Sunday, October 30, 2011

What If Jefferson Davis Had Been Assassinated ?

I was just wondering, what if Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of American, had been assassinated? Thanks to the Providence of God, he was not brutally murdered like Lincoln, Garfield, Kennedy and so many other notable men.

But this being said, his character certainly was assassinated, wasn't it? He was arrested, accused of treason, put in prison and treated very harshly. His citizenship, his home (temporarily) and his fortune were all taken away.

He was never brought to trial, because if he had, it would have been proved by the Constitution, that the South had the right to secede. After two years  he was released on a $ 100,000 bail bond, signed by 20 prominent (mostly Northern) men. By then, he was virtually a broken man, but he had borne all his difficulties with dignity as befit the true Southern Gentleman that he was.

I have shared before, that after the war, he was like "the man without a country" on so many levels. It was Jimmy Carter (I shared this before too) who restored his citizenship.

 In a sense (only a sense of course), he seems to me to have been in so many ways "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" as Isaiah describes the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course Davis was only a man, not a Savior, but guess what? Jefferson Davis had a personal relationship with the Man who Is Our Savior, and that is what makes all the difference!!! 

Removing Confederate Flag From Capitol

I had asked in a previous blog about the removal of the Confederate Battle flag from the Capitol Dome. My friend and White House Association member Sue read this and has sent me information from the Montgomery Independent (May 31, 2007), regarding the removal of the Confederate flag. Note: this information is just from part one of a three part report.

Background: George Wallace had been the one who first flew the Battle flag above the State Capitol, and it was flown from 1963 through the early 1990's. (Until 1963 only the state flag had been flown above the Capitol.)

It remained there until Governor Jim Folsom, Jr., made the decision to not put it back up (it had been removed because of a restoration project at the Capitol). It is important to note that there was no significant hue and cry when the flag was removed.

Folsom's decision was made much easier because civic leaders had concluded that the Battle flag was a detriment to the state's economic development efforts! They were entirely right in this conclusion.

The article specifically mentions some titans, Mayor Folmar, Governor Folsom, Richard Amberg, Jr., Wayne Greenhaw and especially General Will Hill Tankersley. These were the men who decided to "lead the charge to change the status quo image of our city and state". Thank you, gentlemen!!!

The four Confederate flags are now where they should be, around the beautiful Confederate Monument on the north side of the Capitol grounds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jefferson Davis Statue Made By Frederick Hibbard, Master Sculptor

Yesterday I mentioned Jefferson Davis's statute on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol. It was sculpted by Frederick Hibbard, born in 1881,  who as a child, worked with the clay on the banks of the Mississippi River. There he sculpted some of his favorite animals. The clay ignited his fascination for the art of sculpture, according to Wikepedia, from which I found this information.

One of Hibbard's first major successes came when he was selected by the UDC to erect a monument on the battlefield at Shiloh. He said later:"This monument was erected in memory of the 10,000 Confederate soldiers who fell in the Battle of Shiloh. The subject was a difficult one, for the Battle of Shiloh did not result in a Confederate victory. I went weeks studying Civil War history and biography, deciding at last to use symbolic figures typifying the reasons for the defeat."  This monument was dedicated in 1917.

Soon after this, he did an equestrian statue of U.S.Grant (boo) for Vicksburg. The requirement was that he should be depicted as he was during the Siege of Vicksburg. Hibbard said "I could not fulfill the latter requirement because the General wore a blouse and his pants were over his boots. Had he been made in sculpture during the siege, he would have looked like a rooster with its tail feathers pulled out and spurs cut off."

The Sculptor's impressive career spanned almost a half century from 1904 until 1948. One of his masterpieces is a twelve-foot statue of Jefferson Davis, in Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1940 a second statue of Jefferson Davis was unveiled - ours in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the Civil War. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jefferson Davis Statue On "Goat Hill"

At the UDC convention of 1935 plans were approved to proceed with placing a statue of Jefferson Davis on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery, the first Capitol of the Confederacy.

 The proposal read as follows: "The projected Jefferson Davis Statue would be of heroic size and would cost not more than $20,000. The delegates suggested to the chapters that funds for procuring the monument be obtained by per capita assessment of 50 cents on the 40,981 members of the national organization. Mrs. John L Woodbury, new president-general was empowered to appoint a committee to seek approval of the Alabama Legislature at its next session for the memorial."

