Question ---Did Varina Davis intend to expose Jeff Davis's creepy cowardice?

Do you know what Varina told the Union soldiers about Jeff Davis?



Got tired of  waiting for "historians" to actually read original documents.  I came across this 12 years ago. 


ANSWER: Varina Davis was NOT trying to embarrass her husband in her letter to the Blairs -- though she  revealed his cowardice in that letter.

Her letter -- and her book.

 Letter to the Blairs  the week of capture.

Varina left enough "wiggle room" that had she not written that one sentence, one could with a straight face claim Davis was in his own manly clothes, as he said.

But  Varina wrote that sentence.  And his nephew wrote his journal.   Davis was not only dressed as a woman,  he ran away, leaving his wife and children in danger, as the bullets flew.

Of all the ironic luck -- the "dress story"  far overshadows the cowardice.  And because so many dismiss the "dress story"  as a newspaper "thing" his cowardice is simply not an issue.

Davis has largely gotten away with it.

And virtually no one, even Davis "scholars"  admit they know that Davis told Varina to get herself killed. Literally -- force them to kill you, rather than a Davis surrender. They must know -- they would of course read her book.

Wearing a dress is not cowardly -- it was smart,  the only realistic way he could pass a check point. 

Can anyone imagine Lincoln running away from anything?  He was shot at twice during the Civil War, once the man next to him was shot in the head, LIncoln did not even flinch.Varina  tried to spare Davis embarrassment, not shame him.



Much the same way she protected Davis in person at the time of his capture -- she protected him for the last 45 years of his life.    Yet he told her to get herself killed,  in some vain pretense he did in front of a crowd, to make the crowd think he would of course sacrifice his life rather than surrender.

One witness came upon Davis and his wife,  after Davis had changed back into his manly clothes.  He was berating her for his capture. She had just saved his life,  and was doing all she could to save his dignity, and from this story, it does not seem like he cared or even noticed either.

Who reported that Varina Davis ran to her husband, got in front of him, and protected him?

She did. In writing. 

"When he had proceeded a few yards, the guards around our tents with a shocking oath called out to know who that was. I said it was my mother and he halted Mr Davis, who threw off the cloak with a defiance and when called upon to surrender did not do so, and but for the interposition of my person between his and the guns would have been shot"

While she says there that he "threw the cloak with a defiance" and refused to surrender,  the others said he just stayed there and let her hold him, until the soldier pulled back the  head covering.

He did get "defiant"  later,  after he was back in his manly clothes, and on the way to Macon.   He gave the Union soldiers all kind of shit.   They just ignored him. They knew he had been a coward, and this was the tuff guy act, after the fact, that he had to do for his own mental health.

The point is -- Davis was running away.  His wife and children were in danger, bullets were flying just moments before.   What kind of man runs away as his wife and children are in danger?

Can anyone imagine Lincoln running away - in a dress no less -- as his children were in danger?  That's what Davis did.

As one historian said (who believed Davis BS) Davis spent the rest of life obsessed to make others think he acted bravely that day.   

Shoot me if he pleased!

Shoot me, if he please -- but leave her mother (Davis) alone.

That's essentially how  Varina herself desribed the moment of capture - - she held Davis,  she got between the gun and Davis, and she told the solders, at that moment, Davis was her mother.

That's her letter.

Remember, that's her letter.

Union soldiers reported her bravery with the same facts - she rant to him, she held him, she put herself between Davis and the soldier aiming a pistol at him. And she told the soldiers to shoot her!

Davis didn't get between the officers and her.

She got in between the Union officers and Davis.


Here,  Union officers reported the same essential thing -- this is from the written report by Julian Dickenson, an officer at the capture of Jefferson Davis.....he describes her "heroic conduct."

Remember he describes her as  heroic.  Not Davis.  The children were crying and yelling - per Dickenson.  Davis was running.  His wife saved him.  She was  heroic.

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 mad 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.

You can find Julian Dickinson testimony here 


This is from the report to the Secretary of War, by  Col Pritchard, who was there at the capture, and was there after Davis took the dress off, and his wife put the dress on that he -- Davis-- had just taken off.

