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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 03, 1865

Diary Entry on Jefferson Davis Arriving in Washington, Georgia

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of Jefferson Davis arriving in her hometown of Washington, Georgia - being more conspicuous than she thought safe.

“…About noon the town was thrown into the wildest excitement by the arrival of President Davis. He is traveling with a large escort of cavalry, a very imprudent thing for a men in his position to do, especially now that Johnston has surrendered, and the fact that they are all going in the same direction to their homes is the only thing that keeps them together. He rode into town ahead of his escort, and as he was passing by the bank, where the Elzey’s board, the general and several other gentlemen were sitting on the front porch, and the instant they recognized him they took off their hats and received him every mark of respect due the president of a brave people. When he reined in his horse, all the staff who were present advanced to hold the reins and assist him to dismount, while Dr. and Mrs. Robertson hastened to offer the hospitality of their home. About forty of his immediate personal friends and attendants were with him, and they were all half-starved, having tasted nothing for twenty-four hours. Capt. Irwin came running home in great haste to ask mother to send them something to eat, as it was reported the Yankees were approaching the town from two opposite directions closing in upon the President, and it was necessary to hurry him off at once. There was not so much as a crust of bread in our house, everything available having been given to soldiers. There was some bread in the kitchen that had just been baked for a party of soldiers, but they were willing to wait, and I begged some milk from Aunt Sallie, and by adding to these our own dinner as soon as Emily could finish cooking it, we contrived to get together a very respectable lunch. We had just sent it off when the president’s escort came in, followed by couriers who brought the comforting assurance that it was a false alarm about the enemy being so near. By this time the president’s arrival had become generally known, and people began flocking to see him; but he went to bed almost as soon as he got into the house, and Mrs. Elzey would not let him be waked. One of his friends, Col. Thorburne, came to our house and went right to bed and slept fourteen hours on a stretch. The party are all worn out and half-dead for sleep. They travel mostly at night, and have been in the saddle for three nights in succession. Mrs. Elzey says that Mr. Davis does not seem to have been aware of the real danger of his situation until he came to Washington, where some of his friends gave him a serious talk, and advised him to travel with more secrecy and dispatch than he has been using. Mr. Reagan and Mr. Mallory are also in town, and Gen. Toombs has returned having encountered danger ahead, I fear. Judge Crump is back too, with his Confederate treasury, containing, it is said, three hundred thousand dollars in specie. He is staying at our house, but the treasure is thought to be stored in the vault at the bank. It will hardly be necessary for him to leave the country, but his friends advise him to keep in the shade for a time. If the Yankees once get scent of money, they will be sure to ferret it out. They have already begun their reign of terror in Richmond, by arresting many of the prominent citizens. Judge Crump is in a state of distraction about his poor little wandering exchequer, which seems to stand an even chance between the Scylla of our own hungry cavalry and the Charybdis of Yankee cupidity. I wish it could all be divided among the men whose necks are in danger, to assist them in getting out of the country, but I don’t suppose one of them would touch it. Anything would be preferable to letting the Yankees get it. … ” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 201-203.