The Sculptor was Frederick C. Hibbard of Chicago and I will talk about him in my next blog. The statue is indeed a thing of beauty and I know all Southerners are grateful for the foresight of these ladies and the monetary sacrifices they made to get this to happen. 50 cents was alot of money back then!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How The Star Came To Mark The Spot Where Jefferson Davis Stoood...

A delightful story has been sent by SueB, one of our Board members who has forgotten more Southern History than anyone else has ever learned. It is about the "Star". First to give credit, it is by Mrs. Charles Duncan of Montgomery and appeared in the August 1955 United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine.

The Federal troops occupying Montgomery after the War were very annoying, especially a particular captain. Making his rounds he knocked on a Mrs. Janney's front door. The housekeeper was out and she answered the door, holding a wet plate and drying cloth in her hands. The captain said "so the dainty southern lady has to get down to menial labors of the servants." She retorted, "when you come to look over our premises, go to the back door with all the other Yankees...if you don't go now, I'll break this plate over your head".

Many years later Mr. & Mrs. Janney were visiting a swanky resort in the north and met "the captain" yet again. They remembered each other. He said..."you couldn't possibly be the little fire eating rebel who wanted to break a plate over my head?" She said, "so you are that horrible Yankee" !!! They both laughed.

He asked what she had done to memorialize the dead, and she said "nothing, but since you are so good on making suggestions, what would you do?" He said, "you haven't marked where your illustrious Jefferson Davis walked or stood? Why don't you mark the spot where he took his oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America with a star?"

And that's "the rest of the story"! By the way, Mrs. Janney was the aunt of Mrs. Duncan, who wrote the article from which I have written this abbreviated tale. Thanks, Sue!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Running From The Battle, Yankees In Hot Pursuit

I came across an account by Pvt John Johnston, 14th Tenn Cavalry, in one of our library books at the First White House of the Confederacy, the "Journal of Confederate History, Volume 1, Summer 1988" that was quite fascinating. I will share a brief portion of it with you today, from his  account of the Battle of Nashville.

He talked about how quickly the time passes while engaged in battle, so that he did not know how long the fight lasted, but suddenly the whole line broke, and went to pieces like a rope of sand. He says: "We now ran back to our horses as fast as we could, every man for himself...most of us made it to our horses in safety..The Yankees were firing at us from behind and all was excitement and confusion. I had great difficulty in mounting my wiry little sorrel as he was very restless and my feet were clogged with mud.

When I had gained my saddle and was about to ride away, John Holden, a boy from Somerville, Tenn. called to me and said his horse was gone. I told him to get behind me and I would take him off..."

 It took several tries before John was able to mount, and by this time all their men had disappeared, but over to the right they saw the enemy. They managed to slip by them and then they saw a loose horse which his friend managed to catch and mount.

John goes on to say:  "all the shouting and clamor had ceased and we rode quietly and undisturbed down this road for a mile or more when much to my surprise...we saw our infantry marching down it (the Franklin Pike) quietly, but apparently disorganized. Just then the clouds broke and the moon shed a brilliant light over the scene. While I sat my horse and saw this long line of infantry passing my heart sank within me, for, for the first time, I FELT MY CAUSE WAS LOST."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jefferson Davis Lies In State In Montgomery

 This week someone sent us and we circulated via email a wonderful photo of  Jefferson Davis's casket being taken from the train station to the Capitol building where he lay in state on the way from New Orleans to Richmond. Then one of our White House Association Board members sent us an account from the L&N Magazine, 1955 as follows:

"As the funeral train arrived in Montgomery and stopped near Molton Street shortly after six a.m., on May 29, a violent rainstorm burst over the city - weather relented and at 8:30 that morning the funeral cortege moved to the capitol building as scheduled. Six black horses drew the platform bearing the casket, and a covering of purple and gold lent a colorful note to the otherwise somber scene. En route up Dexter Avenue, two columns of infantry marched alongside. Somewhere, a cannon fired."

The article then describes the scene inside the Capitol. "The casket was placed in front of the bench in the supreme court room. Over the right exit was the word  'Monterrey' and over the left, 'Buena Vista,' names of two famous battles in which Jefferson Davis had so gallantly figured before the days of the 'Lost Cause'. "

"All businesses and schools closed, and church bells tolled during the procession to and from the capitol. In final tribute, thousands of people of Montgomery, including many ex-solders and school children, filed by the casket."