Davis dress -- at the time of capture -- was "precisely like"   the dress Mrs. Davis wore on the way to Macon. 

This is from a North Carolina paper...

This North Carolina paper has Varina and Davis in the the tent, at same time, before capture.  According to this report, Varina was next to Davis,  as they emerged from the tent, both trying to convince the soldiers Davis was her mother.

That's not accurate,  typical error in detail, because Davis was running away, as we know from Varina herself, and the soldiers.    But it shows that Davis was wearing a  dress and Varina was trying to convince them he was her mother, which is the basic fact of the matter. 

Varina's letter -- and she should know better than second hand reports -- has Davis running away, and the Union soldiers reported Davis was running away. Varina would know better, and she said she ran to help him, held him, and told the soldiers "It's my mother".


Another Union officer talked to Varina later that day, and she admitted (it was obvious anyway) that she helped Davis wear her dress.  By the time, Varina herself (as you will see) had on the dress Davis wore earlier that day!

Varina emerged from the tent -- wearing the dress Davis had just taken off  he no doubt to stop the Union soldiers from taking them as a souvenir (as they had taken so many other things, which Varina describes later in the letter to Blairs).

The Union soldiers there, then and forever respected Varina Davis for her bravery. 


Davis own nephew was pretty clear -- Davis was in disguise, and in disguise to pass as a woman. That was not the cowardly part, however, Wood, Davis, and everyone knew that.

The cowardly part was running away, not protecting your own wife and children.  In fact, clearly, Varina  protected Davis.


This bit of comedy was in a North Carolina paper, too.   So no, it was not a "Northern newspaper" thing.  

That's usually the charge -- this was a Northern newspaper event, making fun of Davis by exaggeration.

Southern papers, at least some, spoke of it, too. And the first newspaper we could find about it, was FROM a Southern newspaper reporter - not Northern.


To deny Davis wore female garments is only rational if you dismiss not just her detailed letter, but also dismiss Davis's own nephew blunt admission -- at the time -- that Davis wore a disguise, and the dismiss the the Union soldiers, too.  

  The idea that Varina just made up "I said it was my mother"  and then added the very details the Union soldiers did about "shoot me"  if you must shoot someone, is  too silly for anyone to attempt.

That's why you never see apologist for Davis -- or anyone -focus that she wrote "I said it was my mother" 

Some "historians"  will admit Davis wore a dress, but then claim it was Varina's fault. That Varina put those clothes on him, but Davis did not know!

See this - --- Varina was responsible for the dress, but accidently so, for "making her husband into a woman".

She made her husband into a woman "perhaps accidently"

Then "quickly jumped on the cross dressing bandwagon by calling him mother". 

Where do these people come from? 

The same guy says Varina's account "suggests"  Davis may not have realized what was happening?

He had on three -- three  -- layers of female clothing. He had to be allowed to completely change his clothes, and his wife emerged from the tent, where she had helped him dress, wearing that dress. Her dress.  The one he just took off.

So Davis realized he was dressed as a woman -- it was a smart move, not cowardly at all by itself.   The cowardly part is running away as his wife and child were in danger.

Generally when Davis biographers reach this point, they claim (fraudulently) that it was a "newspaper thing"  and slander made up after the fact.  

Author of "Pursuit"  admits reluctantly Davis wore a dress.

Author Clint Johnson wrote a very detailed, minute by minute account of Davis capture.

And he never - ever- even heard of Varina's letter until I told him.

That should show you how Varina's letter does not get around much -- he didn't know, and he spent two years writing the book.

When I challenged him that Davis was caught in a dress, he foolishly and stupidly claimed he had copy of order to Union officers to plant a dress on Davis when they caught him

Let me repeat that -- Clinton said that can't be, and he could  prove it. He had a copy of that order from Secretary of War to have all the officers have a dress handy to pretend he was caught in a dress.

That's  the length these Davis apologists go. He of course had no such order.   And he dared not mention that to me again.

But he deserves some credit -- he said the letter did show Davis ran away in a dress and was cowardly.    That took some guts for Clinton -- he was a Davis devotee. 

