"FORCE YOUR ASSAILANTS TO KILL YOU"






Q. Who tells his wife to get herself killed?

A.  Jefferson Davis did, 1865.

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WHY  -- WHY  did Davis tell his wife to get herself killed,  rather than be taken alive?

According to witnesses -- Jeff Davis told her:  "for a Davis to be taken alive would bring shame upon the South."


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Most people who ever hear about "the dress story" -- that is,  that Jeff Davis ran away in his wife's dress -- dismiss it as "slander,"  and a "Northern newspaper thing."

Uh -- not so much. 

 THERE IS MORE TO THE STORY :

If not for his wife's letter --it would be reasonable to believe Davis wore his own clothes -- and was brave, or at least not a creepy coward.


 Varina Davis wrote a letter to Montgomery Blair, seeking their help after her capture, with her husband, Jefferson Davis. 

Of the many surprising details,  one sticks out for this discussion -- Varina told the Blairs that "I said it was my mother" -- and went on to tell the soldiers if they had to shoot someone, shoot her (Varina.)

Importantly the Union soldiers reported the same thing,  in almost the same words.

"I said it was my mother."

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Davis nephew's journal.

Davis nephew, who was also there, admitted Davis ran away, dressed as female, in his private journal, and apologized for his role in it.

                         



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VARINA ON HIS SIDE


Varina would likely given the  exact story and narrative Davis wanted her to --  but at the time of her letter to Blairs (below) she did not know what her husbands story would be. 

Nor did she know her letter (though in the letter she tells the Blairs to destroy it!) would not only survive, but that after her death the Blair children (by then older adults) would donate boxes of memorabilia from 50 years previous  - to the library of Congress!

Where that letter resides to this day.  

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Perhaps more  than any single thing Varina wrote --  the fact she and the Union soldiers wrote reported the same basic facts.    There is not a single historian who writes about Davis capture (that we know of) who ever mentions that. The Union  soldiers reported much the same facts -- as Varina.

While Varina does deny Davis wore a dress-- she not only describes three articles of clothing that are not his clothing,  and suggest that "if he had" worn full women's attire, it would have been "of small cavil" -- in other words,  so what. 

Clearly though, Varina shows Davis running away, protecting no one, and she jumped to his defense, and told the soldiers to shoot her -- but to leave her mother alone.

Obviously it was not her mother.

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NO PROTECTION  FOR HIS WIFE? 
NO PROTECTION FOR HIS CHILDREN?

NO


DID NOT PROTECT   HIS  CHILDREN

Jefferson Davis protected no one. 

That was the cowardice.... not the dress.  

One of the ironies of history of the "dress story"  is that often the focus in on the dress.   Yes, he wore her dress.    But that was not cowardly -- that was smart. 

The cowardly part was Davis ran away - told his wife to get herself killed in a macho speech,  then when in danger he runs away, and does not defend her, or his children.

And that matters -- because Davis sent thousands of men to their death. 

VARINA LETTER
SINCE 1910 IN LIBRARY OF CONGRESS


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If they must shoot someone, she told the Union soldier, shoot her (Varina) not her mother. 
            

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HOW DOES VARINA HANDLE THE DRESS ISSUE IN HER BOOK?


Varina's book about Jeff Davis is a must read for anyone who is interested in Davis, and the fall of the Confederacy. 

Varina of course takes the "side" of the Confederacy,  and is Jeff Davis biggest defender, on every front, including putting her life at risk to save his.


But she will not deceive.  In her book Varina gave  an almost hour by hour, highly detailed account of their escape from Richmond -- right up to the moment of capture.  

But  then - she ends that chapter.  

She does not mention his clothes.  

She does not repeat her letter that she told the soldiers it was her mother.

She could have put the issue to rest, and forever made it reasonable to assume Davis had his own clothes on, just by a seven word sentence.   "Of course Mr. Davis wore his own clothes."

She would never write such a sentence. Varina brought her reader right up to the moment of capture -- and punted.  She just omitted  his capture and began the next chapter.    


WHEN ASKED IN PERSON

In all her social encounters after the war, in New York especially, she faced this question:

"Was your husband really wearing a dress?"   

Varina would coyly say "Mr. Jefferson did not wear a hoop skirt."  Seems everyone politely laughed, and went on.  Of course no one claimed he wore a hoop skirt. 

The Blair children, however, reported it was an open secret in their home (where Varina stayed for two years) that Davis wore her dress during the escape. 


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NORTHERN NEWSPAPERS TRYING TO TRASH AN HONORABLE MAN?

Typically we hear -- even from scholars, that it was a "newspaper" thing - slander of Davis by Northern newspapers. 