At 12:20 p.m., about an hour and 20 minutes late, the funeral train departed over the Western Railway of Alabama..."

The photo is now of our website, /Click the heading Jefferson Davis, and then Jefferson Davis's death to see it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Daughter of the Confederacy - Winnie Davis

Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis (1864-1898) was the second daughter and sixth child, of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis.  The youngest, she was the only one who was allowed to visit her father in Fort Monroe with her mother, during his two years of imprisonment following the War.

In her early years she was home schooled, and then sent to Germany to study at the age of twelve, where she stayed for more than five years. Later she attending boarding school in Paris. Interestingly, in later years, she wrote a biography in which she declared it folly to send children to Europe to be educated.  Wow, I was just thinking how much fun that must have been, oh well.

On a visit in Atlanta in 1886, the Governor  anointed her as"The Daughter of the Confederacy". This title stuck and she became an icon for Confederate Veteran groups. Along with her aging father, she made public appearances and speeches and acted as his representative.

She was engaged once, to a man from NYC. When she announced her engagement to the "Yankee" an outcry in the South dampened the romance and it soon ended. In 1891 she and her widowed mother moved to New York where they worked as correspondents for the New York World paper.

She died at the age of 34 of malaria and was buried with military honors in Richmond, next to her Father's grave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jefferson Davis Returns To Montgomery

On "Times Gone By" a History of Montgomery, Alabama, on face book, there is an interesting article from the 1937  Advertiser: Mark Young Give To Fund For Jefferson Davis Statue"

 I quote from the article: "Mr. Young recalled yesterday that on two of Jefferson Davis's visits to Montgomery he was paraded up Dexter Avenue in a carriage drawn by four beautiful white horses.But when he returned as a corpse they used four black horses to bear the body to the capitol. In that procession Mr. Young marched beside the bier and near the depot he cut some of the fringe from the cover to keep as a sacred possession."

It goes on to say: "Rebuked by a guard or officer, his heart was gladdened a moment later when Miss Winnie Davis, daughter of the beloved president, assured him he had done no wrong, and that her father had loved everybody in Montgomery".

The photograph of the bier being carried up Dexter Avenue (then Market Street) is on our website. To view, just go to and at the home page click on Jefferson Davis tab and then under that, Jefferson Davis's Death. It is a fine tribute to a most worthy gentleman, our beloved President of the Confederate States of America!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Generous Gift To The First White House of the Confederacy

Just read those famous words by Scarlett: "Fiddle-Dee-Dee! War. war. war, this war talk is spoiling all the fun at ever party this spring. I get so bored I could scream". That got me thinking (dangerous).

Then in the mail came "The Statutes At Large of the Confederate States of America", an 1864 manuscript generously donated to the First White House of the Confederacy by our good Southern friend, Richard Bowers in Ponte Vedra  Beach, Florida.

He has given this manuscript in memory of Whittington Lee Bowers, Richard's beloved Grandson, who was the Great-Great Grandson of four Confederate soldiers: Major William H Foute I, Army of Northern Virginia, Captain W. H Foute II, 17th VA. Infantry, Pvt.Joshua Ramsay, 11th North Carolina, and Sgt. Russell J. Bates Phillip Lage, Georgia Calvary. (I may have misspelled some names).

Richard, we appreciate this so much and will place it with reverence and devotion in the Relic Room at the FWH. This is a valuable treasure, that Richard found in a Civil War Shop and purchased for us.

On the front it says: "Passed at the Fourth Session of the First Congress; 1863-4.  Richmond" I may add it is in mint condition. Richard and all, come to visit us and see it proudly displayed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Field Officers Who Served Under Robert E. Lee

From the News From The Cradle, the SCV newsletter put out by Cradle of the Confederacy Camp # 692 edited by George Gale, came an interesting article, Lee's Colonels, by Robert K. Krick.

 He says 422 field officers, under Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia were killed in action during the War Between the States. Another 52 died of accidents or disease, meaning 24% of the men in the field officer category under Lee were lost during the war.

The 1480 or so who survived the war lived longer than might have been assumed. Death dates were found for two-thirds of them. It was not until 1898 that half of them had died. That was the year Jefferson Davis died as well. And interestingly, Hitler was preparing to absorb Poland when Stephen P. Halsey, the "last of the breed", finally died on the eve of an infinitely different war.

