VA Jefferson and Varina Davis' extreme loss

Adam1stVa

Corporal
Joined
Apr 6, 2020
On April 30th, 1864 Jefferson and Varina Davis experienced the worst tragedy that a parent can experience - the premature loss of a child. Their five year old son, Joseph Evan Davis, fell to his death from the second story balcony at the White House of the Confederacy. He had just turned five on April 18th. At this time, the President was dealing with the beginnings of Grant's Overland Campaign at the Wilderness.

Having been born and raised in Richmond, and being a history "buff", I have relayed this story to visitors by taking them to the WHC and showing them the balcony. Then I take them to Hollywood Cemetery and show them where he is buried. These incidents are the human side of our past that we need to know about in these troubling times. We all face challenges that can be put into some historical perspective. I find strength and guidance in the past.

Another note: the Davis Family chose to be gathered and buried alongside their young son. Jefferson Sr. was moved from New Orleans and Jefferson Davis Junior was moved from Memphis. They are clustered together in a circular area overlooking the James River. It's the most beautiful cemetery I've ever seen.
 
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Ole Miss

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If you ever have a chance to wander through just about any community/church cemetery and see all of the young people who lost their lives so early. My generation was the 1st to have anti-biotics and other treatments and vacinations not available to those born before WW II.
Regards
David
 

Jamieva

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Midlothian, VA
If you go on a tour of the White House now, that fall doesn't look that bad. The tour ends with you being at the spot where he fell.

The street level today is not the same as it was in 1864.
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
If you go on a tour of the White House now, that fall doesn't look that bad. The tour ends with you being at the spot where he fell.

The street level today is not the same as it was in 1864.
Doesn't take much of a fall to be fatal really.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
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Location
Central Pennsylvania
What's amazing is how much these losses aren't discussed. Varina gets a ton of negative attention as does Mary Lincoln, without paying either the dignity of what it has to have been like losing a child in the midst of her already chaotic world. That's not North/South, not meant as some championing of anything whatsoever, it's plain, old compassion for mother whose child was killed.

I don't think Mary and Varina were ever in touch but that doesn't signify anything- Mary was a hounded widow without a social circle or support. Varina and Julia Grant became friends post war though, which seems about right. For all the nonsense about Varina's being a witch, she just wasn't and Julia was a pragmatic, pleasant woman. If those two women could forge a friendship, creating something positive together despite both their places in our history, anyone can.

And maybe that was the point.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
True and depends on how he landed. The tour guide pointed out how when you hear "2nd floor fall" you expect much higher by today's standards.

I ' think ' the poor little guy broke his neck? It doesn't take too large a fall to do that, just the horribly misfortunate manner in which he fell.
 

Karen Lips

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 24, 2008
Location
Waxahachie,Texas
What's amazing is how much these losses aren't discussed. Varina gets a ton of negative attention as does Mary Lincoln, without paying either the dignity of what it has to have been like losing a child in the midst of her already chaotic world. That's not North/South, not meant as some championing of anything whatsoever, it's plain, old compassion for mother whose child was killed.

I don't think Mary and Varina were ever in touch but that doesn't signify anything- Mary was a hounded widow without a social circle or support. Varina and Julia Grant became friends post war though, which seems about right. For all the nonsense about Varina's being a witch, she just wasn't and Julia was a pragmatic, pleasant woman. If those two women could forge a friendship, creating something positive together despite both their places in our history, anyone can.

And maybe that was the point.
I did not know Varina Davis and Julia Grant formed a friendship after the war. Are there any articles or books about their friendship?
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
When Varina Davis died she was survived by only 1 of her 6 children. Sometimes you have to wonder how she went on - but she did.

Samuel Emory Davis - (February 25, 1852-June 30, 1854) - died before 2nd birthday.
Margaret Howell Davis lived in Colorado Springs, CO; had 5 children (the only child the live long enough to marry and raise a family.
Jefferson Davis Jr. (January 16, 1857 - October 16, 1878) died from yellow fever at 21 years old.
Joseph Evan Davis - the little boy that fell
William Howell Davis - (December 6, 1861-October 16, 1872) - died from diphtheria at 11.
Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis - (June 27, 1864-September 18, 1898) died of gastritis at 34.


