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

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview

6
HOLOCAUSTS OF HERSELF

THE WILLIAM JACKSON INTERVIEWS were bad press indeed for the First Lady, for they made her look foolish as well as unpatriotic. Jackson embarked on a lecture tour of the North and then Great Britain, and his interviews seem to have inspired other stories in the Union press that Mrs. Davis was actually a native of the North. After the interviews appeared, the prominent Preston family ignored broad hints from mutual friends that they invite Varina to visit them in South Carolina. The Confederate First Lady did not respond publicly to Jackson's comments, but her husband immediately asked her to be more cautious about what she said, no matter how she might feel. He must have had some ongoing doubts about her support for the cause, for a few weeks later she had to assure him in a letter, “Yes I have faith in your success.”1

That was not a completely honest statement, but his reproaches did matter to her and she tried harder to play her part. When her brother William asked her to find lodgings for his wife in case the Union army captured Richmond, she was reluctant to do so because she might be accused of taking a dim view of the Confederacy's chances. After Stonewall Jackson won a signal victory in the Valley campaign in 1862, she congratulated her husband. She felt sorry to hear the rumor that U.S. General Edwin Sumner, Margaret McLean's father, had been captured, though she told Jefferson she “would not say so” to anyone but him. In a letter to her husband, Varina de-

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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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