Actually Southern reporter reported it first -- the reporter got it apparently from the Union soldiers at the time. 

.From North Carolina paper...


Newspapers, not surprisingly,  got some facts different than other newspapers.

This North Carolina paper has Varina and Davis in the the tent, at same time, before capture.  No running at all.

  But that was not what Varina wrote, or the Union offices wrote. 
This bit of comedy was in a North Carolina paper, too. 





Davis had this picture taken 
to "prove" what he wore.


These are  clothes are on display to this day at Confederate Museum. 



THE SPURS AND PISTOL DAVIS HAD ON HIS PERSON












Report to the Secretary of War, by  Col Pritchard,


 BELOW is from the report to the Secretary of War, by  Col Pritchard, who was there at the capture.  He was of course there when Davis was allowed to get out of the dress, and was there when Varina emerged wearing the dress Davis just took off.  

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Why some in the South -- SEEM to hate Varina, to this day.

One interesting thing I noticed while researching Varina Davis, was the loathing, just beneath the surface, for her by some in Virginia. Including the Virginia Historical Society -- to this day.


Keep in mind Varina was very loyal to Davis -- saved his life, protected him from everyone, and while she wrote that letter, she had no idea it would be saved and published.



Every thing she did --everything she said, in public, was that an obedient wife. Her two volume book on Davis is as flattering as it could possible be.

See this article about Varina in "Encyclopedia Virginia" which essentially glorifies slave owners, specifically Davis, and Lee. But their tone and personal cruelty to Varina is amazing, given the supposed "academic" nature of their publication.



They claimed she was homely, and suggested she lured a lonely Davis into marriage. 

They claimed she was "manifestly ill suited" for first lady of the South because she lived in the North... she lived in the North with Jeff Davis in DC -- and again after the capture.

Actually Varina was HOT.  


She was young, ever so obedient. Davis was  twice her age. He ruled over her, she did what he said. Period.  She adopted every view, every slogan, every thought he did. 

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Later in life, after the war, after she was in Washington, ten and twenty years after he was gone, she said she was happy and "the right side won the civil war. "


  That apparently infuriated the encyclopedia of Virginia! Though of course they never said that.


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THE CAPTURE OF JEFFERSON DAVIS


By


Julian G. Dickinson, Late Adjutant 4th Michigan Cavalry and Brevet Captain, USV


Original Member of the Michigan Commandery, Insignia Number 3751


Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States


Read January 8, 1889 (First Published 1899)




BELOW IS EXTRA STUFF WE ARE SAVING --- ignore



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Being questioned by Col. Pritchard, he stated there had been several mounted men to the house ring the afternoon, from a camp near the village, to purchase forage and provisions, and the camp lay about a mile and a half out on the Abbeville road. Placing the freedman in advance for guide, and directing the utmost silence to be preserved in the column, we moved out on the Abbeville road. The night was rather dark, but clear and very quiet. We marched the distance of about a mile when we halted and made the necessary arrangements for the capture of the camp when light was deemed sufficient to enable us to discern its situation.




A detail of 25 men, under command of Lieut. Purinton, was sent to make a circuit of the camp and get into position on the road beyond, to station pickets, and take precautions for preventing the escape of the occupants in that direction, awaiting our advance and capture of the camp.




We rested until the first appearance of the dawn of the morning of the 10th. The order was then quietly given to mount, and placing a small force under command of Capt. Charles T. Hudson, as an advance guard, with directions to charge forward upon the camp, our column moved in support. The charge was uninterrupted by any picket of camp guards, and we speedily entered and enveloped the camp by a surprise so complete that no one seemed to have been disturbed.




The advance guard moved directly and quickly through the camp toward Lieut. Purinton's picket. Our main column halted for a minute in the road before entering the camp. On the right of the road, in line, facing a clearing or parade, stood three wall tents; beyond the clearing there was, what appeared to me to be, a swampy thicket; on our left, in the woods, at some distance from the road, was a miscellaneous collection of tents and ambulances. The extent of the camp could not, however, be distinctly seen from our position.




At this moment some of our men appeared to be straggling from the column and Col. Pritchard directed my attention to it and to the care of the camp, and as he moved forward with the column through the camp, I rode out and took a position by the roadside until the column passed me. I then rode across the parade, in front of the wall tents, on the right of the road. I saw no one about the tents and there was nothing indicating who occupied them, until, as I passed the tents d started to move into the road beyond, I saw a man partially dressed, emerging from a "shelter-tent." I at once rode up to him and inquired what force was there in camp. He looked at me seemingly bewildered. Not hearing him reply to me, I repeated the question, and while lingering for a response, I was suddenly startled by a familiar voice calling.




