Beauvoir lets visitors explore Civil War era history

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - One hundred fifty years ago Tuesday, shots were fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. That canon fire marked the start of the Civil War, a conflict that helped shape America.

This week's anniversary marks the beginning of a four-year commemoration of the war that claimed the lives of 620,000 Americans.

Here in South Mississippi, one of the best places to learn about that period of history is at Beauvoir in Biloxi.

"In a storm, the shutters are closed and they're very sturdy," said tour guide Martha Clippinger, as she guided guests through the main home.

Clippinger educates guests about the historic last home of Jefferson Davis. The man best remembered as President of the Confederacy, may have assumed a far different role, if not for the Civil War.

"A lot of people don't know, that if the war hadn't happened at that particular time in history, he may have been President of the United States. He was that well known and that well respected. He was a U.S. Senator, hero in the Mexican war, he was Secretary of War, which is the same thing as Secretary of Defense, under Franklin Pierce," said Richard Forte, the acting director at Beauvoir.

Andrew and Delphine Lopez from Bakersfield, California are on a year long excursion that will take them across America. They say historic landmarks like Beauvoir are invaluable.

"Educational purposes. Oh my gosh, for kids and the knowledge of our country. Very, very important," said Mr. Lopez.

"We're history buffs. And we've learned so much. Our guide today is just wonderful. Very informative. It gave us a different perspective," his wife added.

"Well it just gives us a sense of where we've been and where we come from," said Arizona visitor Dixie Agnew.

"We lost between 20 and 30 percent of the glass in the storm," said the guide, pointing to the large and prominent windows throughout Beauvoir.

Not only does Beauvoir include the historic home and soon-to-be finished presidential library, there's also the Confederate soldiers' cemetery.

"There's a lot of interesting veterans out there. There's over 750 Confederate soldiers and their wives buried in that cemetery. And the tomb of the unknown soldier is there," said Forte.

"Beauvoir's mission statement is to educate the world about the life and times of Jefferson Davis and the confederate solider. And that's what we do. We don't do any more than that, we don't do any less," said Director Forte.

The new presidential library at Beauvoir will be finished by late 2011. By the way, if you're looking for a good time to visit, mark April 30th on your calendar. That's Confederate Memorial Day and there are lots of special events planned at Beauvoir.

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