Thursday, October 21, 2010

Native American Death Mask

Native American Death Masks

by Angela L. - MSSPI

Masks have been worn by man for ritual and ceremonial purposes since ancient times and can be traced to the Egyptian and Roman periods.The Death Mask in most ancient cultures was made of wax or plaster cast of the persons face. Sometimes while alive, but usually after death had occurred. For the wealthy or the royal families, they were often cast in bronze or gold and placed over the deceased face at burial. The process served as a reminder of the deceased for the family as well as being a protection from evil spirits and was associated with the belief in the return of the spirit.

In North American History, every Native Tribe known to have ever existed, has used masks in some ritual or ceremonial purpose. African, Oceanic and Native American tribes considered masks, to be an important part of social and religious life. Some masks were placed over the head and face , while others were simply painted on the face and other adornments and decorations to the head or hair where added.

Some of the more well known masks were made by the Iroquois, especially those belonging to the very secretive and elusive False Face Society. .They were made of wood and corn husks. It has been said that in order to join the False Face Society one must have envisioned a healing mask in a dream and then made or created it as he saw it. Once this was accomplished they were then permitted to participate in the Societies ceremonies.

The Alaskan Yup'ik tribes are said to have made the most decorative and brightly colored varieties. They were made from a number of materials,
usually whatever resources were available in a specific tribal area. Wood, leather, hides, bones, shells or whatever materials might be available.
Masks were usually created with great personal associations for the wearer or the occasion being celebrated.
Stains and dyes from plants, animals, soil and other materials were used to paint the masks, some of them being quite strange combinations such as blood, coal and urine mixed together.

The Anchorage Museum has a collection of over two-hundred Yup'ik masks that were created during the early 19th and 20th centuries.

The arrival of missionaries to the Yup'ik and other Native tribes began to change the making and use of masks among the Native Americans. The missionaries denounced their masked dances as heathen rituals and their use was practically eliminated by the 1920's.
In 1977 the New York Times reported that there were approximately 2000 surviving masks remaining from this period.

The Cherokee created what is known as the Booger Mask. Made from gourds,  and painted with walnut shell or charcoal dye. They were worn for storytelling and worn during the Booger Dance which was a depiction of the arrival of the Europeans to their native land..

The Booger Mask art fell into severe decline when the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their homeland to Oklahoma, where their traditional materials were not available. Read about the Booger Dance Here :

Some North West Coastal tribes had impressively carved cedar masks which could open at a pivotal point in a story to reveal a second mask carved within the first one.The Hopi and Pueblo tribes carved and painted wooden Kachina Masks. Kachina are the symbols of spirits who control crops, weather, health and all other aspects of life. Kachina are also symbols of ancestors who are highly regarded by the Hopi. There are more than five-hundred indivdual Kachina known. Kachina are more commonly know in the form of Kachina dolls. Each doll has it's own special markings, color, and decoration and are used mostly during the winter and summer solstice ceremonies. They are usually carved from Cottonwood trees and range from an inch to a foot in length. Kokopelli is the most popular and well recognized of the Kachina. Kokopelli is a hump backed flute player who is believed to bring good luck, health and happiness to the homes he adorns and is also known as the teacher of Kachina carving.

The Apache and Navajo used leather to make their ceremonial masks. But, the one thing they all had in common was that they all had a ceremonial purpose of some kind for their creators.

Masks were used in a wide variety of ceremonies, including marriage, birth, childhood initiations to adulthood, preparations for war,seed planting, harvesting, hunting, healing and many other occasions including death.

Many tribes used masks in healing rituals. It was believed that masks held spiritual powers that never left them. Because many tribes believed that shamanic powers were genetic, healing masks were often passed down thru the bloodlines of Medicine men and Shaman.

Shaman should not be confused with Medicine men or Medicine women. Medicine people are those who serve as prophets, soothsayers and moral leaders. They are often the tribal storytellers and their services were considered healing. The French called them me'decins or doctors. From this the word medicine became applicable to everything pertaining to these people as well as to anything the Natives held sacred.

Shaman are reportedly capable of bringing cosmic powers into ritual to affect healing. A Shaman must develop and maintain his or her relationship with the spirit world and be always prepared to help others. They are said to receive revelations from the spirits. Shaman are personalities who live in deepened relationships with their cosmology and they assist others to deepen their spiritual relationships with the cosmos around them. They revere and appreciate the Earth and the world around them and they hold the Earth as sacred to their survival.

Medicine hats, though not full face masks were also worn by many shaman and healers throughout the tribes. They were usually adorned with a cross and crescent, representing the four directions and the moon spirits and were painted black, blue, yellow and white which depicted the Four Winds or the East, West, South and North. They were often decorated with such things as, Eagle feathers, turquois gems, beads, shells, deer fur and thong and yellow pollen.

The Hopi tribes and others wore masks while curing and praying over the sick, to alleviate suffering and pain, and to perform exorcisms. Some tribes believed that sickness was caused by malevolent or evil spirits. The Nepcetat mask was worn by the Shaman to predict death. It was literally stuck to the face of the Shaman, if it stayed on during the prayer ritual it meant that the person being prayed for would recover and live. If it fell off during the prayer ritual it meant the person was near death.

Shaman initiates often wore masks during their vision quests, believing that the masks would identify them with the spirits and activate their power. Death masks were believed to facilitate communication between the living and the dead in funerary rites. Some Death masks took the form of animal or bird spirits, allowing the wearer to assume the role of the invoked spirits or to fend off evil. Many Native American tribes believed that birds were a link or messenger between the natural and the supernatural world. It is not unusual to find bird feathers surrounding the masks.

Death masks were also believed to help the deceased soul to pass more easily into the next life. The respect and sacredness of the funeral rites of mask dancing was also believed to protect from reprisals from the dead and prevent the risk of wandering spirits. In some tribes the Death Mask was used in initiatory or homage ceremonies, which recounted the creation story and the appearance of death among human beings.

There were also masks created to resemble the images of bears, wolves, buffalo and otters, and were used to appease the animal spirits. They were often worn in dance ceremonies conducted before the hunt, to ensure that the hunt would be fruitful. This is also seen in African tribal customs where symbols of power animals were depicted, such as, elephants, rams, crocodiles and antelope.
North West Coast Native American Bear Mask carved by the renowed carver Elton La Fountaine from the Cree Tribe

Tsitsistas/So'taeo'o (Cheyenne) quilled horse mask, mid-1800s, Montana. Made from porcupine quills, hawk feathers, brass buttons, seed beads, wool cloth, hide, sinew and cotton thread.
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American

The Black Fish mask was worn before hunting and fishing expeditions and was believed to protect and empower the hunter.

The Swan Spirit mask was worn during spring ceremonies to entice the swans, ducks, geese and other birds to come back from the South and provide nourishment to the Natives. Most of these type masks were buried with their owners or burned when no longer useful.

In traditional American culture, masks are often worn during festive celebrations, occasions or as simple decorations, wall hangings and museum displays. But, Native American masks are not taken lightly by the Native people. Their use is reserved only for sacred ceremonies and rituals. Only a select few are honored with permissions to wear them. Native American masks are as varied as the tribes themselves, their ceremonies and their beliefs. The creatures that they depict are highly personalized and the materials used to make them are unique to the individual tribes and their geographical locations.



