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Vicksburg History

Lost Landmarks of Antebellum Vicksburg: The Castle



The Castle

Vicksburg is no stranger to architectural diversity. Styles ranging from Greek Revival to Mediterranean and just about everything in between has been represented in our city. For a brief moment in the 1840s and 1850s, one home stood out among all others though; the Castle built by Thomas Robbins. Styled to look as if it was meant to fend off trebuchets, this turreted towered stone structure overlooked Vicksburg from the southern boundary of the city.

Standing high on the site known as Castle Hill, the property of 16 acres extended towards the river to Washington Street. Robbins’ extensive beautification of the property consisted of a border of Osage Orange trees and a landscaped curtilage of rare flowers and shrubs complete with artistic fountains and statues. In keeping with the authenticity of his visionary home, he had the octagonal stone that made up the structure imported from England. A long drive winded up towards the home through the gardens giving visitors an opportunity to take in the hyperbolic scenery. As with any castle of the medieval period, this one also was surrounded by a moat with an artificial lake that was created for drainage.

the castle

Submitted by Jordan Rushing

Robbins was a rather interesting man within the community of Vicksburg. Having arrived in the area around the mid-1830s, he began working as a cashier for the Commercial and Railroad Bank. By the end of the decade, the president of the bank pressed charges against Robbins in the amount of $125,000 for embezzlement, and pushed the news of his misconduct in the local newspapers. James S. Fall, the editor of one of the newspapers, became the target of Robbins after the story reached the public’s hands resulting in a duel in where Fall was injured. Despite his scarred reputation, he married Caroline Davis, the daughter of prominent planter Joseph Davis, in 1842. Dueling became a common remedy for Robbin’s disputes. He crossed paths with both Judge William Lake and the famous orator, Seargent S. Prentiss, while many other challenges were averted after a public apology was made. His reputation as a duelist comes with a bit of irony seeing as he was also the founder of the Vicksburg Anti-dueling Society. On November 6, 1850, his life came to a conclusion in New York City. The Vicksburg Weekly Whig reported on his death saying “He was insane at the time of his death, as he had been for some time previous.”

The Bank of Natchez seized control of the Castle just before Robbin’s death. In trying to settle the terms of a deed of trust, a legal notice appeared in the Vicksburg Weekly Whig in June of 1850 that the property would be auctioned off. Eilbeck and Virginia Mason had the winning bid on the property at $4,000. Robbin’s death postponed the transfer of the home until June of the following year. The Masons opened the home to the public for the next decade making it a prized landmark of the Vicksburg waterfront. It appears in several sketches featured in newspaper publications across the nation in the 1850s advertising Vicksburg as an up-and-coming city of prominence.

Civil War brought about the destruction of the Castle. Armistead Burwell had purchased the home in 1859 from the Mason family, but due to his pro-Union philosophy fled the city around the time of secession. Unfortunately, his support of the Union did not save his home. After Vicksburg’s surrender on July 4th of 1863, Federal occupying forces tore the home down in order to use Castle Hill as a battery for the defense of the city. The last remaining images of the Castle show soldiers camped on the lawn just before its demolition

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