Eccentric Potter George Ohr

Even in the progressive heyday of the American art pottery movement at the turn of the 20th century, the works of Mississippi potter George E. Ohr (1857-1918) were considered avant-garde.

His sculptural handmade pottery – he claimed no two were alike – resembled nothing turned out by his contemporaries. His bohemian behavior and unusual appearance, recorded in a series of mischievous period photographs, earned him the title of “The Mad Potter of Biloxi.”

Petticoat Vase, c. 1899, glazed ceramic, 7¾ in. x 4¾ in. Collection of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Gift of David Whitney in honor of Frank and Berta Gehry.

Eugene Hecht, authority on the potter and a professor of physics, wrote, “Ohr was an incomparable technician, an uncanny colorist, an exquisitely sensual soul, a totally committed, egocentric, eccentric, vulnerable genius who created a body of artistic work that rivals any produced in this country.”

Like many other artists, Ohr’s work was not fully appreciated in his own time. Thousands of unsold pieces remained in storage on family property after his death. The entire collection was purchased by an East Coast dealer in 1972, and only then did the highly manipulated vases and vessels find enthusiastic appreciation and an avid market among art collectors.

Pitcher, c. 1898, glazed ceramic, 5½ in. x 5½ in. Collection of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Gift of the estate of Hollis C. Thompson Jr., in memory of Evelyn Desporte Thompson, Nickie O’Keefe, Tine Lancaster and Annette O’Keefe.

Ohr learned to make pottery as an apprentice to Joseph Meyer and then traveled around the East and Midwest to view the works of other craftsmen. He set up his own pottery in his hometown of Biloxi in 1883 and took a first batch of work to a World’s Fair in nearby New Orleans the following year.

A turning point in his career was a major fire in the town that destroyed his pottery and 10 years’ worth of work in 1894. Ohr quickly rebuilt and the ceramics so admired by collectors today were made between 1895 and around 1907. As the Biloxi Art Pottery, he showed his wares in the Mississippi State Exhibition at the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition of 1904 (St. Louis World’s Fair). The judges awarded him a Silver Medal, but the designs remained too extreme for consumers and nothing in the display was sold.

Vase with in-body twist, c. 1900, glazed ceramic, 6 in. x 3¾ in. Collection of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

A comparison of George Ohr’s work with contemporary ceramics made by well-known art potteries such as Rookwood or Grueby reveals the stylistic risks taken by the Biloxi potter. Although in hopes of a sale, he made traditional forms such a vases, pitchers and teapots, his creative mind transformed these familiar shapes. Vases have eccentric looped handles and glazes in shocking reds and greens. Pitchers are crumpled and deformed.

After exploring the infinite possibilities of colored glazes, he later made unglazed works – sometimes in mottled clay – where all the artistry was in the shape. Each work captures a moment of inspiration.

Red and green vase with handles, c. 1898, glazed ceramic, 7¾ in. x 5¼ in. Collection of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Gift of Susan and Roland Samson.

Auction house owner David Rago has written extensively about Ohr’s work, emphasizing “his forms, thrown paper thin and manipulated with twists, crinkles, dimples and folds. Few people could have crafted pots so thin, and no one else thought to alter them in such bizarre ways.”

Double-handled vase, c. 1898, glazed ceramic, 7 3/4in x 5 1/4in. Collection of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Gift of the estate of Hollis C. Thompson Jr., in memory of Evelyn Desporte Thompson, Nickie O’Keefe, Tine Lancaster and Annette O’Keefe.

Rago says of the market, “The most expensive of Ohr’s pots, and the most desirable to collectors, are those that combine bright, imaginative colors with intense manipulation of form.” The best of George Ohr’s ceramics command prices in the five- to six-figure range.

For more biographical information and images of the potter’s work, the classic reference remains The Mad Potter of Biloxi: The Art & Life of George E. Ohr by Garth Clark, Robert A. Ellison Jr. and Eugene Hecht (Abbeville).

Pre-Columbian terra-cotta featured in tribal art auction July 5

The current Jasper52 auction titled Premium Tribal Art offers more than 200 lots of figures and masks integral to traditional ceremonies of cultures from around the globe. Many of the top objects in the July 5 auction are pottery that originated in the pre-Columbian cultures of Central and South America where societies flourished before the arrival of Spanish explorers.

