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

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview
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VARINA DAVIS NOW FOCUSED on the immediate task at hand, helping her family. In mid-August 1865, General Nelson Miles allowed the couple to begin corresponding, with the stipulation that they discuss family matters only. After sending her his love and prayers, Jefferson reminded her of her duty to the children, suggesting that she join them in Canada. In reply, she explained why she sent them there and furthermore that her desire for his approval guided all her decisions. She said she did not know what she would do without him, but, as it turned out, she did a great deal. She told Mary Chesnut, “I never report unfit for duty”—family duty, that is. Somehow she arranged for two Northerners—one Alfred T. Barnes, probably no relation to Ellen, and Thomas Buckler, a Baltimore physician whose patients included James Buchanan—to have her letters sent unopened to correspondents in the region. Possibly these men had delivered her wartime letters as well. She remained in Georgia, and after consulting Horace Greeley and others by mail, she hired Charles O'Conor, a prominent New York attorney she had known before the war, to represent her husband.1

For the first time she started managing the Davis finances. The federal government confiscated Brierfield and the Hurricane, and because they could no longer make the payments, the Davises gave up the Mississippi plantation they bought during the war. If Jefferson took part of the Confederate treasury, as some of his enemies alleged,


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