Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Haunted Jeff Davis

Keeping in the spirit of Halloween (for just one more week), I'd like to devote some attention to the late great (and only) president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. As most of you know, the president had an illustrious career, but he also suffered great loss and personal tragedy. He was a West Point Graduate, served in the Mexican War, was elected Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, and served as U.S. Senator of Mississippi. When the War Between the States broke out, he reluctantly gave up his Senate seat, and accepted the position of President of the Confederate States of America. Mr. Davis had premonitions about this acceptance, but surrendered the decision as being that of divine will.

Davis' first wife, Sarah, daughter of President Zachary Taylor, died shortly after their secret marriage took place.Ten years later, he married Varina Howell, who was half his age. Despite his ill health, brought on by malaria he had contracted and that had killed his first wife, Davis held his position with great esteem. But soon, another tragedy befell him, as his son, Joe, fell from the second story balcony to his death at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond. (Davis subsequently had the balcony removed from the house and destroyed.)

Upon the fall of Richmond, the Davis family was forced to evacuate, and traveled into Georgia to escape persecution. However, it wasn't long before President Davis was captured. He was held prisoner at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he suffered much humiliation and degradation, confined by leg irons in solitary confinement for the first four months. His incarceration lasted two years. Upon his release, he and Varina went up to Canada and traveled to Europe. After several years, Jefferson Davis returned, and lived in Memphis. He served as president of Carolina Life Insurance Company, and lost another son in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. He retired to Beauvoir in Biloxi, where he wrote his memoirs. Davis died in 1878 in New Orleans, and his funeral was the biggest event ever witnessed in the South. Varina had his remains moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. However, his spirit supposedly isn't at rest with his body.

Strange things have reportedly happened at Ft. Monroe. Civil War soldiers, as well as President Lincoln, are said to haunt the place, and the sounds of phantom boots clunking have been heard, as well as phantom skirts rustling, and laughter echoing within the ancient walls. The apparitions of President Davis and Varina have also been witnessed near the room that confined him while he was imprisoned there. His spirit has been seen in the form of eerie mist near his grave as well. And his son, Joe, haunted the Confederate White House until his body was exhumed and buried beside the grave of his father. Then, inexplicably, the haunting stopped.

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