William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson 1900 portrait campaign flag, 6¼ x 13 in. Estimate: $1,800-$2,000. Jasper52 image

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Jasper52 auction to offers jewels worthy of a crown July 5

Nearly 150 lots of precious loose gemstones and diamonds worthy of a ring, necklace or even a crown are available in a Jasper52 online auction July 5. This auction showcases magnificent jewels in a variety of cuts and colors, from GIA fancy diamonds to glowing Zambian emeralds.

1.01 carat natural fancy intense pink pear modified diamond. Estimate: $180,000-$216,000. Jasper52 image

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Mongolian Art – Origins Etched in Stone

In Mongolia, located in East Central Asia and bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, rock formations yield evidence of artistic expression and communication in the form of petroglyphs dating back to ancient times.

Such early examples of stone drawings and carvings discovered in the mountains of western Mongolia are reflections of what once were everyday experiences of indigenous people. These examples of artistic carvings, according to archeological researchers, date back to the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000 to 1,200 B.C.). Some of the most common motifs include hunting scenes with bears and deer; and Mongolian people depicted as hunters and gatherers, or during celebrations and acts of meditation.

Late 19th-century wool-on-cotton mat, made in Mongolia, 4 ft. x 2 ft. Image courtesy Jasper52

In addition to drawings and carvings on stone and caves, Mongolian artists have been known over the centuries for their creation of silver immortality vases, paintings on burlap and burlwood; woven rugs, and figures made of clay, copper, and bronze.

As time passed, Mongolian art continued to be shaped by the cultural influences of nomadic tribes and new settlers. The topography of the country influenced the scenery appearing in Mongolian art, such as mountains, deserts, forests, and upland mesas of the landlocked region. As the nomadic tribes traversed the country, aspects of their art went with them in the form of items called tsa-tsa and gau, which are portable shrines made of wood, clay, copper, and at times, silver. Meanwhile, the people from beyond Mongolia’s borders who established homesteads and worked and hunted on the same piece of land for a lifetime also were known to use silver, bronze, and gold in creating their artworks.

Chinese/Mongolian silver elephants inlaid with lapis lazuli and turquoise beads, circa late 19th- to early 20th century. Image courtesy Dallas Auction Gallery

Mongolian art is strongly influenced by religion and other beliefs, such as Buddhism, Shamanism, Islam, and Nestorianism. Be it statutes, paintings, jewelry, or textiles, over the centuries artists of this region incorporated deities and divinities into their creations. Although many Mongolian beliefs are shared by peoples in bordering nations, there are elements reflected in Asian artworks that are distinctly indicative of the location and tribe or people responsible for their creation, explains Terese Tse Bartholomew, in an article on

“The ornamentation, the shape of the lotus petals on the pedestal, and the way in which the base plate is inserted and held in place often give clues as to the country of origin,” writes Bartholomew. “Even within Mongolia, there were variations between the works produced in Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia. The sculptures of Zanabazar illustrate these differences.”

17th-century gilt bronze of Mongolian Bhais Aijyaguru, with inscription. Image courtesy of Golden State Auction Gallery Inc.

The Zanabazar of whom Bartholomew speaks is the revered Mongolian sculptor and artist Bogdo Gegen Zanabazar, who lived and created between the mid-17th and early 18th centuries. He became the first Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, or the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia, and the top-ranked lama in Mongolia. His work and leadership led to the development of the Zanabazar School of Sculpture of Outer Mongolia.

Within Mongolian artistry, motifs have specific meaning and symbolism. According to Bartholomew’s writings, there are five types of Mongolian artistic motifs:

  • Geometric: Eternity pattern, “happiness” knot, khan’s bracelet, ribbon
  • Zoomorphic: Friendly animals (elephant, monkey, hare, and dove), strong animals (lion, tiger, dragon, and a mythical bird Garuda), Asian zodiac animals (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar), a circle comprised of two fish – symbolizing yin and yang; and horn-like and noselike figures
  • Botanical: Lotus, peony, and peaches, which represent purity, prosperity, and longevity, respectively
  • Shapes of natural elements: Water, fire, and air
  • Symbols: Traditional symbolism of Tibetan and Chinese cultures including: the Eight Auspicious Symbols, Seven Jewels of the Monarch, and the Three Jewels

Antique miniature Mongolian thangka art, 2⅜ in. x 2½ in. Image courtesy Jasper52.