I turned and saw Andrew Bee, our "headquarters cook," who was standing close to the front of one of the wall tents and pointing to three persons in female attire, who, arm in arm, were moving rapidly across the clearing towards the thicket. Andrew called to me, "Adjutant, there goes a man dressed in woman's clothes."




The person indicated was quite apparent, and I rode at once toward the party, ordering them to halt, repeating the order rapidly, they seeming not to hear, or not inclined to obey, until I rode directly across their pathway, when they halted. At that moment Corporal Munger, of Company C, came riding up from the thicket, and taking a stand in the rear of the party brought his carbine to a position for firing upon the man dressed in woman's clothes, at the same time applying to him an appellation that was in vogue among the troopers as a designation of "Jeff. Davis." I ordered the corporal not to fire, there being no perceptible resistance.




The person in disguise was Jefferson Davis, and his companions were Mrs. Davis and her colored waiting maid. The scene thus presented was rendered pathetic by the cries of Davis' family at the tents and by the heroic conduct of Mrs. Davis, who placed her arms around the drooping head of her husband, as if to protect him from threatened peril; she made no other appeal to us.




Davis had on for disguise a black shawl drawn closely around his head and shoulders, through the folds of which I could see his gray hairs. He wore on his person a woman's long, black dress, which completely concealed his figure, excepting his spurred boot heels. The dress was undoubtedly Mrs. Davis' traveling dress, which she afterwards wore on her return march to Macon. At the time of the capture she was attired in her morning gown and a black shawl covering her head and stately form, while her waiting maid was completely attired in black.




Glancing from this party before me, and around the position, I was startled by the presence of several rebel officers who in the meantime quietly came upon the scene. The positions they had taken clearly indicated they were interested in the movement of their chief. I ordered Davis and his party to retire to their tents and then moved toward the rebel officers in question, requesting them to also retire. I was promptly obeyed.




I directed Corporal Munger to guard Mr. Davis and his party in their tents, and to take two men who came up with him for that purpose. I then rode forward to report to Col. Pritchard the episode that had taken place. In the meantime spirited firing had commenced, and the usual evidences of an engagement with an enemy appeared in the direction our column had advanced.




As I passed Davis' tent, in going to the front, Mrs. Davis called to me, and I dismounted to hear her request. She asked what we were going to do with Mr. Davis and whether herself and family would be permitted to go along with him. I informed her that I could not tell what would be done with any of them until I had reported to my commanding officer. She then very earnestly said that we must not interfere with Mr. Davis as he was a very desperate man and would hurt some of us. She further requested that I would see to certain things that she had in the wagon, and I promised to attend to that




As I moved into the road I met one of our officers from the front with something from the wagon, in the shape of a canteen of most excellent fluid, of which he freely offered me a share. I mete Col. Pritchard just returning from an unfortunate conflict with the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, that regiment having come upon our pickets and mistaking them for an enemy, retired and formed for a battle, which forced our column to form in line and skirmish with them, in the belief that we had met a force of the enemy. Col. Pritchard brought the engagement to a close by dashing into the lines of the 1st Wisconsin and notifying them of the mistake.




The fact was that the 1st Wisconsin and the 4th Michigan expected to find a desperate force of the enemy; the 1st Wisconsin, however, was marching without any knowledge of the locality of the camp, and without any expectation of finding it at that time, having been in bivouac most of the night, a few miles from our picket.




I reported to Col. Pritchard the capture of Jeff. Davis in his attempt to escape from the camp in female attire, and that I had put him under guard. In the meantime Mr. Davis put on his male attire - a suit of gray - and came out of his tent. When he saw Col. Pritchard he shouted out some inquiry, which he followed up with the old familiar charge, "You are vandals, thieves and robbers." He evidently had worked himself into a rage, for when I went to him soon after, getting the names of the prisoners, he refused my request for his name, and I was obliged to receive it from his wife, who spoke up proudly, in answer to my repeated question, "his name is Jefferson Davis, sir."




