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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 04, 1865

Diary Entry on Jefferson Davis in Washington and Departure

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of Jefferson Davis’s visit to Washington, and his departure.

” I am in such a state of excitement that I can do nothing but spend my time, like the Athenians of old, in either hearing or telling some new thing. I sat under the cedar trees by the street gate nearly all the morning, with Metta and Cousin Liza, watching the stream of human life flow by, and keeping guard over the horses of some soldier friends that had left them grazing on the lawn. Father and Cora went to call on the President, and in spite of his prejudice against everybody and everything connected with secession, father says his manner was so calm and dignified that he could not help admiring the man. Crowds of people flocked to see him, and nearly all were melted to tears. Gen. Elzey pretended to have dust in his eyes and Mrs. Elzey blubbered outright, exclaiming all the while, in her impulsive way: “Oh, I am such a fool to be crying, but I can’t help it!” When she was telling me about it afterwards, she said she could not stay in the room with him yesterday evening, because she couldn’t help crying, and she was ashamed for the people who called to see her looking so ugly, with her eyes and nose red. She says that at night, after the crowd left, there was a private meeting in his room, where Reagan and Mallory and other high officials were present, and again early in the morning there were other confabulations before they all scattered and went their ways - and this, I suppose, is the end of the Confederacy. Then she made me laugh by telling some ludicrous things that happened while the crowd was calling…. It is strange how closely interwoven tragedy and comedy are in life. The people of the village sent so many good things for the President to eat, that an ogre couldn’t have devoured them all, and he left many little delicacies, besides giving away a number of his personal effects, to people who had been kind to him. He requested that one package be sent to mother, which, if it ever comes, must be kept as an heirloom in the family. I don’t suppose he knows what strong Unionists father and mother have always been, but for all that I am sure they would be as ready to help him now, if they could, as the hottest rebel among us. I was not ashamed of father’s being a Union man when his was the down-trodden, persecuted party; but now, when our country is down-trodden, the Union means something very different from what it did four years ago. It is a great grief and mortification to me that he sticks to that wicked old tyranny still, but he is a Southerner and a gentleman, in spite of his politics, and at any rate nobody can accuse him of self-interest, for he has sacrificed as much in the war as any other private citizen I know, except those whose children have been killed. His sons, all but little Marshall, have been in the army since the very first gun - in fact, Garnett was the first man to volunteer from the county, and it is through the mercy of God and not of his beloved Union that they have come back alive. Then, he has lost not only his negroes, like everybody else, but his land, too. The President left town about ten o’clock, with a single companion, his unruly cavalry escort having gone on before. He travels sometimes with them, sometimes before, sometimes behind, never permitting his precise location to be known. … ” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 204-207.