Mongolia’s most noteworthy artists of the 20th century are O. Tsevegjav, U. Yadamsuren, N. Tsultem and G. Odon, L. Gavaa, S. Choimbol, A. Senghetsokhio, B. Avarzed, Ts. Mijuur, Ya. Urjnee, S. Dondog, and D. Munkhuu.

Following a departure from communism and peaceful revolution in 1990, Mongolia adopted a democratic form of government. It is largely dependent on trade with neighboring China and Russia, its main industries being agriculture and mining. Mongolia also promotes tourism and capitalizes on the unique beauty of Mongolian art, both traditional and contemporary. With nearly three million people now living and working in Mongolia, and hundreds of thousands more visiting the country each year, art plays an increasingly important role in the present and future success of this intriguing Asian nation.

Motoring memorabilia featured in June 26 auction

Race fans will be competing for 60 lots of motoring memorabilia when Jasper52 waves the green flag on an online auction June 26. The auction catalog contains vintage racing posters and many contemporary limited-edition collectibles designed and made by Halmo in Italy. An outstanding example is a coffee table having a real Ferrari engine as its base.

The base of this coffee table with Plexiglas top is a real Ferrari F1 engine block, 36 x 20 x 16 inches. Estimate: $6,000-$6,500. Jasper52 image

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Mapmakers to the world featured in Jasper52 auction June 26

Maps made by the world’s most renowned cartographers of their times are presented in an auction to be conducted by Jasper52 on Tuesday, June 26. Not only will these antique maps serve as decorative pieces, but they also will reveal innumerable ways to view our world, from Imperial Russia to the to the Strait of Magellan.

Covens and Mortier World Map, Amsterdam, 1745, 19.9 x 25.5 in. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

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Storytelling Through Quilts

Quilting and storytelling go hand in hand, or perhaps it’s more like stitch by stitch. Whatever the illustration, the fact remains that for as long as people have been quilting, they’ve been infusing bits of themselves and their experiences into their creations.

Sometimes the infusion of first-person stories or family lore is strikingly apparent from the image or scene serving as the central focus of the quilt. In other examples the message may be more subtle but just as integral to the quilt’s overall tale. It could be the pattern, the material or type of stitch used that conveys a special meaning.

Lone Star quilt, 1900, Berks County, Pennsylvania, featured in an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, sold for $3,318 at auction. Photo courtesy Pook & Pook Inc.

The beauty of storytelling through quilting is that every piece and stitch matter, and every quilt is indeed a sum of its parts, not unlike life itself. Each person’s life is a collection of stories based on the experiences and emotions shaping the journey. It’s those stories that also speak to collectors of these textiles that “talk.”

Marla Jackson, founder of the African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy in Lawrence, Kansas, refers to quilts as examples of visual literacy.

“I believe that when our ancestors or we make quilts, they speak for us. It’s a language and a form of communication,” said Jackson, who began quilting in the late 1990s and opened the museum in 2012.

“Ms. Marla” as she’s known, uses quilts and their stories to educate and inspire youth living in northeast Kansas. Through her “Beyond the Book” program, she strives to impart details and understanding of the African American heritage from the time of slavery through the Civil War era, the Civil Rights movement and to the present. The group has turned to quilts to survey the history of the African American community in their region of the Sunflower State.

Baltimore album quilt, mid-19th century, 25 applique and trapunto squares depicting images including the U.S. Capitol, an American sailing ship, and monument with flags. Auction price: $28,440. Photo courtesy Pook & Pook Inc.

Among the historical accounts Jackson and the children have explored by studying and making quilts is that of Maria Rodgers Martin. Martin was among the slaves abducted by Union troops during a raid of the Tennessee home where she worked. She was taken to Lawrence, Kansas, where she worked as a servant for Senator James Lane. It’s believed she created a variety of quilts during the Civil War years while living in Lawrence. One of the most notable is a Feathered Star pattern quilt, which was assessed by the authors of the book Stories in Stitches as being “a stunning example of fine workmanship and quality. Today the Feathered Star is considered an advanced pattern [and the example believed to have been done by Martin] done with flawless execution.”

As part of their research of Martin, Jackson and the students worked together in 2014 to create a quilt that told her story through textile. Jackson took the same approach to create narrative quilts that profiled people who endured discrimination in the 1930s. The quilts in this series feature iconic singers and musicians including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong and Ma Rainey, among others.

