Manuscript/Mixed Material Letter (pages 13-20), Varina Davis to Montgomery Blair describing the capture of her husband, Jefferson Davis, 6 June 1865.

About this Item

Title

  • Letter (pages 13-20), Varina Davis to Montgomery Blair describing the capture of her husband, Jefferson Davis, 6 June 1865.

Created / Published

  • 6 June 1865

Headings

  • -  Arrest
  • -  Imprisonment
  • -  Civil War, 1861-1865
  • -  Davis, Jefferson (1808-1889)
  • -  Blair, Montgomery (1813-1883)
  • -  Davis, Varina (1826-1906)
  • -  Disguise
  • -  Prisoners of war
  • -  Manuscripts

Genre

  • Manuscripts

Notes

  • -  Reproduction number: A13 (color slide; page 16); A14 (color slide; page 17)
  • -  As the Civil War drew to a close, Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), president of the Confederate States of America, fled Richmond with his cabinet in early April 1865 and began a trek southward with federal troops in pursuit. While still weighing the merits of forming a government in exile, Davis was captured by Union soldiers near Irwinville, Georgia, in early May 1865 and was indicted for treason against the United States government on 24 May. Whether by accident or design, Davis was wearing his wife's dark gray raglan (a short-sleeved cloak) and black shawl when he was captured. Although one of Davis's own aides was persuaded his chief had indeed disguised himself as a woman to abet his escape, First Lady Varina Howell Davis (1826-1906) was incensed at accusations of her husband's cowardice in the Northern press. Her letter to the powerful Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), a friend of earlier years and postmaster general under President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), provides a firsthand, detailed account of her husband's capture. Readers must decide for themselves whether the sequence of events was entirely coincidental or the efforts were calculated to deceive and were subsequently misconstrued by a wife's protective instincts.
  • -  After his capture, Davis was imprisoned in Fort Monroe, Virginia, until May 1867 when he was released on bail. He was never brought to trial and refused to request a pardon or the restoration of his citizenship. Varina Davis, captured with her husband, was detained as a regional prisoner in Savannah until she was permitted to join Jefferson at Fort Monroe, where she worked to secure his freedom. Following Jefferson Davis's release, the couple lived apart for long intervals, with Varina spending time in Europe and Memphis, Tennessee. After several unsuccessful business ventures, Jefferson Davis retired to Beauvoir, his home near Biloxi, Mississippi, and began writing his two-volume memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, which Varina later helped edit.

Source Collection

  • Blair Family Papers

Repository

  • Manuscript Division

Online Format

  • image

IIIF Presentation Manifest

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Credit Line: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Blair Family Papers.

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Letter pages 13-20, Varina Davis to Montgomery Blair describing the capture of her husband, Jefferson Davis, 6 June. 6 June, 1865. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.005/.

APA citation style:

(1865) Letter pages 13-20, Varina Davis to Montgomery Blair describing the capture of her husband, Jefferson Davis, 6 June. 6 June. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.005/.

MLA citation style:

Letter pages 13-20, Varina Davis to Montgomery Blair describing the capture of her husband, Jefferson Davis, 6 June. 6 June, 1865. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mcc.005/>.