About two days later, I again contacted Clint, who said Davis was too honorable to do such a thing. And so no, an honorable man like that would  not run leaving his children in danger, and would not dress like a woman.

In other words, he reverted.


In fact, one "historian"  (Clint Johnson, author of "Prusuit"  a book entirely about Davis capture,  that he had a copy of the orders given to every Union officer to plant a dress on Davis when they captured him.    I asked to see that order, or anything like it.

That's kinda parr for the course for Davis "biographers"


What happened after she said it was her mother?

After she (and her sister) both insisted Davis was her mother, a Union soldier just reached over and pulled his head covering back, revealing his well known face and beard. 


Davis  had a picture taken, later, with the clothes he claimed to  have on!  Davis picture is here.

  Does that look like three layers of female clothing?  If Davis was dressed like that (Davis said these were the exact clothes he wore)  would Varina, and her sister, both told the Union soldiers that he was their mother?

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

Does that look like Varina's mother?




It does not matter what Davis wore -- most of us would wear any garment to survive a war.   That's not the point. Davis did wear a dress, did run and leave his wife and children to their fate as bullets flew.

That is why Davis could not, dared not, admit he ran away.  To admit the dress would mean admitting he ran away and did not protect his wife or children,.



Already-- per Davis own speech in Macon -- 2/3 of the soldiers had "deserted or gone awol."  (An amazing speech).

Still,  Davis ordered attacks.

Then even regarding his own wife, he wanted her to "force your assailants to kill you". 

But Davis did not go down fighting.   He surrendered in a shameful way.  He would claim he was defiant and about to kill the first soldier, which was a pathetic, but very human, way to explain your own cowardice.

Not long after, Davis claimed he had "sacrificed more than anyone"  for the Southern cause.  At the moment bodies were still warm -- bodies of men he ordered to attack, long after it was criminal to do such a thing -- Davis claimed to have sacrificed more than anyone.... continuing his goofy claims of heroism and selfishlessness.



As one historian wrote -- Davis was obsessed the rest of his life to prove he did not wear a dress.

Rather like Varina's letter -- if he wore no dress, why on earth go on and on about several female looking clothes, say "I said it was my mother". 

Davis had that picture taken, had several subordinates write affidavits that vouched he wore his normal clothing.

 Varina bent over backwards,  very soon after the capture,  to parse words.  True, she never said, in that letter, it was her dress, but according to witnesses who talked to her that day, she did admit (because it was obvious) that someone dressed Davis that way.

In fact, the Union reports were very clear -- they allowed Davis to get back in normal clothing, and (you can't make this up) Varina emerged from the tent wearing the dress Davis had taken off, likely to prevent it from being stolen.  The Union soldier had gone through everything, and Varina claimed they stole things..

 Davis was a control freak.   He would not agree with his wife to dress like a woman,  he most likely connected  Davis connected with his wife (they travelled separately)  precisely because he wisely realized the search parties were getting close, and a woman's disguise was a smart thing to do.

Davis claimed heroism even there -- that he got with his wife's party to protect her.  Given what happened, that's silly.



Varina even "hedged" in her letter to say essentially "so what if he did wear a dress",   see that part here

 denying he wore a dress.  He had people write affidavits toy that effect,  he had his picture taken in the clothes he insisted that he wore, including his hat and spurs.  

Clearly he wore far different clothing that the picture he had taken to "prove" he wore his normal (and very fashionable) clothing.

As you can see, from Varina's own book, released one year after his death,  he even told his wife to get herself killed ("make your assailants kill  you")  rather than surrender.

Why should she force her own death, if captured?

Davis explained why -- because for a Davis to surrender "would bring shame upon the South."  Better than she die.

This is not conjecture - Varina herself revealed the most shocking part - in her own book.    Others, who were there when Davis told her to force her assailants to kill her, had long before told of the context, that Davis told her that "for a Davis" to surrender would bring shame upon the South.

He had likewise ordered others to attack in the Union Army long after the desertion rate had passed sixty six percent,  per Davis's Macon Speech.   


