Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Richmond: Capital of the Confederacy

The White House of the Confederacy:
CSA President Jefferson Davis, his wife, CSA First Lady Varina Davis,

and their children lived here during the Civil War

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Richmond, Virginia, served as the capital for the secessionist southern states. Known as the Confederate States of America, the CSA was comprised of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. Kentucky and Missouri did not actually secede from the Union, but southern sympathy ran high in both states and both provided men and material to the southern cause.

The back of the Confederate White House, which is actually gray

The White House of the Confederacy was the residence of CSA President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina Davis and their children. Davis had previously been a prosperous plantation owner and enjoyed a distinguished military and political career. A lackluster graduate of West Point, he later served with distinction in the Mexican-American War, then as a senator from the State of Mississippi, and as Secretary of War to President Zachary Taylor. Jefferson was a firm believer in states' rights and had no qualms with slavery, and when Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861, Jefferson resigned from the Senate. While he urged his fellow Mississippians not to secede, he finally relented when reason was rejected. In 1861, a constitutional convention in Alabama designated him president and he was inaugurated in February of that year on the steps of the Washington Monument in Richmond on the grounds of the Virginia State House.

The Museum of the Confederacy: This year, commemorating the 200th birthday of Jefferson Davis

Davis and his wife, Varina, lived in the Confederate White House during the war and stayed through the Siege of Richmond. Davis fled the city on April 2 in advance of Union troops and Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9. On April 4, President Abraham Lincoln visited Davis' abandoned residence. On April 14, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. and died on the morning of April 15. Davis was eventually captured in Irwinville, Georgia, and imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia, for treason. Upon his release in 1867, he and Mrs. Davis traveled to Montreal, then spent the next 20 years moving around the south. In 1875, he was elected once again to the U.S. Senate but was denied service by Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which prohibited insurrectionists from holding office. Davis died in 1889 at the age of 81 of unknown causes in New Orleans.

(L) Statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Old House of Delegates Chamber, Virginia State House.
On the right, a bust of Jefferson Davis in the same chamber.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 5/08

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