Edward Alfred Pollard.

Life of Jefferson Davis with a secret history of the Southern Confederacy, gathered behind the scenes in Richmond. Containing curous and extraordinary information of the principal southern characters in the late war, in connection with President Davis, and in relation to the various intrigues of h online

. (page 1 of 43)
Online LibraryEdward Alfred PollardLife of Jefferson Davis with a secret history of the Southern Confederacy, gathered behind the scenes in Richmond. Containing curous and extraordinary information of the principal southern characters in the late war, in connection with President Davis, and in relation to the various intrigues of h → online text (page 1 of 43)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by

J. R. J N E S,

In the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


I HAVE long meditated writing the life of Jefferson
Davis, and divulging in this work a mass of curious
and extraordinary information which I have possessed,
concerning the private and interior history of his Gov
ernment, in Richmond. It was a most remarkable
singularity of the Southern Confederacy, that, though
holding out to the world the forms of Republican Gov
ernment, it was as closely veiled in its operations, as
secret and recluse as the most absolute and arrogant
despotism. Thus many things happened behind that
curtain which Mr. Davis so studiously spread before
his Government, of which the world has as yet no
knowledge, and of which even people living in Rich
mond, and in the shadow of that Government, have had
only the faintest conception, or, at best, a chequered
and imperfect revelation.

The writer may say, without vanity or self-assertion,
that he is peculiarly fitted to be the biographer of
Jefferson Davis. He was near him during the whole
war. He had occasion to study his character assidu-



ously, and to pursue him in his administration with a
curious and critical industry; and his opportunities as
a journalist, in Richmond, enabled him to learn much
of the veiled mysteries and inner scenes of the weak
and anomalous government that wrecked the fortunes
of the Southern Confederacy. The writer thus ob
tained much of the secret and unwritten history of the
Confederacy, involving Mr. Davis ; information which,
for obvious causes, he could not give to the newspaper
press, and which, since the war, he has not yet pub
lished in any of his memoirs, for peculiar and im
pressive reasons.

The fact is, the writer has been, for a long time,
persuaded by friends standing between him and the
Confederate President, to withhold the work he now
contemplates, as it was thought it would give informa
tion concerning various conspiracies and vengeful plots
in the war, which might be used against Mr. Davis
on his expected trial, or might inflame against him a
fatal prejudice. For this reason alone, the writer has,
for a long time, deferred the publication he has now
determined upon ; and he may claim that in this he
has shown an extreme and punctilious regard for Mr.
Davis s safety. But he can no longer defer to this
solicitude for Mr. Davis ; it has become a mere punc
tilio, since there is no longer now a reasonable expec
tation that the Ex-President will ever be brought to
trial, or be disturbed in the foreign land, in which he
is reported to have descended to the commonplaces of


trade and an unnoticed existence. At least, it would
be unreasonable that the writer should longer weigh a
calculation so tender and remote against a debt severely
due to history.

Jefferson Davis should have a truthful and acute
biographer, one who would do something more than
echo the shallow clamors and interested opinions of
the day. Whatever the estimate of his person, he
performed a great part in history; and his character,
mixed, angular, abounding in surprises, full of caprices
and apparent inconsistencies, is precisely that which
affords the most interesting and vivid subjects for
biography. The writer is conscious of attempting a
high and difficult task an extraordinary work. He
comes to it not only with ample literary preparation,
but with an unusual animation. He has been accused
of personal hostility to Mr. Davis; and is to-day,
perhaps, in all his literary capacities, most widely
known to the country as censor of the Confederate
Chief. He repels the accusation of any prejudice, in
the very front of his work ; he is able and willing to
do exact justice to Mr. Davis; and if he ever attacked
him it was through supreme devotion to a great cause,
and from a just resentment toward the man who mis
guided and wrecked it.

Those who suppose that they will find in the work
of the writer a declamation against Mr. Davis a
mere amplitude of rhetoric, or an excess of passion
will be disappointed. The writer designs to give


facts, many of them new, and all of them capable of
distinct and impressive evidence. He proposes to
address himself to the serious and inevitable historical
question : Who were responsible for the failure of the
/Southern Confederacy? and on this issue he will
insist upon asserting that rule familiar to the world,
that those who assume power are responsible for its
discharge, according to the exact measure of their
assumption, and that responsibility in any great cause
is not to be squandered through subordinates. To do
this, indeed, would be to scatter and enfeeble all the
lessons of history ; to render impossible its unity of
narrative and to nullify its philosophy. Responsi
bility must rest somewhere in history; it naturally
and inevitably ascends ; and in regarding Mr. Davis as
the prime cause of the failure of the South in the
late war, the author has but simply recognized and
submitted to the great law of logic in historical com
position : that, in political affairs, where a certain
result is clearly not an accident or misadventure, but
must have come from a well defined cause, that cause
ultimately and inevitably rests in the head of the

