Friday, October 25, 2013

The Rice University Papers of Jefferson Davis

The Papers of Jefferson Davis, with editor Lynda L. Crist have been compiled by and are stored at Rice University, Houston, Texas. From these, I pulled a very interesting time line on the life of Jefferson Davis, first and only President of the Confederate States of America.
There are some things I had not known, for instance that Jefferson Davis accepted the nomination for Mississippi governor and resigned his U.S. Senate seat in 1851 to run.
Other items of interest regarding the life of this famous icon of the South. Davis was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal faith at St. Paul's Church in Richmond, May 6, 1862, approximately one year after the start of the War Between the States.
 Released from prison in 1867,  Davis became a vestryman at St. Lazarus Episcopal Church in Memphis in 1870,  having moved to that city in 1869 to take the position of President of the Carolina Life Insurance Company.
Son Billy died of diphtheria at his parents' home in Memphis in 1872, the third son to die. Samuel had died at age 2 in 1854, and Joe had died in an accident in Richmond in 1864. Later Jeff Jr. was to die in Memphis of yellow fever in 1878. Youngest daughter Winnie died September 18, 1898 of malarial gastritis while visiting Rhode Island.
The oldest daughter Margaret married Joel Addison Hayes, Jr. at the St. Lazarus Episcopal Church in Memphis on New Year's day of 1876. Margaret and Joel's first child, Jefferson Davis Hayes was born March 22, 1877 but died of cholera at his parent's home in June of the same year. Margaret and Joel had four more children, Varina Davis Hayes in 1879, Lucy White Hayes, in 1882, Jefferson Addison Hayes in 1884 and William Davis Hayes in 1889.
The President died in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 6, 1889 and was temporarily buried in New Orleans on December 11. His final burial was in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia in 1893, after a 21-gun salute. Seventy-five thousand people witnessed the procession to the cemetery.
On October 17, 1978 U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed a bill to restore citizenship to Jefferson Davis which passed the U.S. Congress without a dissenting vote.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bookcases by Thomas Doron At First White House

 In the President's Study at the First White House we have a number of very important and significant pieces of furniture, not the leas of which is an  extraordinary pair of rare southern-made mahogany library bookcases, thought to have been made by Thomas S. Doron,  a well-known mid 19th century cabinetmaker, who lived and worked in Montgomery during the 1850s. Doron  (1821-1886) served in the Confederate army. and is buried at Oakwood cemetery 
  One of the bookcase has its original six shelves and is filled with books. In the other. the shelves have been removed to accommodate the display of the original Irish drawn lace curtains of Mrs. Jefferson Davis. On one is  a plaque identifying the pieces as having been used by Thomas Hill Watts when Governor of Alabama and a member of Jefferson Davis's cabinet.

How do we know the two bookcases were made by Thomas Doron? Interestingly, a corner cupboard appeared in Franklin, Tennessee, in May 2000, bearing the signed label of "Thomas S. Doron, Montgomery, Ala., July 1852." The discovery of this important signed piece became a touchstone for further attributions, according to Edward Pattillo, Montgomery  Antiques and Fine Arts Consultant. The signed cupboard is now in the Burritt Museum in Huntsville. A similar corner cupboard with a Montgomery history was found in a significant collection in Marion, Alabama, and a third corner cupboard is at the Landmarks Foundation in Montgomery.
All these have similar characteristics with our bookcases, which led Mr. Pattillo to the opinion that they too were made by Doron. Do come and visit us at the First White House in Montgomery, and be sure to take note of the two bookcases in the President's Study. 


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Unique Education of Jefferson Davis

The First White House of the Confederacy contains many books and pamphlets, one of which caught my interest "The Early Life of Jefferson Davis" by Walter L. Fleming, published by the University Bulletin of Louisiana State University, June 1917, reprinted by Charles Estell Baker, D.D., of Birmingham AL in 1993.
Mr. Fleming writes that though Samuel Davis's father was not wealthy, the youngest son (of ten children) was given better educational advantages than the others, and better than most boys of the southwest were given. The family had settled outside of Woodville, Mississippi. His first schooling took place in a log cabin school house in the woods, a mile from his home.
 Even though Jefferson was only seven year old in the summer of 1815, his father sent him to Kentucky to a school at the college of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Roman Catholic institution, near Springfield, KY where he boarded for two years. Can you imagine sending your seven year old child off and not being able to see him or her for two whole years, much less talk on the phone or email them? Obviously his mother was not there when his father made the decision  to send him off!!!
 Fleming writes that in 1818 young Jefferson Davis, home from KY, was sent to Jefferson college at Washington in Adams County, Miss.  At the end of the year Davis returned home once again, and then entered  Wilkinson county academy, which had just been organized, with John A. Shaw of Boston as principal. Davis considered Shaw the best teacher he ever had. Jefferson remained at the county academy until he prepared to enter college.
Fleming writes: "In September  1821, Jefferson Davis, then in his fourteenth year, was sent again to Kentucky to complete his education in Transylvania University at Lexington."