The captured party consisted of Jefferson Davis, accompanied by Mrs. Davis and their three children; John H. Reagan, Postmaster General; Col. Johnston, A.D.C.; Col. Burton N. Harrison, Private Secretary, and Col. F.R. Lubbock, A.D.C., of Jeff. Davis' staff; Major V.R. Maurin, of the Richmond Battery of Light Artillery; Capt. George V. Moody, Mollison's Light Artillery; Lieut. Hathaway, 14th Ky. Infantry; privates W.W. Monroe and F. Messick, 14th Ky.; privates Sanders, Ingraham, Wilbury, Baker, Smith, Heath and Alliston, of the 2d Ky. Cavalry; privates J.H. Taylor and A.W. Brady, Co. E. 15th Miss., private J.W. Furley, 13th Tenn., all of the late Confederate States army, and midshipman Howell of the Confederate navy, Miss Howell, a sister of Mrs. Davis, accompanied her. There were two colored women and one colored man, servants of the Davis family. Of the three children of Mr. Davis' family, the youngest was a babe and quite a favorite in our command (once on the march I saw it handed along the line); the oldest child was a little girl about ten years of age, and the other child was a boy of about seven or eight years. There was also with the party a little colored lad about the same age as young Davis, and the two created considerable amusement for us by their wrestling exercises. Burton N. Harrison, the Private Secretary, was the gentleman of whom I sought so diligently to elicit information immediately preceding the capture.




There was not the slightest show of any resistance on the part of any of the captured party, and they were all kindly treated by their captors. That their wagons and tents were searched thoroughly, I have no doubt. Lieut. James Vernor obtained a trophy of Davis' wardrobe, a dressing gown, which he exhibits, but whether Davis wore it as part of his garments at the capture is not known. It might possibly have been worn under his disguise.




Their horses were all taken by our men and considerable sums of money in gold were captured. The gold was taken, as I understood from Col. Johnston at the time, in the holsters of the rebel officers, where it had been carried for safety and convenience. Who captured the gold is somewhat of a mystery to this day. At the camp, immediately after the capture, Col. Pritchard was informed that one of our men, a Tennessean named James H. Lynch, was possessed of most of the coin and the Colonel searched him but found none of the gold; afterwards it is well known that Lynch distributed several pieces of gold coin among his companions and gave a few pieces to some of his officers. It is certain that the coin was never equally distributed.




In preparing for the return march their horses were all returned to the prisoners, and Mr. and Mrs. Davis and family were allowed the use of the ambulances, which they occupied most of the time on our return march.




On the 12th of May, returning, we met Major Robert Burns, A.A.G. of Minty's staff, from headquarters at Macon, who brought to us President Johnson's proclamation, offering rewards for the capture of Jeff. Davis and other fugitives. The proclamation was the first intelligence we received of the assassination of our President, Abraham Lincoln, and of the reward. I have now in my possession the copy of the proclamation which was handed to me at that time. It was issued on the 2d day of May, 1865, was published to the Cavalry Corps, M.D.M. at Macon, on the 8th day of May, 1865, and reached our command, as I have said, on the 12th day of May. Mr. Davis was securely guarded during our return march. Perhaps his guard was more strict than it would have been had he not given notice that he would make his escape if possible.




Before reaching Macon, Col. Pritchard received orders to make a detail form his regiment in readiness to take his prisoners to Washington, and after we reached camp, he proceeded upon that service and conveyed Jeff. Davis to Fortress Monroe.




The Secretary of War directed Col. Pritchard at Washington to obtain the disguise worn by Jeff. Davis at his capture, and Captain Charles T. Hudson undertook to procure it from Mrs. Davis. In his account of the affair, Capt. Hudson has related in a letter to Major-General J.H. Wilson, that Mrs. Davis stated to him that she attired Mr. Davis in her own dress, and she surrendered a certain garment which Col. Pritchard afterward described in his report to the Secretary of War as a "waterproof cloak or dress." Though I did not examine the texture of the dress worn by Davis at the capture, and cannot say whether it was waterproof or not, it was beyond all question a "woman's dress," and precisely like the dress usually worn by Mrs. Davis after the capture during our march back to Macon. I am very sure that not any gentleman's garment that could be described as a waterproof cloak was found or seen in the possession of Davis at his capture, or while on the march to Macon.




Burton N. Harrison, Jeff. Davis' Private Secretary, in his paper in "The Century," November, 1886, on this subject, states that Davis was not disguised at all, and that he wore a waterproof cloak which he usually wore on the march; and by further statement seeks to discredit other witnesses present at the capture, by assuring the public only one of our troopers was present there, the one who accosted him, and that he and Mrs. Davis and that one trooper, were the only persons who saw Davis at his capture; when the fact is, that while Davis was standing in his disguise in my presence, three of our troopers saw him, besides Andrew Bee, who pointed to Davis as "a man dressed in woman's clothes;" and there was present not more than two rods from the disguised figure, Capt. Moody and within about four rods from him, Col. Lubbock and other Confederate Army officers, who doubtless saw what took place.




My record of the event was made at the time in the line of my duty, and I then correctly and officially reported the fact of his disguise to my commanding officers.