June 22, 2018 10:00 AM EDT Cincinnati


Jefferson Davis, CDV, Signed and Dated to his Imprisonment in Fortress Monroe

CDV of Confederate President Jefferson Davis with E.& H.T. Anthony/Brady backmark. Possibly taken when Davis was still in the Senate (1857-1861) or as Secretary of War (1853-1857). Signed on recto "Jeffer. Davis" and below, "5 Dec. 1866." Note on verso from later owner: "Mr. Davis' own signature, written for Mrs. Fairbanks while he was in prison. Rec'd from Mamma Dec 29th 1881."

As the Confederacy fell, various plans were suggested to keep the government running from Havana, Cuba, or someplace in Texas. The Confederacy still controlled the Trans-Mississippi region. The hunt for Davis intensified, and after Lincoln's assassination, Johnson offered a $100,000 reward for his capture. Davis met with his cabinet in Washington, Georgia on May 5, dissolving the government. After this he and a few hand-picked assistants fled south in an attempt to get to Cuba. The small group was captured near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10.

On May 19, Davis was imprisoned in a casemate at Fortress Monroe. Initially he was held in shackles and allowed no visitors by order of the Fort commander, General Nelson Miles. Davis' health deteriorated quickly, and his wife, Varina, complained to Miles. His physician also told Miles that Davis' life was in danger. In late autumn, he was moved to better quarters. After Miles was transferred about a year later Davis' conditions improved even more. Shortly after, Varina and the couple's daughter, Winnie, were allowed to join Davis, and eventually they received an apartment in the officers' quarters.

After two years in prison, Davis was released on bail, which was posted by some prominent citizens, interestingly including Horace Greeley and Garrett Smith, the latter an ardent abolitionist who had supported John Brown. Many felt Davis was being treated unfairly in these conditions. Ultimately, Andrew Johnson would issue a blanket amnesty for all participants in the "insurrection," and the case against Davis would be dismissed in mid-February 1869. Davis actually wanted a trial, since he felt that would be a final opportunity to convince many of the rightness of secession. Some have argued that this was one possible reason the Federal government chose not to pursue these trials - the Supreme Court might have declared such an action constitutional (it did not; in 1869 secession was declared unconstitutional, but that could not have been guaranteed beforehand). It was also felt that any trials that went forward might impede reconciliation.

Because of the restrictions on his visitors and communications, very little was written or signed while he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe. December 1866 would have been about the time he and the family moved into the officers' quarters, and he would have had more contacts. Still, very little has emerged that is definitely from the period of his imprisonment.


Minor handling wear and light scattered foxing. Overall very good.

Estimate: $4,000 - $6,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium


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