The Christmas Season of 1889, was a time of sadness in Dixie. Hundreds of thousands of people came to remember and pay their last respects to Jefferson Davis in the crescent city of New Orleans.
On December 6, 1889, Jefferson Davis died at the home of a friend. Do our young people who Davis was?
Jefferson Davis graduated from West Point Military Academy, served valiantly in the War with Mexico, was Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, elected US Senator from Mississippi and was the first and only President of the Confederate States of America. Davis also wrote the book, “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” at his last home in Mississippi.
Jefferson Davis, and wife Varina, found great contentment and peace at “Beauvoir” their beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast Home. This is where he wished to die when his time came but it was not to be.
In November 1889, Varina attended to their home as Davis left for Brierfield Plantation to take care of family business. As he traveled through New Orleans Davis was exposed to a cold-rain that caused him a severe cold and bronchitis that was further complicated by Malaria.
Milo Copper, a former servant of the Davis family, upon hearing of Davis’ illness, made the long trip from Florida to New Orleans to be near Davis’ side. As Cooper entered Davis’ sick room, he burst into tears and fell on his knees and prayed that God would spare the life of Jefferson Davis and bless the family.
Jefferson Davis died between 12:30AM and 1:00AM on December 6, 1889. The news of his death hit the front page of many Southern newspapers. The
praises and tributes read similar to that of a New Orleans paper that read,
“Throughout the South are Lamentations and tears; in every country on the globe where there are lovers of liberty there is mourning; wherever there are men who love heroic patriotism, dauntless resolution, fortitude or intellectual power, there is an sincere sorrowing. The beloved of our land, the unfaltering upholder of constitutional liberty, the typical hero and sage, is no more; the fearless heart that beats with sympathy for all mankind is stilled forever, a great light is gone—- Jefferson Davis is dead!”
The body of Jefferson Davis laid in state at the city hall of New Orleans, Louisiana from midnight, December 6, 1889, to December 11th. The United States and Confederate flags hung from above and in the city hall that was covered with many flowers.
The church bells toiled as over 80,000 people lined the streets of New Orleans to pay their respects to a Southern legend. All schools and businesses were closed that day.
Those men who comprised the honor Guard for the procession to Metairie Cemetery included: the Army of Northern Virginia Association, the Army of Tennessee and the Washington Artillery. Metairie Cemetery would be a temporary burial place for Davis as he was moved in 1893, by funeral train to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
The sad part of this story is that the United States War Department did not recognize Davis and the US flag was not flown at half-mast. The US flag was flown at half-mast in the South. Jefferson Davis was the only former Secretary of War that was not given the respect and honor by the United States Government.
Article written by Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Source of information: The 1990, first quarter edition of the Southern Partisan Magazine. The magazine article, by freelance writer Mrs. Peggy Robbins, was entitled, “Jefferson Davis’ Death.”
(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Volume 42, Issue No . 12, Dec. 2018 ed.)