Secrets Of The Sacred White Buffalo by Gary Null PhD 1998 by Prentiss Hall
Walking The Twighlight Path by Michelle Belanger
Adair's History of the American Indian by Samuel Cole Williams 1775 (first published in 1930 by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Tennessee.)
American Indian Healing Arts Kavasch, E. Barrie, Baar, Karen 1999 USA: Bantam

Online links

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The First Family of the Confederacy


Harper's Weekly, February 23, 1861
The accompanying portraits of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens will introduce to our readers the newly-elected President and Vice-President of the new Southern Confederacy, organized at Montgomery, Alabama, on 4th February.

JEFFERSON DAVIS, the new President, was born in Kentucky about 1806, and is consequently about 54 years old. Having migrated to the Territory of Mississippi, with his father, when a boy, he owed to President Monroe the favor of being admitted at West Point, from which institution he graduated in 1828. He was lucky enough to be employed on active service at once, under Colonel (afterward President) Z. Taylor, and served throughout the Black Hawk War. His capture of the Chief Black Hawk, and the friendship which sprang up between him and his prisoner, are among the most romantic episodes of the history of the war. In 1835, having married a daughter of General Taylor, he settled down on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, and acquired some wealth. In 1845 he was elected to Congress from that State; but at the outbreak of the Mexican War he resigned his seat in Congress, volunteered, raised a regiment in Mississippi, of which he was Colonel, and accompanied General Taylor in his campaign, distinguishing himself signally at Buena Vista. In 1848 he was chosen to the United States Senate. In 1851 he resigned his seat in the Senate to run for Governor of Mississippi, as the representative of the disunionist party, but was handsomely defeated by Mr. Foote, the Union candidate. In 1853 he entered the Cabinet of Mr. Piece as Secretary of War, and held the office till the election of Mr. Buchanan. He then accepted the seat in the Senate which he filled till the Sate of Mississippi passed an ordinance of secession. He was recently chosen by the Montgomery Convention First President of the Southern Confederacy. Personally, Mr. Davis is a very gentlemanly man, with a soldierly bearing, and rather stern manners: as a speaker he is fluent, clear, forcible, and sometimes eloquent.

ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS, of Georgia, the Vice President of the new Southern Confederacy, was born in Georgia on the 11th of February, 1812, and is consequently forty-nine years of age. In his youth he was poor, and owed his education to the kindness of friends. In 1834 he took his position at the Georgia bar, and instantly gave proof of the talents which have since led him to be considered the "Strongest Man in the South." In 1843 he was elected to Congress as a Whig; but at the dissolution of the Whig party he acted with the democracy of the South, and soon become their leader in Congress. He remained in Congress till the election of 1858, when he refused to be a candidate any longer, and withdrew - as he supposed - from public life. Mr. Stephens is a remarkable example of what energy may do for a man. He has all his life been a martyr to disease, and has never weighed over ninety-six pounds. He voice is shrill, and at first quite unpleasant to the ear; but his eloquence is so sure and practical, and his judgment so reliable, that, wherever he is, he is sure to be a leader. He was a warm opponent of the secession movement in Georgia.



 By any standard, this scene has to rank as one of the most dramatic events ever enacted in the chamber of the United States Senate. Would-be spectators arrived at the Capitol before sunrise on a frigid January morning. Those who came after 9:00 a.m., finding all gallery seats taken, frantically attempted to enter the already crowded cloakrooms and lobby adjacent to the chamber. Just days earlier, the states of Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama had joined South Carolina in deciding to secede from the Union. Rumors flew that Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas would soon follow.

On January 21, 1861, a fearful capital city awaited the farewell addresses of five senators. One observer sensed "blood in the air" as the chaplain delivered his prayer at high noon. With every senator at his place, Vice President John Breckinridge postponed a vote on admitting Kansas as a free state to recognize senators from Florida and Alabama.

When the four senators completed their farewell addresses, all eyes turned to Mississippi's Jefferson Davis-the acknowledged leader of the South in Congress. Tall, slender, and gaunt at the age of 52, Davis had been confined to his bed for more than a week. Suffering the nearly incapacitating pain of facial neuralgia, he began his valedictory in a low voice. As he proceeded, his voice gained volume and force.

"I rise, Mr. President, for the purpose of announcing to the Senate that I have satisfactory evidence that the State of Mississippi, by a solemn ordinance of her people, in convention assembled, has declared her separation from the United States. Under these circumstances, of course, my functions are terminated here. It has seemed to me proper, however, that I should appear in the Senate to announce that fact to my associates, and I will say but very little more. The occasion does not invite me to go into argument; and my physical condition would not permit me to do so, if it were otherwise; and yet it seems to become me to say something on the part of the State I here represent on an occasion as solemn as this.

It is known to Senators who have served with me here that I have for many years advocated, as an essential attribute of State sovereignty, the right of a State to secede from the Union. Therefore, if I had not believed there was justifiable cause; if I had thought that Mississippi was acting without sufficient provocation, or without an existing necessity, I should still, under my theory of the Government, because of my allegiance to the State of which I am a citizen, have been bound by her action. I, however, may be permitted to say that I do think she has justifiable cause, and I approve of her act. I conferred with her people before that act was taken, counseled them then that, if the state of things which they apprehended should exist when their Convention met, they should take the action which they have now adopted.