As the author has said in another historical work :
" Jefferson Davis cannot escape the syllogism that has
been applied to every public ruler since the world
began. However he may be plastered with < glitter
ing generalities ; however paltry publications may con-
8ult the passions of the hour; however . newspapers,


made up of dish-water and the paste-pot, may depre
cate the vigorous inquiries of history and counsel the
suppression of unpleasant facts; however partisans
may dress the leaders in garish colors and the brilliant
and exaggerated uniform of a class, the question comes
at last : How are those failures of the Confederacy,
which are accounted errors, and not misfortunes, to be
ascribed, if not to the folly of rulers ? Mr. Davis was
supreme in his administration, and singularly unem
barrassed in directing and controlling public affairs.
There was no question of disconcerted authority. For
the major part of his administration he had a servile
Congress, a Cabinet of dummies, and a people devoted
to his person."

In these circumstances, the responsibility of President
Davis was well defined, and, taken along with his au
tocracy, was almost exclusive. But it is not necessary
to insist upon this rigidity of construction. The author
has simply sought to place Mr. Davis in his true logical
position as President of the Southern Confederacy. He
has not been content to rest on secondary causes, or
disposed to enter the province of hypothesis and over-
refinements ; and he has done nothing more than apply
to Mr. Davis s four years of Presidential life the- same
rule of responsibility that is familiar in all history,
and has been applied to every administration of public
affairs in the annals of America.

It is thus that the author, with no. disaffection
toward Mr. Davis, and with no design to discriminate


personally against him, yet feels impelled by the
reasonable logic of history to make him, as it were, a
head and centre of responsibility in the late war, and
to gather around him the causes of the failure of the
Southern Confederacy. He risks himself upon the
facts of his work, not upon its ingenuity. He designs
a severe narrative, and he challenges the naked appli
cation to it of the common rules of logic. It has
already been said that Mr. Davis had determined to
reply to this work. If so, he is welcomed to the task,
and is challenged to the combat. He shall have facts
to oppose ; and in such conspicuous, stern, and unre
lenting contest, the world will decide who falls, who
retreats, or who covers himself with defeat.

Finally, the writer, careless as he is in the just
sense of history of the person of Mr. Davis, and dis
daining whatever criticisms may grow out of personal
feelings, is yet sensible that he has undertaken a
great and serious work, and protests that he ap
proaches it in a becoming and collected spirit. He
attempts no mean and evanescent commentary on the
late war. In betaking himself to a literary task, ex
celling all his former ones, and in which he is fired by
various desires, he proudly ventures to produce a
work that will not only interest these present times,
but that " will live " permanently and assuredly, if
even among the humbler monuments of the historical
literature of America.




A Theory of the Greatness of Men Two Interesting Reflections A new Rule in the Composi
tion of Biography Application of it to Jefferson Davis 13


Life of Mr. Davis Anterior to the War Ilia Early Military Career Abrupt Resignation of
It Eight Years of Retirement An Early Insight into Mr. Davis s Character Passion
for Self-Culture His Student-Life An Imperfect Intellectual Character as the Result of
Solitude Mr. Davis s First Remarkable Adventure in Public Life The "Pons Asiu-
oruin" Curious Explanation of a Slander Mr. Davis and the Mississippi "Repudia
tion " Hia Career in the Mexican War The "V" Movement at Buena Vista Return
of Mr. Davis to Congress His Senatorial Career 17


Mr. Davis in the Senate of the United States Distinction as an Orator Definition of the
term " Eloquence" Mr. Davis in the World of Letters Brilliant Remnant of his Repu
tationHis Style as a Speaker His Figure and Manners in the Senate The art of" Self-
continence " in Oratory Reference to Stephen A. Douglas His " Specialty " Anecdotes
of his Life How Jefferson Davis Compared with the " Little Giant " The Former Scorns
" Quarter " The Kansas Controversy Mr. Davis s Reply to DjDUglas A Burst of
Temper A Noble Speech Th e Senatorial Career of Mr. Davis, tho Most Honorable
Part of his Public Life T 27


