…built before the war despite warnings that the nation was headed into serious conflict…
…is mostly just a beautiful shell. The 30+ rooms of Longwood in Natchez that were planned by architect Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia for Haller Nutt’s dream are mostly unfinished — only those on the basement floor are finished, and that’s where the family lived while awaiting the balance of the interior of the home to be completed. Of course in 1861, the war began and the work here stopped — the architect’s workers (he sent 70 millworkers among other craftsmen) returned to the north, and the basement was completed by slave labor (I’ve seen some estimates that Haller Nutt had 800 slaves). Interesting: Haller Nutt was a Union supporter.
“In the spring of 1862, the war in the South began in earnest, and two thousand bales of Haller Nutt’s cotton were burnt by the Confederates, presumably to keep them out of the hands of the Federal forces. In the fall the Confederates burned his cotton gin and sawmill at Winter Quarters. In the spring of 1863 the army of Grant, closing in on Vicksburg, upriver from Natchez, commandeered without compensation a huge supply of corn that Haller Nutt had grown at Winter Quarters and Evergreen. His wife estimated the total to be sixty-four thousand bushels. She went on to say that “Mr. Nutt, being a strong Union man and already having suffered much from the Confederates, rather welcomed the advent of the Union army as about to receive friends. Accordingly the plantations…at the advent of this Army were like smiling gardens of Paradise.”
Regular tours are given, and that’s how we were able to view the home. Not only is it a Samuel Sloan design, but it’s the largest octagonal home in the US, with 30k sq ft.
In the planning stages, Sloan told Haller Nutt to go ahead and start accumulating timber, that they would need 100k feet of rough, one-inch boards from the beginning. They came to need three times that amount.
Standing on what’s really the first floor and looking up to the dome:
Haller Nutt passed away in 1864, presumably from pneumonia, but as Julia wrote, “it was not Pneumonia that killed him. The doctor said it was. . .his troubles. Three million dollars worth of property swept away; the labor of a life time gone; large debts incurred by the War. . .and his helpless wife with eight children. . .looking to him for support. . . .This crushed him and he died.” She was probably close to the truth when she asserted that in 1863 she “had but one weeks provisions in my storerooms and no money. I had jewels”—she certainly did; their invoices are staggering—“but I could not sell them; I had dresses but I could not sell them. I had twenty-four cows and while I could keep them I sent my younger son, Prentiss”—Sgt. Prentiss Nutt, the son named after the great Unionist orator—“to the Union Camp to sell milk.” So she precariously supported herself until the cows “were taken from me by U.S. soldiers,” who took as well all of her remaining “sheep, cattle, wagons, mules, horses and harness, fencing, axes, and worst of all. . .the last and heaviest blow, $8,787 in cash” that was being held by one of Nutt’s executors. “Then came the dark and winter days of my life. I gathered wild weeds and fed my children on them and when winter came on we thanked God when we could get a little corn.”
Julia lived the rest of her life in the basement of the home, and although she received funds from the US Government later for wartime losses, the rest of the home remained unfinished, just as it is today.