"I hope none who hear me will confound this expression of mine with the advocacy of the right of a State to remain in the Union, and to disregard its constitutional obligation by the nullification of the law. Such is not my theory. Nullification and secession, so often confounded, are, indeed, antagonistic principles. Nullification is a remedy which it is sought to apply within the Union, against the agent of the States. It is only to be justified when the agent has violated his constitutional obligations, and a State, assuming to judge for itself, denies the right of the agent thus to act, and appeals to the other states of the Union for a decision; but, when the States themselves, and when the people of the States, have so acted as to convince us that they will not regard our constitutional rights, then, and then for the first time, arises the doctrine of secession in its practical application.
"A great man who now reposes with his fathers, and who has been often arraigned for a want of fealty to the Union, advocated the doctrine of nullification because it preserved the Union. It was because of his deep-seated attachment to the Union, his determination to find some remedy for existing ills short of a severance of the ties which bound South Carolina to the other States, that Mr. Calhoun advocated the doctrine of nullification, which he proclaimed to be peaceful, to be within the limits of State power, not to disturb the Union, but only to be a means of bringing the agent before the tribunal of the States for their judgement.
"Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be justified upon the basis that the states are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I hope the time may come again when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government, and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that each State is a sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent whomsoever.
"I therefore say I concur in the action of the people of Mississippi, believing it to be necessary and proper, and should have been bound by their action if my belief had been otherwise; and this brings me to the important point which I wish on this last occasion to present to the Senate. It is by this confounding of nullification and secession that the name of a great man, whose ashes now mingle with his mother earth, has been invoked to justify coercion against a seceded State. The phrase, "to execute the laws," was an expression which General Jackson applied to the case of a State refusing to obey the laws while yet a member of the Union. That is not the case which is now presented. The laws are to be executed over the United States, and upon the people of the United States. They have no relation to any foreign country. It is a perversion of terms, at least it is a great misapprehension of the case, which cites that expression for application to a State which has withdrawn from the Union. You may make war on a foreign state. If it be the purpose of gentlemen, they may make war against a State which has withdrawn from the Union; but there are no laws of the United States to be executed within the limits of a seceded State. A State, finding herself in the condition in which Mississippi has judged she is, in which her safety requires that she should provide for the maintenance of her rights out of the Union, surrenders all the benefits, (and they are known to be many,) deprives herself of the advantages, (and they are known to be great), severs all the ties of affection, (and they are close and enduring,) which have bound her to the Union; and thus divesting herself of every benefit, taking upon herself every burden, she claims to be exempt from any power to execute the laws of the United States within her limits.
"I well remember an occasion when Massachusetts was arraigned before the bar of the Senate, and when then the doctrine of coercion was rife and to be applied against her because of the rescue of a fugitive slave in Boston. My opinion then was the same that it is now. Not in a spirit of egotism, but to show that I am not influenced in my opinion because the case is my own, I refer to that time and that occasion as containing the opinion which I then entertained, and on which my present conduct is based. I then said, if Massachusetts, following her through a stated line of conduct, chooses to take the last step which separates her from the Union, it is her right to go, and I will neither vote one dollar nor one man to coerce her back; but will say to her, God speed, in memory of the kind associations which once existed between her and the other States.
"It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi into her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races. That Declaration is to be construed by the circumstances and purposes for which it was made. The communities were declaring their independence; the people of those communities were asserting that no man was born---to use the language of Mr. Jefferson---booted and spurred to ride over the rest of mankind; that men were created equal---meaning the men of the political community; that there was no divine right to rule; that no man inherited the right to govern; that there were no classes by which power and place descended to families; but that all stations were equally within the grasp of each member of the body politic. These were the great principles they announced; these were the purposes for which they made their declaration; these were the ends to which their enunciation was directed. They have no reference to the slave; else, how happened it that among the items of arraignment against George III was that he endeavored to do just what the North has been endeavoring of late to do---to stir up insurrection among our slaves? Had the Declaration announced that the negroes were free and equal, how was the prince to be arraigned for stirring up insurrection among them? And how was this to be enumerated among the high crimes which caused the colonies to sever their connection with the mother country? When our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the footing of equality with white men---not even upon that of paupers and convicts; but, so far as representation was concerned, were discriminated against as a lower caste, only to be represented in the numerical proportion of three fifths. "Then, Senators, we recur to the compact which binds us together; we recur to the principles upon which our Government was founded; and when you deny them, and when you deny to us the right to withdraw from a Government which thus perverted threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard. This is done not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit unshorn to our children. "I find in myself, perhaps, a type of the general feeling of my constituents towards yours. I am sure I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been between us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well; and such, I am sure, is the feeling of the people whom I represent towards those whom you represent. I therefore feel that I but express their desire when I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceable relations with you, though we must part. They may be mutually beneficial to us in the future, as they have been in the past, if you so will it. The reverse may bring disaster on every portion of the country; and if you will have it thus, we will invoke the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the power of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus, putting our trust in God, and in our firm hearts and strong arms, we will vindicate the right as best we may. "In the course of my service here, associated at different times with a great variety of Senators, I see now around me some with whom I have served long; there have been points of collision; but whatever of offense there has been to me, I leave here; I carry with me no hostile remembrance. Whatever offense I have given which has not been redressed, or for which satisfaction has not been demanded, I have, Senators, in this hour of our parting, to offer you my apology for any pain which, in the heat of discussion, I have inflicted. I go hence unencumbered by the remembrance of any injury received, and having discharged the duty of making the only reparation in my power for any injury offered. "Mr. President and Senators, having made the announcement which the occasion seemed to me to require, it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu."

(Source Library of Congress - Congressional Globe)

Absolute silence met the conclusion of his six-minute address. Then a burst of applause and the sounds of open weeping swept the chamber. The vice president immediately rose to his feet, followed by the 58 senators and the mass of spectators as Davis and his four colleagues solemnly walked up the center aisle and out the swinging doors.

Later, describing the "unutterable grief" of that occasion, Davis said that his words had been
"not my utterances but rather leaves torn from the book of fate."



Davis Inauguration 1861

Davis resigned from the U.S. senate in January 1861 and was chosen President of the Confederacy by the Provisional Congress and inaugurated in Montgomery, Alabama, February 18, 1861. He was then elected President of the Confederacy for a term of six years and inaugurated in Richmond, Virginia, February 22, 1862.

Confederate White House - 1865 Richmond Virginia

Confederate White House - 1999

Richmond, Virginia.

Davis' administration was marked by cronyism, autocracy, hard work, and complete devotion to the cause. Outside his constant support of Lee, Davis often quarreled with his generals and interfered with the War Department to the point where he had six secretaries of war in four years . Still he worked ceaselessly, was able to hold onto talented staff, and promoted a much needed nationalistic view of the Confederacy.

In 1865, his responses to the failed Peace Conference and Gen. Lee's report on the state of the army at Petersburg display Davis' complete dedication to the Confederacy. Even with the surrender of Lee's and Johnston's armies he couldn't accept the end of the Confederacy.

Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops in Irwinsville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. He was accused of treason and of planning the assassination of President Lincoln. Davis was taken to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he was treated harshly. Although he was accused of high crimes, he was never brought to trial.

Fort Monroe, Virginia

After two years in prison, in 1867 Jefferson Davis was paroled in the custody of the court. Eventually he returned to Mississippi and spent the remaining years of his life writing. He wrote "The Rise and and Fall of the Confederate Government" in 1881.


Jefferson Davis - This photo it is said was taken by the Union upon his release from the Prision in the clothes he had apparently been arrested in, some claim it was an attempt to dispell rumors that he had been arrested wearing his wife Varina's Clothes.

When Davis was inaugurated president of the Confederate States of America in 1861, he believed in the right of Southern states to secede and defended his belief until his death in 1889. While he spent his remaining years in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the Beauvoir plantation, Davis never asked for, nor was he granted, a pardon for his actions. However, in a speech at Mississippi City, Mississippi, he said:

"The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations. Before you lies the future, a future full of golden promise, a future of expanding national glory, before which all the world shall stand amazed."


Beauvior House Biloxi Mississippi

By Lynda Lasswell Crist

Beauvoir is not the oldest or grandest historic home in Mississippi but it is surely an amazing and colorful survivor, considering the frequency of gulf coast hurricanes, not to mention the steady march of progress that has transformed the Mississippi coast from a sleepy location for fishing villages and summer homes to a bustling tourist destination. If Beauvoir’s walls could talk, they would tell some fine stories.

On a scenic plot of land directly facing the Gulf of Mexico about halfway between Gulfport and Biloxi, Beauvoir enjoys a privileged status as a National Historic Landmark. It has had a number of owners, some more important than others. One can easily see why it is called Beauvoir, meaning “beautiful view.” Sparkling water and a white sandy beach are visible from the front steps. Behind the house the view is almost as nice, with spacious gardens, a lagoon called Oyster Bayou, and woods full of great live oaks, wild azaleas, jasmine, magnolias, pines, yaupon, chinaberry, hickory, cedar, and other old trees and shrubs—a peaceful, safe home for birds and small animals and the site of a serene nature trail.

