Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2012 Issue

Jefferson Davis from the George S. MacManus Company


Davis, depicted as being captured in women's clothing.

Talk about a friendship gone awry! Benjamin Butler was a senator from Massachusetts who served with Davis in the senate in the fateful year of 1860. We are not sure of the exact relationship between the two men, but item 3 is a letter signed by Butler to Davis, dated May 6, 1860. Butler requests an audience with Davis, as “I feel a word of personal explanation is due to Mr. Davis and therefore desire the interview.” We don't know what Butler wanted to explain, but we do know at the Democratic convention later that year, Butler voted on 57 ballots to nominate Davis for president, even though the latter was not a candidate. Butler believed that nominating a relatively moderate senator from the South was the only way to keep the party united. Though Butler was sympathetic to the South, he ultimately held preserving the union to be the foremost cause, and served as a General in the Union army. Ironically, Butler was placed in charge of New Orleans after it was captured by Union forces, and southerners felt his rule so brutal that Davis issued an order saying Butler was a felon and should be executed if captured. $1,500.

Jefferson Davis gave two inaugural addresses, one as Provisional President in 1861, the other as President in 1862. Item 68 is the first, Inaugural Address of President Davis... In it, he claims that the South has simply been behaving as constitutionally permitted, while the North has been guilty of violating its rights. $3,500. Item 105 is the second one, President Jefferson Davis's Inaugural Address. Again he blames the “tyranny of an unbridled majority” for the war. This address was printed as a broadside by the Richmond Enquirer. $6,000.

Despite an optimistic start, the war turned south, so to speak, for Davis. In February 1865, defeat now staring down on the Confederacy, Davis sent his Vice-President and others to negotiate a peace with Lincoln at Hampton Roads. The meeting was cordial, but nothing was achieved. Lincoln was willing to consider compensation to slaveholders for their loss, but refused to recognize Confederate independence. The Confederate representatives insisted on it. Item 85 is a Message from the President, dated February 6, 1865. In it, Davis reports, “the enemy refused to enter into negotiations with the Confederate States...or to give our people any other terms or guaranties than those which a conqueror may grant.” $200.

It would only be a few more weeks before the Confederacy would fall and Davis would make a mad dash for the border. The Union was not about to let him escape. Item 148 is a poster announcing $100,000 Reward! In Gold for the capture of Davis. That is a lot of money today, then a fortune. Published by the military on May 6, 1865, it would be just four days later that Davis was captured in Georgia, trying to escape. This poster is pictured on the catalogue's cover. $25,000.

When captured, it was reported that Davis was wearing his wife's overcoat. That would lead to innumerable humiliating depictions of Davis, the claim being that he tried to escape by disguising himself as a woman. Cartoons were drawn of Davis showing him being captured in women's clothing. Item 1 is a print captioned Jeff's Last Shift. It shows Davis in a dress and bonnet with a dagger in his hand, being captured by Union soldiers as his wife looks on. $350.

The George S. MacManus Co. may be reached at 610-520-7273 or books@macmanus-rarebooks.com. Their website is www.macmanus-rarebooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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