of shots with pickets. The same document reported about 3,000 Rebel troops at Jackson, compared to the Union army that was being collected at Canton by Johnson, estimated at about 15,000 with no prospect to swell above 20,000. Osterhous reported that George McCloud, a Negro “…described the [Confederate] people and soldiers, including officers, in very low spirits as to the success of the Southern cause.[151]” The Southern resistance at the Big Black was all but dissipated by the 22nd of June.

In a letter dated June 19, 1863 Christian mentioned to his wife that the State of Louisiana currency was no longer accepted. Christian that same month advised her to only take silver or the greenbacks from the States. In letters dated from June 19th and June 26th, Christian mentioned that wounded men were coming from Port Hudson but the Confederates were “holding out well.” There is mention also of a failed Confederate attempt to take the Opelousas Railroad that resulted in 100 “guerrillas” dying out of a total of 500. The battle at Port Hudson caused a tightening of controls in the local area, including the discontinuation of all passes and stranded Christian near Fort Pike and generated more letters home. The situation was tense and on June 20, 1863 Christian wrote Annette again that the custom officer at Fort Pike had confiscated his letter. Six days letter, Christian related to Annette that his desire for the fall of Vicksburg to the Union Army.

It was during the month of June that Christian repeatedly expressed his desire for Elers to desert. “I don’t know whether to be glad or sorry if he should run away,” he wrote on June 24th, going on to say that Elers “has taken the oath.” It may be speculated that Christian meant the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Government, even though there was no evidence to this point that Elers was not still serving in the Confederate army. It should be recalled that earlier, in May, Christian had regretted that Elers had taken the Confederate oath, seeming to mean some respect for the fact that it was an oath.

 In the letter of June 26th, Christian again expressed his wish for Elers to desert.

On June 27, 1863 Annette wrote to Christian stating that Col. Claiborne thanked him for the papers. She told Christian that because of the tightening of controls in the area, local people were wanting for most items: “I am afraid if they won’t give any pass till they take Port Hudson that it will [be] a long time as they say over here that the Federals will never be able to take it.” The conditions around Bogue Homa were deteriorating: “The negros wont cut wood for the confederates at all and they wont cut for less than four bits in city money.” To make matters worse, everyone in the family had Cholera Morbus.[152]

On Sunday, June 28, 1863 Christian wrote to Annette from New Orleans, stating he could not return home because of guerrillas. He then inquired about family’s needs because “those who have taken the oath can send anything.” Christian, as stated above, had already done so. That is probably why he was able to send papers to Col. Claiborne, but there is no hint in the correspondence as to what information those papers may have contained. He ended his letter by adding that there was no news from Port Hudson.

July 4, 1863

The Confederates formally surrender Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the Union army, and nearly 29,000 men under Pemberton’s command march out of the city. It is hoped that news of this Union triumph will hasten the end of the Port Hudson siege and that the entire region of the Mississippi will soon be under the control of the Federal army.
John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day

The fall of Vicksburg did not seem to impact local life. We learn that on that day, celebrated elsewhere as Independence Day, Emil and his sister Laurentze Koch went to Napoleon for a baptism. John Orr and Stanley hunted three coons. Emil helped Mr. Phillips at the blacksmith shop. Emil wrote to his father: “Frank says there is 10 to 12 logs of the Westons that he will have to put on the water, before he can get yours in and on this side he will have to wait until the water rises.”

Christian wrote to Annette, quoting General Emory's order forbidding gathering of more than three people and setting curfew at 9 pm; he thought the order was passed because secessionists were in high spirits since Port Hudson had not fallen yet.

In April of 1863, General Banks had left Port Hudson and “…caught a train for New Orleans. With him rode the 52-year old Brig. Gen. William H. Emory, whose health had failed in the field. … In New Orleans, Banks gave Emory the task of defending the city with a stripped-down garrison left behind by Thomas Sherman." [153]

Annette again sent a letter to Christian on the Experiment on June 16th , and said that Charles McArthur was taking a letter to Elers. She also mentioned that Mikel was to leave and go in the swamp.

July 5, 1863, Annette informed Christiant that children had gone to Napoleon to see a baptism. She thought she heard cannons. As much as she wanted to, she would not ask Elers to desert.

Annette wrote Christian again on July 16, this time stating that she heard rumors that both Vicksburg and Port Hudson had fallen. She further stated that there were no guerillas around, but that there was a company in Bay St. Louis trying to catch deserters.

Devil’s Swamp: a Refuge

On July 22,1863, a letter from Christian postulated that Elers may have left the Confederate army; he also advised that there were guerrillas near Claiborne. It would appear that within the next week Christian’s assumption was confirmed and that Elers had returned home. Christian on August 1st told Annette to watch out for guerrillas and to tell Elers to hide out in the swamp. He also expressed a desire for Emil to come to him if things got bad; he had seen the Jefferson Davis proclamation ordering out all less than 48 years of age.

Twice in early August, there were comments that the Venus had not left yet. Then, on August 5th, apparently in a letter from son Stanley, Christian was told that the Venus was to take her last trip.

On August 5th, Emil wrote to his father to say that three cavalry passed by the stable coming from Uncle Luther’s. They took the cattle, went to Luther’s to brand them and ran when Elers met the Yankees at Luther’s. (It is not clear whether these were Confederate cavalrymen who ran at the sight of Federals or whether they were simply Federal cavalry who ran when they encountered Elers.) A day later Christian feared that Elers had been caught.

On August 9th, Annette explained to her husband that the cavalry made them pen up the cattle to take, except for the oxen and the milk cows. The way these cavalrymen knew how many head of cattle each family owned was to check the county tax records.

Elers apparently was not captured. Between August 14th and 16th, his father wrote to Annette: “Elers writes he is going to see Dawsey about telling about my tradin with the Yankees. It is no use; it is only the truth and it is not worth while to mind anything he [Dawsey] says. The less we have to do with him the better.” Christian had been feuding with Dawsey for a long time as evidenced by his comments in earlier letters.[154] He also reported that a Negro had been hung at Wabash Bayou, and that a man he had met who had been taken by guerrillas in Texas said that two of his colleagues had been hung by the foot until they died. He indicated that Capt. John said that the cavalry had paid for the cattle they took from Bogue Homa.

Despite the daily tribulations wrought by the war, the Koches were still able to conduct some lumber business. On September 3rd, Christian informed Annette that he was transacting some business involving both Carre and Weston, who owned and operated local mills. He also spoke of “dangerous mosquitoes” and said “… mosquitoes in woods will protect Elers against Confederate cavalry better than anything else.”


The war was winding down in 1864. All residents of Hancock County who desired to transact business or seek protection from the Union forces stationed at Fort Pike depended on the good will of the Union officers. The Koch family continued to utilize this approach to communicate. On April 6th Annette asked Christian to send a letter by Colonel Bridgeman at Fort Pike, as the Federals were reported at the mill.[155] It is apparent that Bridgeman was again disposed to help the Koches.

Writing paper and other commodities must have been very scarce. A letter written by Christian on April 18th was composed on a scrap of paper with writing on all margins. On April 24th, Annette informed her husband that “Black Jim Mitchell” was forming a U.S. cavalry company. She reported that “… Black Jim Mitchell is making up a company to stay here on the coast, but I don’t think he will get many to join him.” [156]

The local population was nearly destitute and many sought assistance from those who still were able to grow food and conduct some commerce. In the same letter, Annette complained, “Times are so hard, and it seems, we have more than our share of callers, for every day of late there, has been some one here <sic> at meal time.”