The main house at Beauvoir was built in the 1850s by James Brown, a prosperous planter from Madison County, Mississippi, who wanted a summer home for his family. Brown wisely planned his house for its specific location on the beach. Beauvoir is a raised cottage, meaning its foundation is placed on massive pillars, not flat on the ground, allowing flood waters to flow through the ground level. With wide porches all around, high ceilings, and big windows, Beauvoir was designed to welcome cooling breezes from the gulf in the days before air-conditioning. Brown used brick for the pillars and wood for the house itself, which has been painted white with green shutters for most of its life. He paid close attention to the quality of the building materials, many of which were imported and quite expensive at the time. With only eight rooms, Beauvoir has a simple floor plan and it is easy to imagine actually living there. In addition to the main house, Brown constructed two smaller cottages in what is now the front yard and some service buildings in the back, such as a fine brick kitchen. The Brown family owned Beauvoir for about twenty-five years.

In 1873 Sarah Ellis Dorsey, a famous and wealthy author from Natchez, Mississippi, bought the house and christened it Beauvoir. A gracious hostess who was known for her great parties, Dorsey lived there until 1879, when Beauvoir’s most famous resident took possession.

Home of Jefferson Davis

Beauvoir is best known as the retirement home of Jefferson Davis, ex-president of the Confederate States of America. He first learned to love the house and location when he rented one of the front cottages in 1877. From 1879 until his death in 1889 he owned Beauvoir and lived there with his wife Varina and daughter Varina Anne (called Winnie). His son, Jefferson Davis Jr., a teenager in the 1870s, lived with his parents briefly before settling down to a bank job in Memphis. The Davises’ daughter Margaret and her children came as often as possible from their home in Colorado; they stayed in the guest cottage for weeks at a time during the 1880s. There were others who lived with the Davises, too. A few servants helped with cooking, cleaning, and gardening. There were always family pets, mainly horses and dogs.

During his first few years at Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis wrote his autobiography in the cottage called the Pavilion. He had many visitors—in fact, too many at times. As a famous person, Davis was sought out by journalists, tourists, and friends, all of whom wanted to know more about his long, action-packed public career, especially about the American Civil War. In the days before telephones, interviews and conversations were face-to-face. The guests arrived in wagons or stepped off the train at “Beauvoir station” on the railroad that ran behind the property, only about half a mile away. Once at the house, the visitors often ate outdoors on the broad verandas while talking with Davis about books, people he knew in Washington before the Civil War and in Richmond during the war, the Mexican War (when he led Mississippi troops in battle), politics, his family, his travels, the Civil War itself, and current affairs. His opinions on friends and enemies alike were of great interest to everyone.

Days passed quietly for Davis when there were no house guests or business to attend to. The warm climate was pleasant most of the time, and the elderly gentleman enjoyed long walks on the beach and sitting on benches, gazing at the gulf, or viewing the gardens. As he wrote in 1877, “The sea is immediately in front, and an extensive orange orchard is near. Beyond that is one of those clear brooks, common to the pine woods, its banks lined with a tangled wood of sweet bay, wild olive and vines… By night I hear the murmur of the sea rolling on to the beach, by day a short walk brings one to where the winds sigh through the pines, a sad yet soothing sound.”

Beauvoir even had its own pier in the days before the highway was built. Anyone could walk from the front steps across the lawn and directly onto the beach for swimming and relaxing. There was always plenty to eat because Beauvoir was a small working farm, with fruit trees and grape vines, as well as chickens, hogs, sheep, geese, turkeys, cows, and a vegetable garden. Neighbors shared what they had, and seafood was abundant.

Jefferson Davis enjoyed life on the Mississippi coast, but after his death, Varina Davis was lonely and unhappy. She longed for the companionship of friends and the excitement and bustle of city life. She was uncomfortable in the heat of summer but most important, she discovered that she could not afford to live there on her own. The big place was costly to maintain with her limited income. Entertaining visitors was expensive and frequent hurricanes meant constant repairs. In the early 1890s she and Winnie moved to New York City to earn their living as writers.

Soldiers’ Home

After Winnie died at a young age, Varina Davis was even less interested in returning to Mississippi and made the difficult decision to sell Beauvoir. But she did not want to sell to just anyone, fearing the house would be torn down and its association with Jefferson Davis would be lost forever. Finally, in 1902, the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans bought her husband’s beloved retirement paradise and Beauvoir entered yet another phase of its existence as the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home.

Hundreds of veterans and some Confederate widows moved in, living in barracks constructed for them. A hospital, dining room, and chapel were added for their convenience. Gardens and a large cemetery behind the house provide a final resting place of about eight hundred veterans, along with the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate, and the grave of Jefferson Davis’s father, who was a soldier in the American Revolution.

The Jefferson Davis Shrine, as Beauvoir is also known, is operated by descendants of Confederate veterans with help from the State of Mississippi, and has been open to the public since 1941. It has been an official museum since 1956. Fortunately, many personal items belonging to the Davis family are still in place and the house welcomes visitors every day, just as when Davis himself lived there. Visitors see some wonderful furniture that Jefferson Davis enjoyed and some that he had built specially for the house, many family portraits, and Winnie“s large piano, along with her music book and some of her artwork. Jefferson Davis’s bedroom on the back of the house has his rocking chair, cigar stand, and a small trunk used on his travels for over forty years.

Beauvoir House

In 1998 Beauvoir added another building, the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library. Inside is an auditorium showing a film about Davis, a large museum that highlights his long and eventful life, and a library for research. Some of his own books are available for viewing. Strolling in the gardens is still a perfect way to appreciate the natural beauty and calm that Davis and others treasured while living there.

If the walls could speak, they would tell of the early days of building when the house took form and stood tall, of the years when Sarah Dorsey and the Davises lived there, and of the rich conversations with all their guests, no doubt including many secrets and gossip from the war. Then came the veterans with their own tales of courage and suffering, and after them thousands of tourists, all of whom share different opinions on history and life. Beauvoir would surely also tell about and mourn the severe damages caused by hurricanes, especially Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005.

Indeed, the Beauvoir House and the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Katrina when it struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the worst disaster ever to hit the United States. The five other buildings at the site were destroyed. Restoration at Beauvoir is ongoing—for updates go to (accessed May 2007).

No matter the season, however, everyone is impressed with Beauvoir, a splendid survivor with a truly “beautiful view.”

Linda Lasswell Crist is editor and project director of The Papers of Jefferson Davis at Rice University.

Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest Atlantic hurricane, as well as one of the five deadliest, in the history of the United States....

. However, the Home has been restored and reopened on Jun 3, 2008. The Presidential Library and Museum and other outbuildings are in the process of being rebuilt.

The destruction Katrina has caused to historic structures on the coast and in other areas of the state has been massive. The historic buildings on the coast have suffered extensive damage and in some cases blocks of buildings in historic districts have been wiped clean by Katrina's storm surge. Since Katrina MHT has been working with its partner organizations - Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Mississippi Main Street Association, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation - to save as many damaged historic structures as possible. This is difficult work with very little resources out there to help historic structures and increasing pressure to clean up the coast by removing all debris including damaged houses.

The Mississippi Rose & First Lady of The Confederacy

Varina Howell Davis was born into privilege at the family plantation called the "Briers" located near Natchez, Mississippi to William B. and Margaret Lousia Howell on May 7, 1826



The Briars
Natchez, Mississippi

The Briars is one of the best-known plantation homes in Natchez. Believed to have been built by John Perkins in the early 1820s, it was leased by William and Margaret Howell from 1827 to 1850. Their daughter Varina Banks Howell married Jefferson Davis in the parlor of The Briars on February 26, 1845.

Her education was mainly social consistent with that accorded to prominent family daughters in the old South. First home tutored, Varina then attended Madame Greenland's finishing school in Philadelphia.