The Election of Abraham Lincoln, President, not the cause of the war A Peculiar Aris
tocracy in the South The Power of this Section in the hands of Politicians rather than
Slaveholders Remarkable Speeches in the Convention of South Carolina The State
Convention Mere Puppets Tho Centre of the Conspiracy at Washington Jefferson
Davis Among the Conspirators Critical Examination of His Record on the Question of "^"
Disunion Its Inconsistency His Early Extravagances for the Union His Conduct in
Congress in 1S50 Prophetic Warning of Henry Clay Mr. Davis s Ambition to succeed Cal-
houn His Effrontery Connection with the " Resistance" Party of Mississippi as its Can
didate for Governor His Remarkable Explanation of the Designs of this Party Incon
sistency of this Explanation Mr. Davis enters tho Cabinet of President Pierce as a Union
Man Repudiates the "Resistance" Party His Responsibility for the Kansas-Nebraska .



Bill Union Speech in Mississippi Mr. Davis Regards the Kansas Settlement as a Trl
umph for the South He is Bit by the Ambition for a Presidential Nomination An
Electioneering Tour in New York and Maine "Slaver" of Fraternal Affection Insin
cerity of Mr. Da vis s Record on the Question of Disunion The Cause of the South Dis
figured by the Ambition of its Leaders, but not therefore to be Dishonored A Brief
History of Disunion The South Suffered from a General Apprehension Rather than a
SpicifuTJUarm The Action of her Politicians, neither a Test of Her Spirit, nor a Measure
of the Justice of Her Cause The Condition of Washington, in December, 1860 4?


Remarkable Effect of the Message of President Buchanan A Spectacle in the White Ilonse
A Singular Pause in the Movement of Secession Mr. Keitt s Remarks on the Situa
tion The Southern Leaders Actually Abandon the Scheme of Disunion It is Resumed
on Major Anderson s Occupation of Fort Sumter A Question of Concealed Importance
How the Question of "the Forts" determined the War Mr. Floyd s Adroitness Secret
History of the Junta of Fourteen in Washington A Revolutionary Council in the
Shadow of the Capitol Their Extraordinary Usurpations Jefferson Davis and "the
Committee of Throe" True Date of the Commencement of the War Why Mr. Davis
was Chosen Leader In the First Programme of the Southern Confederacy, R. M. T.
Hunter of Virginia, Designed for President How he Lost the Position of Leader A
Fatal Motion in the Senate Comparison of the Claims of Hunter and Davis for the
Position of Leader 56


The Sectional Debate in the United States Senate II^w Different from that in the House
of Representatives Intellectual Poverty of the Debate in Congress Explanation of
this A Game of Pretences A Class of Intermediate Politicians Sincerely Affected Refer
ences to Crittendeu and Douglas Andrew Johnson the Champion Par Excelknce of the
Union His Extraordinary Life Compared with Jefferson Davis Johnson s Literary
Style What Senator Douglas Thought of Him His Extraordinary Courage Mr.Davis a
Singular Criticism of Johnson Reticence of the Former in the Debate in the Senate
His Explanation of the Secession Sentiment Sinister Conduct He offers an Amendment
to the Constitution Andrew Johnson s Appeals for the Union A Curious History of the
Vote on the Crittenden Resolutions Colloquy of Johnson and Benjamin Mr. Davis
makes His Farewell Speech in the Senate Wigfull s Picture of the Dead Union Last
Effort in the Senate to Save the Peace of the Country A Memorable Scene <J7


Organization of the Confederate Government, at Montgomery Mississippi Proposes a South
ern Confederacy Singular Instance of Rebellion Unchallenged Explanation of the Re-
migsness of the North The Error of Mr. Lincoln Secession as a Popular Sentiment, and
Secession as an Organized Fact Failure of the North to Distinguish between the Two-
Rapid Action of the Montgomery Government Interesting Historical Problem as to the
Extent of the Idea of " Reconstruction" in the Southern Mind Mr. Davis had no such
Idea Why not His Defiant Speeches at Montgomery Evidence of a Popular Senti
ment in the South for " Reconstruction" Why it was Ineffectual Extraordinary and
remarkable Exclusion of the Popular Element from the Southern Confederacy A Usur
pation almost Unparalleled in History 87



Causes which determined Mr. Davis s Election us President of the Confederate States
The claims of Ilowell Cobb Secretly considered at Montgomery Davis s Eesentment of
Cobb as a Possible Rival Popular Congratulations on the Selection of Mr. Davis as
Leader His Qualifications for such a Position Steady Line of Distinction between Davis
aud the South A Fatal Weakness of the New President An Attempt to Define the
Objects of the War Mr. Davis as a "Mixed" Character A Remarkable Presentiment at
Montgomery A Criticism of Mr. Davis in Anticipation of His Administration 96