Christian wrote to Annette again on April 27th from New Orleans instructing her to pay out city money and to save the greenbacks, stating that the Bank of New Orleans currency was worthless. He further advised her to sell tobacco plugs for no less than $1.00, and to hide cattle from the Confederate cavalry.

On May 9th, Annette wrote to Christian, saying that she heard that he was to be discharged by the government and given a pass to come home. According to her letter, he was now operating the Venus, which had presumably been confiscated because of the intelligence reports of Claiborne.

Elers, obviously moving safely around the county, told his father in a letter of June 6th: “…went down to BSL [Bay St. Louis] last Sunday you must not think hard of me for my sweet heart lives there Miss Nixon, the best girl in the Conf. States.” The letter was sent “Politeness of Mr. Orr.”[157]

The Koch papers contain a premium notice from Mutual Benefit of New Jersey. The premium was due June 16, 1864, in the amount of $112.50, and insured Christian Koch. The policy number was number 2071.[158]

Bad news sometimes did not relate to the war. On July 4th, 1864, Laurentze wrote her father saying: “Mrs. Pierce’s little boy has got the lockjaw…he was expected to die soon, he stuck a nail in his foot last week.”

Two days later, a letter believed to have been written by Laurentze told the story of deserters’ families coming to Pearlington: “The deserters families all still coming to Pearling <sic> all the poorest kind of people and they say there is a great many more to come yet if there is they will have to take the church house to live in…Two poor women here who were sick they are going up the country they have been over in town to see there <sic> sons they came in here to get some corn bread and milk for her sick husband who was on the road and could not walk to the house…they have been striped of everything they had, it is hard to be traveling in such weather.”

On July 7, Elers wrote to his father, mentioning the refusal of ladies to attend the July 4th celebration at Fort Pike, the first anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg.

Annette wrote Christian on July 19th, and discussed farming matters. She also advised that anyone going to Fort Pike was reportedly to be killed by Confederate cavalry: “We hear all sorts of rumors about cavalry and yesterday C. Litchfield told me that there was 100 in a Bayou by — Kimballs and that they come up the river to kill anyone that they catch going to the Fort, but I don’t believe it.”

In September 1864, Christian appears to be still operating out of New Orleans. He speculated on the possibility of having to start a new home elsewhere. To Annette he wrote that he planned to leave family provisions and things for neighbors at Nelson’s Mill, at the Rigolets.

Vigilantes and Jay Hawkers of Pearl River

The lieutenant general commanding…desires you to push your operations down the Pearl River toward its mouth; to deploy your troops so as to move upon Honey Island and clear it out, driving back such men as may have sought refuge there over into Louisiana….These companies will prevent the escape to Fort Pike on the lake shore….After crossing the Pearl River with your command you will deploy your troops so as , in conjunction with the cavalry which will close in and co-operate with you, to drive the men you are pursuing northward and make their escape impossible. You will give instructions to arrest every man capable of bearing arms from seventeen to fifty….”

– Assistant Adjutant-General Thom. Jack, CSA, to Colonel Lowry, April 25, 1864, from HQ, Demopolis, Alabama (See Appendix for entire letter.)


In the latter part of 1864 law enforcement had broken down…. Bands known as Jay Hawkers…roamed over many areas of the South, robbing and murdering Confederates and Yankees alike. A band came close to Logtown and encamped on a stream branch of the Pearl River. They intended to kill Henry Weston, Henry Carre, and several other prominent citizens. Then they would rob their widows. My grandfather and others heard of this and formed a posse and attacked the bandit camp. They killed several and several escaped. One by the name of Pape[159] was captured and hung almost immediately at the camp site. This location is about 2 miles east of Pearlington, Mississippi, close to U.S. Highway 90 and from that day to this the branch has been known as “Pape’s Branch.”

– J. Roland Weston, “History of the H. Weston Lumber Company,” Hancock county Historical Society


Letters in September depicted new war terrors. Elers described citizens from Columbia arriving in the area to find and murder men involved in cattle theft. In a later missive, Annette deplored the arrival of Confederate cavalry to assist a citizens committee in catching thieves. Fearing the revenge of the Federal troops, the citizens asked the cavalry to leave: “I hear that there have been 7 or 8 men already shot and they are still haunting [SIC] for them; there was some cavalry to help the citizens catch three robbers but they persuaded them not to join them as it might get the Yankees down on them.”

On September 20th, Elers wrote to his father at New Orleans and Fort Pike, defending the citizens committee for the murder of nine men: “They will not give passes just now on account of this shooting scrape over here they have killed nine men since they commenced allmost <sic> every body joins the citizens company but I will not join as long as I can help it, although I think they are doing right.” On the same date Laurentze told her father “…scary times over here, the people are shooting one another down like dogs.”

Christian expectedly did not approve. On July 26th he told Annette that he would prefer Elers to be a conscript than to join the cavalry of murderers. Annette had reported that the Confederate cavalry was seeking conscripts, causing constant excitement and personal fear.

A letter written September 28 from Annette to Christian informed him of hardships caused by feeding General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry. Even on the lower Pearl, Annette and others would have known and feared General Forrest. He was perhaps the most important cavalry leader of the Confederate army. It was reported that he had “…thirty horses shot from under him…and he killed thirty-one men in hand-to-hand combat.” [160]

Elers added in the September 28 letter that the cavalry was “pretty thick,” and eating all that they have; he hoped that Mobile would be captured and stated that no more “Jay Hawkers” were caught. On the same day, Christian wrote home from Nelson’s Mill, “Tell me all about it and whom they have killed. Mead tells me they have killed Charles Moody, if they would kill him, they would kill Elers also.”

In an undated letter, Koch urged his son to take to the swamp or go to Fort Pike rather than get picked up by the cavalry. He stated that the cavalry keeps citizens in constant fear by seeking conscripts, exacting money for release, demanding food and lodging, stealing clothing, tobacco cane, logs, cattle, horses and behaving disorderly.

On October 3rd, Annette complained to her husband that she resented feeding the Confederate cavalry while her sons were forced to hide; she cited the wickedness of people probably caused by war “…16 cavalry came by and the boys had just enough time to go into hiding.” She had to feed them all supper. Next morning, six more came for breakfast. She fed their horses too. She reported that Jourdan Stuart <sic> and Jess Young were shot “…over the Bioue…on Stewart <sic> they found letter from Charles Moody that he would steal cattle and deliver them to him at a certain place for 5 dollars a head…Lizzy McArthur is wife…she came down to see about having his body taken up and buried at home but she was persuaded to let it stay for some months first. They are buried just where they fell, on that road that we go by Whites just on the side of that hole we go around in the branch.”[161]

Annette’s letter continued, stating that “Old Mike” (Mikel of the Venus) had been freed at Fort Pike by the Colonel. She also related tension caused by the Citizen’s Committee: “…the citizens, in each beat had to choose a Capt., and be ready…and Father Elers has joined them after they had got the Coll. At the Forts approval, They must give the criminal a trial, and must have positive that he is guilty then if the crime is sufficent <sic> for death he is to be shot…I had a scene described to me by an eye witness, of a father and son who was shot close to Mr. Kimballs, how the son told standing by his father that he led in wickedness by his own father and that he had always been bad and he told his poor mother not to grieve for him but now that she would have the whole control of the other children to try and bring them up right and she was hardly out of hearing when they were both shot dead.”

