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August 22, 2018
St. Francisville, Louisiana: The Day the Civil War Stopped

Our assigned dining time is 5:15 pm. However, after our day at Nottoway Plantation yesterday, we were nowhere near hungry by 5:15. Instead, we went and watched the mainstage show. By the time we went to the Front Porch Café at 8:15, we discovered it had closed 15 minutes earlier. We went running down to the formal J.M. White Dining Room – also 15 minutes late – where they took pity on us and seated us.

Our table mates included Debbie and Vickie from Sydney, Australia. They were celebrating a birthday with an “Elvis” tour. They were going to leave the cruise after Memphis and fly out to Las Vegas. We hit it off with them immediately. Gail ended up going out dancing with them after dinner, while Russell retired to the room.

Today our port was St. Francisville. We would only be here from 8:00 am until 12:30 pm. St. Francisville is called “the town two miles long and two yards wide,” as it was built on a narrow strip with cliffs on either side. St. Francisville is mainly known for Angola Prison, one of America’s most infamous prisons.

Our own tour would consist of the free hop-on hop-off bus. American Queen has four buses that follow the highway as the steamboat cruises from port to port. At St. Francisville, it went on a continuous loop all morning. We had a leisurely morning and didn’t board until 10:00 am.

The American Queen hop-on hop-off buses are painted like steamboats, including a paddle wheel on the back end!

We were only interested in one of the bus stops. But when we boarded, the guide told us we were getting a free lagnappe (Louisiana French for “something extra”). The bus made an extra stop at Myrtles Plantation, described as “one of America’s most haunted homes,” where we received a free tour.

Myrtles Plantation, named for its myrtle trees

We had four different guides for our tour, each of whom narrated a piece of the plantation’s haunted history: Ernest, Miss Susan, Miss Nancy and Miss Connie

Myrtles Plantation was established by General David Bradford, who fought in the early American “Whiskey Rebellion,” was branded a traitor, and fled to the Spanish Colony in Louisiana. One of the domestic slaves, Chloe, accidentally poisoned the new owner’s wife (Bradford’s daughter) and two sons. Chloe was hung for her crime, and the ghosts of all the deceased are said to haunt the plantation to this day.

This mirror supposedly contains the image of a woman’s profile. The mirror has been resilvered several times, but the profile keeps appearing.

These photos, taken in 1992 for insurance purposes, were examined by National Geographic. They appear to show a woman standing in the breezeway, as well as two boys crouching on the roof.

The other location of interest to us in St. Francisville was Grace Episcopal Church. Gail wanted to see the church’s cemetery because of a famous event in Civil War history, known as “The Day the Civil War Stopped.”

Grace Episcopal Church, surrounded by hundreds of graves

During the war, Union warship Lt. Commander John E. Hart became mad with fever and took his own life in the middle of a battle. His men made a request to the Confederates to allow Commander Hart to be buried in the cemetery of the church they were shelling.

Hart was a Mason. By coincidence, the Confederate officer, W.W. Leake, was also a Mason. The request was granted. According to Atlas Obscura:

“A delegation of U.S. Marines, Navy officers and sailors bore Hart’s coffin up the steep bluff to the church. Confederate and Union soldiers, as well as Leake and local Masons, observed Hart’s last rites. Thus, with full honors, Lt. Commander Hart was buried in the yard of the church that had recently been used for target practice. And thus, in a moment of bizarre incongruity, enemies found a brief moment of peace and fellowship, amidst the bloodiest chapter of American history.”

With only 15 minutes before we were due to board our steamboat, we were able to find Hart’s grave among the hundreds in the cemetery.

The grave of Union Lt. Commander John E. Hart, the only Union person buried in this Confederate cemetery

This was a day of amazing stories and histories. We are very much enjoying these little towns along the shores of the Mississippi!

Gail at Myrtles Plantation


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