The Fire on Fort Sumter The First Shot of the War Congratulations in President Davis s
Cabinet The Second Secessionary Movement Fatal Mistake of Mr. Lincoln He Adds
a new Breadth to the War Preparations at Montgomery Mr. Davis and an Office-Seeker
Secret Design of Mr. Davis in his Display of Military Preparations Sudden Disappearance
of the Union Party Accounted for Secession of Virginia A Torch-Light Procession in
Richmond Robert E. Lee Appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia Forces His
Motives in Leaving the Federal Service His Political Opinions The Character His
Fallacy of "Petitio Principii" General Lee Accepting a Sword in the State-House
The Confederate States Government Removed to Richmond Ilowell Cobb s Pledge for
the Congressmen Arrival of President Davis in Richmond Popular Raptures Eloquent
Speeches of the President "No Surrender.".. 109


Some Account of the City of Richmond A Provincial City before the War What its Deco
ration as Capital of the Confederacy cost it Early Scenes of the War in Richmond-
Brilliant aud Picturesque Days A Confederate Soldier aud a Little Lady The Red
River Men Early Clamor for Aggressive Warfare Why it was Impossible at This Time
" On-to- Washington" Horace Greeley wants the War Limited to a Single Battle The
Great Victory of Manassas The Three Stages of the Battle President Davis on the
Field A Curious Contretemps How Mr. Davis was disappointed by General Beauregard
Instance of his Personal Courage on the Field A Night Scene at General Beauregard s
Quarters Singular Figure of the President 129


The South Intoxicated by the Victory of Manassas Who was Responsible for not Pursuing
the Enemy to Washington A Larger and more Important Question than that The Truo
History of a Secret and Notable Council of War President Davis Rejects the Advice of his
Three Principal Generals He Decides for the Policy of Dispersion or Frontier-Defence
A Glance at the Character of General Johnston President Davis s Quarrel with General
Beauregard An Interval of Infamous Intrigues at Richmond How Mr. Hunter was
Driven from the Cabinet Conceit of the President "Waiting for Europe" Demoraliza
tion of Inactive Armies Rapid Corruption of Society in Richmond " The Wickedest
City "Mr. Davis at a Fancy Dress Ball Unpopular Conduct of his Wife Anecdote of the
President Criticism of a "Tar Heel "Mr. Davis and the Faithful Sentinel of the Libby
Prison A Historical Parallel Connubial Fondness of Mr. Davis His Collection of Small
and Mean Favorites A Curious Sort of Obstinacy, and some Reflections thereon ... 144



President Davis playing the Adorned Conqueror Decay of the Confederacy Review of
the Military Situation Share of Congress in the Maladministration of Mr. Davis Weak
and Infamous Character of that Body How it Expelled the Best Intellect of the South
A Notable Rule against Military Officers How the Political Affairs of the Confederacy
were Entirely Surrendered to Mr. Davis and his Party Two Measures that Brought the
South to the Brink of Ruin The Army of Virginia almost Disbanded Protests of Gene
rals Johnston and Beauregard The Civil or Internal Administration of Mr. Davis Its
Intellectual Barrenness Not One Act of Statesmanship in the Whole History of the
Confederacy Richmond a Reflex of Washington A New Rule by which to Measure Mr
Davis s Responsibility A Literary Dyspeptic, with more Ink than Blood in his Veins-
Complaints Breaking Out Against Mr. Davis-His Vaunt of the Blockade as a Blessing
in Disguise Dethronement of King Cotton Extreme Scarcity of Arms at the South 159


The Finances of the Southern Confederacy Early Measures of Taxation at Montgomery
A Civil List Voted of a Million and a half Dollars The Five Million Loan Deficiency of
American Politicians in Finance Extreme and Grotesque Ignorance of Mr. Davis on this
Subject Secretary Memminger a Curiosity in his Cabinet A Race of Absurd Fancies
History of the Produce Loan Extravagant Expectations from it Its Complete and
Ludicrous Failure-Mr. De BoW a Office "To Let-The Confederate Government Aban
dons its First Proposition of Finance-How the Commissariat was Relieved-History of
a Grand Financial Scheme Proposition for the Government to Buy all the Cotton in the
South-Extraordinary Virtues of this Scheme It might have Decided the War How
Mr. Memminger Derided the Scheme Mr. Davis s After-thought in the Prison at Fort
ress Monroe A Shallow and Miserable Subterfuge Supplements of the Financial Policy
of the Confederacy Conversion of Private Debts Due in the North The Sequestra
tion Law-Tho Administration of Mr. Davis Challenged on it-A Scathing Denunciation
by Mr. Pcttigru, of South Carolina-Mr. Davis attempts to Use the Credit of the
States He Fails in this Recourse His Government Thrown Back to the Beginning of
its Financial Policy-He Proposes Paper Money as a Panacea-Distinction Between Cur
rency and Revenue Stupidity of Mr. Davis in Financial Matters The First Seeds of
Corruption Sown in the Confederate Finance Mr. Memminger s Funding Juggle
"Flush Times" in Richmond Silly Self-Congratulations of the President The Road to
Rui " 171


