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

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview
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AFTER SAYING LITTLE about the war for most of the 1870s, Varina Davis broke her silence in a letter to her husband in1878. Again she spoke in the unorthodox voice. In February 1878, after Robert M. T. Hunter quarreled with Jefferson Davis over what had happened at the Hampton Roads peace conference in 1865, she reminded her spouse that even though she was a woman and was supposed to have no political opinions, she had said privately that she believed the Confederacy was doomed. Both Hunter and Robert E. Lee kept silent near the end about their desires for peace, which she thought was a “sorry spectacle.” If she had been in a position to stop the war, she “would have interposed” her “own body” between the soldiers of the two armies and “preached a peace crusade” even if her life “had paid for it.” Her husband had at least been consistent, she averred, believing in the Confederate cause until the very end. She suggested that he refrain from answering Hunter, observing, “You have not been a conciliatory man in your manners always,” and added that she gave him this advice only because she loved him. She avoided saying the obvious, that many soldiers died after Hampton Roads because her husband was determined to fight when almost everyone else knew it was over.1

In the spring of 1879, she spoke further about public issues when the Davises met a journalist while traveling by steamboat down the Mississippi. After the writer interviewed Jefferson—who declared


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


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