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

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview

AT PEACE

BECAUSE VARINA DAVIS died well after the nation had embarked upon the reconciliation process, she received much more tribute than Mary Todd Lincoln, who died in 1882. White newspapers all over the United States carried the wire story from the Associated Press, as did a few black papers. The London Times also noted her passing. Many of the obituaries agreed on one idea, that she was a gifted conversationalist, but her unorthodox behavior provoked some surprising commentary. Mrs. John Logan, whose husband had excoriated Jefferson Davis throughout the postwar era, praised what she called Varina Davis's Spartan qualities, and Corporal James Tanner, the former commander of the Grand Army of the Republic who met her in 1896, described Davis as a “lady” who embodied the best of American domestic life. The Richmond chapter of the UDC sent a floral arrangement but issued a cool statement expressing sorrow over the death of Jefferson Davis's widow and Winnie Davis's mother. They declared that Mrs. Davis had “meant much” to the organization because she was “associated” with the war.1

Most of the press coverage divided along regional lines, however, in what newspapers chose to praise, report, or ignore. Northern papers lauded her friendship with Julia Grant, which most papers in Dixie overlooked, while the New York Times emphasized the fact that Davis had grieved for the dead in both armies during the war, another theme most Southern papers neglected. Only the Washington Post

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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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