These ruins are mentioned in one of the brochures for the Natchez Trace Parkway. We decided to let our GPS take us there, which proved to be a mistake, as we traveled way out of our way. We did however, get to see Port Gibson and a long and narrow road traveling through what must have been plantation country before the Civil War.
When you get to the unassuming turn off on what looks to be an abandoned drive except for the Mississippi state sign. You immediately see these large columns that seem so out of place on this nearly deserted country road. We literally drove the motorhome up the path to park in front of where the main entrance to the home must have been.
The house was built by a wealthy landowner, Smith Coffee Daniel starting in 1859. He owned more than 21000 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana. The house was among the largest built in this period with the plantation having over 2,600 acres. The house was so large that Mark Twain remarked that it looked more like a college than a private home.
The house was completed in 1861. The family moved in and its history of misfortune soon began. Within weeks of occupying the home, Smith Daniel suddenly died at the age of 34. The Civil War soon invaded the property with both the Union and Confederate armies occupying the home. The Confederates used it as an observation post to watch Union movements, and it is said that a Union soldier was shot and killed as he entered the front door.
The Union army used the home also as an observation post and as a hospital. The family continued to occupy the home, but most of its wealth was loss with the death of Smith Coffee Daniel and the economic impact of the war.
After the war, the home continued to be a focal point for social gatherings, which led to the final misfortune. On Feb 17th, 1890, a careless guest dropped a cigarette on the debris left by workers on the third floor and the house was almost completely destroyed.
Since all the drawings and construction plans were lost in the fire, the only known image of what the house looked like is a drawing by a Union soldier completed during the Union occupation and can be seen here.