Davis would not go down fighting - he not only ran away, he left his wife and children in danger.

We know - from the Union soldiers and from Jeff Davis nephew -- that Davis ran after hearing shots fired.   He did not protect anyone.  He was already dressed as a female, and when he heard the shots, he fled.

He did not get far -- maybe 50 yards -- when he was stopped by a Union soldier on a  horse.  The Union soldier demanded to know his name.  Davis refused to speak, and the soldier promised to blow his head off if he did not identify himself.

That is when Varina ran to him,  and told the soldier to "shoot her"  meaning Varina -- but "Leave my mother alone".

She saved him.

She ran to him.

She protected him.

Contrary to what he said later, he protected no one.


All the basic facts are in her letter, he own handwritten letter, which was given to the Library of Congress,  along with other memorabilia,  by the Blair children in 1910.

  If not for his own's wife letter and book, Davis  would have gotten away with claiming to be heroic.  If the Blair children did not donate the memorabilia, he would have gotten away with it.


AND HER BOOK -- yeah, there is that. Kinda creepy when you learn the full story.  He told her to force her assailants (if they were captured)  to kill her.  Her words. Her. Word.

He told her to force her assailants to kill her. 

Then, later, he ran away in her dress as she and the children were in danger.  We know they were in danger because just moments before,  according to Davis nephew, bullets were flying as Davis ran.   

And her book, written later, made it clear -- Jeff Davis told her to get herself killed, rather than be taken alive. 

Though this part of the story is not in her letter, it was reported widely at the time --Davis told her this in a public conversation, in front of a group of people, as Davis and his wife (ironically) waited for Davis troops to collect supplies -- and  gold -- from various places, and Davis would take that gold with him.

Davis said it in a way that conveyed his bravery, and his determination. Braggadocio stuff.   If a Davis was taken prisoner -- according to others who were there -- it would bring shame upon the South.

So Davis was not so much telling her to get herself killed --as much as showing he was utterly determined to go down fighting, as he had told so many others to do. 

Her letter.

Her  book.

The nephew's journal.

The Union soldiers reports.  

Amazing -- right?  Just omit a few details, and you can make a creepy hero sound like a hero.



Dressing as a woman was a smart move --not cowardly necessarily. 

In fact, who the hell would NOT put on a dress to escape capture and perhaps a hangman's noose?

The cowardly thing -- Davis ran away while his CHILDREN were in danger, and his wife were in danger.

As bullets flew -- this is important -- as bullets flew, Davis did not protect anyone. Not his wife, not his children.

He ran for his own safety.

Davis would later claim he was heroic. 

Davis told his wife to get herself killed rather than surrender.

But when his wife was in danger.

When his children were in danger.

Davis ran.   And he ran away in her dress. 


Had Varina not written that letter --"I said it was my mother"-- reasonable men could argue Davis was not dressed in head to foot (except for boots) female attire.




It's possible they don't even know.  You'd actually have to read the letter,  including the part where she wrote I said it was my mother, and Davis nephew's written account, where he said Davis ran away in disguise. 

You just don't tell someone -- who is about to shoot your husband, that he is your mother,  if your husband is dressed as a man.    The "shawl" excuse Davis used refuted not only by Union soldiers, but the details of what Varina and Woods (the nephew) wrote.

Davis nephew and wife were both writing 

1) at the time, within a week of capture

2) in order to protect Davis, not embarrass him

3) revealed he was not brave, by the details they wrote


 I know from talking to "capture" expert Clint Johnson that he  never heard of her letter, he thought I discovered something new!

This letter has been in library of Congress for over 100 years. 

Clint just assumed the PR about Davis was true -- it's not of course -- but Clint doesn't know that even now.  So of course it would be hard for him to realize what a creepy coward Davis was. 

The "Davis capture" expert never heard of her letter?  RIght. Never heard of it. 

Clint just got the BS about those bad old newspapers made up this stuff.

Why would he not believe it?  He had no evidence to the contrary.  I thought it was true, too!  I believed the BS that Davis was slandered.  Not at all -- if anything, when you realize the totality of Davis creepy behavior (telling his wife to get herself killed, in a speech designed to show how brave he was) it's another thing.