 The young man studied there for three years, and this was followed by four years at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy. Fleming comments, "Up to this time (when he entered West Point),  Jefferson Davis had about as little southern experience and training as it was possible for a southern boy to have. And now was to follow a four-year period of training at West Point, still further removed from southern influences."
I imagine this helped him in many ways, especially when he entered politics and spent so many years in Washington, serving in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the years as Secretary of War under Franklin Peirce, 1852-1856.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jefferson Davis's Last Visit To Mcon, Georgia

In Varina Davis' wonderful Two Volume biography on the life of her husband titled "Jefferson Davis, A Memoir by His Wife" we read in the second volume about the Davises last trip to Macon, Georgia. I was extremely interested in this account since we had just bought the silver bowl that the citizens of Macon had presented to Mrs. Davis on that occasion on November 25, 1887.
Here is what Varina writes: "...our whole family were urged to be present at the yearly agricultural fair at Macon...The enthusiasm baffled description, and on Veterans' Day, as it rained steadily, they were to march to Colonel Johnson's house to greet Mr. Davis; but they were too impatient to pursue the circuitous carriage route, but jumped over the fence and came running, and shouting all the way to greet their old chief; the tattered battle flags were borne in the strong hands that saved them twenty years before from capture, and with tender words 'they called him worthy to be loved,' who looked his last at them through eyes shining with a pride in them too great for words; but the strong, braves heart that had not quailed under danger, imprisonment, and vilification, sunk under the weight of his people's love, and he was stricken with heart failure."
Mrs.. Davis goes on to say that after days of suffering and imminent danger his physician ordered him back to Beauvoir (their retirement home at Biloxi, Mississippi) where he was to remain quiet for the future. She ends this part of her story as follows "Never defeated man had such a following, and never had people a leader who so loved them." The President died two years later.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Orphan Brigade of Kentucky

The Orphan Brigade was the nickname of the First Kentucky Brigade, a group of military units from Kentucky who fought for the Confederacy during the War Between the States.
 Major General John C. Breckinridge, former Vice President of the United States, was the brigade's original commander. When Breckinridge was promoted to division command he was succeeded by Brig. Gen. Roger W. Hanson, who fell at the Battle of Stones River.Tennessee on January 2, 1863.
The name came when the brigade suffered heavy casualties during the battle. In the aftermath Confederate General Braxton Bragg supposedly rode among the survivors crying out repeatedly "My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans". This information was according to Brigade historian Porter Thompson in his 1868 history of the Unit. 
The name probably came because the State of Kentucky stayed neutral during the war, so these men who fought for the Confederacy were viewed as orphans. Interestingly, Kentucky was represented by a star in the flags of both the United States and the Confederate States of America.
The Orphan Brigade lost another fine commander at the Battle of Chickamauga, Tenn. on Sept. 20, 1863 when Brig. Gen.  Benjamin Hardin Helm was mortally wounded when he was shot in the chest by a sharpshooter from the 15th Kentucky Union infantry. Helm was the brother-in law of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Union President, Abraham Lincoln.
Edwin Porter Thompson who wrote the "History of the First Kentucky Brigade" and the "History of the Orphan Brigade"  tells that the Brigade served throughout the Atlanta Campaign of 1864 and then opposed Union Commander General William T. Sherman's infamous "March to the Sea". The Orphan Brigade ended the war fighting in South Carolina in late April 1865 and surrendered at Washington, Georgia on May 6-7, 1865.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Jefferson Davis's Early Life and Forbearers