Home_of_Jefferson_Davis,_three_generations.jpg

(Public Domain)
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
I did not know Varina Davis and Julia Grant formed a friendship after the war. Are there any articles or books about their friendship?

According to the book “First Lady of the Confederacy” by Joan E. Cashin their first meeting is described:

“Davis had a friendly meeting in 1893 with another famous widow, Julie Dent Grant. In June, Varina went to Cranston’s Hotel on the Hudson River to enjoy the cool weather, and Mrs. Grant, who often summered at the hotel, happened to be there when Davis arrived. Grand said she had long wanted to make Davis’s acquaintance and sought her out, knocking on her door.

“‘I am Mrs. Grant,” she announced when Davis opened the door.

“I’m very glad to meet you,” Davis replied and extended her hand.

Davis must have been surprised, but she recovered quickly, and she, like Grant, followed proper etiquette to the last scintilla. They expressed great pleasure at making each other’s acquaintance, thanked each other most cordially for the opportunity, and offered their individual hopes that they would see each other again.”

Apparently they did for on that visit they were seen taking rides together and hotel guests saw them visiting on the hotel veranda. When they returned to New York City they lived twenty blocks apart - when both vacationed again at Narragansett Pier in 1893 and 1894 they were seen having lunch. Not only did mothers get along but apparently daughter Winnie and Julia Grant Sartoris would join in the circle of friendship.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Hartford, CT
It amazes me sometimes how certain people are able to gather the strength to move forward after such tragedy. I couldn't imagine the loss of a child. But the Davis family lost 5.... on top of everything else they went through during and after the war.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I did not know Varina Davis and Julia Grant formed a friendship after the war. Are there any articles or books about their friendship?

Yes, DBF gave a very nice account and there are others? Reading of the friendship, even with the tendency we see of padding out stories it does seem to have been quite genuine on both sides. I could see that. There seems some myth about Varina being shrewish but really, seems pretty silly. I just can't find anything backing that up that isn't sheer spite or agenda of some kind. ( don't marry a famous man ) Sounds to me like she and Julia shared a lot of the same characteristics? Pragmatic, reserved, unshakable, gracious in the old sense. Seems unsurprising they'd have continued the friendship?
 

Cek3

Private
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
When Varina Davis died she was survived by only 1 of her 6 children. Sometimes you have to wonder how she went on - but she did.

Samuel Emory Davis - (February 25, 1852-June 30, 1854) - died before 2nd birthday.
Margaret Howell Davis lived in Colorado Springs, CO; had 5 children (the only child the live long enough to marry and raise a family.
Jefferson Davis Jr. (January 16, 1857 - October 16, 1878) died from yellow fever at 21 years old.
Joseph Evan Davis - the little boy that fell
William Howell Davis - (December 6, 1861-October 16, 1872) - died from diphtheria at 11.
Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis - (June 27, 1864-September 18, 1898) died of gastritis at 34.


View attachment 368245
(Public Domain)
Can someone tell who were all these people; where was it taken; when was taken; and any other information.
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Can someone tell who were all these people; where was it taken; when was taken; and any other information.
Photo shows the Davis Family at Beauvoir, Mississippi, in 1884 or 1885 of Confederate President and Varina Davis. Sitting at Jefferson Davis’ right is their only surviving daughter (at least to marry and have children) Margaret Howell Davis (1855-1909). To her right sits her oldest child, Varina (1879-1934). Jefferson Davis holds Lucy (1882-1966) while Mrs. Davis holds Jefferson Addison (1884-1975). The African-American in the doorway is a servant. The link is below.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2009633719/
 

Cek3

Private
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Photo shows the Davis Family at Beauvoir, Mississippi, in 1884 or 1885 of Confederate President and Varina Davis. Sitting at Jefferson Davis’ right is their only surviving daughter (at least to marry and have children) Margaret Howell Davis (1855-1909). To her right sits her oldest child, Varina (1879-1934). Jefferson Davis holds Lucy (1882-1966) while Mrs. Davis holds Jefferson Addison (1884-1975). The African-American in the doorway is a servant. The link is below.

https://www.loc.gov/item/200963371


Thank you for your reply
 
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