Modern narrative profile quilt of musician Ma Rainey, created by celebrated quilter and historian Marla Jackson, founder of the African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy and the National African American Quilt Conference. Photo courtesy of Marla Jackson

For Jackson, whose quilt art has appeared in more than 40 venues across the country – including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the American Folk Art Museum – all of this is about fulfilling her calling.

“It feels like I’m doing what I was born to do,” she said. “I’m sharing the stories told by centuries of people by helping others ‘hear’ the quilts…”

Echoing Jackson’s sentiments about quilts of the past and present is Laura Hendrickson, registrar at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, where contemporary quilts are showcased, quilting is taught, and its tradition, celebrated.

Contemporary quilt titled “… and Our Flag Was Still There,” from the National Quilt Museum collection. Melinda Bula designed and quilted it after her son joined the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of the National Quilt Museum

“I think it would be important to consider that quilts and other forms of textile art, which historically have fallen under the category of women’s work, provided a type of voice for people who might not have otherwise had ways to express themselves,” Hendrickson said. “Although we have the choice to speak out today in many ways, quilts, just like any other art form, can be a powerful form of personal expression. I’m not a quilt historian, but my impression would be that while many older quilts ‘spoke’ through symbolism and visual metaphor, today’s quilts are more blunt, even using text in the piecing and appliqué.”

An example of how storytelling and collecting intersect is Stuart Ansell’s 1934 Tiger Pennant Baseball quilt. It sold for $16,000 at a January 2018 Pook & Pook auction.

According to archival information at, the story of Ansell’s quilt appeared in The Detroit News in 1935. As the story goes, Ansell showed up with a quilt he designed and quilted. The Detroit police officer was a life-long quilter and diehard baseball fan. He had reached out to each player on the 1934 Detroit Tigers team, as well as the groundskeeper and the team’s trainer, to obtain their signatures for inclusion on the quilt. Each embroidered name appears on tan baseballs pictured throughout the body of the quilt. In addition, he embroidered the names of each team in the American League as well as the Tigers’ record, onto the quilt. Also appearing on the quilt are four images of Bengal tiger heads, the team’s trademark Old English ‘D’ and a miniature baseball diamond at the center.

One-of-a-kind 1934 Tigers Pennant Baseball quilt, auctioned for $16,000 in January 2018. Photo courtesy Pook & Pook Inc.

This quilt reflects the story of one man’s appreciation for the game of baseball and his hometown team that took the American League pennant before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1934 World Series.

Although it’s been more than 80 years since Ansell created the storied Tigers quilt, the history and practice of quilts designed and made by men is more extensive than one might believe.

The appreciation for contemporary quilts like those displayed at the African American Quilt Museum and the National Quilt Museum is why modern quilts have little difficulty being categorized as future collectibles.

“For me personally, I am often struck by the anonymity of so many of the antique or vintage quilts I see. I want to know who made them, and why,” Laura Hendrickson said. “On the other side of that, my work here at the museum ensures that some of the world’s quilts will be cared for and remembered long into the future.”

Peter Max ‘Umbrella Man’ to cap off fine art auction June 20

Jasper 52 will present a Premium Fine Art Auction on Wednesday, June 20, that will feature approximately 30 original paintings in addition to photography, etchings and lithographs. This collection includes works by Peter Max, Bernard Buffet, David Burliuk and Itzchak Tarkay.

Peter Max (American, b.1937), ‘Umbrella Man,’ original acrylic on canvas, 25.5 x 21.5 in., framed. Estimate: $6,800-$7,000. Jasper52 image

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Jasper52 rolls out premium Persians rugs in June 20 auction

The rich look and feel of authentic hand-knotted Oriental rugs are at hand in a Jasper52 online auction to be held Wednesday, June 20, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Fifty premium quality rugs – Sarouks, Mahals, Kermans, Esphahans – comprise the catalog. Many of the rugs are true antiques – more than a century old.

Antique Persian Sultanabad rug, 1890, Iran, 12 ft.1 in. x 13 ft. 7 in. Estimate: $13,000-$14,000. Jasper52 image

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On The Civil War Memorabilia Trail

By Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

I parked in front of the late Victorian A-frame home in response to a phone call I received from the friend of a friend who said she was interested in disposing of her uncle’s possessions, which included some Civil War items. While every house call (as we’ve come to call them) brings its own unique sense of anticipation, those with items described as “Civil War” instill a strange mixture of anticipation, excitement, worry, doubt and even anxiety. From the time you make the appointment to the appointment itself, your mind works overtime. “What could there be? Is it really Civil War related? Will we be able to come to an agreement or will I walk out empty handed?” After a lifetime in the business, few things cause me to shiver – old photographs, paintings, and Civil War-related items are some of those things.