In a separate letter of the same date, Elers defended to his father his personal membership in the Citizens Committee: “You said you did not want me to join the company that has been got up by the citizens to put down these robbers that pretend to be acting under Federal Authority. They are robbing citizens upon there <sic> own hook, I have joined the company…and think it no more than every good citizen should do, you think that Charles Moody was a harmless man, but he had stolen a lot of cattle up the county which he owned when he was sentenced to be shot. George Holloman is Captain of our company, he got permission from Col. Hall through Col. Claiborne’s hands, You think them a lot of cowardly murderers [illegible, possibly jackass]. Some of them are but if they should have come and robbed you of every thing you had you would want to shoot them to <sic> … one of the robbers confirmed before he was shot that they had made a plan to rob every house between Bobichito and Pearlington in one night.”

Remarkably, Elers then changed the subject and reported on the gathering of hay. He then resumed his defense: “They killed Jourdan Steward and Moody that is all that you know the rest was from Jones County[162]…There was 13 of Gen. Forrest’s cavalry here last week the fellow that you sold your Yankee coat to was one of them… I wish they would stay away because it makes The Yankee Hostile to us by being here and we cannot help it, I would set the Yankees on them mighty quick if I have a chance, It would do me good to catch them."

Also on October 3, Laurentze dutifully asked her father’s permission to teach a few pupils; she included information about George Brown’s sister, who was teaching school up river for $25 in silver and board. She also discussed a Negro dance in Bay St. Louis and proudly mentioned that she had learned a Yankee song “Vive l’America.”[163]

October 12th was Christian’s 53rd birthday. Annette wished him a happy birthday. She said that Elers had not attended the Citizens Committee meetings. Although he was a member, she deplored the killing of robbers by the committee.

On the same day, Elers wrote to describe his intention to haul 50 logs on each side of the branch. He expressed his sympathy for the Northern cause and reported that the committee had frightened Bill Favre about some mules. The committee had held three meetings, which he had not attended. Having gone to Gainesville to get his teeth “plugged,” he met one Yankee on the trip, Jim Howze. Elers wrote, “ I am not only one around here…although pretty scarce.” Though Union supporters may have been few, it is nonetheless apparent that Union and Confederate folks co-existed in Hancock County.

Letters throughout the month of October continued to express fear of the Confederate cavalry’s frequent visits. At the same time, the Koch family maintained activity in their logging business, sometimes writing about the possibility of their logs being confiscated by Federal gunboats. Trading through Fort Pike and Nelson’s Mill continued, but on November 10th and 11th, Christian said that Colonel Hall of Fort Pike probably had been reported by Mitchell to the U.S. Provost Marshall for allowing people to pass the picket line. For this reason, he was unable to get a pass to return home.

On the latter date, Elers sent a letter to his father, to say that Asa Hursey may replace Dawsey. Emil’s concern about having to take to the swamp because of so many cavalry around was considered. Also stated was that they rafted 11 sinking logs.[164]

Three days later, on November 14th, Annette announced that the sons were in fact in the swamp, after Elers was almost caught in the hammock. She conjectured that the cavalry did see the sons but did not want to take them. She fed 10 cavalrymen that day.

Letters on November 22nd seem to indicate that Elers had been taken, but that Annette was able to bribe the cavalrymen into releasing him. Christian reproached his wife for having to pay so much to the cavalry. By the 26th, Elers was with his father on board the Experiment, and Christian expressed his fear that his sons may contract smallpox. He thought that Claiborne prevented his getting a pass, and resented Claiborne having contradicted Annette’s statement concerning the payment to the cavalry for the release of their son. The same letter indicated that Colonel Hall had already sent both Elers and Emil to Christian right after they had taken the oath. He was sorry she did not keep Emil, as “Mitchell has arrived from Toomer’s and tells me that the cavalry has gone, and has not taken any body at all.”

It is evident that Annette had not yet received the above information, as she wrote Christian on the 27th to tell him that Elers had been captured. On the 28th, the boys wrote to their mother, saying they had taken the oath upon arrival at the Provost Marshall’s office in New Orleans. The acceptance of their oaths was possibly part of Lincoln’s liberalization of his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. Earlier, on January 31, 1864, he had written General Banks in New Orleans, that Banks was “at liberty to adopt any rule which shall admit to vote any questionably loyal free state men and none others. And yet I do wish they would all take the oath.”[165] Their letter concluded with their expression of love of their home.

On December 4th, Annette related to her husband that she planned to send a turkey to Colonel Hall at Fort Pike for Christmas. She also described disorderly conduct of the Confederate cavalry at a Negro dance at Bay St. Louis.

On December 7th, Christian wrote to Annette while traveling on Lake Pontchartrain. He regretted his financial inability to purchase an album for Laurentze’s Christmas; he had paid 2½ % income tax on all the money received from the schooner since July, amounting to $65.[166] Again, Christian had hard words for Claiborne, stating that Claiborne had permission to carry out many things, referring to him as “ old double traytor <sic>” who can get provisions across but can’t even carry out a letter; he stated that Claiborne could get him a pass, but he hates him too much to ask.

In another letter dated December 7th, Emil advised his mother that he had enrolled in the Louisiana militia, but that it would not be called out except in the case of danger.

A December 16th letter from Laurentze to her father related that she had gone to Napoleon for a baptism in the river. There were about 100 people, mostly ladies and Negroes, but included also about 20 men, nearly all deserters. She wrote: “School at Liberty has broken up; the girls are all coming home. They were about to starve up there.[167]

On December 17th, General Sherman gave a permit to Christian Koch to carry his own personal property, eggs, butter, potatoes and clothing on the Experiment.[168]

An undated letter believed to have been written by Christian in 1864 blamed Claiborne for Koch’s misfortune in starting a business on the Experiment; he also expressed fear of Orr, in whom he had confided. He states that the Alabama[169] has burned eight ships lately, while the Federal policy was to burn everything in order to starve the South. He was afraid that Orr’s schooner would be confiscated because of the likely difficulty in proving Union sentiments.


On January 22nd, Charly (Annette’s brother) and his wife Bella wrote to Annette to explain charges they made to Christian. He said that they had had hard times and that Colonel Claiborne was assisting by giving him a job of writing, and that his pay would be in provisions, and that Claiborne had promised to write General Sherman for a permit for Charles to go to Fort Pike. He stated that the usual fee for carrying letters was $5 and $10 but he had not charged Koch anything. He reported that he was once fired on by a gunboat and had to stop. He got off by telling a lie: “Had things for you without permit, pickets kept me several hours but got off by bribery…With all my hard work, did not make over $20 per month, took all that to feed family…The Col. Told me that he would write a letter to Gen. Sherman in my behalf and try to get me special permit to go to the Fort when I pleased…Bella and Annette send love. Good bye, Sister.”

On February 6th, Annette sent a letter to Christian at New Orleans and Rigolets. She informed him that the cavalry had stolen a horse, two guns, a keg of powder [?] and clothing from Claiborne, on the same night as Old Bill was taken (Koch’s horse). She understood that fifty bales of cotton coming down the river could be bought for 50 cents per pound and 50 barrels of tar at 25 cents each. She stated that citizens at the Jourdan River were killing each other and that the cavalry was stealing and killing too. She heard that G. Mitchell was only giving 25 cents a pound for cotton at the mill, and complained that John Orr was not earning his “victuals.”

Emil wrote to his mother on February 17th, mentioning one case of smallpox at the mill. Emil was at Nelson’s mill at the time; his father had written Annette on January 12th advising that the children should be vaccinated against smallpox. Emil also mentioned that he considered Becca (Rebecca Nixon) an [illegible, possibly selfish] woman. She was the daughter or granddaughter of General George Nixon who moved from Macon Co. to Pearlington in 1821, after having fought in the Creek War.