She was but seventeen when she met Jefferson Davis, eighteen years her senior, while visiting the plantation of his brother adjacent to his own.

She wrote her mother soon after their meeting:

"I do not know whether this Mr. Jefferson Davis is young or old. He looks both at times; but I believe he is old, for from what I hear he is only two years younger than you are [the rumor was correct]. He impresses me as a remarkable kind of man, but of uncertain temper, and has a way of taking for granted that everybody agrees with him when he expresses an opinion, which offends me; yet he is most agreeable and has a peculiarly sweet voice and a winning manner of asserting himself. The fact is, he is the kind of person I should expect to rescue one from a mad dog at any risk, but to insist upon a stoical indifference to the fright afterward."

Two months later they were engaged and after objections from her family were overcome, Varina married at eighteen.just over a year later. Davis and Varina Howell were married at The Briars, her parents' home in Natchez, Mississippi.

She became the second wife of Jefferson Davis. His first marraige to Sarah Taylor, daughter of General and Future President Zachary Taylor had lasted only 3 months as Sarah had become ill and died of malaria ten years prior to Jefferson Davis and Varina's meeting. Their marraige would endure and be lasting resulting in a family of six children.

The Children

Margaret Howell Davis Hayes (1855-1909)

Margaret was the only one of the to marry, bear children, and outlive her parents. Born in Washington, she was the eldest of the surviving children (Samuel Emory Davis died in 1854) and was known as both Polly (or Pollie) and Maggie. She was a great favorite of her father's and carried on a charming correspondence with him while Varina and the children stayed in in 1862 (see , 8:192, 360).

Margaret began her studies with a tutor in the Confederate White House and was enrolled at schools in Montreal, London, Paris, and Baltimore as the family moved about after the war.

On New Year's Day of 1876 she married J. Addison Hayes in Memphis, where the young couple settled. Jeff Jr. was living with the Hayeses in 1878 when he contracted yellow fever, and Margaret risked her own life to care for her dying brother.

The first of the Hayes children died as an infant, but the subsequent four lived to adulthood. The family moved to Colorado Springs in 1885, and descendants still reside in the area. As her husband rose in city banking circles, Margaret became involved with many charitable causes and was a leading member of local society. After her death in 1909, Addison and the children took her ashes to Richmond to be interred with the Davis family at Hollywood Cemetery.

Samuel Emory Davis (1852-1854)

The Davises' first child, Samuel Emory Davis, was born at Brierfield on July 30, 1852, and named for Davis' father. Just short of his second birthday, however, Samuel contracted the measles and died in Washington on June 13. He may have been exposed to the disease by Varina's brother Becket, who had stayed with the Davises while his school was closed in late May due to a measles epidemic.

The only known likeness of Samuel is a bust, now at Beauvoir, that miraculously survived destruction when Union troops pillaged Davis' belongings in 1863. Joseph E. Davis had hidden the property in the attic of a home near Clinton, Mississippi, but a slave gave away the location, and the Federals ransacked the furniture, letters, and books they discovered. The man left to care for the home managed to save the bust of Samuel by claiming that the image was of one of his own children.

Joseph Evan Davis (1859-1864)

Joseph Evan Davis was born in Washington while his father was serving in the Senate. Davis proclaimed his new son "a very fine one" and named the boy for his eldest brother and his grandfather. Varina protested, for she deeply resented Joseph Emory Davis, but to no avail. She confided to her mother, however, that the boy did bear a resemblance to his namesake uncle, which she hoped he would outgrow.

Little Joe was described as exceptionally bright, and he was apparently the best behaved of all of the Davis children, but his life ended tragically with a fall from a White House porch on April 30, 1864. Rumors persist that he was pushed by older brother Jeff Jr., but there is no evidence to support this story.

According to contemporary accounts, the accident took place at some point between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. while neither of the parents were at home. A servant discovered Joe lying by the pavement onto which he had fallen from a height of about fifteen feet. Maggie Davis ran to the neighbors for help, and Jeff Jr. enlisted the aid of two people passing by on the street. One of these men, a Confederate officer, wrote that Joe's "head was contused, and I think his chest much injured internally."

The child apparently died about the time his parents reached the house. His father refused to see visitors and could be heard pacing all night.

Funeral services were held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on May 1, and Joe was buried at Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery, where the rest of his immediate family would eventually be interred.

There are no known likenesses of Joseph Evan Davis, in large part due to the scarcity of photographic materials during the war.

Varina Anne Davis


Born in the Confederate White House and named for her mother, Varina Anne was the youngest of the Davis children. She was known for most of her life as "Winnie," a nickname her father had first bestowed on her mother. According to Varina Anne, she was told that "Winnie" was "an Indian name meaning bright, or sunny"

Winnie received her early education from her mother during the family's postwar travels, and subsequently was enrolled in boarding schools in Karlsruhe, Germany, and in Paris. She inherited her mother's literary interests and later authored a biographical monograph (1888) and two novels (1888, 1895), all published under the name Varina Anne Jefferson Davis.

"The Daughter of the Confederacy," as John B. Gordon anointed her in 1886, lived with her parents at Beauvoir in the 1880s and accompanied her father to numerous public appearances. Beloved by veterans' groups, she became an icon of the Lost Cause.

The adoration became a burden when Winnie fell in love with Alfred C. (Fred) Wilkinson, a Syracuse, New York, attorney whose grandfather had been a leading abolitionist. Public turmoil created by the five-year romance drove Winnie into periods of deep emotional distress. The couple finally received the blessings of both Jefferson and Varina Davis and were briefly engaged in 1890. Although their breakup has always been blamed on the public outcry, recent investigation seems to indicate that it was due more to questions about Wilkinson's financial situation.

Winnie moved to New York City with her mother in 1891 and continued her literary pursuits. She contracted "malarial gastritis" while visiting in Rhode Island and died at age thirty-four. In keeping with her status among ex-Confederates, she was buried with full military honors at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.


William Howell Davis (1861-1872)

Billy Davis, who was said to bear a strong resemblance to his father, was born in the Confederate White House and suffered from a number of illnesses during his short life. Reportedly hard of hearing by 1866, he attended schools in Canada and Maryland before dying of diphtheria at his parents' home in Memphis. Initially buried in that city, Billy was reinterred in the family plot at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, in 1893.



Jefferson Davis, Jr.


The namesake of his father, Jefferson Davis, Jr., was actually the second Davis son ( Samuel died three years before Jeff was born). A rambunctious child, Jeff enjoyed life in the Confederate White House, where staff and aides indulged him, often calling him "General." He attended schools in Canada, England, and Maryland as the family moved about after the war. Jeff Jr. enrolled at Virginia Military Institute, but his father withdrew him in 1875, apparently fearing that his son was about to be expelled.

Although by all accounts a charming young man, Jeff Jr. never showed much motivation. His parents were continually trying to help him, but his father conceded to his mother that "we do not understand the boy, and I fear never shall." He became his father's secretary at Beauvoir in 1877, supposedly studying French and medicine in his free time. In 1878 he moved to Memphis, where brother-in-law Addison Hayes found him a job as a bank clerk. Only a few months after his arrival, however, Jeff Jr. fell victim to a yellow fever epidemic that swept the city, dying on October 16. First buried in Memphis, he was reinterred near his father at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond in 1895.

For more information, see the published volumes of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, particularly the brief sketch of his life in 5:110-11.

Jim Linder
In an effort to provide information about Jim Linder, I found in my research conflicting stories about Jim Linder and the Davis Family. I was surprised that the controversy is still so widely discussed, especially when it comes to the Jefferson Davis Monument. So I decided on two articles that seem to be the most reliable and will let you decide what to believe , as we all know there is a fine line between truth and legend when it comes to history. Regardless of what actually happened in the end, The fact remains that Mrs Varnia Davis had compassion upon a small boy who was being abused and took him into her her home and loved him. That in the end is all that really matters.


What Do We Really Know About "Jim Limber"?
By John M. Coski, Historian and Library Director, Museum of the Confederacy,
Richmond, Virginia © 2008. Used by permission.

The ambrotype photograph of a mulatto boy came into the Museum collection with a label in the hand of Varina Davis: "James Henry Brooks adopted by Mrs. Jefferson Davis during the War and taken from her after our capture. A great pet in the family and known as Jim Limber."

Not only the caption, but the image itself testifies to an intimate relationship between "Jim Limber" and the family of President Jefferson Davis. The child apparently posed for the photograph at the same time as the Davises’ own children using the same chair prop used for the photo of Billy Davis (page 19).

Looking more closely and more critically at the photographs and the donation label suggest a more ambiguous interpretation. Jim Limber’s hand-me-down clothes contrast with the formal Scottish garb in which William Howell Davis was clothed. Which of Varina’s words most accurately described his status – "adopted" or "pet"?

Jim Limber has been the subject of several popular magazine articles, occasional internet postings, and even an illustrated children’s book, Jim Limber Davis. How much do we really know about this young man beyond the photograph and its postwar label? Does the evidence support the identification of him as "Jim Limber Davis," an adopted son of the Confederacy’s first family?

Varina Davis, in her 1890 memoir of her husband, explained how Jim Limber came to live with the Davis family. Her account is in a footnote for a passage recounting how her young sons hung out with a Richmond boy gang called the "Hill Cats":

"A little free negro boy whom we had rescued from one of his own color, who had beaten him terribly, lived from that time {early 1864} with us. Mr. Davis, notwithstanding his absorbing cares, went to the Mayor’s office and had his free papers registered to insure Jim against getting into the power of the oppressor again. Jim Limber, which he said was his name in his every-day clothes, who became Jeems Henry Brooks in his best suit on Sunday, was a fearless ally of the Hill cats."

Significantly, the former Confederate first lady did not claim that the president "adopted" the child, but merely registered his free papers. The Free Negro register for Richmond did not survive the war, robbing historians of the most obvious source for corroborating Varina Davis’ account. Searches through surviving city records turn up nothing about President Davis registering free papers or becoming a guardian for a child ward of any description. Nineteenth-century Virginia law did not provide for formal adoption of children; if the Davises "adopted" Jim Limber, it was an extralegal process that does not show up in the historical record.

Even without official documentation, wartime sources do corroborate Mrs. Davis’ postwar account of Jim Limber’s presence in the Confederate executive mansion. On February 16, 1864, a family friend, the celebrated diarist Mary Chestnut, recorded that she saw (in the 3rd-floor room where Varina’s mother lived for part of the war) "the little negro Mrs. Davis rescued yesterday from his brutal negro guardian. The child is an orphan. He was dressed up in Little Joe’s clothes and happy as a lord. He was very anxious to show me his wounds and bruises, but I fled."

A year later, nine-year-old Margaret Davis wrote to her younger bother, Jeff, who was spending time with the army, relaying that "Jim Limber sends his love to you…" As the Davises fled southward from Richmond in April 1865, Varina included Jim limber in her reports to her husband about the family. On April 19, 1865: "The children are well and very happy—play all day—Billy & Jim fast friends as ever…" On April 28, 1865: "Billy and Jeff are very well—Limber is thriving but bad."

Within two weeks, Federal troops caught up with the Davis family and their party of military aides, slaves, servants—and Jim Limber—near Irwinville, Georgia. When the captives reached the Atlantic coast on a river transport ship, the Davises and Jim Limber were separated forever. Another member of the Davis party, Virginia Clay, noted in her diary that Mrs. Davis’ "pet Negro" had been taken from her.

The former President recounted the event in an 1875 letter. Davis described Jim as "a little negro orphan who she [Mrs. Davis] had in pity rescued from the ill treatment of a negro woman in Richmond who claimed that the boy’s mother had left him to her." Rather than give him over to a Federal officer they judged untrustworthy, the Davises placed him in the care of an old army friend, Gen. Rufus Saxton.

Varina elaborated on the incident in another footnote in her memoir: "[W]e learned that our old friend, General Saxton, was there [at the Hilton Head], and my husband thought we might ask the favor of him to look after our little protégé Jim’s education, in order that he might not fall under the degrading influence of Captain Hudson. A note was written to General Saxton and the poor little boy was given to the officers of the tugboat for the General, who kindly took charge of him. Believing that he was going on board to see something and return, he quietly went, but as soon as he found he was going to leave us he fought like a little tiger and was thus engaged the last we saw of him. I hope he has been successful in the world for he was a fine boy, notwithstanding all that had been done to mar his childhood. Some years ago we saw in a Massachusetts paper that he would bear to his grave the marks of the stripes inflicted upon him by us. We felt sure he had not said this, for the affection was mutual between us, and we had never punished him."

Contrary to modern renditions of Jim’s biography, there is no evidence that the Davises subsequently searched widely for him. Indeed, Varina’s own account of their separation indicates that she understood it to be permanent.

Most modern accounts of Jim Limber end with this dramatic scene. An 1893 memoir, First Days Among the Contrabands (published while Mrs. Davis was still alive to read it), offers a few more details about the child’s life after the Davises. Elizabeth Hyde Botume, a Boston woman who came south to teach the freedmen on the South Carolina sea islands, recalled him as "about seven years old, but small for his age; he was a very light mulatto, with brown curly hair, thick lips, and a defiant nose."

Botume also recalled that Mrs. Davis sent Jim Limber to Gen. Saxton with a note, "written with pencil on the blank leaf of a book. I quote from memory. She said:--‘I send this boy to you, General Saxton, and beg you to take good care of him. His mother was a free colored woman in Richmond. She died when he was an infant, leaving him to the care of a friend, who was cruel and neglectful of him. One day Mrs. Davis and her children went to the house and found the woman beating the little fellow, who was then only two years old [sic]. So she took him home with her, intending to find a good place for him. But he was so bright and playful, her own children were unwilling to give him up. Then she decided to keep him until he was old enough to learn a trade. ‘That was five [sic] years ago, and he has shared our fortunes and misfortunes until the present time. But we can do nothing more for him, I send him to you, General Saxton, as you were a friend of our earlier and better times. You will find him affectionate and tractable. I beg you to be kind to him.’ That was the gist of her note."

Jim Limber joined the Sea Islands freedmen’s colony. "As he as the constant companion and playmate of Mrs. Davis’ children, he considered himself as one of them," Botume wrote, "adopting their views and sharing their prejudices. President Davis was to him the one great man in the world. Mrs. Davis had given him the kindly care of a mother, and he had for her the loving devotion of a child."

He apparently developed a similar bond with his new "new protectors," the Saxtons. They soon found it necessary to transfer him to care of the teachers, who took him north for schooling. "Finally," Botume wrote, Jim "drifted" into the home of a northern woman, who "placed him where he was well-trained in all ways, having the advantage of school, as well as a good practical education, until he was old enough to support himself."

Although flawed in some details, Botumes’s recollection seems to substantiate Varina Davis’ telling term, "protégé," as the most accurate description of Jim Limber’s status. The Davises clearly assumed responsibility for him and there was obviously affection between him and his sponsors. It is less likely that he was "adopted" in any meaningful sense. The evidence suggests that he was a member of the Davis family in the same way that slaves, servants, and other dependents were members of white families—with real mutual responsibility and affection.

The story of Jim Limber’s association with the Davis family provides a window onto the nature of paternalism in the 19th-century race relations. New evidence may turn up to provide answers to the many questions about the story that have so far eluded historians


Jim Limber's Story for Black History Month
By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
1064 West Mill Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia 30152
Phone: 770 428 0978

The Women of America love and protect their children. They also care about the children who live in poverty and those who are abused. America has always led in efforts to save the children.

It is my belief that women excel in the field of literature. This is about a writer who writes from the heart and tells stories that are hidden to history.

In 1989, a magazine article caught my eye which I had to read from beginning to end. This was not an ordinary story but about a black child, a Confederate President's First Lady and the Southern Presidential Family. The story was written by Gulfport, Mississippi freelance writer Mrs. Peggy Robbin's and is entitled, "Jim Limber Davis."

While Black History Month mostly focuses on black adults in history, this story is about a black child. This is a summary, in my own words, of Mrs. Robbin's splendid story.

On the morning of February 15, 1864, Mrs. Varina Davis, wife of Southern President Jefferson Davis, had concluded her errands and was driving her carriage down the streets of Richmond, Virginia on her way home. She heard screams from a distance and quickly went to the scene to see what was happening.

Varina saw a young black child being abused by an older man. She demanded that he stop striking the child and when this failed she shocked the man by forcibly taking the child away. She took the child to her carriage and with her to the Southern White House.

Arriving home Mrs. Davis and maid 'Ellen' gave the young boy a bath, attended to his cuts and bruises and feed him. The only thing he would tell them is that his name was Jim Limber. He was happy to be rescued and was given some clothes of the Davis' son Joe who was the same size and age.

Joe was tragically killed in an accidental fall later that year.

The Davis family were visited the following evening by a friend of Varina's, noted Southern Diarist-Mary Boykin Chesnut, who saw Jim Limber and wrote later that she had seen the boy and that he was eager to show me his cuts and bruises. She also said, "the child is an orphan rescued yesterday from a brutal Negro Guardian." and "there are things in life that are too sickening, and such cruelty is one of them."

There were some children who addressed Jim as Jim Limber Davis for fun. This was fine with him because he felt he was indeed a member of the family. The Davis letters to friends are indication of his acceptance and they said he was a member of their gang of children.

The Christmas of 1864, would be memorable for the Davis family and probably the best Christmas Jim Limber would ever have. A Christmas tree was set up in Saint Paul's Church, decorated and gifts placed beneath it. On Christmas evening orphans were brought to the church and were delighted with the presents they got. Jim was happy that he helped decorate the tree.

Mrs. Robbin's wrote, in her story, that Mrs. Jefferson Davis was a very good story teller who was able to make sounds of different animals in the stories about the critters. Jim was always eager to help.

The end of the War Between the States was coming and Richmond was being evacuated. Varina and the children left ahead of Jefferson Davis. The president and his staff left just hours before the occupation of Union troops.

Varina and the children were by the side of Jefferson Davis at his capture near Irwinville, Georgia and again the family was separated. Jefferson Davis was taken to Virginia to spend two years in prison.

Mrs. Davis and her children were taken to Macon, Georgia and later to Port Royal outside of Savannah. At Port Royal their Union escort, Captain Charles T. Hudson, made good at his earlier threats to take Jim Limber away.

As the Union soldiers came to forcibly take young Jim, he put up a great struggle and tried to hold onto his family as they to him. Jim and his family cried uncontrollably as the child was taken. His family would never again see him or know what happened to him. The Davis' tried in later years to locate Jim but were unsuccessful. They prayed that he grew to manhood and did well in life.

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia is home to a portrait of Jim Limber Davis in the Eleanor S. Brookenbrough Library. I thank Mrs. Peggy Robbin's who wrote the Jim Limber Davis story in 1989 and the Southern Partisan Magazine for publishing her story in the second quarter Issue-Volume IX of 1989.

For more information about Jefferson Davis go to: the website about the last home of Jefferson Davis and his family.

The Davis couple planned on a life at "Brierfield," however, Jeff Davis was nominated for a seat in the US House of Representatives and Varina became a politicians wife. Her husband rose in political stature becoming a Senator.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Davis resigned his seat and the couple returned to "Brierfield" only to be elected President of the Confederate States of America.

They moved first to Montgomery, Alabama the temporary capital and then to Richmond, Virginia, the permanent capital. Initially, her days as First Lady were pleasant. However, as the war continued, living condition in the south deteriorated and goods became scare. She became the vocal point of criticism mirroring the despair created by the mounting death toll and the faltering war effort. Varina did not waver in her duties as first lady and kept helping the troops. She knitted countless articles of clothing for soldiers, donated rugs for blankets and made shoes of the scraps. She spent hours visiting soldiers in the hospitals.

With peace signed at Appomattox, Jefferson Davis rather then surrendering to Union forces, chose to flee. Varina was with him when arrested and sent to confinement at Fortress Monroe and locked in a artillery compartment located on a rampart, with her and the children placed in Savannah under house arrest. The children and her mother were constantly harassed and fearing for their safety, arranged passage for them to Canada. Now all her efforts were directed to getting her husband released. After two years, influential friends arranged and paid bail allowing for Davis to be released. Fearing constitutional problems, the charges were simply allowed to disappear.

Although free, the couple were now impoverish relegated to living in Mississippi at the Beauvoir estate in a small cottage at the behest of the owner. Davis wrote his two-volume memoir, "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" which lifted him from poverty. Their fortunes would improve further as the owner of the property willed the estate to them upon her death. This would be their home until the death of the Confederate president.

 Varina Davis was well-educated and possessed as strong a will as her husband. They had their differences at times over the fifty-four years of their marriage, but they remained devoted to each other through several decades of remarkable hardship. After Jefferson Davis' death in 1889, Varina Davis published Jefferson Davis, A Memoir in 1890, then moved to New York City the following year to pursue a literary career.

She would never remarry. Her days were filled with trips to the opera, theaters and concerts . All would end after contracting pneumonia. With the last surviving member of the Davis family, a daughter at her bedside, she passed away 16 Oct. her room at the Hotel Majestic In New York

. Years before, she had made arrangements for moving her husbands body from New Orleans to Richmond. The couple would now be reunited in death. Her remains were conveyed to Richmond and after a military funeral was interred near her husband.

The legacy of Varina Davis is obscure...Today she is virtually unknown to Americans. Even her burial place is some distance away from the tomb of her husband. In contrast, the South remembers her husband Jefferson Davis with an over abundance of memorials, statues, parks, schools, streets, avenues and highways located all across Dixie. After the death of President Davis, Varina wrote "Jefferson Davis, A Memoir" published in 1890 while still living at "Beauvoir," then promptly relocated to New York City while giving the property to the state of Mississippi which was used as a Confederate veterans home with the establishment of a large cemetery as the men passed away. Eventually "Beauvoir" was preserved, restored and became the Presidential Library of Jefferson Davis housing his papers and memorabilia.

Even the small community of Varina, Virgina long thought named in her honor in reality originated years earlier from the Varina Farms tobacco plantation. "Brierfield" the Jeff Davis plantation was located about twenty miles down the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, Warren County was confiscated after the civil war and then destroyed by fire in 1931. The land currently serves as a private hunting reserve. The "Briers" the plantation house where Varina Howell was born then married to Jefferson Davis is located a mile from Natchez. During the shelling of city by Union forces the structure was damaged but today it is a beautiful restore structure with heritage status. In 1973, the book "First Lady of the South: The Life of Mrs Jefferson Davis" by Ross Ishbel was published by the Greenwood Publishing Group. in 1826.

Misc Photos of Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis in later years with one of his grandchildren


Accounts of the Death of Jefferson Davis

Photo of Jefferson Davis's Casket at Louisiana Funeral.
On December 6, 1889, the Christmas Season in New Orleans was saddened when Jefferson Davis died of unknown causes at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was one of the largest ever staged in the South.
The body of Jefferson Davis laid in state at the city hall of New Orleans from midnight on December 6th to the 11th. He was dressed in Confederate gray and flowers adorned the city hall. Confederate flags and the Union flag were hung from above. Thousands of mourners came from out of town to join the residents of New Orleans to pay their respects to the man who once was the South's beloved leader. The men saluted their former leader and the women bowed their heads in prayer. Tears filled the eyes of young people who were born at the time Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy. The church bells rang throughout the city. On December 11, 1889, twenty thousand people lined the streets of New Orleans as the body of Jefferson Davis was taken, by funeral carriage, to Metairie Cemetery in the crescent city. The funeral procession included those who wore the gray during the War Between the States. All flags flew at half mast. It is sad that the War Department of the United States did not lower the United States flag in his honor. Jefferson Davis was the only former Secretary of War who had ever been denied the honor.

On December 11, 1889, twenty thousand people lined the streets of New Orleans as the body of Jefferson Davis was taken, by funeral carriage, to Metairie Cemetery in the crescent city. The funeral procession included those who wore the gray during the War Between the States. All flags flew at half mast.
Eighteen months after his death and temporary burial in New Orleans Metaire Cemetery, Davis's widow, Varina, decided the final burial place was to be Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery considered the National Cemetery of the Confederacy. His remains, were removed from the vault in New Orleans and placed on a flag-draped caisson escorted by honor guards composed of his old soldiers to Memorial Hall, where he lay in state. The next day, as thousands of people silently watched from the sidewalks and balconies, the caisson bore his body to a waiting funeral train. On the way, bonfires beside the tracks lit up ranks of Davis's old soldiers standing at attention beside stacked arms. In Richmond, Gray haired veterans escorted him to the Virginia statehouse where thousands filed past in respect before interment
(Source: Library of Congress, National Park Service and others.)


The death of the President occurred at New Orleans about one o'clock a.m., December 5, 1889, and the event was announced throughout the Union. The funeral ceremonies in New Orleans were such as comported with the illustrious character of the deceased chieftain, while public meetings in other cities and towns of the South were held to express the common sorrow, and the flags of State capitols were dropped to half-mast. Distinguished men pronounced eulogies on his character, and the press universally at the South and generally at the North contained extended and laudatory articles on his character.

The burial place in New Orleans was selected only as a temporary receptacle, while a general movement was inaugurated for a tomb and monument which resulted in the removal of the body to Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy. The removal took place by means of a special funeral train from New Orleans to Richmond, passing through several States and stopping at many places to receive the respectful and affectionate tributes bestowed by the people. The scene from the time of the departure from New Orleans to the last rites at Richmond was singular in its nature and sublime in its significance of popular esteem for the memory of the Confederate President. The funeral train moved day and night almost literally in review before the line of people assembled to see it pass. Finally in the presence of many thousands the casket was deposited in the last resting place in the keeping of the city which had so long withstood the rude alarms of war under his presidency.


Reported Accounts of Hauntings of Jefferson Davis's Ghost

For two years, from 1885-87, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned in the fort. His apparition has been reportedly seen walking near the flagpole of the fort. His wife, Varina, who stayed in the home across from his cell, has also been reported standing in the window of her old room staring at where Jefferson Davis was held.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis was incarcerated at the fort after the Civil War because it was alleged he took part in Lincoln’s assassination conspiracy. He was bound in chains and badly mistreated until he was finally freed. Davis’ is the most frequently seen ghost in different places in the fort. People have heard the rattling of chains.

Read more:

Another Account of Haunting

*Note- I did not include the photo listed on the following post as it appeared to be the same as the Beuvior House Photo.

There is a pretty house located on Camp Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. People who walk by this house often see an old man looking out from the second floor window. He appears to have a gray color to him, with a beard, wild hair, and cheek bones that stand out on his facial structure. This figure looks surprised to be seeing what he is looking at from the window, but he looks happy to see a pretty blue sky over his head. The head and shoulders on this figure are only visible for a second or two before they disappear. The ghost has also been known to walk the halls of the house.

As the ghost is walking, he continually starts to repeat the question: "Where are my boots?" This is the spirit of the one and only president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. Davis died in this very house at precisely 1:00 A.M. on the night of December 5th, 1889. It was well known during his time that Davis would always say that he did not want to die with his boots off his feet. The spirit of Jefferson Davis has not only been in this house in New Orleans, but at his grave in Richmond, Virginia, Congress in Washington D.C., and at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans.

For the remaining years of his life in the house, Davis would not leave, but merely stand by his window and look out onto the street. The spirit of this man’s soul still lives on, doing what he did during his final days. He had become a man defeated and embarrassed because of his great loss to the Northerners. He is often looked at as one of the most famous Confederate and traitor to the United States of America. It is not surprising that a man of this stature has a restless spirit, especially as he lived his final days in a United States that was run by the North. So take a walk down on Camp Street and maybe you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the one and only Confederate president, Jefferson Davis.

Sources & Links

Beauvoir Official Site

Jackson Clarion-Ledger: Beauvoir destroyed

New York Times (Sept. 8, 2005): In Mississippi, History Is Now a Salvage Job

Library of Congress - Congressional Globe

Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. 2007

Selected Bibliography

Burr, Frank A. “Jefferson Davis, The Ex-Confederate President at Home,” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, January 1951, 163-80 [1881 interview].

Davis, Jefferson. Private Letters, edited by Hudson Strode. New York: Harcourt, Brace &

World, 1966.

Evans, William A. “Jefferson Davis Shrine: Beauvoir House,” Journal of Mississippi History, October 1940, 3-8.

Evans, William A. 100 Questions and Answers about Beauvoir House (pamphlet).

Jones, J. William. “A Visit to Beauvoir—President Davis and Family at Home,” Southern Historical Society Papers, 1886, 447-54.

Jones, Mrs. Wilbur Moore. Historic Beauvoir. Hattiesburg: United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1921.

Thompson, V. Elaine. “The Battle for Beauvoir: Who Won the Lost Cause?” Paper presented at the Gulf South History and Humanities

Conference, Hammond, Louisiana, October 1998.

Related website: (accessed May 2007)


Varnia Howell Davis Bio by Donald Rayfield Memorial Page.

Read more: The Jefferson Papers, Geneology of th eDavis Family

All information in this blog post was researched and compiled by Angela L- MSSPI