First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview

1
HALF BREED

MRS. JEFFERSON DAVIS HAD JUST RETURNED, much refreshed, from her daily drive through Central Park. The shimmering contrast of colors, figures, shapes, and sounds in fin de siècle New York lifted her spirits, as always. She took special pleasure in the lawns studded with white and gold blossoms, the swan boats gliding across the lake, the smartly dressed people darting by on bicycles, and the laughter of children at play, which sounded, she said, like the plucking of a harp. This was Decoration Day, and the park was covered with maypoles, wreaths, ribbons, and American flags. She had never seen the park looking so beautiful, she told a granddaughter. Even as she exulted in the scene, she was herself part of the urban tableau, for passersby often recognized the former Confederate First Lady. She had been a public figure for more than forty years, but savvy New Yorkers, accustomed to seeing Mrs. George Custer and Mrs. Ulysses Grant on the streets, did not bother her. So Davis's buggy passed through the streets to the Hotel Gerard on West Forty-fourth Street, where she heaved her bulky frame out of the carriage, hobbled with a cane into the lobby, and took the elevator to her apartment. She liked to gaze out the window at the human pageant on the streets below, but one day in the mid-1890s she sat down at her desk and spread out some paper before her. She had already published a memoir of her husband, but people had been urging her for years to write her own story.1

-9-

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First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Half Breed 9
  • 2: This Mr. Davis 31
  • 3: Flattered and Courted 54
  • 4: First Lady 80
  • 5: No Matter What Danger There Was 107
  • 6: Holocausts of Herself 128
  • 7: Run with the Rest 152
  • 8: Threadbare Great Folks 171
  • 9: Topic of the Day 190
  • 10: Crowd of Sorrows 209
  • 11: Fascinating Failures 227
  • 12: The Girdled Tree 245
  • 13: Delectable City 264
  • 14: Like Martha 283
  • 15: At Peace 306
  • Abbrevations 314
  • Notes 315
  • A Note on Sources 393
  • Acknowledgments 395
  • Index 397
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