The same day, Elers wrote to Laurentze to say that he planned to marry Becca. He expressed surprise at seeing George Brown wearing a Federal uniform. Also on February 17, Christian reported an interview with General Sherman, who said that no one could grant a permit except General Harlbut.[170]

Letters of February 17th and 18th contained an assortment of mixed news. On the good side, Elers, who was at Nelson’ Mill, said that he and Emil were draft exempt, in spite of the fact that Federal forces had again taken Pascagoula. About the same time, Annette informed Christian that George had saved 90 logs, and that Old Bill had been found. In addition, 36 sheep and five lambs had been recovered. Her bad news was that “cattle is dying and bees have already died.” She gave no explanation of the causes. Elers’ bad news was more ominous, and perhaps prophetic. Frank Pape was nearly dead with smallpox.

On March 14th, Elers, writing from Lake Pontchartrain, promised not to marry until he could support a wife. Three days later, Christian stated to Annette his desire to move so that Elers would forget Becca. Christian’s opposition to Elers’ nuptials may have led the parents to hide or destroy Rebecca’s letters to their son. Elers’ letter written January 12, 1865, noted that letters written by Becca had been taken.

Christian, writing from Nelson’s Mill to Annette on May 8th, said he received a permit to carry 100 bales of cotton from Nelson’s Mill, but thought Claiborne got the cotton. The price of cotton had dropped from 55 cents to 35 cents per pound.

An April letter from Christian, probably to Annette, spoke of the surrender of Lee and Johnson. Koch was elated at the success of the Federals, and related a rumor that Lincoln had been killed by women in disguise. Later, he confirmed the death of Lincoln.

During the balance of the year, there were a number of friendly letters within the family, but the wartime fears and horrors are conspicuously absent. Although not mentioned in any of the known letters, Elers married Rebecca Nixon on November 23, 1865.[171]


The Return of Peace along the Pearl River

Postwar letters reflect routine activity. Laurentze had been living in New Orleans, where she wrote on February 15th telling of a wedding she had attended where three bridesmaids wore red, white and blue. She had visited the Girod Street cemetery[172] where her Uncle Charly was buried. She confided in her mother that she regretted that she could not return Asa Hursey’s love.[173]

On May 16th, 1866, Elers died on the Experiment. It is unlikely that he succumbed to Yellow Fever, as that disease normally struck in late summer and early fall. One may wonder about smallpox, especially with the connection to Frank Pape mentioned above. However, over a year had elapsed since Elers reported on Pape. There are no known letters describing the cause of his death. In truth, the letters seem to have stopped at this time, probably because the war had ended, and so did the embargoes. It is possible too that Christian traveled less.

Christian acted immediately to arrange for his son’s burial. The Koch papers contain a receipted bill from Poitevant and Boyden dated May 17th for lumber, tacks, screws and alpaca, for the making of a coffin.[174]

A document called Letters of Administration was filed with the Judge of Probate Court of Hancock County in July of 1866. That notice called for an inventory of all of Elers’ “goods, chattels, rights and credits,” and an accounting of his debts, naming Rebecca V. Koch as administrator. There is one letter from 1868, written by younger brother Stanley, in which he reported that he would like to visit Eler’s grave. Stanley was living in New Orleans at the time.

Christian and Annette continued to prosper at Bogue Homa, as indeed it seems that he even prospered during the war. His Day Book of 1860-1865 contains an itemization of the expenses and income of the schooner Experiment for that period. His bottom line is recorded as follows:

Nett [sic] Income for 4 years 5 month of —Experiment $4,579.00

Cost for Experiment $1700.00

Totall [sic] Income $2,879, being at the rate of $52.45 per month.

His long division may not have been totally accurate but it was close.

The portrait of Christian Koch that emerges from the letters shows him to have been a loving family man who cared deeply about others. It is also apparent that he was single-minded about some things, and very meticulous in his ways. In addition to his professions as farmer and sea captain, he was an official weather reporter for the government. His daughter Nettie followed him in the latter pursuit for 52 years.

All along, he participated in the area lumber business. An account book begun in 1845 recorded in great detail how many cords of wood were cut on each day of the month. It also listed for whom the wood was cut, how much was charged, and when the bills were paid. Some of the wood was gathered on “publick school land,”[175] and some amount came from the land of S. White. In these accounts, names of Wingate, Peter Russ, Dick Russ, and Esau Russ are prominent.[176]

Another notebook, undated, contained formulae for the measuring of wood products. Some of his entries are as follows:

To measure lumber
Multiply the side and the edge together and multiply by the length and divide by twelve.
To find what a log will square – Multiply the diameter into itself and divide by twentyfour.
To find the quantity of lumber a saw log will make
Multiply the diameter into itself, divide by twenty four and then multiply by the length. When the mills bur logs, they deduct one fifth from this product
To find the contents of round timber. Multiply the length in feet by the square of one fourth of the girth in inches, and divide by one hundred and forth-four. The result is the quantity in cubic feet. The girth is usually taken at one third the distance from the longest end.[177]

Koch showed his meticulous nature in composing and constantly revising his Last Will and Testament. He attempted to micromanage his estate after his death, as he probably managed his life, even suggesting that the cost of transporting his body to his grave should not exceed $50.00. The detailed instructions to his survivors are evident throughout the body of his Last Will and Testament, reproduced fully below:


Christian Koch died in 1893 and was buried at Bogue Homa where he rests today near Annette.

Literally hundreds of descendants of Christian and Annette Koch reflect the values of their forebears. Today, they crisscross the United States, from Alaska to Florida, from Virginia to California. They include professionals, authors, military, and other noble pursuits. They have founded and presided over various industries, from insurance to power companies. Fittingly, there is a mountain in Montana named Koch Peak.



Copy of Koch will – scan original

Civil War Soldiers who may appear in the scope of this document:
Company E, Biloxi Rifles: John R. Russ, Charles Favre, Eugene Favre, John Favre, Louis Favre, Lucien Favre, Simon Favre.
James Mitchell Cav. 2nd Br, res. Co. G.
Inf. 3rd Bn. (St. Troops) Co. B.
20th Inf. Co. C.
40th Inf. Co. I.
Favre, Charles, 3rd Inf. Co. F, as were Eugene, John, Louis, Lucien, Simon; Onezim was 3rd Inf. Co.G, Sgt.; L. was Cavalry, 17th Bn. Co. B.

In Pass Christian, Ashbel Green, later the first commanding officer of the Shieldsborough Rifles (Company H, 3rd Mississippi infantry) was superintendent of the Mississippi Military Institute.

New Orleans Picayune of May 19. 1861 described the activities around the first call up, including parade in front of Catholic Church.

Local units were commanded by Captains Deason (G-3) and Eager (H-3) :96.

Records for Hancock County “burned several times” (:97 and fn.)

The New Orleans Picayune, September 18, 1861 reported a Bay St. Louis soldiers’ benefit, mentioning a company commanded by Sheriff Napoleon Monet as mustered in the northern part of the county, and the Home Guard commanded by Evariste Saucier.

Losses by Desertion and AWOL are 24.7 % or 186 of 753, higher by 10 percentage points than other Mississippi figures (102).


