Archive for the Civil War Category

Nutt’s Folly on True Blood

Posted in 19th cent., American South, Bulbiform, Civil War, Nutt's Folly, Orientalist, Samuel Sloan, True Blood on July 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At last I am able to combine my fondness for True Blood with my truest passion, 19th century architecture.

The Beloved and I were spending our usual Sunday evening mesmerized by our only real vice, True Blood. In between shots of porn worthy bodies, there is a plot. This plot contains a King. A Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, played foppishly by Denis O’Hare. This Undead Monarch is of course very rich, and has (of course )a very handsome, younger ( for a Vampire) boyfriend. the two share an amazing home ( of course),” beautifully”/pretentiously  appointed by the above mentioned “younger” boyfriend.

Generally we are allowed only interior shots, they are undead after all, not many opportunities for day shooting.

So far, I have seen two glimpses of the King’s Mansion, generally involving very hot naked werewolves. I recognized the house immediately,  it was Longwood!, ( I know, unfortunate name) but better known as Nutt’s Folly.


Natchez Mississippi

known as Nutt’s Folly

designed by Samuel Sloan,1859

As you can see by the date the world was about to end. The Civil War ( April 1861-last shot, June 1865) was looming upon society, extravagant  wonders like Longwood were doomed.

Samual Sloan (1815-1884), Philadelphia based, designed  Longwood in 1859 for Haller Nutt, a cotton planter of apparent wealth and prestige.

In the land of impressive plantations, Longwood must have stopped traffic. Longwood is the largest octagonal house in the U.S.. It’s finial alone is 24 feet. It Moorish architecture a strange and lovely marvel.

Sloan wrote of his creation “Fancy dictated that the dome should be bulbiform-a remembrancer of Eastern magnificence which few will judge misplaced as it looms up against the mellowed azure of a Southern sky’.

I love the word bulbiform, not used often enough.

A romantic passage for a romantic house.

Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a happy story. The terrible war broke, the Northern workmen fled, leaving much of the house unfinished. Poor Mr. Nutt died of pneumonia in ’64. The happiness anticipated destroyed by a bloody war.

The unfinished house became known as Nutt’s Folly.



Note the missing finial.

One of the minor casualties of the war was the furniture Sloan intended for Longwood. Rail shipments of course ceased between the North and the South, the furniture, illustrated in Sloan’s “Homestead Architecture”,ended up at a Yankee estate in Pennsylvania.

from “Homestead Architecture”

My buddy , the talented designer Patrick Ediger, was interested in the floor plan.

Next, you will find the layout of the principal floor.

from”Homestead Architecture”

As I mentioned the spire alone is 24 feet tall , replaced by a fiberglass replica , the original resides in the marvelously dusty attic of Longwood.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly has had a long and  challenging history, but aside from the indignities of being the star of a television show, it has gained the respect it deserves. It is now on the Historic Register, safe from developers, vulgarians, and Civil War.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly

140 Lower Woodville Road

Natchez, Mississippi

Good Night

Post Script

In case you are interested I have come across more images from “Sloan’s Homestead Architecture containing forty designs for villas, cottages, and farmhouses, with essays on style, construction, landscape, gardening, furniture, etc.etc.” 355pgs.

Published by J.B.Lippincott, Philadelphia ,PA, 1861

You have to love the verbosity, in our world  of text-brevity, I find the long winded titles touching.

Title Page

Oriental Villa/ Longwood

Terra Cotta

Drawing Room Furniture

Parlor Furniture

Library Furniture

Library Furniture

Plantation Residence

Love the palm trees.

Anglo-French (?) Villa, #2

Good Night

The Fashion of Deprivation,1860

Posted in 19th cent., American South, aniline dyes, Civil War on June 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

With over three million soldiers witnessing the horrors of the Civil War between 1861 through 1865, 529,332 dead, and over 400,000 wounded, maimed, and ruined, it may seem ridiculous to even contemplate fashion, and it’s impact on women, particularly Confederate women.  That said,I recently came upon images of dresses worn by Southern women during the war, and seeing the rather sad state of the dresses , I was impacted. I became acutely aware of the sacrifice , deprivation, and weariness of that War, all through shabby cotton.


Paris ca.1860


Although the Smithsonian site describes this particular dress as fashionable and not at all dreary, compared to the aniline wonders in mauvine, magenta, and cerulean blue, this would most likely have appeared lackluster in peacetime.

Patched dress

ca.1860 printed cotton with heavy patching


This shabby little dress , of well worn calico is what made me realize the severity of the war. All the playful references of Scarlet improvising with velvet curtains, downplay the seriousness of the situation. This dress is a result of port closures and the subsequent restriction of fashionable European goods. The irony of course is this was the land of King Cotton, raw material was abundant, but the desired finished product unavailable.

As so many of us do, Southerners craved legitimacy, often using fashion, architecture, and manners, to achieve approval from the more sophisticated North. This modest little dress is a poignant reminder of the harsh realities of war.

As a counter point, I will show dresses, all from the Met’s Costume collection, all around 1860-62.


ca.1862 American, cotton/wool

Have to love that key pattern.

Ball Gown

ca. 1861-62

American, silk

Such freshness, such a contrast to the “fashionable” gown.

Evening gown

ca. 1860-62

American, silk

from the Brooklyn Museum Collection

Again, an extravagance and beauty that contrasts sharply with the Southern dresses.

This may have appeared to be a frivolous post; but for me , the need for luxury in hard times, the reality of war, and national dis-unity, are all illustrated in a few yards of calico.

Good night.

Memorial Day Fashion;Vivandiere, women of valor & panache

Posted in 19th cent., Civil War, Memorial Day, Vivandiere with tags on May 31, 2010 by babylonbaroque

To honor the fallen, I thought it best to honor the brave women by their side as they fell.

The Vivandiere.

Vivandiere Uniform


As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am taking a course in U.S. History, through Reconstruction, fascinating . As a resource we were instructed to visit the Smithsonian’s site, The Price of Freedom. A marvelous resource.  I stumbled upon the Vivandiere, sometimes referred to as the Cantinieres. The Vivandiere were young women who accompanied soldiers providing “creature comforts”, yes, I had the same impure thought; from my brief research, most of the young ladies were of fine virtue.

What they did provide was companionship, though they carried about a distinctive flask of wine or brandy ,which they dispensed as needed, I imagine  their greatest gift was the gentle touch so absent from combat. It sounds sexist and perhaps patronizing, but I can imagine the comfort a woman’s voice brought to a fallen soldier, his blood darkening the soil beneath him.

Fallen soldiers


Sept.-Oct. 1862

The costume I chose from the Smithsonian site is from our Civil War, Union side. From another source (, I understood both Union and Confederate women were engaged as Vivandiere. I found the costume both visually striking and familiar. It reminded me at once of early bathing costumes of the mid to late 19th century, often favored by fashion reformers and Suffragettes.

Bathing costume 1870

The trouser element of course had it’s practical value, but I believe the wearing of the Vivandiere costume was perhaps an acceptable expression of feminism; granted the role was stereotypical, dispensing coffee, tobacco, and feminine charm, but this was brandy to a bloodied soldier, not tea to the vicar.

Vivandiere Items

Housewife sewing kit of blue wool with needle, thread, and buttons. Tobacco twist. sugar bag, coffee bag, and metal can., circular lamp, and camp stove.


Whatever the inclination of these  special woman, I felt it appropriate to honor them.

Kady Brownell

of the 1st (later the 5th) Rhode Island

from Frank C. moore’s “Women of the War “, 1866.

Happy Memorial Day