Union Headquarters: The Lum House

by
Rebecca Blackwell Drake

Recollections of Vicksburg from The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant


July 5, 1863, the morning after the fall of Vicksburg, General Grant's men began viewing some of Vicksburg's finest mansions, trying to decide which one would best be suited to serve as Union Headquarters. With the vast number of fine old mansions lining the streets, there were many to choose from.

The decision didn't take long. As Grant's entourage passed the entrance gate of the William Samuel Lum house on Washington Street, the captain noticed a young woman standing on the steps. Making ugly faces at the soldiers preoccupied her. Julia Grant later described the incident in her Vicksburg memoirs stating, "A belligerent young woman stood with other members of the household near the entrance gate of the Lum residence and imprudently made ugly faces at our handsome captain, who was at once attracted by grounds and buildings." Amused by the impertinence of the woman, the captain motioned for the entourage to stop. In a loud and clear voice he announced, "This will suit us." Remembering the incident, Julia added, "The ladies were greatly alarmed and fled like a flock of partridges before the company as the men marched in."

A wealthy businessman, William Samuel Lum, and his wife, Anne Owings Lum, owned the magnificent twenty-five-room mansion facing the Mississippi River. Located at the intersection of Washington and Klein Streets, the Lum House was recognized as the largest and finest home in Vicksburg. Cedar Grove, another of Vicksburg's largest mansions, was nearby.

With the arrival of the unexpected Yankee intruders, Mr. Lum relinquished his position as head of the household. General and Mrs. Grant, Chief of Staff General Rawlins, and other Union officers took possession of the first floor. The Lum family was asked to move to the upstairs quarters.

While occupying the home, the Grants and other officers were introduced to the Lum's young governess, Miss (Mary Emma) Hurlbut, from Connecticut. Using her charm and influence, the governess flirted with the Union officers in order to receive special privileges for the Lum family. The privilege she most enjoyed was riding around town in a horse-drawn carriage. Of course, the horses as well as the carriage belonged to the Union Army. The officers were more than happy to oblige but General Rawlins strongly opposed the outings remarking, "I do not think it just the thing for a United States soldier wearing the United States uniform to be acting as coachman for a lot of rebel women." Julia did not share his opinion but remained quiet since she was leaving for a brief trip back to St. Louis to place her children in school.

Several weeks later, Julia returned from St. Louis and observed that a cheerful atmosphere had begun to prevail in the home. She also observed that General Rawlins was looking unusually "splendid." Inquiring as to what had transpired during her absence, Grant's doctor laughed and said, "Well, you know how Miss Hurlbut made her petition for any favor always so modestly, with burning cheeks and downcast eyes. One morning she came down wearing a little blue apron with her pretty hands thrust in the pockets; well, to make a long story short, the pockets in that apron were too much for Rawlins. He simply surrendered unconditionally, and since then, we all ride in the carriages as much as we like and so does the Chief of Staff." In her Personal Memoirs, Julia added a happy footnote, stating, "General Rawlins and the governess were afterwards married."

While occupying the Lum house, Julia, had an interesting encounter of her own. One summer day, a young woman whom she described as, "tall, beautiful, and as majestic as Juno," was ushered in for a meeting with General Grant. Her name was Mrs. Eugenia Bass and she was the owner of a large plantation in a Washington County. "What am I to do?" she pleaded. "I, who never gave a thought as to any expenditure for luxuries, am now wondering where I am to go to get food for my old slaves who are too decrepit to leave me or be taken from me."

General Grant listened intently but allowed that he did not know how he could help her. Obviously, he was quite smitten by the beauty and charm of this Southern woman. Julia, overweight and frumpish, sat beside her husband listening to the conversation. She suddenly interrupted saying, "Mrs. Bass, you go to Washington and plead your own cause. I am sure you will be successful." Later Julia confessed, "Was it not a diplomatic stroke on my part to remove this fair (beautiful) petitioner from my husband's vicinity?"

Later, General and Mrs. Grant found that Mrs. Bass had taken Julia's advice and traveled to Washington to plead her cause. "She had been successful," Julia wrote, "and married the Italian minister and was the handsomest and most admired woman in Washington."

As the Grants prepared to leave Vicksburg for a new assignment in Virginia, General Grant provided Mr. and Mrs. Lum with a very important document that he had signed. The document assured the family that the Lum house and property ?would be protected. However, immediately after Grant's departure, General Sherman ordered the home to be demolished as a "military necessity." In reality, it was far from a military necessity. For Sherman, it was just another act of random violence. By the end of the war, the heartless General had earned the reputation of being the South's most hated Union officer.

By Christmas of 1863, the Lum mansion had been reduced to rubble. In the years to come, the only memories of the home were those recorded in Julia Grant's Personal Memoirs and the stories passed down from generation to generation by descendants of the Lum family.

Pen and ink drawing by Vicksburg artist, Frances Drake, based on the
original architectural plans provided by descendants of the Lum family.

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