 Lee's  officers lived on an average to be about 70 years of age. Many seemed to have met violent deaths.  Some died of gunfights, murders, or duels,  and others of accidents. The  post-war South was obviously a dangerous time in which to live. But at least they had survived the WAR!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Book By Eddie Pattillo

I am very excited to share that Edward Pattillo (a great friend of the First White House of the Confederacy) has a new book coming out very soon. The name of the book is "Carolina Planters On The Alabama Frontier"

 The Alabama Department of Archives and History will have a Book Talk for Eddie at noon on Thursday, December 8th in their auditorium. Eddie will talk about the book and sign autographs. I want everyone to know about it, and I especially hope the ladies of the White House Association of Alabama will come and support Eddie and buy his book.

Please put this date on your calendar and circle it in red. I hope to see all of you there for this book which has been a long time in the making (7-1/2 years). Wow. Congratulations, Eddie!!!

Jefferson Davis's Portable Writing Desk

A good friend has offered the First White House a wonderful portable lap desk that is said to have belonged to the President, and was given by Mrs. Davis to our friend's great-grandmother. This is very exciting because we are now only accepting items that either belonged to the Davis family, or things that are original to the House and this is a rare find indeed.

The outside is leather over wood and needs a bit of conservation, but until that is undertaken we will put it in a locked cabinet in the Relic Room, so that people can see it, but can't "travel" with it! I wish it could talk, because I can just imagine the stories it could tell, can't you?

We are very grateful to our generous friends for donating this fine piece of history to our Museum.

Families Divided By The War

The "Civil War" divided not only the nation but many individual families. It is only too true that the conflict pitted brother against brother. Four of Lincoln's brothers-in-law served in the Confederate army.

Henry Clay, dead by the time of the war, had grandsons who fought on both sides. John Crittenden, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky , who tired to prevent the war in 1860 with a compromise known as the Crittenden Plan, had sons clad in both blue and gray. 

Dr. Thomas R. Turner, in 101 Things You Didn't Know about the Civil War says it was rare for relatives to end up facing each other in battle, though there are numerous stories of wartime encounters. He says that some are "clearly apocryphal". One he does mention was of Major A.M. Lea, part of the Confederate force that captured the USS Harriet Lane in a naval battle off Galveston, Texas. When Lea's party boarded the Union ship, he found his son - a Union lieutenant - dying on its deck.

According to Dr. Turner, the duel between the Confederate ironclad Virginia and the Union ironclad Monitor had a family connection. McKean Buchanan, the brother of Virginia commander Franklin Buchanan, was aboard a Union ship sunk during the battle.

Do you know of any stories like that about the War? If so, we would love your comments below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Beauvoir and Hurricane Katrina

On August 29 (my birthday), 2005, Beauvoir was nearly destroyed by damage from Hurricane Katrina.
Fortunately the home has been restored, and was reopened on June 3, 2008. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum and other outbuildings are still being rebuilt. 

Varina Howell Davis's diamond and emerald wedding ring, one of the few valuable possessions she had managed to keep after the war and all the struggles they encountered, had been housed in the Museum at Beauvoir. It was one of the items lost in the hurricane.

Amazingly, it was found on the grounds a few months later! What an incredible occurrence, considering all the damage that was done and all the things people lost.

 I am looking forward to visiting Beauvoir very soon, and will give a full report when I get back

Friday, October 7, 2011

What Became Of Varina After Jefferson's Death?

Jefferson Davis died in 1889. According to Wikepedia, Varina completed an autobiographical writing he had begun and published as Jefferson Davis, A Memoir,  but it did not sell well.  She then accepted an invitation from the Pulitzers to become a full time columnist and she and Winnie moved to New York City in 1891 where they pursued literary careers.

They took rooms at a series of residential hotels. In 1902 she sold Beauvoir to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for $10,000 to be used as a Confederate Veterans' home. (She had turned down larger offers from real estate developers).

She offended many Southerners by her move to NYC and also by the friends she made, particularly the widow of former general and president Ulysses S. Grant. He was anathema to the South (remember the bumper sticker that says "forget, hell"?)