These two hat insignia were included in Josiah Hammond’s box of medals. There was no accompanying information to indicate how the insignia were obtained or why Josiah had them. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

Frequently the items encountered during these calls are antiques and collectibles that are readily available in the marketplace. There are other times, however, when you are surprised in ways you hadn’t expected. I have been called to homes to buy “Civil War” items only to find World War I real-photo postcards, helmets, canteens and other equipment – not that these are bad finds, but they are not Civil War.

Conversely, I have walked into a home to look at grandma’s rocking chair and walked out with a Colt Special Model 1861 rifle-musket dated 1862 and a World War II Nazi dagger from a soldier who served with Patton, both items with complete provenance. That is precisely why, with every house call, the excitement reaches a crescendo as you approach the home and ring the bell, thinking, ‘What will I find behind this door?’

The woman invited me to sit at her dining room table onto which she placed a few boxes. Was I a contestant on a game show? No, but all of the boxes could be mine if “The Price Was Right.” She removed photographs from the first box, and my heart sank. I immediately recognized as being of World War II era, not Civil War. They were photographs of her uncle, Richard Hammond.

Following the glossy paper photographs were Hammond’s WWII medals, and finally about 12 long, clear cylinders loaded with Indian head pennies. The woman explained that the pennies were tips her uncle received on his paper route during the early 20th century, which he never spent. There was a WWII photo album, and documents as well. Not a bad find but not Civil War.

Josiah Hammond’s Grand Army of the Republic Medal with insignia for the infantry, cavalry and navy, with images of 24 corps badges on verso. The partial letterhead from the District of Boton dates to 1859 and confirms that Josiah P. Hammond is an American seaman. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

The next thing she pulled from the box was a 19th-century tobacco tin whose rattle informed me there was something inside other than tobacco. I pried it open to find a few Civil War-related medals, and immediately my adrenaline was on the rise. There was hope after all.

Things only got better from there. Letters appeared from a sailor named M. C. Philbrick from the U.S.S. Monongahela. His private papers and sketch of the U.S.S. Albatross off Mobile, Alabama, September 25, 1863, are in a collection at the U. S. Naval Historical Center.

The Massachusetts Minuteman Medal awarded to troops who answered Lincoln’s “first call” for volunteers. The rim of each medal is personally inscribed with the service member’s name, rank, and unit. This medal is inscribed, “Josiah P. Hammond, PRVT. H. 3rd. REG.”

Then out came a couple of hat insignia and uniform buttons along with a “Massachusetts Minute Men 1861” medal, inscribed on the edge, Josiah P. Hammond, PRVT. H. 3rd. Reg., and other Civil War-related medals. Josiah’s 10-page, official military record came next, accompanied by a Seaman’s Passport from the “Collector of Boston, Arthur W. Austin” verifying Josiah P. Hammond’s status as a sailor, dated March 31, 1858; as well as a sailor’s certificate from 1859 and a four-page letter from Josiah’s uncle, J. Parker, from the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C., dated June 24, 1864. There was an ambrotype of Josiah P. Hammond and another of his father, Doctor Josiah S. Hammond, an 1834 graduate of Williams College.

The Massachusetts Minuteman Medal was awarded to troops who answered Lincoln’s “first call” for volunteers. The initial enlistment was for a period of three months in the belief that the war would be over before three months passed. The rim of each medal is personally inscribed with the service member’s name, rank, and unit.

It is estimated that about 3,800 such medals were struck by the U.S. Mint in 1902, by which time many of the recipients had either died or otherwise were unable to collect their medals. The medal alone brings $400 to $500, but it might be worth twice that amount if it is part of a collection of items belonging to the same recipient.

Ambrotype of Josiah P. Hammond that had been stored in a 19th-century tobacco tin. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

Josiah P. Hammond, born November 24, 1839, answered Lincoln’s call for volunteers on April 16, 1861 – four days after the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted in Plympton, Massachusetts, for a period of three months as one of the “Minutemen of ’61.” Josiah was in the Massachusetts 3rd Regiment, Company H, Infantry. He re-enlisted in October 1861 in Boston for a period of three years and served as a seaman aboard the USS North Carolina, USS Bienville, USS Monongahela, and USS Pensacola. He was later promoted to Quartermaster for “meritorious service” and also took part in many historic battles from the Carolinas to Florida, into the Gulf and finally at Port Hudson, Louisiana, where he took part in the longest siege in American history.