Civil War Correspondence (The War of The Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Fred Ainsworth and Joseph W. Kirkley. Washington: GPO 190.) Ch. XLIV, pg. 819-820

Headquarters, Demopolis, Ala. April 25, 1864
Colonel Dumonteil,
Commanding Fourteenth Confederate Cavalry
COLONEL: You will order the companies of Gonzales and mills, of your regiment, to report to Col. John S. Scott for temporary duty, and will order the rest of your regiment promptly to Pearl River and picket all the crossings from the head of Honey Island past Fordsville, Columbia and Monticello, and as much farther as your command will allow. The object of this movement is to prevent all persons between the ages of seventeen and fifty from passing across the river from West to East Louisiana until further orders. You will also, after posting your command, report to Col. John S. Scott for orders. You are expected to require of your command the utmost fidelity and vigilance in the performance of the duty assigned them.
Very respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant
Thos. M. Jack
Assistant Adjutant-General (: 819)
Headquarters, Demopolis Ala. April 25, `1864
Col. J.S. Scott:
Colonel: The lieutenant-general commanding instructs me you will find inclsed [sic] in a copy of a letter instructions to Colonel Lowry for the sixth Mississippi Infantry, indicating a campaign with which you are expected and hereby directed to co-operate against deserters and conscripts. Colonel Dumonteil will be posted by orders direct from these headquarters as indicated, and will be instructed to report to you for this temporary service. You will order three picked companies of the Ninth Louisiana Battalion under a suitable officer, to be posted as indicated to cross Pearl River; also the companies of Mills, Gonzales, and Bryan, and the company from the Third Louisiana, to take position as indicated under Lieutenant-Colonel Hill. Order Colonel Powers to take position with his regiment on the line indicated. You will then post your own regiment upon Powers’ left, extending to river below Bayou Sara. If there be other troops in East Louisiana or Mississippi, south of (: 819) the railroad, you will take charge of them and employ them as you may think most serviceable to the campaign. Captain Roberts will be found in Mississippi getting up a battalion. You will avail of all the information within your reach to ferret out the skulkers, and you will see that such young men as have good social positions and have hitherto evaded service will not be spared. Orders upon this point are imperative. You will see that all who are liable to military service under existing laws, between the ages of seventeen and fifty, are enrolled and required to repair under orders, with the accompanying military force, to Jackson, Miss., where they will be held until organized and distributed. What has been said to Colonel Lowry is repeated to you, that in the prosecution of this campaign you are allowed to exercise a sound discretion in the execution of its details. You will nevertheless bear in mind that the country which is the for this campaign has been sadly demoralized and none other than the most vigorous and decisive measures will serve to impress its inhabitants with a sense of their duties to their Government and to bring it back to a sound and healthful moral condition. You will keep a list of all captures, and if in the execution of your orders you are resisted by force of arms you will not hesitate to punish the offender with death upon the spot. It is of the utmost importance that this movement should be made without a day’s delay. You will therefore proceed to its execution immediately upon receipt of these orders. You will keep yourself in immediate and constant communication with Colonel Lowry, so that co-operation shall be understood. You will keep me advised of the progress of the movement every day by telegraph, and by written communication more fully every three days. You will keep an accurate account of all arrests you make.
Very respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant
Thos. M. Jack
Assistant Adjutant-General