The greatest tragedy of her later years was the death of her beloved daughter Winnie in 1898. Nevertheless, she continue to write for the newspaper and to appear socially until poor health forced her to retire and she was no longer able to go out. She died at age 80 in her room at the Hotel Majestic on October 16, 1906. The Hotel, via daughter Margaret's direction, sent us her furniture and we have it upstairs in our "New York Bedroom". It is quite lovely, and we are blessed to have it and to know that those pieces were her's.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Davis Children

When Jefferson Davis and his family left Montgomery for Richmond, they had already lost one child, Samuel Emory Davis, (born 7-30-1852 and died 6-30-1854 at age two). They moved with their three living children, Margaret, born 2-25-1855,  Jefferson, Jr., born 1-16-1857, and Joseph Evan, born 4-18-1859, to the Second White House.

They were soon joined by William, born 12-16-1861, and Varina Anne (Winnie), born 6-27-1864,  both at the Second White House. Under "The Museum of the Confederacy website" we read: "Visitors to the home were likely to hear ringing laughter and screams of bedlam from the playing children, who were infamous for having unbridled spirits and unbroken wills".

Tragically, Joseph,  died from a fall from the east portico on April 30, 1864. In tbe decades following, three more Davis children died of disease. William died on 10-16-1872 at age 11 of yellow fever. Jeff Jr., died 10-16-1878 at age 21 of yellow fever, and Winnie died on 9-18-1898 at age 34 of pneumonia.

Only one daughter, Margaret, survived her parents and had children of her own. She too, died at an early age however. President Davis died on 12-6-1889 of pneumonia and Varina Howell Davis died on 10-16-1906 at age 80 of unknown causes.

It seems strange that both parents lived to be so much older than Margaret, who died 7-18-1909 at age 54. She only outlived her mother by three years. Looking at their lives it does seem they all had many trials and heartaches. Life was just not easy in those days. Is it today, do you think? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jefferson Davis, The Real Man Without A Country

Jefferson Davis was one of the most admired man of his time before the War Between the States. His background included service in the Army, bravery and acclaim in the Mexican War, terms as a Representative and then a Senator in congress, and a stint as Secretary of War.

He struggled to save the Union, but when Mississippi seceded, he resigned his Senate seat and then accepted the Presidency of the Confederate Government. He helped form a new nation, while at war. He worked day and night to save the Confederacy, just as earlier he has sought to save the Union.

After the collapse of the Confederacy, Davis was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe. He waited for two years to vindicate the Southern cause, but the Federal Government never brought him to trial for treason, because it feared  it would be proved that the South had the right to secede.

After the war, he was truly a man without a country, with no livelihood, no salary and no home, as it had been seized by Union troops in 1862.Along with thousands of others, he had gambled all and lost all. With a wife and young children to provide for, he lived in Canada and England, hoping to find a suitable job. Finally in 1869 he agreed to be president of a Middle Tennessee life insurance company and lived there until the 1870's.

His fortunes changed when a longtime admirer Sarah Ellis Dorsey offered him a cottage on her seaside estate near Biloxi as a place to write his memoirs of the war. There Jefferson Davis was home at last. The property became his when Ms. Dorsey died. In November, 1889 he fell ill at Brierfield and died in New Orleans. Before 200,000 people he was interred in Metairie Cemetery, and in 1893, re-interred in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital identified with his most famous political years.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Our Heroes, Let Us Never Forget

On the bureau in the "Cabinet Bedroom" upstairs in the First White House is a photo of John Pelham, one of our heroes, so much so that he is called the "Gallant Pelham". Honestly I think every man who served was a hero, but some we must never forget.

Pelham fought with such valor and dedication for the Confederacy, finally giving his life for her, so that he has become symbolic of Alabama fighting men in all wars.

He resigned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1861, just weeks before graduation, in order to return to Alabama and enter the Confederate Army. He was involved in every major military campaign of J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry from First Manassas to Kelly's Ford, more than 60 encounters.

He particularly distinguished himself at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. Jackson wrote of him: With a Pelham on each flank, I believe I could whip the world". Lee praised "the gallant Pelham" in his report after Fredericksburg.

At Kelly's Ford on March 17, 1863, Pelham participated in a cavalry charge and was struck in the head by an exploding Union artillery shell. He died the next morning. Such is the way of War. What a loss. All we can say is "oh, if only..."