Jeff Davis, Meet Horace Greeley

Published:June 25, 2008 by Brendan Wolfe

Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet [LC-USZ62-5263]

I came across two unexpected Virginia connections in our entry on Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president. Oh, by the way, Davis’s two hundredth birthday, as a few bloggers have pointed out, came on June 3 of this year, the same day that Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination. Anyway, Virginia connections. I’ll just give it over to our contributor, Dr. Ethan S. Rafuse, associate professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas:

“On April 2, 1865, the Confederate government evacuated Richmond just ahead of Union forces. Davis endeavored to fight on after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, but he found little support for his efforts. He was captured on May 10 by Union cavalry near Irwinville, Georgia, and imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia. His bail was, in part, posted by the former abolitionist Horace Greeley, who successfully battled a New York judge named John C. Underwood for Davis’s release. Underwood would oversee the writing of Virginia’s postwar constitution of 1870.

“Later, Davis traveled to Canada, Cuba, and Europe, engaged in some minor business concerns, was offered the presidency of what is now Texas A&M University (he turned it down), and again was elected to the U.S. Senate (but couldn’t serve according to Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). His relationships with slaves, according to [Virginia-born] Booker T. Washington, had always been ‘kindly,’ ‘normal,’ and ‘happy,’ a ‘good will’ that was manifested perhaps by the sale of the plantation he and his brother Joseph had run to the now freed Ben Montgomery.”

File under: Amazing stuff I didn’t know. Especially the Horace Greeley bit.