"The Early Life of Jefferson Davis "is a booklet I found at the First White House. It was written by Walter L. Fleming, published by the University Bulletin at Louisiana State University, June, 1917, and reprinted by Charles Estell Baker, D.D. in Birmingham, Alabama in 1993.  How I would love to get copies to sell at the First White House gift shop, as it is well written and well documented.
Fleming mentions several traditions in regard to the ancestors of Jefferson Davis, but the most satisfying one was put forth by William Whitsitt, in his book "Genealogy of Jefferson Davis and of Samuel Davies," in 1910. Whitsitt traces the ancestors of the President back to "John Davis of Pencader Hundred in the County of New Castle upon Delaware Turner, and Anne Davis his wife."
John Davis was thought to have been a Welsh immigrant, who signed his name with an x mark.  Evan Davis, his son, according to Whitsitt, was born in Philadelphia about 1702. Evan Davis went to the Welch Neck settlement on the Peedee river in South Carolina, and married a Mrs. Williams, whose maiden name was Emory. Their son, Samuel Emory Davis was the father of Jefferson Davis. Fleming writes "...we can be certain only of these facts: that Evan Davis was born in Philadelphia; that in middle age he went into the southwest to South Carolina and later to Georgia and that he left one son, Samuel Emory Davis, the father of Jefferson Davis." 
Samuel Davis, Jefferson's father, fought in the Revolutionary War, returned home and married Jane Cook. Jefferson was the youngest of their ten children. Jefferson said in his memoirs, about his mother: "She was of Scotch-Irish descent and was noted for her beauty and sprightliness of mind. My father...was unusually handsome and...a man of wonderful physical ability."
Dr. Fleming writes that Samuel and Jane were earnest Bible students, who were members of the Baptist church and that they named all but one of their sons from names in the Bible. Jefferson was named for Thomas Jefferson. Fleming writes about the Davises: "they were good, sound Americans of the border, of the class that has given this country its best citizens and leaders."  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Civil War Carte de Visites

The carte de visite was a small photograph, (2.5" x 3.5") mounted on a card,  patented in Paris by photographer Andre Disderi in 1854. They became very popular in Europe and then America, especially during the War Between the States, when soldiers and their friends and families could send them to one another in small envelopes 
We have a number of them in an album in the relic room at the First White House of the Confederacy, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee, John Breckenridge, John Bell Hood, James J. Pettigrew, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Robert Hoke, and John Hunt Morgan.
A second album includes Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy,  Robert Toombs, General Leroy Pope Walker, Secretary of War, Mallory, Sec. of Navy, Reagan, Postmaster General and a number of Generals, including Albert Sidney Johnston who was killed at Shiloh and General Polk who was killed during J. E. Johnston's Atlanta campaign.
By the early 1870's I read on the internet that the cartes de visite were supplanted by cabinet cards which were a bit larger (4.5" x 6.5") and these remained popular into the early 20th century when Kodak introduced the Brownie camera and home photography became the rage. I remember my Mother had a brownie camera for years and years and I have albums upon albums of shots she took with that little camera.
One of our prize carte de visite at the First White House is one of Jefferson Davis greatly enhanced in value because it was taken  by the celebrated photographer, Matthew Brady.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

George Washington Custis Lee

Last time I blogged about the four daughters of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee. Today I want to share about George Washington Custis Lee, the eldest child of the Lee's. Known as Custis, this eldest son was born September 16, 1832 at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Custis was educated at  numerous boarding schools to prepare him to follow in his father's footsteps. He entered West Point at the age of seventeen and graduated first in his class of forty-six in 1854.
Lee served in the U.S. Army until the spring of 1861 when Virginia seceded from the Union. At that time he resigned from the U.S. Army and was given a commission as Captain in the Confederate army. In August of 1861, Lee became aide-de-camp to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, when he was promoted to the rank of Colonel.

In 1863 Lee was promoted to Brigadier General. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee was given command of the troops in Richmond, Va. He did so well that he was given command of Richmond's eastern defenses at Chaffin's Bluff, where he remained for the next few months and in 1864 was promoted to Major General.
 Three days before Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, Custis was captured at Sayler's Creek. I suppose with the end of the War, he was released as were other prisoners and sent home.
 In late 1865 Lee became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. He stayed there until the death of his father, at which time he was chosen as the ninth president of Washington and Lee university. He served between 1871 and 1897.
In 1877 Custis Lee sued to regain Arlington House, the Custis-Lee family home. Lee's case was decided in his favor and he won both the house and the 1100 acres which had become Arlington cemetery.  In 1883 Lee sold Arlington House to the United States Government for $150,000. I did not know that. I had always assumed that the Government had confiscated the house and grounds and had never returned them. That makes me feel better!