Let that sink in. Nice guy -- very nice, but he did not have the most basic information possible.


Jeff Davis nephew wrote about his uncle too, and apologized for helping Davis attempt a disguise dressed as a female.

Those who dismiss Davis being a coward or dressed as a woman never show this, either.  Maybe they don't know. Seriously, these guys can be stupid. They sound sure of themselves, but they are stupid about the facts,



Nearly ever time a "historian"  dismisses any notion that Davis would dress as a woman,  you get a real quote -- Varina wrote that "he wore no disguise"  and he "committed no subterfuge." 

Yet then she discusses three different garments, one head to foot, that he wore that did not look like men's clothing.  They didn't look like men's clothing, because they were hers!

You also get Jeff Davis own statement that he did  not dress as a woman. His version of events makes him seem eager to kill the first Union soldier to come near him!   That's goofy, and only Jeff Davis himself ever was willing to lie that way. 

His wife -- Varina -- would never -- ever  back up Davis claims.  Yet she could have.  She lived another 50 years, and never once would back Davis up. She used coy remarks and humor when asked, saying that "Mr Davis did not wear a hoop skirt".

No one accused him of wearing a hoop skirt, a big formal dress for dancing. 

That was the joke... he didn't wear a hoop skirt.

That says a lot for Varina. All she had to do, one time, in the rest of her life, say that yes, Davis was in  his own clothes.  She never did.   

See how she writes about his capture in her book, below. 




Others like Shelby Foote are clever -- they rightly claim Varina wrote Davis "committed no subterfuge" and "adopted no disguise".

She did write those words.

But then Varina wrote more words and described the subterfuge, described the disguise.
But Foote does not reveal that Varina then goes on for paragraphs describing the disguise and or mention that she did it, "so that no one would recognize him".

And of course, that whole  "I said it was my mother" thing.

Foote decided not to mention that.   Ever.

Foote didn't mention the nephew's report. Ever

Foote didn't even mention the Union soldier's report.

Foote didn't mention that Varina's sister ALSO told the soldiers Davis was her mother. Ever.

Gee, I wonder why Foote didn't mention so much?

When you omit so much -- and Foote knew all of it --  there is a good reason.


If Davis wore his own clothes, there would be no need whatsoever for Varina to spend much of that letter writing about what he wore

Why even bring it up?

She brought it up because she knew he was a coward.

And she knew he told her to get herself killed.

And she knew he ordered others to fight to the death.

And she knew he ran away in her dress as she and the children were in danger.

She would not outright lie for him. 

But she would never claim he was the hero he wanted others to believe.   She knew better. 




Davis revolver and spurs.

The fancy boots and spurs gave him away.
Women did not wear spurs or boots like his. 



 This information has been readily  available since 1906.   How many decades do you need? 




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 TODAY  by some in Virginia.

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.

In fact, in public Varina was as eager and resolute to protect Davis physically and save his reputation as it is possible to be. 

  Remember, she did all she could for Davis.  All her life since marrying him.  She was stunningly devoted to him.  Yet see the loathing for her here....



They  trash her --- even if what they wrote was accurate, which it is not, it is baffling that an "encyclopedia" would do this to anyone. 

They called her, essentially, unattractive and a woman after Davis for his wealth. "Manifestly unsuited for her role".

Her background, her education, her family, her looks -- she was ill suited on every possible front.  They bent over backwards to describe her as greedy, ugly, and as someone who went after Davis for his money or power.

Not just their words,  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 also claimed she "lived in the North" --- FUN FACT  --- She lived in the North with Davis -- apparently they count DC as North. And though she lived with Davis in the North (DC) that's all it took for them to trash her. Where she lived!

After the war she went North to New York, yes,  But that was 30 years later.  After his death, and after she looked after him for almost 50 years.

Eventually she declared what many people declared, those living in the South when she did (most of her life) was the worst part of  her life.

No kidding, she lived on a slave plantation and with Jeff Davis. And she went through a Civil War. 