  • [1] E. W. Hilgard, Report on the Geology and Agriculture of the State of Mississippi. Jackson, E. Barksdale, State Printer, 1860: 383
  • [2] Beers 1989:198
  • [3] Herbert H. Lang “J.F.H. Claiborne at “Laurel Wood” Plantation, 1853-1870. Journal of Mississippi History, vol.18, 1-17.
  • [4] Remini, Volume 3, page 237
  • [5] Remini, Volume 3, pages 449-450
  • [6] Marquis James, The Life of Andrew Jackson, p. 738.
  • [7] Remini, Volume 3, page 462
  • [8] Letter from General Ferdinand Claiborne to General Andrew Jackson, from the East bank of the Tombigbee, 12 November 1813; cordial letter regarding the pursuit of the Creek War. A similar letter between the same parties from Fort Stoddard dated 11 November 1813 exhibits same cordiality. Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.
  • [9] Rowland, Dunbar, Mississippi Territory in War of 1812, p. 152.
  • [10] Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson, Vol. I, p. 107.
  • [11] Official Letter Books of W.C.C. Claiborne 1801-1816, V. VI, p. 214..
  • [12] Robert Remini, The Battle of New Orleans, p. 32.
  • [13] Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne, Notes on the War in the South, p. 89.
  • [14] Sea Island cotton is a long fiber variety that grows best along brackish and salt water terrains. It was commonly grown along the Atlantic barrier islands off Georgia and South Carolina.
  • [15] One of the most prominent settlers of Hancock County, Lewis Daniells could tract his lineage to the Norman Conquest in 1066. He was from a long line of early South Carolina settlers, some having come as early as the “first fleet” to Charleston in 1670. The family was active in South Carolina politics, the most notable being Governor Robert Daniell. The 1850 census shows him born in North Carolina.
  • [16] The Gainesville Advocate, May 9, 1846.
  • [17] Wailes visited the site and described “the shell bank at the landing on which a house is now standing. [It] is about 15 feet above the highest tides and another triangular Mound is formed of a considerable mixture of Shell. According to Williams (1987:4) he described the site as a parallelogram encompassing ¼ of an acre, about ¼ mile SSW from the embankment. This area is presently denoted as the Jackson Landing or Mulatto Bayou site. Apparently there were other mounds extant at Jackson Landing in 1856. Wailes noted that , “In front distant pr [sic] one hundred to 150 yards from the wall are seven small mounds, three to the west are in a line the others are dispersed the mound nearest the road to the East being much the largest and contains considerable shell about 8 feet high & 100 diameter.” This last structure is believed by Williams (1987:67) to be the extant pyramidal mound. Wailes concluded that the mounds are the work of “aboriginies” based on the size of the oaks and magnolias growing on it.
  • [18] Deed Book B, p. 524, Hancock County Court House. Book B, p.524, 2 December 1856, other heirs of Lewis, including W. H. Lillard, M.A. Lillard, W.F. Stansbury. J.B. Mitchell, Men..sia A. Besancon, J. B. Daniell and Elizabeth Daniell give Clifton Plantation (Sect. 34, T. 9 R16; southwestern corner of the Saucier survey to A. Jackson, Jr.
  • [19] (to do: brief bio of Russ and fly)
  • [20] Claiborne Letterbooks, Mississippi State Archives, Jackson, MS
  • [21] The seller is believed to have been the person known as “Black Jim,” a turncoat during the Civil War, referred to in the Koch papers, below. The deed for this sale indicates that the site had been known previously as “the Nancy Collins claim.” Hancock County Deed Book B, p.539.
  • [22] Reference Sheriff Sale document which also contains the parcel descriptions
  • [23] Archives, Jackson, Ms.
  • [24] This is an Indian shell midden, shown on later maps as “Jackson Landing,” causing some to believe erroneously that General Andrew Jackson stopped here before proceeding to New Orleans in 1814.
  • [25] Apparently a reference to yellow fever, already commented on in the text under Migration to Hancock County. By way of additional background, there was indeed reason for such consideration. New Orleans had in recent years some of its worst epidemics. In 1853, the city had between 30,000 and 40,000 cases, and between 8,000 and 9,000 deaths. This was in spite of the fact that about one-third of its population of 150,000 had fled to areas like the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 1854 and 1855, “yellow Jack” struck again hard, killing about 2,500 each year. The Past as Prelude, New Orleans 1718-1968, edited by Hodding Carter, p. 112.
  • [26] Another description can be found in the writings of Benjamin Wailes, the state geologist who was a guest of Russ in 1852,
  • [27] Samuel was in a place renowned to this day for its density of mosquitoes. The area could not be surveyed in 1810 due to them [Pintado papers reference]. Wailes notes similar situation. Note also the Mosquitto village/bayou name; Maranguin may mean “mosquito”; others have stated that it may refer to a tribe from Caribbean.
  • [28] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [29] This site is now Buccaneer Park, in Waveland. The high lands of the park, known by locals for many years as “Jackson Ridge,” is in two parts, separated by a salt marsh. The smaller part, or “day” area, is to the East; this is where the house and outbuildings were located. The larger part, for campers, must have been open farm land. It now has second or third growth pine.
  • [30] President Jackson’s wife Rachel died before he was inaugurated. During his first and for most of his second term, Emily Donelson served as First Lady. She was the wife of Andrew Jackson Donelson, Rachel’s nephew. He was Jackson’s personal secretary and close advisor for mush of Jackson’s administration. When Emily died at age 28 on December 19, 1836, she was succeeded as First Lady by Sarah Jackson. 
  • [31] Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, p. 334.
  • [32] Andrew Jackson, Jr. and Sarah had three children who survived infancy. The first was Rachel, who married Dr. John Lawrence and remained in Nashville. Second was Andrew Jackson III, who went to West Point and subsequently served in the Confederate army as a colonel; he lived at the Hermitage until 1893. Samuel Jackson , about whom much is revealed in the letters, was the youngest of the siblings.
  • [33] Tennessee State Library Archives. Letter from Samuel Jackson to his mother, December 26, 1858.
  • [34] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [35] Ibid
  • [36] Ibid
  • [37] Letter in private collection.
  • [38] Ibid
  • [39] Tennessee State Library Archives. Regarding the 150 bales: if accurate, this might give some indication of success. A bale averaged 400 pounds; 150 bales @ 400 pounds equals 60,000 pounds. At 40 cents this would have brought $24,000. A good field hand was expected to produce 2,000 pounds, indicating about 30 slaves as field hands.
  • [40] Letter transcript does not identify location; check Lobrano House for missing last page.
  • [41] Tennessee State Library Archives.
  • [42] Sarah Jackson to Rachel Jackson Lawrence, dated June 13, 1859, from Clifton.
  • [43] Sarah Jackson to Rachel Jackson Lawrence, dated July 27, 1860, from Sea Song. Letter in a private collection, transcript in HCHS.
  • [44] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [45] It should be mentioned that a scientific identification of the culprit as the Aedes aegypti mosquito was not made until 1900, that discovery was made by Dr. Walter Reed, building on a twenty-year research of Cuban physician Carlos Finlay Tulane University, The Past as Present, p.113. 
  • [46] Shieldsboro, now Bay St. Louis, did not entirely escape yellow fever. There was a minor epidemic in 1897, but it should be remembered that the people of New Orleans for years treated the Mississippi Gulf Coast as an escape from the danger. Annually, the “can-get-aways” made their annual trek to the coastal areas.
  • [47] Letter in private collection
  • [48] Letter in private collection
  • [49] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [50] Ben is listed as a ginner and Creasy, his wife, as a weaver James M. Parker, Daybook, 1840-1841. Parker was the overseer of Andrew Jackson’s plantation at the Hermitage. This information is taken from Sandra G. Craighead, Genealogical history of the Slaves of President Andrew Jackson of Hermitage, Tennessee (1840-1877) posted on the Internet [51] Letter is privately owned.
  • [52] The diagram did not accompany the letter sent by the Hermitage to the Hancock County Historical Society.
  • [53] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [54] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [55] Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson, Volume 3, 185)
  • [56] Tennessee State Library Archives..
  • [57] The house that was built by Mr. Johnston, according to local Hancock County tradition, was believed to have been built for General Andrew Jackson. The legend has some parallels to actual history; including the names of Jackson and Johnson, and that the new house replaced a older house that had burned. Known as the Jackson House, this one also burned, the year being 1935. The site is now occupied by Buccaneer Park, in Waveland
  • [58]Tennessee State Library Archives. “Nectrons” were possibly nectarines.
  • [59] New Orleans Picayune, June 6, 1858.
  • [60] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [61] Perhaps indicative of the financial problems stated above was the incident, sometime in the year 1858, when Andrew Jr. had separated a slave named George from his wife, selling them to different owners. The new owner of George was one Dr. John Donelson Martin, possibly a relative of Rachel Jackson, Andrew Jr.’s adoptive mother. In order to reunite the pair, Martin bought George’s wife from Nathan Bedford Forrest, a highly successful slave dealer Marquis James, Life of Jackson, p. 892.
  • [62] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [63] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [64] This was Mrs. Marion Adams, sister of Sarah , who lived at the Hermitage until her death in 1877.
  • [65] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [66] Letter is privately owned.
  • [67] This is a reference to a proposed railroad that was to run from Jackson, Mississippi, to Ship Island. The cost had been estimated at $3,000,000. DeBow’s Review, 1855, Vol. 18, p. 260, reported on an article in the New Orleans Bulletin.
  • [68] Letter is privately owned.
  • [69] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [70] This probably should read “Soniat.” One class of creditor in the Sheriff’s sale of 1861 was listed as Logan, Soniat, and Claiborne.
  • [71] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [72] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [73] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [74] Letter in private collection, transcripts furnished by the Hermitage.
  • [75] Letter in private collection, transcripts furnished by the Hermitage
  • [76] Letter in private collection, transcripts furnished by the Hermitage
  • [77] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [78] Letter in private collection, transcripts furnished by the Hermitage
  • [79] Letter in private collection, transcripts furnished by the Hermitage
  • [80] Probably the daughter of J.F.H. Claiborne, whose wife was also named Martha.
  • [81] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [82] Missing word is probably “bank,” referring to the shell midden on Mulatto Bayou, most likely the Jackson site. It is known that over the years, much of the midden was used to pave streets in New Orleans.
  • [83] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [84] Letter in private collection
  • [85] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [86] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [87] Tennessee State Library Archives
  • [88] Lang, Herbert H., J.F.H. Claiborne at Laurel Wood Plantation, 1853-1870, Journal of Mississippi History, p. 4.
  • [89] In the 1861 sheriff’s sale, John Martin was awarded two judgments, in the amounts of $175 and $530.
  • [90] W. R. Adams was a New Orleans supplier recommended by John Claiborne to Jackson in a letter dated December 3, 1856. (quote letter if not done above)
  • [91] Hancock County Deed Book E, pp. 458-460. Seal subsequently sold Sea Song on May 14, 1872; the buyer was Simpronius Russ, who paid $2,000. Russ was the son of Asa Russ who had sold to Jackson when Simpronius was only about 12 years old.. Curiously, a number of entries appear in the early deed books that purport to show that the Claibornes bought Clifton, as well as other properties, for taxes; these entries, including one which is an inventory of Mrs. Claiborne’s assets, apparently did not hold up legally, as it is evident that Seal was declared owner of Clifton, as well as Sea Song and two other properties. Another parcel that Andrew Jr. had bought was the “Mitchell place,” 1,920 acres purchased on March 19, 1857; it is not known what disposition was made of this piece of land.
  • [92] From Civil War books in Hancock County Historical Society; vol. 30, pt. 2, the Chickamauga Campaign Report of 10/24/1863 [?] The War of The Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Fred Ainsworth and Joseph W. Kirkley. Washington: GPO 1901.
  • [93] Ibid
  • [94] Ibid
  • [95] War of the Rebellion, Vol. 24, pt. 1, p. 570.
  • [96] The Hermitage, Publication of the Ladies Hermitage association, 1997, p. 46.
  • [97] Ibid, p. 46.
  • [98] Florentine Netto, also known as Jane, appears in the 1850 census as 47-year old Head of Household, living with daughters Caroline, age 17, and Nancy, age 15. They would seem to be neighbors of the Koch family.
  • [99] This was the same Asa Russ who figures prominently in the Jackson papers, and the seller of the plantation that the Jacksons eventually called Sea Song. Several members of the Russ family had come to Hancock County in the first half of the 19th century from the Carolinas. They probably would have been considered wealthy, as they came with their slaves and the wherewithal to purchase much real estate in the regions of the Pearl River and of Shieldsborough. The transaction is found in Deed Book A-157: Asa Russ de Corrnant (?) to Christian Koch, 635 acres, 31 January 1854.Plus 80 acres that was part of sect. 5 and 6. $1000, reserves a 20 feet square plot that contained the remains of “my daughter Rosa”, twin of Ella.
  • [100] For example, in Deed Book J 345, the Henry Carre [Timber] Co. et al. To C. D. Koch sell 10 acres, in Sect. 5. on 31 August 1880, located on thesouth side of Bogue Houma, where East boundary of Challon claim crosses the Bogue Houma, then 45 degrees along the east boundary, 11 chains and fifty links to a post, then N36 degrees W to said channel of Bogue Houma, thence following Bogue Houma east to place of beginning 10 acres.
  • [101] The entire collection of the Koch family papers housed at the Hill Memorial Library consists of hundreds of letters covering the period from 1829 to 1883. Also in the collections is Christian’s diary from his first visit to the East Pearl River in 1831 written in Danish, his workbooks used by him to learn English, his and his family’s ledgers, account books and even the record of weather observations as he and others at Bogue Homa served as weather spotters for the USDA (CHECK THIS). Researchers interested in maritime trade, especially related to the timber industry of the mid-19th century, will find Christian’s ledgers most useful as they record everything from item prices, to sailing plans.
  • [102] Copy in Hancock County Historical Society
  • [103] This is probably a reference to Choctaw lands that had been taken over by treaty, and then sold for $1.25 per acre. It is known that lands in the vicinity were sold in 1837 for that price.
  • [104] Baxter interview 1991
  • [105] In fact, well into the 20th century, when all settlements in and around Logtown were removed to make room for NASA’s Stennis Space Center, the Koch family and their descendants were very prominent in furthering the welfare of African Americans in the Logtown area. Koch and his family were Northern sympathizers and it is said that they did not own slaves. There is one document in which Koch gave the Graves children a 14-year old slave but this appears to be an exception. Hancock County Deed Book A, p. 636. The document purports to record a donation of “my Negro boy Joseph whose age is about fourteen years” to Celeste Jane and Isaac Francis Graves, children of James and Florentine Graves, “in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have and bear for my well beloved friends.” It is dated January 16, 1851. While listed as a Bill of Sale, no amount of money is specified. It is not known how Koch acquired Joseph, but it may be significant that he gave the boy away. Another anomaly is reflected in the probate records of the estate of Thomas Doby, the brother of Annette Koch’s mother. In those proceedings, the Probate Court’s accounting includes a payment by Koch on June 4, 1852 of $125.50 for the wages of slave Paul from August 4, 1851, to June 4, 1852. Paul was listed in the Doby inventory as a male slave, age 35. He was subsequently sold by the estate to Wm. J. Poitevent for $1,130.
  • [106] Asa Hursey is listed in the 1850 census as a millwright originally from Maine, 36 years old, with wife Isabella and five children. It would appear that he is a neighbor of the Koch family.
  • [107] This was probably owing to the purchase of part of the Babil claim, in which Asa Russ transferred 635 acres in Section 5, Township 9S, Range 16, for $1,000. It was in this deed that Asa Russ also sold 80 acres in Section 4, in which he reserved a twenty-foot square parcel “which contains the remains of my daughter Rosa.” Koch subsequently buried two other children in that plot. Deed Book A, Hancock County Court House, Bay St. Louis, MS.
  • [108] Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Long Leaf Pine Belt, 1840-1915., :33)Nollie W. Hickman Logging and Rafting Timber in South Mississippi, 1840-1910. Journal of Mississippi History, vol.19: 154-172
  • [109] Lang,          ,p. 10.
  • [110] Ibid
  • [111]Claiborne, Mississippi, Province, pages 10-12
  • [112] War of the Rebellion, Series I, vol. 52, p. 388.
  • [113] Lang, p. 10.
  • [114] J.F. H. Claiborne, Mississippi as a Province, Territory, and State.
  • [115] Journal of Mississippi History, v. VI, No. 1, pp. 48-50.
  • [116] Lang, p.13.
  • [117] Claiborne Papers, Archives, Jackson, MS. Both Toulme and Poitevent were in the Confederate army. Company F, Shieldsboro Rifles: Capt. J.V. Toulme, 1st Lt. A.S. Cowand, Capt. John Saucier, 2nd Lt. Lott M. Sones MDAH.
  • [118] Herbert H. Lang, “J.F.H. Claiborne at Laurel Wood Plantation, 1853-187. Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 18, p. 15.
  • [119] Publication of Mississippi History, volume. 14, p. 201.
  • [120] Ibid.
  • [121] Buttersworth, The Home Front, a History of Mississippi, p. 492-93.
  • [122] Napier, John H. III, Lower Pearl’s Civil War Losses, Journal of Mississippi History, V. 23, p. 100.
  • [123] Ibid. p. 102.
  • [124] War of the Rebellion, Series I, v. 32, Part III, p.819-21. Entire Thomas Jack letter quoted in Appendix.
  • [125] War of the Rebellion, Series I, vol. 1.
  • [126] War of the Rebellion, Series I, vol. 6.