The Hammond family has an interesting history. Josiah Hammond’s great, great grandfather, William Hammond, married Elizabeth Penn, the sister of William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia. William died in London, and Elizabeth Penn Hammond immigrated to America with her four children in 1634.

Included with the papers was a two-page letter on parchment, which is not related to the Civil War but very interesting nonetheless. It is a 1743 note written by a member of the Hammond family to “The North Precinct in the Town of Plymouth (Mass.) General Court” concerning the building of a meetinghouse. Also include in the historical trove were other Civil War-related documents, pension papers, 18th- and 19th-century land deeds, and last wills and testaments.

The most interesting item, however, was an 1863 blueprint of the Confederate fort at Port Hudson, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River. The blueprint originated with Charles H. Taylor, who was injured at the age of 16 during the battle of Port Hudson. As a photograph collector, I am familiar with cyanotypes (a type of blue-tinted photograph) and until now had never made the connection between the cyanotype process and blueprints. An Englishman named John Herschel, the son of astronomer William Herschel, invented the cyanotype and thus the blueprint process in 1842 in an attempt to copy his notes. Paper coated in iron salts was used to make a contact print (direct print by placing the original or a negative onto sensitized paper and exposing it to light). This resulted in a white image on a blue background.

Port Hudson was the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River and a major obstacle to Union forces. The fort was vital in the flow of supplies from Texas and Europe to the Confederate states. If Union forces could capture Port Hudson, they would be in control of navigation on the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico throughout the Deep South. The Confederates repelled a number of Union assaults by Farragut’s forces during 1862 and 1863 until the 48-day siege from May 22 to July 8, 1863. At its peak, Port Hudson was 16,000 strong; however, during the 48-day siege it housed only around 3,500 men. This battle was the longest siege in American history and the first place where African-Americans fought under African-American leadership.

Portions of the Port Hudson blueprint showing the positions of the 1st Alabama, General Gardner’s Headquarters, a depot, Nims Battery, Lady Davis, 15th Arkansas Battery, rifle pits, the spot where Lieutenant Glover was killed, and the spot where General Paine was wounded. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

The blueprint of Port Hudson is unique in that it identifies the position of almost everything in the fort – information that has otherwise been lost to time. Places and positions identified by the blueprint are: rifle pits, depots, mortars, 18-gun battery, Nim’s Batteries (Capt. Ormand F. Nims 2nd Massachusetts), Confederate General Gardner’s Headquarters, the positions of “Native Infantry,” the Indiana battery, Arkansas divisions 9th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, and 23rd, as well as the 53rd Massachusetts and 1st and 43rd Alabama. Also shown is Clinton Road, Baton Rouge Road, roads leading to landings, the road to Confederate General Bank’s headquarters, Lamely Creek, Chimpson Creek, and a variety of SAP. SAPs are zig-zag trenches.

Along the Mississippi River, it indicates a “Mortar Fleet,” the place where the Gunboat Mississippi was destroyed and the positions of the USS Hartford and USS Alabama. There are also X’s indicating spots where Union Lt. Glover of the 53rd Mass. Infantry was killed and Union General Paine wounded.

One of the more interesting things shown on the map is a location identified as Lady Davis. Lady Davis was a rather large gun – a 10-inch columbiad – that fired 128-pound shells for a distance of two miles. This gun was a curse to Union camps and so named by the Confederates for the “First Lady of the Confederacy” Varina Anne Banks Howell Davis, the second wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The collection, never seen by more than a few people, will be on loan for five years to the museum at the Port Hudson State Historic site.

It’s pleasurable to collect and own such treasures, but sharing a collection with the public is not only beneficial to others but may serve to inspire young people who are interested in history, preservation and collecting. It is especially exciting to know that this blueprint could help reconstruct a map or model of Port Hudson. It is also gratifying to know that letters to and from sailors, as well as a photograph of a sailor who took part in the siege of Port Hudson, will be displayed at the Port Hudson State Historic Site. It is kind of like sending them home.

Our thanks to Antique Trader for sharing Dr. Anthony J. Cavo’s article with us. Visit Antique Trader online at