VICKSBURG FACTS: Margaret Hunt Brisbane, a Vicksburg poet

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 12, 2022

Did you know Vicksburg had a well-known poet during the 19th Century?

Margaret Hunt Brisbane, a Vicksburg native born on Feb. 11, 1858, was an accomplished poet. She was the youngest daughter of Col. Harper P. Hunt and Margaret Tompkins, a member of a well-known Kentucky family.

Her most notable poem as a young poet was based on her experience during the Siege of Vicksburg. Brisbane wrote  “Silhouettes,” under the pseudonym Johny Hunt, as part of the book “In and About Vicksburg: An illustrated guide book to the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi,” which was published in 1890 according to Heaven Smith’s “Biographical Sketch of Margaret Hunt Brisbane.” The poem illustrated the love and commitment Brisbane had for the South. 

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While still in Vicksburg, Brisbane was a member of the Mississippi Press Association and would write for various newspapers in Mississippi. She even wrote some poems for the Vicksburg Herald. In 1883, she married Dr. Howard Brisbane and would sometimes change her pseudonym to Mrs. Johny Hunt Brisbane, as stated in Smith’s Biographical Sketch. Later on, she moved to New Orleans where she continued to write. 

While in New Orleans, she still managed to write poems for various newspapers, including the Times-Democrat. As mentioned in Heaven Smith’s Biographical Sketch, Brisbane began getting recognized again for her poems relating to the Railroad Trainmen, which was a labor organization.

“A Poem of Welcome” and “Welcome to the Railroad Trainmen” caused a great impact on the community due to the awareness the poems brought to the Railroad Trainmen. “Welcome to the Railroad Trainmen,” which was published in 1899 for “The Railroad Trainman,” described the dangerous work railroad trainmen would encounter and expressed the importance of the work, according to Smith’s “Biographical Sketch of Margaret Hunt Brisbane.”

In 1922, Ernestine Clayton Deavours’s book “The Mississippi Poets” contained several of Brisbane’s poems, such as “Menelaus to Helen,” “The Dead Leaf,” “The Snow” and “A Woman.”

Brisbane grew up in an environment that helped shape her poetic abilities due to her home being surrounded by beautiful flowers and her ability to enjoy the freedom of roaming around outdoors, according to Frances Elizabeth Willard in “American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits.”

Poems like “The Deaf Leaf ” clearly illustrate her life outside as she describes the feeling of finding the first fallen leaf of autumn. Many of her poems also highlight a romantic aspect of life, such as the poem “With You,” which was published in “The Cosmopolitan,” and ”L’Envoi,” which was published in “Man and His Mate: A Little Book for His Heart and Hers” compiled by Nina Isabel Jennings, according to Smith.

As mentioned, she also wrote about her love and dedication to the South in “Silhouettes” and for the 1901 New Orleans celebration for the 93rd anniversary of Jefferson Davis’s birthday, the Confederate States of America’s president, she wrote “The Confederate Dead,” as stated in Smith’s Biographical Sketch.

Smith also stated that Brisbane was a member of the Portia Club, the 76th Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Entertainment Committee for Jefferson Davis Monument Association, and in 1913 became a member of the new Women’s Suffrage Party of Louisiana.

She had three children: Sherard Brisbane, Miles Brisbane and Mrs. David Comers, Jr.

Also according to a 1925 “New Orleans Item” article, she might have adopted a son, Hunt Capers. However, there is a lack of evidence to support this claim.

Her husband died in March 1922, and three years later she passed on Jan. 5, 1925, in New Orleans due to typhoid fever.