  • [127] It was the senior Butler who delivered the oration at Jackson’s funeral. Remini, Andrew Jackson, Vol. III, p. 107 and p. 529.
  • [128] Bowman, The Civil War, Day by Day, p. 68.
  • [129] The Experiment was built on the Pearl River in 1814. It was 47.3 feet long with a beam of 11.2 feet. Pearson, Charles and Saltus, Allen Jr., Underwater Archaeology on the Lower Pearl, p. 54.
  • [130] The 9th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment was one of two partisan units recruited in thearea. Company’s B and D of Steede’s 17th Bn., Miss. Partisan Rangers which later became the 9th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment drew 84 men from Hancock County. The other partisan regiment Co. G, 20th (Lay) Confederate Cavalry, recruited 43 Hancock countians. Two state militias or home guards were formed consisting of Co. G, 2nd Reg., 3rd Brigade Minute Men (Marion Greys) and Co. G, 3rd Bn. (the Minute Men ofGainesville) recruited 84 men in 1863. In the year prior to secession, the Gainesville Volunteers (later Company G, 3rd Mississippi Infantry) was one of only ten militia companies in the state active and receiving state aid. Many members of Company G, Gainesville Volunteers came from families often mentioned in the Koch letter. These include: 2nd Lt.Francis H. Seal, 2nd Lt. Adolphe Poitevent, 2nd Lt. M.W. Mitchell, OnezinFavre, Emile Ladnier, Lott Mc Arthur, Thomas Mc Arthur,G.T. Mitchell, O.A. Mitchell, R.C. Mitchell, S.C. Mitchell, T.J. Mitchell,W.R. Mitchell, J.H. Nixon, T.G. Nixon, T.H. Nixon, J.L. Seal
  • [131] George Parker was married to Clarissa who is mentioned in a letter by Bella to her sister Annette Koch dated May 3, 1849.
  • [132] These would have been the wild or “Cherokee” roses that still bloom for short periods every spring. In the forested area that was Logtown, they can be seen every year climbing to the tops of the pine trees. In no other area of Hancock County do they proliferate with such beauty.
  • [133] A very popular song of the 1850’s, called “Rosalie, the Prairie Flower,” about a little girl living in a quiet cottage in an idyllic setting.
  • [134] This must have meant Mobile Bay, not Bay St. Louis.
  • [135] Probably an Indian midden, of which many still remain.
  • [136] Probably Marceline McArthur, perhaps the wealthiest woman in Hancock County. She is listed in 1850 census as having real estate valued at $35,000. While no husband is recrded in her household, it may be speculated that her husband had been the notorious criminal, James “Calico Dick” MacArthur.
  • [137] Clifton Plantation, formerly owned by Andrew Jackson, Jr. (See above.)
  • [138] Probably an error due to difficulty in reading Koch handwriting, and should read “Experiment.”
  • [139] Confer Cavanaugh letter quoted on page 45. These were probably the “two launches belonging to the government,” mentioned at end of letter. The Venus was a schooner built on the West Pearl in 1848. It was 49.6 feet long with a beam of 18.2 feet. The Alice may have been one called the Alice McGuigin, built in 1859 on Pearl River; it was also a schooner, which measured 58 feet by 21.9 feet. Pearson, Charles, and Saltus, Allen, Jr., Underwater Archaeology on the Lower Pearl and West Pearl Rivers, p/ 54.
  • [140] The reference in Cavanaugh’s letter, quoted above, may have been to these two schooners. Also, the Venus was mentioned in Claiborne’s letter to Banks.
  • [141] This was probably Jim Graves who married Simon Favre’s widow and was executor of the Favre estate. He eventually became a large land holder in the County.
  • [142] It is conceivable that in her fear Annette may have burned many letters, thus accounting for the absence of letters from 1860 to 1861.
  • [143] Pearl River is basically fresh water, whereas the water surrounding Fort Pike is salt.
  • [144] This was Peter, who is listed in the 1870 census as age 7.
  • [145] Letters of May 17-20, 1863. Confer the Claiborne section for intrigue involving these parties.
  • [146] This indicates that he had not received Parker’s letter of the 16th, or Annette’s of the 20th.
  • [147] This might have been the result of Claiborne’s report quoted above.
  • [148] In this case “the Bay” would have been Bay St. Louis, called officially at the time “Shieldsborough.”
  • [149] Capt. Miller commanded Elers’ company.
  • [150] On May 17, 1863, it was reported at Big Black that Confederate casualties were as follows: 1 officer killed; 2 enlisted killed; 9 enlisted wounded; 105 officers and 907 enlisted missing. Napier, Piney Woods Past: a Pastoral Elegy. See Appendix for additional information.
  • [151] June 17, from Big Black River, Railroad Bridge, from HQ 9th Division 13th Army, to Colonel from Osterhaus: [from Foote, vol. III:642, Major General Peter Ostehaus, Logan’s Senior division commander, had charge of XV Corps; Buckner signed surrender in New Orleans with Canby’s Chief of Staff, Peter Osterhaus.]
  • [152] This was not the dread form of cholera, but a lesser malady. Among the Koch papers is a medical flier instructing how to treat cholera morbus.
  • [153] This was General William H. Emory, whose health had failed in the field. General Banks had removed him from Port Hudson to defend New Orleans with “a stripped -down garrison left behind by Thomas Sherman.” Shelby Foote, The Civil War, pp. 394-5.
  • [154] In an early letter, dated July 4, 1854, Christian called Dawsey “the old scamp,” writing to Annette from Denmark, “You tell him, that as soon as I come home, I shall sell the land to the first man who will buy it.”
  • [155] This would seem to be Toomer’s Mill, the indication being that it was not at Fort Pike.
  • [156] This was possibly James B. Mitchell who had cast his lot with the Yankees. He was the son-in-law of Judge Daniells and the seller of the 1920-acre plot to Andrew Jackson, Jr.
  • [157] The Orr family, according to the censuses, lived near the Koches; Rebecca Nixon was probably the granddaughter of General George Nixon of Pearlington, who had fought in the Creek War.
  • [158] This was probably the same policy as mentioned in Kock’s will; the company continued in business into modern times.
  • [159] Frank Pape is mentioned in the Koch letters. He was probably a neighbor, but not the Pape who was killed, as Frank is mentioned as late as February 17, 1865.
  • [160] Burns, Civil War, p. 270. See Appendix for additional information of Forrest.
  • [161] In the 1850 census, there is only one Jourdan Stewart, age 2 at the time; he would have been 16 in 1864. There is no listing for him in the 1870 census. No one named Young is listed in the census. Elizabeth McArthur was age 14 in 1850, living in Beat 5; she is not listed in 1870 census. References to White may refer to Samuel White, a 55-year old farmer with a wife and six children; he was from Massachusetts; White’s bayou crosses Highway 90 near Pearlington.
  • [162] Jones County, north of present day Hattiesburg, was so lawless in 1864 that there were stories that it had seceded from the Confederacy. In May, Confederate General Polk sent in Colonel Robert Lowry to clean out “Captain” Newt Knight and his “Free State of Jones.” The Pearl River counties were a haven for these outlaw deserters, “who flocked to the Coast and maintained themselves by plying a contraband in lumber trade with New Orleans.” (McLemore, A History of Mississippi, pp. 524-25).
  • [163] “Viva L’America” was a 19th century song that included the lines, “United we stand, divided we fall / Union forever – freedom to all.”
  • [164] “Sinkers” were logs intentionally submerged for later use. Some are still being found in Pearl River and other waterways.
  • [165] Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 140
  • [166] This indicates a gross income of $2,600.
  • [167] Liberty was 50 miles southeast of Natchez. In 1863, Federal troops destroyed the college building and burned the town. Dunbar Rowland, Mississippi, Vol. 2, p. 103.
  • [168] This was General Thomas W. Sherman, who commanded General Banks 4th Division at New Orleans.
  • [169] The CSS Alabama had taken 65 Federal merchant ships during the war. Her exploits were ended on June 19, 1864, after she had sailed out of Chebourg, France, to engage the USS Kearsarge under Captain John A. Winslow. The Alabama was commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes. As crowds watched from a British yacht and nearby cliffs, “a fierce battle ensues, the ships circling closer and closer while blazing away with their cannon. At length the Alabama is crippled and limps toward shore, striking its colors as it settles….The Confederates have nine killed and 21 wounded to the Union ship’s three wounded. – Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 167.
  • [170] Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, U.S. Army, assumed command of the Department of the Gulf on September 23, 1864. – War of Rebellion, Addendum, V. 41, Serial no. 83, p. 355.
  • [171] Hancock County Marriage Index, New Orleans Public Library.
  • [172] This was in New Orleans, now the site of the Louisiana Superdome.
  • [173] This would have been the son of the Asa Hursey mentioned a number of times in the letters. The elder is listed in the 1850 census as a millwright from Maine, with real estate valued at $2,000. A son named Asa was age 4 at the time.
  • [174] Koch Family Papers, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
  • [175] Probably 16th section, called “lieu land,” set aside for educational purposes. The government cannot sell, but may lease, lieu land. An example is the 16th section that comprised the Russ Place, called Sea Song by the Andrew Jackson Jr. family.
  • [176] Koch family papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.
  • [177] Ibid.