Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview

IX
Victory in Defeat

The long Congressional session finally ended September 30, 1850, and the Davises set out for Mississippi. Varina's heart must have been heavy, not only with grief, but with knowing her parents were no longer at the Briars. She had told Jeff, “I have been thinking constantly of Pa.” “Kiss dear Father for me, ” she had written Ma, speaking of a “love I feel too deeply to write.” She was to describe a man “so like my dear Father in his faith in men and his habitually soft and kind manner.” 1 William Burr Howell, tall and blonde, fond of shooting and hunting, a favorite with everyone, could somehow never manage success. Sprague and Howell, the “large speculative concern” dealing in merchandizing and investments, went out of business when Sprague died in 1838. After failing to get the postmastership in Natchez, despite the efforts of Davis and others, Howell became a federal timber agent. Now he and Ma and five children (son Joe was off on a trading expedition to Oregon) had gone to Tunisberg, a suburb of New Orleans, where they started a dairy farm “optimistically called 'Betterdays.'” 2

There was more woe waiting for the Davises at Brierfield. James Pemberton had died of pneumonia and was buried in the little cemetery southeast of the house. In the absence of this firm hand over the property, they met “the usual fate of absentees, ” says Varina. The housekeeper “told me, with friendly sympathy, 'Missis, 'taint't no use to talk; what isn't broke is crack, and what isn't crack is broke.'” Varina set about ordering the plantation as best she could while Jeff went off to stump for the state rights cause. 3

They had stopped a week in Jackson, to prepare for his speaking tour. His distaste for politics expressed to Ma gave way to his sense of duty to the Democratic Party. There was considerable faction in it over the compromise measures, and Davis wanted his electors, the legislature, 184

-184-

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Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Editorial Note xix
  • Jefferson Davis - Unconquerable Heart *
  • I - Capture 1
  • II - Home 31
  • III - School 45
  • IV - Army 57
  • V - Marriage 83
  • VI - Plantation and Politics 111
  • VII - Fame 137
  • VIII - United States Senator 159
  • IX - Victory in Defeat 184
  • X - War Department Days 202
  • XI - Struggles for Health and the South 225
  • XII - President 266
  • XIII - The Chief Executive 292
  • XIV - Commander in Chief 317
  • XV - The Year of Our Lord 1863 344
  • XVI - Double-Quick Downhill 372
  • XVII - Prisoners 412
  • XVIII - An Unseen Hand 434
  • XIX - Varina 461
  • XX - Sad Wandering 488
  • XXI - The Cause 511
  • XXII - The Hero 534
  • XXIII - Afterward 560
  • Appendix A - J. E. Johnston to J. Davis, on Rank 577
  • Appendix B - Proclamations by Davis for Days of Prayer 582
  • Appendix C - Devotional Material Used by Davis in Prison 584
  • Preface to the Notes 587
  • Notes 593
  • Select Bibliography 733
  • Index 761
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