ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Beauvoir, Home of Jefferson Davis
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Beauvoir, Home of Jefferson Davis
|Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi
Now beautifully restored from damage sustained
during Hurricane Katrina, Beauvoir has reclaimed its
status as a landmark of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir
A statue of the Confederate
president stands on the
grounds of Beauvoir, his
home in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Central Hallway of Beauvoir
The ceiling and walls of the
central hallway feature hand-
painted designs. The front
and rear doors allowed Gulf
breezes to cool the house.
Beauvoir, Home of Jefferson Davis - Biloxi, Mississippi
Final Home of Jefferson Davis
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
View from Beauvoir
President Davis once enjoyed
this peaceful and scenic view
of the Gulf of Mexico from the
front of his retirement home.
Bed of Jefferson Davis
The Confederate president
spent his final years at
Beauvoir. It was here that he
wrote his monumental set,
The Rise and Fall of the
Historic Sites in Mississippi
Jefferson Davis, the only man ever to hold the
title of President of the Confederate States of
America, spent the final years of his life at
Beauvoir, his beloved home in historic Biloxi,
Started in 1848, the same year as the nearby
Biloxi Lighthouse, Beauvoir was completed
in 1852. Originally the summer home of the
James Brown family, the house was then
called "Orange Grove" after the Satsuma
Oranges then grown there.
The Brown family lived in Madison County,
Mississippi, but "Orange Grove" offered them
a summer escape from the heat and
humidity of the interior. They did not have
long to enjoy the home's beautiful view of
Mississippi Sound, however, as the outbreak
of the Civil War temporarily ended Biloxi's
popularity as a resort community.
James Brown died in 1866 and though she
kept the property for a time, Mrs. Brown finally
was forced to sell the home at auction in
1873. It was bought by a speculator named
Frank Johnson who sold it three months later
to Sarah Dorsey. She renamed it Beauvoir,
which in French means "beautiful view."
In 1877, President Jefferson Davis visited
Biloxi in search of a quiet place where he
could live peacefully and write. While there he
called on a family friend, Mrs. Sarah Dorsey.
Learning of his plans, she offered him the
use of a cottage-like pavilion on the grounds.
Davis agreed on the condition that she
accept a monthly rent of $50.
Beauvoir was appropriately named. The
property offered stunning views of the blue
waters of Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of
Mexico. It was the perfect writing retreat for
the former leader of the Confederacy and he
fell in love with the estate. In 1879 he offered
to purchase it from Mrs. Dorsey.
An agreement was reached for Davis to buy
the home for $5,500 to be paid in three
installments. He made the first payment but
when Mrs. Dorsey died six months later, he
learned that she had no other heir and that
Beauvoir belonged to him. President Davis
would live there for the rest of his life.
During his years at Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis
wrote his monumental two-volume set, The
Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.
Numerous other former Confederate leaders
visited the estate while he worked on the
book. Among these was General Jubal Early
and it was from him that Mrs. Dorsey learned
that Davis was suffering financially. There is
little doubt that it was a discussion between
General Early and Sarah Dorsey that inspired
the woman to leave the home to the former
president. It was a remarkable act of
The publication of The Rise and Fall of the
Confederate Government led Davis to begin
a wide-ranging tour of the South. Congress
in 1876 had passed a universal amnesty bill
restoring citizenship to former Confederates.
It included but one exception: Jefferson Davis.
The exclusion of Davis from the bill outraged
Southerners. Many Mississippians, in fact,
wanted the former president to represent
them in the U.S. Senate and urged him to
apply for a pardon so he could do so.
Jefferson Davis, however, would have none
of it. In a speech to both houses of the state
legislature in 1881, he stated his position
clearly, "It has been said that I should apply
to the United States for a pardon, but
repentance must precede the right of pardon,
and I have not repented."
While Davis emphasized that if he had it to
do over again, he would have pursued his
same course of action, he was not bitter. He
urged his fellow Southerners to be good
citizens of the United States.
In 1889, after completing A Short History of
the Confederate States of America, Jefferson
Davis left Beauvoir for Brierfield Plantation
near Vicksburg. The weather was abnormally
cold and the former president fell ill on the
journey. Soon prostrated by fever and
sickness, he returned by steamboat to New
Orleans. He died there of acute bronchitis
complicated by malaria on December 6,
Jefferson Davis died a citizen of no country
but a Confederacy that no longer existed. It
was not until October 17, 1978, that another
Southerner, President Jimmy Carter, signed
into law a unanimous resolution of Congress
restoring to citizenship the last Confederate.
With President Davis' death, Beauvoir
passed to his daughter, Winnie, who also
became a writer. When she died in 1898, the
home passed to her mother. Mrs. Davis,
however, moved to New York two years later.
In 1903, Beauvoir was sold to the Mississippi
Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans for
the then token sum of $10,000. A home for
elderly Confederate soldiers was founded on
the grounds, while the house itself became a
shrine to President Davis.
The last of the Confederate soldiers
eventually passed into eternity, but Beauvoir
continues to stand as a shrine to President
Jefferson Davis. It was heavily damaged by
Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but the main body
of the home survived and has been restored
to its former beauty.
The grounds offer stunning views of the Gulf
of Mexico and Mississippi Sound. There are
gardens, walking paths, memorials and a
cemetery for Confederate veterans. The
stunning interior of the house itself is open
daily for guided tours.
Beauvoir is located at 2244 Beach Boulevard
in Biloxi, Mississippi. It is open 363 days a
year from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $9 for
adults, $7.50 for seniors, students and active
duty military, and $4 for children. Please click
here to visit the official website for details.