She only live in NYC after Davis died, when she was old.   

Varina e did make friends with people in the North, after Davis died.   How was she manifestly "ill suited" to be first lady, by things that happened 50 years LATER,  and in her old age?

But that's  how these guys work.  

They seem to claim this because she wrote to Northern relatives.  

Whoever runs the Virginia Encyclopedia savaged Varina in this article -- almost like a gossip or political hit piece rather than an encyclopedia.

Her skin was considered "unattractive" they said!  No, it was not, there is nothing in any letter, book, or newspaper at the time to say such a thing. These guys just made this up. 

She had very sensual skin -- Davis sure went after it. She was much younger than he was.  

She was beautiful and young, half his age, while Davis was very thin scrawny and frankly ugly. Bad skin, a horrible face.



Robert E Lee's wife, she was homely.  Yes, she was, even when younger.  But no one dared say that about her.  Varina was very attractive -- but they wanted to trash her, so that's how they did it.

She looked rather Italian, a bit of Sophia Loren, likely, when younger. Body to die for, and obedient as a slave, to Davis.

Even if she was unattractive, which she was not,  why mention that? She was stunningly beautiful when young. 

The article said her father was "unable to support his family". What evidence do they have?   Who the hell puts this kind of hatchet job, in an encyclopedia?

I would love to be a fly on the wall at Virginia Encyclopedia. 

You can be sure these guys hate her because she exposed Jeff Davis cowardice -- in a private letter - and later in life she realized how vile the South was.  

She would later say the right side won the war. And of course she was right.

That would piss off Virginia Encyclopedia folks for about 200 years.  


This is a report from the Union soldier to enter Davis camp, and exactly what he wrote about it.

Very interesting. 

Davis was running away, as you will see. 


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 met 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.


Davis loyalist insist Davis was not in dress, of course, but numerous people saw Davis in the dress.   The Union soldiers reports were  -- at the time -- very clear.  Davis was caught in a dress, and was allowed to change back into his normal clothing after capture.

Most "historians" like to claim this was all made up by Northern newspapers.  Nonsense,  in fact, the first reporter to even mention Davis capture in a dress, as from the SOUTH -- not the North.

Furthermore, at any time, after capture --  note something amazing here -- Varina would never say Davis wore his own clothes and was brave. She would never outright lie for him.

Parse words for him - of course.  See it in a way sympathetic to him?  Naturally.  But lie? Bluntly lie?   That she would not do.

All she had to do is (falsely) say Davis only wore his own clothes and was brave.She could have said at any  time -- "He wore his own clothes".   In fact according to a witness after the capture,  a Union officer who knew the Davis's before the war,  Varina said she dressed Davis in one of her dresses. 

 She was asked repeatedly, for the rest of her life,  if Davis wore a dress. 

Again and again she was coy, "Mr Davis did not wear a hoop skirt"  she said,  and everyone would laugh.

 Furthermore the Blairs, in whose house Varina ended up staying, not only had the letter about Davis ("I said it was my mother letter)  their children would say quite candidly Davis was in a dress.   Apparently it was an open secret in Blair household -- and Varina stayed there, perhaps for a year. 

Below are notes for my record..... not in any particular order, for my own reference later...
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.

Woods writing  per Woods writing per link

, the enemy were posting their sentries around the camp, when the P. came out of his tent with a gown & hood on & bucket on his arm, with Helen the mulatto nurse. They advanced some distance towards the stream, when one of the Yankee guards directed them in another direction as the balls were flying where they wished to go. They pushed on, Mrs. D. in her over anxiety saying from the tent, “they were only going after water”, “they were not afraid of the balls.” Another Yankee rode up, ordering them to halt, saying he knew who it was, recognizing a man, but not the P., still moving on, he ordered them to halt, pointing his Carbine at the P.’s head. Then Mrs. D. by her appeals, the children by crying, the servants by fear & howling destroyed all. Others rode up, the P. was obliged to make himself known. This attempted escape in disguise I regret exceedingly, only Mrs. D.’s distress could have induced him to adopt it.