Jefferson Davis Creepy Cowardice -- per his wife's letter and book.....

Q. Who tells his wife to get herself killed?

      A.  Jefferson Davis did, 1865.


Davis told his wife to get herself killed (as she explained herself in her book) rather than to be taken alive.

 Varina told of Jeff Davis dressed as her mother.  He did not force his assailants to kill him.  In fact, by the facts of her letter, Varina protected Davis as he stood mute, when his attempt to flee was stopped.


If not for his wife's letter --it would be reasonable to believe Davis wore his own clothes --  as he claimed,.and that his cowardice  was all made up by "Northern newspapers"

Hint -- it was SOUTHERN newspapers, not just  Northern, that reported the cowardice story.

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

 It's important to make this almost insultingly clear -- she told the soldiers that Jeff Davis was her mother. And she told that in her own handwriting in her own letter. 



The soldiers reported that, of course, along with other details.  The important take away here -- Varina Davis confirmed in nearly every basic detail,  what the US officers reported.

Not just that soldiers made that clear (that she told them Davis was her mother) but that Varina said exactly that.

In other words -- the soldiers report was valid.  


This was not in someone's book telling about it, not second hand.   Not in some "Northern newspaper."  Not in rumors after the war.

Those where Varina's words, in her own letter,  as clear as one human can make it -- "I said it was my mother."



WHY  did Davis tell his wife to get herself killed,  rather than be taken alive?  And in front of a large group?

The large group was the key -- Davis was giving the impression he too would go down fighting.  

For a "Davis to be taken alive"  he told his wife, "would bring shame upon the South!"

It's important to know context to Davis's theatrics - 

Davis was fleeing Richmond after promising he would never leave the citizens, though now he was doing exactly that. 

And contrary to what many may think now - Davis and Lee both fled because Lee wrote to Davis -- incorrectly -- that Yankees had breeched the defenses around Richmond.  

They was no breech in the line!  As explained at the time by Richmond editor Edward Pollard.  Pollard was livid that Lee and Davis fled so quickly  -- especially since the citizens found out soon there was no breech!


Both Davis and Lee had sent hundreds of men to their death,   But are shown as brave and honorable.   Were they?  Not really.   In fact, Lee even had fires to large warehouses with militray supplies -- including ammunition.

If you see pictures of how horrible Richmond looks,  most assume it was from the cannons fired into the city.  That's not true!  The massive fires were set by LEE,  his orders.

The mayor of Richmond, an elderly man, had to ride out to the Union lines -- and get their help to put out the raging fires!

There was no able men left in the city to put out the fires!

Pollard assumed at the time the South would be forever ashamed of Lee and Davis, and the massive desertions since 1863,  which reached a stunning 90% desertion rate by the end.  Pollard could not have guessed how the myth formed anyway of a noble South, and noble leaders.

Lee and Davis left the citizens of Richmond to protect themselves,  as Lee left the first day, with almost all the soldiers, and Davis left the next, after he gathered enough supplies, and all the gold his men could find, 


The clothing Davis  wore did not make him a coward -- and it was a smart plan.

The cowardly part was not protecting his wife or his children as bullets flew.


When Davis heard the shots, Davis had no idea if his family was under attack,  or if those men would keep shooting.  He did not know who was shooting!  

   He did not wait to see if his children were safe, or needed protection.   That was cowardly.


 Even historians - some of them - claim Davis was a brave and honorable man,  who would never leave his wife and children unprotected, so the whole "story" was a silly or cruel bit of slander.

It did get in the papers, yes -- but the first reports were by SOUTHERN reporters, not Northern, something the historians never seem to know.

Much more -- the historians don't seem to read  Varina's book and letter.  


Varina wrote her letter at the time, of course.

But her book about Davis came out 1880,  after Davis died.,

In that book Varina  described their flight from Richmond in great detail, and it was a topic of great interest for over a decade. 

It  would have been so simple for her to write a few words, true or false,  "Mr. Davis wore his own clothes."  

 Varina wrote in almost hour by hour  detail about their flight, but when it came up to the very moment of capture -- nothing. 

As if she wrote it all out, and suddenly before it was printed, just took out those pages entirely.  Left nothing.



 And when asked, as she often was, if Davis wore a dress,  she would smile, and say "Mr Davis did not wear a petticoat." Everyone would laugh politely, it seems, and move to another subject.

Of course, no one ever claimed he wore a petticoat or a formal dress.  

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.




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

Nor did she know her letter  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. In one box was that letter from Varina, where she wrote "I said it was my mother."

Where that letter resides to this day.  

In fact, in the letter itself, Varina said to destroy the letter or it might cause Davis embarrassment.

They did not destroy it.



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.




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



.From North Carolina paper...

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. 


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.  


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. 


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.




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)



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.