previous next
[554]

How Jefferson Davis was overtaken.

Major General James Harrison Wilson.
On the first Sunday of April, 1865, while seated in St. Paul's Church, in Richmond, Jefferson Davis received a telegram from Lee, announcing the fall of Petersburg, the partial destruction of his army, and the immediate necessity for flight. Although he could not have been entirely unprepared for this intelligence, it appears that he did not receive it with self-possession or dignity; but with tremulous and nervous haste, like a weak man in the hour of misfortune, he left the house of worship and hurried home, where he and his personal staff and servants spent the rest of the day in packing their personal baggage. At nightfall everything was in readiness; even the gold then remaining in the Treasury, not exceeding in all forty thousand dollars, was packed among the baggage, 1 and

1 In a recent article Mr. Reagan says: “If it is meant by this statement simply that the money in the Treasury (gold and all) was taken, with the archives of public property, away from Richmond by the proper department officers, the statement is correct; but if it is meant by this insidious form of statement to be understood that this, or any other public money, was taken from Richmond in Mr. Davis' baggage, then the statement is wholly untrue.”

I quote from the historian of “The lost cause” again in full (the italics are mine): “He nervously prepared at his house his private baggage, and he never ventured in the streets until, under cover of the night, he got, unobserved, on the train that was to convey him from Richmond. He did not forget the gold in the Treasury; that, amounting to less than forty thousand dollars, it had been proposed some days before, in Congress, to distribute as largesses to the discontented soldiers; but Mr. Davis had insisted upon reserving, it for exigencies, and it was now secured in his baggage. He did not forget his sword. That, a costly present from some of his admirers in England, had been sent to the Richmond armory for some repairs; it was abandoned to the fire there. The last seen of this relic of the Southern Confederacy was a twisted and gnarled stem of steel, on private exhibition in a lager beer saloon in Richmond, garnished with a certificate that it was what remained of Jeff Davis' sword, and that the curiosity might be purchased for two hundred dollars. Mr. Davis was accompanied at the first stage of his flight by some of his personal staff and three members of his Cabinet-General Breckenridge, Secretary of War; Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State, and Mr. Reagan, Postmaster General. His wife was in North Carolina.” (Pages 508 and 509.)

Just what the historian means by this. extract I leave Mr. Reagan and Mr. Davis to reconcile with the facts. The.declaration is explicit that Mr. Davis had insisted in reserving it (the gold) “for exigencies, and it was now secured in his baggage.”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Jefferson Davis (7)
John H. Reagan (3)
James Harrison Wilson (1)
Fitz Lee (1)
Breckenridge (1)
Benjamin (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April, 1865 AD (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: