Monday, November 29, 2010

The Man Without A Country

 Last week I wrote about Brierfield, the Davis plantation near Natchez, MS. When Jefferson Davis was released from prison in May 1867 he was "a man without a country."  He had no salary or savings and no home, because Brierfield had been seized by Union troops in 1862 and sold in 1866.

Along with thousands of others Jefferson Davis had gambled all and lost all on the Confederacy. He had also lost his citizenship. I was reminded of a book I read in school, The Man Without A Country by Edward Everette Hale about a man named Philip Nolen. You probably remember  it too. Nolen renounces his Country during a trial and is sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States.

After the War and the imprisonment, Davis was left with a wife and four children to provide for. He lived in Canada and England hoping to find a suitable job and finally in 1869 he agreed to be President of a Memphis TN life insurance company and lived there until the mid-1870s.

His fortunes changed in 1876 when a longtime admirer, Sarah Ellis Dorsey, offered him a cottage on her seaside estate near Biloxi, MS as a place to write his memoirs of the war. There Jefferson Davis was home at last. He loved Beauvoir and the property became his when Dorsey bequeathed it to him in her will.

During the 1880s he penned his two-volume memoir of the war and he and Varina regained ownership of Brierfield after a long legal battle. Davis undertook extensive traveling, speaking mainly at Confederate veterans' events. When did he receive his citizenship again? October 17, 1978, posthumously, given by Jimmy Carter. There is another book Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back by Robert Penn Warren which you also might like to read. Carry on! Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis

I picked up a book in our library at the First White House of the Confederacy, Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis by Frank Edgar Everett, Jr. I am so glad it is still available on Amazon as it is a fascinating account.

I quote from the preface "Of the hundreds of plantation dwellings built in the South during the decades before the Civil War, none has had richer associations with men and history than Brierfield...Involved as it was with the aspirations and daily lives of its owners, the house was in a very special sense the tangible record of their personal victories and defeats".

War, flood and fire have destroyed most of the physical evidences of Briefield, but its significance in Southern history continues to be felt, just as does our Museum House. We are so fortunate that the First White House has survived through all these many years. All that remains of Brierfield are some of the house pillars, and the chimney and fireplace.

This enchanting book contains photographs of the Davis plantation home as well as those of his brother, Joseph's nearby home, Hurricane. It also tells about Jefferson and Sara Knox Taylor and their marriage, and then about his life with Varina.

 Did you know his very last trip was to Brierfield and his last penned words were written there? On Nov 13, 1889  he had made a final pilgrimage from Beauvoir to Brierfield. As he was about to leave the house for the last time, Alice Desmaris, his plantation owner's daughter timidly presented her album for his autograph and a sentiment. Davis thoughtfully wrote: "May all your paths be peaceful and pleasant, charged with the best fruit, the doing good to others".

The author says, "Was this a message to one little girl, or was it a prayer for all the people he had known and served and led?"  On December 6, 1889, Jefferson Davis, master of Brierfield, died in New Orleans.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Burying The Dead But Not The Past"

The title may have caught your attention! I hope so. It is the title of a book by Caroline E. Janney, Burying The Dead But Not The Past, subtitled Ladies Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause. I picked my autographed copy up at the Confederate Museum in Richmond.

We all know the mettle of Southern women was tempered and tested during the hardships of The War. These stalwart women banded together into groups for more effective service. In Montgomery there was the Laides' Aid Societyand the Ladies Hebrew Sewing and Benevolent Society, as well as various Hospital societies.

 The Historic and Monumental Association of Alabama was founded November 23, 1865 by a group of prominent Alabama men. The main purpose was to erect a monument on the Capitol grounds; however the more immediate problem became the condition of the cemeteries where shallow graves were being washed away by rains.

The ladies of Montgomery soon began to devise ways to raise money to have the remains of Alabama soldiers properly buried. The Ladies Society for the Burial of Deceased Alabama Soldiers came into being. This soon became the Ladies Memorial Association.

This group helped raise the money to complete the Confederate Monument which I wrote about in my blog of 11/15 and 11/21. They arranged headstones for 800 soldiers, and a monument and a chapel were built in Oakwood cemetery. The Chapel/Pavilion is still used today for the Confederate Memorial Day ceremonies each April 26, which have continued unbroken from 1866 until today. The Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery is alive and well under the leadership of their energetic President, Leslie Kirk. Google them at Ladies Memorial Association in Montgomery AL.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A View of the Rear Hall in the First White House of the Confederacy

Originally a back porch when the house was built between 1832 and 1835 by William Sayre, this area was enclosed when the rear serving pantries were added in 1857. When the Davises lived here, it was used as a reception hall and waiting area when the President received callers in his study.

Today the serving pantry area is office space and  our gift shop. The rear hall contains some most impressive furniture, a magnificent mahogany classical sideboard being the focal point. It is attributed to either Charles -Honore Lannuier or Duncan Phyfe, New York City, 1815-20. The one documented sideboard by Lannuier is a very closely-related example to this one and is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The great cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe also made several mahogany sideboard very similar to ours as well.

This one use to be in the dining room but was recently moved to the hall so that our visitors could get a better view of it. The sideboard rests on four winged paw feet at front, below four composite columns. The feet have beautifully-carved eagles heads with well-detailed wings, similar to the feathered carving on the finest sofas of the period.

More important pieces to discuss tomorrow. Come to see us or visit our website for more info on the furnishings in the First White House, Montgomery Alabama!!! Remember the 150 anniversary of "Tha Wah" is right around the corner.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More On The Confederate Monument In Montgomery

On 11/15/2010  we read abut the unveiling of the Confederate Monument on the North side of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (I guess it was put on the north side so they could watch for the Yankees!)

There was a nice comment made about it on the blog site so if you missed it, be sure and go back and read

In the description of the monument, mention was made of the four military figures.You will want to hear  about the descriptions under each of the statures, I am sure, as they are very inspiring and beautiful.

Under the Cavalryman on the west face is the inscription: The knightliest of the Kinghtly Race, who since the days of old, have kept the lamp of chivalry alight in hearts of gold (by Dr. Francis O. Ticknor)

The Infantryman, on the south face: Fame's temple boasts no higher name, no king is grander on his throne, No glory shines with brighter gleam, the name of patriot stands alone (Crawford T. Ruff)

Artilleryman, east face: When this historic shaft shall crumbling lie in ages hence, in woman's heart will be, a folded flag, a thrilling page unrolled, a deathless song of southern chivalry. (Ina Maria Porter Ockenden)

Sailor, north face: The seaman of Confederate fame startled the wondering world: braver fight was never fought and fairer flag was never furled. (Anon)

The bronze base relief is representative of any southern battlefield. The inscription around the base of the shaft reads: Consecrated to the Memory of the Confederate Soldiers and Seamen 1861-1865.

It is very fitting since we are so close Thanksgiving, that we pause to give thanks for these brave men (and women too) who fought bravely, suffered, and gave up so much, for what they believed. Also, since we are on the cusp of celebrating the 150 anniversary of  The Great Struggle, let us never forget them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who Was Charles Minnigerode?

Shortly after President Davis arrived in Richmond he met Charles Minnigerode, rector of Richmond's St Paul's Episcopal Church. Minnigerode wrote about Davis: "our acquaintance thus began, soon grew into friendly intercourse that became closer and closer, till an intimacy sprung up which ripened into companionship in joy and sorrow, and bound us together in the terms of mutual trust and friendship."

At the urging of Varina, Minnigerod discussed church membership with Davis soon after they met. Minnigerode wrote: "he spoke very earnestly and most humbly of needing the cleansing blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit; but in the consciousness of his insufficiency felt some doubt whether he had the right to come...All that was natural and right; but soon it settled this question with a man so resolute in doing what he thought his duty. I baptized him hypothetically, for he was not certain if he had ever been baptized. When the day of confirmation came it was quite in keeping with this resolute character, that when the Bishop called the candidates to the chancel he was the first to rise."

When Davis was in prison at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in solitary confinement Minnigerod was the first civilian permitted to visit hm. And when Davis was released, Minnigerode was at his side. After court, when they met at the Spotswood hotel,  Davis said,"Mr. Minnigerode, you who have been with me in my sufferings and comforted and strengthened me with your prayers, is it not right that we now once more should kneel down together and return thanks?"

This information came from an article "Christmas Trees, the Confederacy, and Colonial Williamsburg. The website is

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Later Years for President Davis

As you know if you have been reading our blog, Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America, lived in Montgomery at what we now call "the First White House of the Confederacy" for a brief period of time during the spring of 1861. 

 Yesterday I wrote about his imprisonment at Fortress Monroe. He was released on May 13, 1867 on a $ 100,000 bail bond signed by twenty prominent men (mostly northern) including Horace Greeley, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Augustus Schell, each posting $ 5,000.00, a princely sum for that day.

Upon his release he traveled abroad, to Canada, England, Wales, Scotland and continental Europe. For a time he lived in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1877 he moved to Beauvoir on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

He died in New Orleans, Louisiana while on a business trip, on December 6, 1889 and was buried temporarily in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, following the largest funeral procession ever held in the south.

May 31, 1893 marked the date of his final burial in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, a very peaceful place overlooking the James River. Mich of his family and many other famous people are also buried there, including Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, and Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.

On October 17, 1978 President Carter signed a bill to restore citizenship to Jefferson Davis which passed the US Congress without a dissenting vote.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Jefferson Davis, After Montgomery"

 We know that President and Mrs. Davis spent the remainder of The War Between the States in Richmond. He had been inaugurated Provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy. On November 6, 1861 he was elected by the people to a six-year term as President, and on February 22 he was inaugurated first Permanent President of the CSA at Richmond.

After four years of heroic resistance, the South was crushed by the overwhelming might of the North. Davis and his Cabinet had to flee Richmond. On May 10, 1865 he was captured at Irwinville, Georgia by the Fourth Michigan Cavalry. He was accused of planning the assassination of President Lincoln. On May 22 he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He was shackled in irons and treated harshly.

 Jefferson Davis, by Hudson Strode is an excellent biography on the life of the President. Strode says "He was submitted to gross indignities and temporarily chained. During the two years imprisonment, he bore his sufferings with great dignity and fortitude, hoping for a trial to vindicate the Southern cause. But the Federal Government never brought him to trial for treason, as feared it would be proved by the Constitution that the Southern States had a right to secede."

I will tell you "the rest of the story" tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Davis Familys' Sojurn In Montgomery

Here is the time line on events regarding the Davis's and their time at the First White House of the Confederacy. As you know events unfolded as follows in early 1861:
Jan 11 - Ala adopted Ordinance of Secession
Feb 4 - Confederate States Organized
Feb 8 - Provisional Congress convened at State Capitol in Montgomery to elect a President
Feb 9 - Jefferson Davis elected
Feb 10 - Davis received telegram of his election at Brierfield
Feb 16 - Jefferson Davis arrived
Feb 18 - Jefferson Davis inaugurated Provisional President of the CSA on portico of State Capitol
Feb 21 - Provisional Congress authorized lease of the Executive Mansion
March 2 -Mrs. Davis stopped in New Orleans en route to Montgomery from Brierfield
March 4 - Letitia Tyler raised the First flag of the Confederacy
March 4 - Mrs. Davis arrived, without the children.
March 11 - President and Mrs. Davis held a levee (a reception)
April 1 - Mrs. Davis returned to Brierfield to supplement the White House furnishings
April 10 - Gen. Beauregard given discretionary authority by the CSA War Dept by telegram from Montgomery to "demand evacuation of Fort Sumter or reduce it"
April 14 - Mrs. Davis arrived Montgomery on steamboat with children, "silver, china, lamps, linen and a few favorite books" and went directly to White House
April 24 - Description of the Davis' $ 1300.00 coach ordered in New Orleans reported in newspaper.
May 20 - Provisional Confederate Congress passed proclamation to move Capital to Richmond
May 24 - First bloodshed in War Between the States occurred
May 26 - President Davis left Montgomery for Richmond (reluctantly I am told)
May 29 - President arrived Richmond. Mrs. Davis remained to supervise packing.
After the middle of June she was holding receptions at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, waiting to move into the old Brockenbrough House which would remain the White House for the duration of the War.

We will not forget that the First White House played an historic role in the formation of the short-lived Southern Confederacy. Its custodians are proud to maintain it as a part of the history of this great country.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Important Events In The Life Of Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808 at Fairview, Kentucky. He moved to Woodville, Mississippi when a small child. He was educated at Jefferson College, Washington MS and at Transylvania College, Lexington KY. In 1824 he was appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point.

He graduated from USMA at the age of twenty and served in the Wisconsin and Arkansas Territories, Black Hawk War. In 1835 he married Sara Knox Taylor but she died three months later. In 1845 he married Varina Howell of Natchez. They settled on their plantation, Brierfield at Davis Bend.

In 1845 he was elected to the US House of Representatives from Miss. In 1846-47 he commanded the First Miss. Regiment at the Battles of Monterey and Buena Vista and was hailed a war hero in the Mexican War.He was elected to the US. Senate from Miss.

In 1853-57 he served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce and in 1857 he was again elected to the US Senate from Miss.  He resigned his seat on January 21, 1861 after Miss. seceded from the Union. That same day, January 21, he was commissioned Major General of Miss troops by Gov. John J. Pettus and on February 9, 1861 he was elected President of the Confederate States of America Provisional Government.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the Davis family's sojourn in Montgomery as reported in the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser of 1861.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unveiling of the Confederate Monument

Yesterday I spoke of how an aged Jefferson Davis came to Montgomery for the last time to lay the cornerstone for the Confederate Monument which was to be built on the north side of the Alabama State Capitol. 30,00 people gathered to honor Jefferson Davis, their wartime commander-in-chief, in a colorful and emotional time of evoking shared history, but it took another 12 years for the untiring women of the Ladies Memorial Association to raise the money to complete the job.

For the unveiling on December 7, 1898, once again thousands of southerners gathered for yet another festive occasion - this time without Jefferson Davis, who died 9 years earlier.The orator of the day was Governor and former Confederate officer, Thomas Goode Jones.(I wrote about him in my blog of November 5th, 2010).

The monument is massive, 82 feet tall, 3 feet in diameter with a base of 34 square feet, which consists of four layers of Alabama limestone with four steps leading to four pedestals. A statue rests upon each pedestal, representing the four branches of service of the Confederate States of America - cavalry, infantry, artillery, navy.

At the top of the monument is a figure of a woman, symbolizing patriotism and southern womanhood. She is holding a broken flag in one hand and a sword in the other, for her sons in defense of their flag.

If you haven't seen it lately, do go by and visit it, and stop by the First White House of the Confederacy on the way. We are right next door, on the South side of the Capitol!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On The Grounds of The Alabama State Capitol

Did you know that on the front lawn of the Alabama State Capitol is a very fine bronze statue of Jefferson Davis? It was presented to the State of Alabama by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on November 19, 1940.We sell a replica of the statue at the First White House Gift shop for $ 25.00. It is very handsome, made by the Department of Tourism and Travel for us and the Governor's Mansion gift shop to sell as well.

On the front portico is a brass star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis took his oath of office to become Provisional President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861.

On April 26, 2004 there was a celebration of the restoration of the Confederate Monument, a magnificent edifice which has stood on the north lawn of the Capitol since its unveiling in 1898. Jefferson Davis came to Montgomery to lay the monument's cornerstone and stimulate contributions for it on April 29, 1886, a quarter of a century after his provisional inauguration there.

 It stands as a tribute to the 122,000 men from Alabama who served the south, out of a population of 500,000 and of whom about 33,000 or 27% died in the war. Next time I will talk about the unveiling.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Miss Budge" - Another Real Southern Lady

Yesterday I wrote about Kate Cumming, a Confederate nurse.

Today I am so pleased to tell you about Miss Budge. Miss Budge is a genteel southern lady and you can read about her in my friend Daphne Simpkin's new book "Miss Budge In Love". You can find her at this link
As one comment reads "this is a hilarious collection of short stories depicting life in the south with church-going southern women."

Now I don't think Miss Budge has told us about her Confederate ancestor who fought in "The War" but I betcha she has one or more. If you want a good read and to make a new friend, order this one! I promise you will be entertained and also, more importantly, challenged to think about things that really matter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kate Cummings, Confederate Nurse

One of the things we like to do at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery is talk about women and their role in the War Between the States. Women during the War made many contributions to both north and south, but also fought a war of gender and social reform on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

Opportunities during the war became available in a variety of vocations never before offered to women. Nursing, for one, had always been thought to be a man's job, far too stressful for the "delicate nature" of the "weaker sex". Despite this attitude, women entered the war effort in droves as nurses to help care for the unbelievable number of casualties.

Kate Cumming was one of these stalwart women. I recently did a talk about the journal she kept during the War.titled: Kate Cumming, the Journal of a Confederate Nurse. I ordered it on Amazon and found it quite intriguing and enlightening, as she wrote daily about her experiences of nursing the wounded during the heartaches of war.

Her faith in God is paramount  and she sees everything that happens through the prism of her Christian commitment and knowledge of scripture. It is a difficult book to read as it describes the horrendous suffering that the valiant soldiers of the south  experienced.

However, it  also describes the accomplishments and fortitude of the women of  the Confederacy who were willing to give up so much to nurse our wounded during those four years of bloody conflict. They cared passionately about what they were doing for The Cause.

As they say about movies - "read it or miss it"? I say, read it!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Second Parlor Continued...

Yesterday I was describing the furnishings in the Second Parlor at the First White House of the Confederacy. Today I want to mention a couple of other things of interest in this beautiful room.

One is a fine Gros-Point Hearth rug, declared by Samuel Dornsife, an expert in the 19th century decorative arts, as "one of the finest hearth rugs I have seen in America". The rug has large scale flowers and leafage on a black field, the wide border in a shade of muted olive green. The sides have a decorative knotted woolen fringe.

Another item of interest is the antique gilt Pier Mirror with stand, which matches the one in the First Parlor.And the last item I want to mention is a magnificent walnut Gothic Revival Bookcase, circa 1845. You simply have to come and see this piece to appreciate it. It's crowning glory is its galleried cornice of slender Gothic arches rising to a point at the center. Inside are books which belonged to the Davis family.

I hope I have peaked your curiosity and that you will come and visit us soon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Few Of My "Favorite Things"

 The Second Parlor at the First White House of the Confederacy contains a few of my "favorite things". One is the round gray marble top center table that was used by the Davises at Beauvoir, their retirement home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Upon the table rests the Davis family Bible. "Liberated" during "the Wah" (as one of our favorite readers commented yesterday) by a Union soldier, it was returned to the First White House years later by his brother.

The chair to the right of the center table is the one which Mrs. Davis was finally permitted to send to her husband during the last weeks of his two year imprisonment at Fortress Monroe. Prior to that he had to use a hard, wooden bench.

The portraits in the Second Parlor are of particular interest. The one over the mantel is of Varina Howell Davis. The one on the right wall is of Winnie Davis, youngest child of the President and Mrs. Davis, known as the "Daughter of the Confederacy".

On the near left wall is a self-portrait of Nicola Marschall, designer of the Confederate flag (Stars and Bars) and the Confederate uniform. On the far left wall is one he painted of his wife.

There is much more in this room which I will tell about next time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Was The First Shot Fired?

History records that the first shot of the War Between the States was fired on April 12, 1861. Oh really?

On page 107 of The History of the South Carolina Military Academy by John Peyre Thomas we read: "On the night of December 31 (1860), Lt. Col. John. L. Branch, of the first Regiment of Rifles, South Carolina Militia, received orders to take three of his companies to Morris Island. On the afternoon of January 1, 1861, he reached that point. Being the senior officer, he assumed command of all the forces on the Island, and remained in command until the arrival, a few weeks subsequent, of Col. J.J. Pettigrew.

Col. Branch found Major P.F. Stevens and his command engaged in constructing what was, after the 9th of January called the Star of the West Battery; as it was from that point, and with the 24-pounders manned by the cadets, that the United States Ship "Star of the West" was driven off while attempting to relieve Fort Sumter.

Thus it stands - for all that it implies- that the Citadel Cadets, under the command of Col. Branch, as commanding officer of the post, and of Maj. Stevens as immediately in charge of the guns, fired the first shot of the War of Secession.

Col. Branch and Maj. Stevens, thus connected with he first hostile incident of a great war, were both graduates of the South Carolina Military Academy And it was the Governor of South Carolina who had ordered them to the front, at the culmination of the crisis which had been brought upon the state."

Readers, you may be interested to know that Col. John Luther Branch was my Great-Grandfather!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Packages In The Mail

Don't you enjoy receiving a package in the mail when you know it is not something you ordered? This happened to me yesterday when a longtime, very dear friend and Confederate history buff, mailed me a copy of the personal album of J.E.B. Stuart, titled Poems and Prayers of Love and Friendship 1850-1857 

This is a limited copy of the original, put together by Jack Milne of Jacksonville, Florida, and available on Amazon. We all remember General Jeb Stuart, swashbuckling Confederate Calvary Commander. While he cultivated a cavalier image, red-lined gray cape, yellow sash, hat cocked to one side with peacock feather, his serious work made him the trusted eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's army and inspired Southern morale.

Jack Milne says in his introduction of Stuart's album, "All of us students of  'The War' will derive much pleasure in discovering a little known, yet not surprising aspect of this Southern hero: Stuart, a true warrior poet."

 Dr. Milne goes on to say "The album has been reproduced essentially in its original form, just as it was when JEB and those close to him filled its pages nearly 150 years ago..complete with stains, illegible words and prairie fire scorch marks."

And these thoughtful and poignant words "Please remember the incredible youth and vitality of the writers, those known and unknown, and join me (Jack Milne) in celebrating the heartfelt views on life, on love and on friendship they penned in this little book".

Treat yourself to a heartwarming experience and order J.E.B. Stuart, Poems and Prayers

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thomas Goode Jones - A Southern Hero

Dr. John Eidsmoe of Montgomery has written a fine biography on Thomas G. Jones: Warrior, Statesman, Jurist For The south: The Life, Legacy, And Law Of Thomas Goode Jones. This book is available on Amazon and we recommend it.

Jones grew up in Montgomery, moving here with his family in 1850. He attended Virginia Military Institute, and in 1862 left VMI with the rest of his classmates to serve in the Confederate Army under Stonewall Jackson. He fought in many well-known battles and was wounded four times.

Jones led that last desperate charge at Appomattox and later that day, when he carried the flag of truce for General Lee, he and his fellow officers fully expected to be killed or imprisoned before the day was finished. Instead they were given paroles and allowed to keep their horses provided they consented to return to their home states and be peaceful citizens.

And so with his mount, his parole, a decoration for bravery, and his uniform, twenty year-old Thomas Goode Jones returned to Alabama. Eidsmoe's book tells of his law practice, his work as a legislator and Governor, and his service as a federal judge. A remarkable renaissance man.  We have forgotten so many of our heroes. I am grateful to Professor Eidsmoe for this thoroughly researched and well-documented portrayal of the life of Thomas Goode Jones.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The First Parlor In The First White House

I have described a few of the things in the entrance Hall, President Davis's bedroom, Varina's bedroom and the President's Study. Now I would like to take you to the First Parlor, the first room on the left as you walk into the building.

I remind you that almost all the furnishings in the First White House are either original to the House, belonged to the Davis family, or are "of the 19th century period". The carpet in the First Parlor is a rare and historic Wilton type carpet from the 1850's. To the left of the entrance is an attractive mahogany rococo revival sofa that was traditionally the property of President Davis and was part of the furnishings of the FWH during the Davis occupancy.

In the center on the north wall is a fine pier mirror. It's companion is in the Second Parlor. The tall gilded frame of each monumental pier mirror is onrnamented with rich rococo carved and scrolled leafage.They are thought to have been at Brierfield in Mississippi, or possibly Beauvoir.

A fine rosewood square Grand Piano, circa 1855-75 stands in the corner. Too many other pieces of furniture to describe right now. I will close by telling you of the grand cornices over the windows and the girandoles on the mantel. Both were used by the Davises at Brierfield Plantation, their home near Vicksburg.

You can learn more from our website at and certainly we invite you to visit in person as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday I mentioned the last Confederate Widow, Alberta Martin lay in repose at the First White House of the Confederacy. As I said, many people  paid their respects,  including Governor Bob Riley, who stood beside her coffin for several minutes. The newspaper account says he presented a wreath and left, with no public comment.

Cameron Napier, our Regent at the time, said having Martin in the home once occupied by Jefferson Davis was appropriate. "The first lady of the Confederacy lived here, and the last Confederate widow should be in repose here", Mrs. Napier said.

She added "we may have lost the war but the last Confederate widow outlasted the last Union widow!" Lets hear it for our Southern Women. It reminds me of the words of one of our southern favorites "hurrah, hurrah, for Southern Rights hurrah, hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that wears the single star".

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Last Belle of the Confederacy

From our archives at the First White House of the Confederacy I read: "The last Confederate widow died on Memorial Day, 2004, ending an unlikely ascent from Sharecropper's daughter, to the belle of the 21st century Confederate history buffs, who paraded her across the south. She was 97."

Her May-Dec. marriage in the 1920's to War Between the States veteran William Jasper Martin, and her longevity, made her a celebrated final link to the old Confederacy.

She was a 21 year old widow with a son when she married the 91 year old Martin. They were married on Dec. 10th, 1927 and 10 months later they had a son, William. She said her husband never talked much about the war except the "starving time" in Petersburg, Virginia. They dug in the ground for potatoes as that was the only thing they could find to eat.

Four years after they were married he died in 1931 at the age of 95. Two months later Alberta married her late husband's grandson, Charlie Martin. He died in 1983.

She lay in repose at the First White House on June 10th and 11th. The Governor, Re-enactors, White House ladies and the public came to pay their respects. I was there for part of the day.

She was buried in the New Ebenezer Baptist church cemetery six miles west of Elba, with an "1860's-style ceremony".  "Mrs. Martin wanted alot of peppy music at her funeral" her caretaker said. What a woman she must have been!!!