[CIVIL WAR]. DAVIS, Jefferson. Autograph letter signed ("Jefferson Davis") to Mrs. S.A. Ayres, Memphis, [TN], 27 February 1872. 4 pages, 8vo, separation along top fold, lower fold affects signature, otherwise fine. [With:] Clipped signature ("Jefferson Davis"), with autograph complimentary close, pinned to above letter.
DAVIS SPEAKS PASSIONATELY OF HIS ESCAPE; "THOSE GREAT PRINCIPLES OF STATE RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL COMPACT" AND "'A MORE PERFECT UNION'."
An outstanding letter in which Jefferson Davis comments on his escape and capture at the end of the war, on the Confederate flag that flew over the capitol at Montgomery, and on the "Cause" of the Confederacy. Davis responds to Mrs. Ayres in Iowa, thanking her for sending "her likeness" and he expresses hopes that she will one day visit. Apparently in reply to her mention of a story concerning Davis's attempt to flee Richmond at the end of the war, he writes, "That story of 'a Mr. Stone of New York' is a sheer fabrication, no such scene as he describes occurred, no such person as he names was with me, and the few who were with me had no archives in their charge, and for some time before my capture the luggage of the party was carried on their horses and one pack mule." On April 2, 1865, as Grant's Army approached Richmond after Lee's Petersburg lines were crushed, Davis attempted to escape to Texas where he hoped to reestablish the Confederate government. On May 10, accompanied by only a few select officials and his wife Varina, Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinsville, Georgia.
Davis refers to the flag which flew over the first Confederate capitol and its apparent capture; "the flag was the same which was raised over the Capitol at Montgomery, it may like the cannon of Selma have been found in a store house, but surely was not captured from troops, who used and might defend it. Accept my thanks for that and the other relic you sent to me."
Alluding to his correspondant's sympathy with the cause of the South, Davis launches into a long discourse concerning the Confederacy and its meaning; "For your defense of our cause in your interview with Genl. Baker I am deeply sensible. Pity it is that its advocates are so few and its enemies so many. I have prayerfully waited for the reason to perceive, and the patriotism to apart, on the part of the people those great principles of state rights and constitutional compact, which the founders of the Union set as safe guards to Liberty, Fraternity and Happiness among this posterity. Those who could not foresee, might by retrospect learn the evils of departure from the fundamental conditions on which the States of the Confederation entered into a 'more perfect union.' We have all the evils of Pandora's box, have we the consolation that lay at the bottom of it? Pardon me dear madame for this ... it comes from zeal in a cause alike dear to us both: the honor, the welfare, and the happiness of our country grew with its support. Let the record of the last decade answer the question, shall they not been ruined by its fall?"
After his release from prison at Fort Monroe, Jefferson Davis found it difficult to support himself and his family. In 1872, he earned his living as president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company in Memphis. His belief in the southern cause never diminished and he was quick to defend the Confederacy and his actions as its president when given the opportunity. His memoirs The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy," which he completed in 1881, provided the perfect platform, but, as one biographer has written, "it was a terrible book. Rambling, disjointed, discursive, and forever disputatious, it spoke for all the personality quirks that had made Davis himself so disliked by many who knew him" (Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour", p. 676).