John M. Daniel s New Year s Article-A Philosopher s Mourn for the Union-No Thought
yet of the Subjugation of the South-Analysis of the Popular Sentiment, concerning Presi
dent Davis-Description of the Military Lines of the Confederacy-Reflections on the
Spirit and Character of the Southern People Their Conceit about the War The "Rac
coon Roughs, " and Mr. Lincoln s Hair-Why Mr. Davis was not Excusable for his Short
Vision in the War-A Train of Disasters-Alarm and Demoralization of the People-A
Cruel Mistake concerning General A. S. Johnston Inauguration of Mr. Davis as Perma
nent President-A Gloomy Scene in the Public Square at Richmond-Piteous Prayer of
the President-Significance of the Change from a Provisional to a Permanent Form of
Government Some Account of a Secret Debate at Montgomery Why the Adoption of


a Permanent Constitution was a Mistake The New Congress at Richmond Significant
Speech of Speaker Bocock Who was the author of the Conscription Law? How Nar
rowly it Saved the Confederacy A Statement of President Davis Shamelessly False
Two Remarkable Men in the Confederate Congress Mr. Foote (" Gulernator Pes") ot
Mississippi Mr. Boyco of South Carolina A Remarkable Effort of these Two Men to
Impel the Confederate Armies into the North The Effort is Defeated Traces of a Re
markable Conspiracy 189


Military Condition of the Southern Confederacy Immense Political Significance of the Con
scription Law It necessarily Changed the Character of the Government First Appear
ance of Political Parties against President Davis Some Account of Governor Jo. Brown of
Georgia An Infamous Underplot against the Confederacy The Conscription Law Uncon
stitutional, but Justifiable Mr. Davis s Boast of Superior Liberty in the South Exploded
How he had to Swallow his Words A Military Despotism at Richmond Two Notable
Sequels to the Conscription Law A Terrible Reproof from Mr. Hunter in the Senate
Outrages of Winder s Police A Description of the Fouche of the Southern Confederacy-
Anecdote of Winder Alarm inffrRichmond at McClellan s Advance The Federal Com
mander up a Tree Shameful and Cowardly Flight of the Confederate Congress President
Davis Secretly Resolves to Evacuate Richmond He Changes his Resolution A Witti
cism of General Lee Excitement in Richmond on account of the Destruction of the
Virginia-Merrimac A Littleness of Expedients as Characteristic of the Confederate
Administration It Advertises for Scrap Iron and Old Brass Anecdote of Secretary Mem-
minger Appeal of "The Old Lady" A Notable Assembly in Richmond "The Ladies
Gnn-Boat" and an Oyster Supper 209


The City of Richmond Saved General Lee Appointed to Command before it Incidents and
Anecdotes of his previous Military Career A Private Understanding between Generals
Johnston and Lee The Latter Promises to Resign Changes of Military Policy of the
Confederacy Great Influence of Lee over President Davis How the Latter was Managed
The " Seven Days " Battles Terrible Scenes in Richmond Refusal of the Southern
People to Mourn their Dead Some Reminiscences of Richmond Hospitals Significant
Address of President Davis The First Experiment by the Confederacy of an Aggressive
Campaign Plans of the Campaign on both sides of the Alleghany The period of Greatest
Effulgence of the Confederate arms Results of Bragg* s Campaign in Kentucky The Dra
matic Battle of Sharpsburgh A Secret Agent of the Confederacy Prepared to Visit Washing
tonMr. Foote s Confidences with President Davis Romance of "The Lost Dispatch"

Review of the Autumnal Campaign of 1862 A Brilliant Record on the Valor of the
Confederate Troops Why was this Valor so Unavailing The Outcry of Wasted Blood

Online LibraryEdward Alfred PollardLife of Jefferson Davis with a secret history of the Southern Confederacy, gathered behind the scenes in Richmond. Containing curous and extraordinary information of the principal southern characters in the late war, in connection with President Davis, and in relation to the various intrigues of h → online text (page 1 of 43)