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away, singing in her last delirium snatches of a favorite song which she had learned in happier days. Her body rests in a neglected tomb a few miles from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; in the outskirts of Louisville, not far from thes scene of her marriage, in a rude tomb in an unkempt, lonely cemetery, rest the bones of her distinguished father; while far removed from both the bride he loved and the father he estranged the body of Davis reposes at beautiful Hollywood in Richmond, in the capital of the Confederacy he labored so enthusiastically to establish.
The circumstances of Davis' marriage, taken in conjunction with his later career as head of the southern Confederacy, were such as to give rise in the Northwest to an infinity of rumor and tradition concerning the union. Practically all of this body of tradition reflects severely upon Davis' honor, the charges and inuendoes ranging from tales of mere elopement to cowardly libertinism and home-wrecking.25 That all of these stories originated after the events of 1861 is a fairly safe generalization. That they may one and all be relegated to the realm of myth is a generalization equally safe. Miss Taylor married Davis with the knowledge, though without the approval, of her father, at the home of his sister and in the presence of his brother and other close relatives. In a letter to her mother, written on the morning of her wedding day, the bride thanks her father "for the liberal supply of money sent me," and acknowledges his "kind and affectionate" letter. Two months later, in the last letter ever written to her mother, the "best respects” of Mr. Davis are proffered. The bride was a woman of legal age, and however painful may have been the situation created by her father's attitude toward Davis there
25 As illustrative of this type of accusation may be noted the story of Judge Joseph T. Mills in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Nov. 10, 1885. Mills came to Fort Crawford to serve as tutor in Colonel Taylor's family about the year 1834. "More unfortunate than Lord Ullen," he says of Colonel Taylor, “when he saw the wild water run over his child, and he was left lamenting, the heart-broken father knew Lieut. Davis as a professional libertine, unprincipled and incapable of sincere affection for Knox unless he counted the money to which she was an heir presumptive." Mills weaves a narrative, wholly fanciful, of the elopement from Prairie du Chien under the guise of Miss Taylor's going on an innocent fishing excursion to Cassville. Of Mrs. Taylor he adds: "I do not know that she ever saw her daughter again, in whom her happiness and life were wrapped up. She mourned as Mother Ceres did for Prosperine and Jefferson Davis in her view was just as villainous and malignant as the 'gloomy Dis.'”
was nothing in it of dishonor to the latter. Mythical, therefore, are all the stories of homewrecking and elopement, told even yet in Wisconsin ;28 even as the stories from the same period of southern soldiers sending Yankee fingers and toes home to their sweethearts as souvenirs, or those of more recent vintage of German soldiers cutting off the hands of Belgian children are mythical.
In this connection the moment seems opportune to deny once for all the entire crop of stories and legends concerning the supposed infamous conduct of Davis during his years as an army officer in the Northwest. The scandalous tales that are even yet occasionally retailed, particularly in Wisconsin, about him are all alike of the stuff of which dreams are composed. How then, it may be asked, are we to explain their origin. The answer is not far to seek. They are all a consequence of the passions and distorted judgements bred in four years of bitter warfare, in which Davis was the leader of the section against which the Northwest found itself aligned. In the recent World War governments engaged systematically in the business of propagating minsinformation and to this branch of the service is assigned by some enthusiasts the major credit for the outcome of the conflict. The American Civil War witnessed no such systematic organization of propaganda; but since the dawn of history war has ever been the prolific parent of untruth, and to this unhappy condition our Civil War afforded no exception.28 Whatever may be our judgement with respect to the political views and public acts of Davis, there is no room for doubt that in the matter of private character
26 Within a year or so I have listened to an old resident of Prairie du Chien relate how the window at Fort Crawford through which Miss Taylor climbed on the night of her elopement with Davis had often been pointed out to him in boyhood by his parents and others of the generation preceding his own.
27 I allude to such stories as the one recorded in N. Matson's Reminiscences of Bureau County (Ill.) (Princeton, 1872), 110-15. Similar recitals are found in the Milwaukee Sentinel Nov. 10, 1895, and Nov. 8, 1869, as well as here and there in various Wisconsin local histories.
28 Even today the character of President Lincoln is depicted to southern school children as little short of infamous. See, for example, the sketch of his life prepared expressly for their use by Mildred L. Rutherford, Historian General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, entitled Jefferson Davis the President of the Confederate States and Abraham Lincoln the President of the United States, 18611865 (n. p. 1916).
and personal conduct he was a high-minded and chivalrous gentleman.29
It remains to note one final act in the tragedy of Davis' life wherein the Northwest played a leading role. The Civil War came on in 1861, due as much to his influence as that of any other living man, and the pioneer region whose first civilized beginnings he had witnessed three decades before poured a host of blue-clad solldiers into the Southland to render abortive his dream of a new nation which should spring from the disruption of the United States. In the spring of 1865 the desperate struggle drew to its dreary close, and the president of the Confederacy fled southward, a fugitive in the land of his birth. The pursuit of the fleeing ruler was led by a detachment of the First Wisconsin cavalry, whose colonel came from Madison, Wisconsin, whose site Davis believed himself to have discovered in 1829. A detachment of Michigan men
29 While preparing this paper my attention was called to the following contribution to the point in question among the Morgan L. Martin papers in the Wisconsin Historical Library. Undated and unsigned, the manuscript is in Mr. Martin's hand, and it seems apparent from the contents was written about the year 1880. The writer was for a generation one of the leading citizens of Green Bay and Wisconsin:
"It has become so common to read newspaper articles abusive of the private character of Jefferson Davis, that one who has known him well for a period covering his brief service in the United States Army and his subsequent career as a civilian, desires to correct some of the mis-statements which seem to have gained credence. The more semblance of authenticity is given to some of these articles, because for a time in his early manhood Davis was a resident of Wisconsin, where at that time he was well known—a brief statement of fact may help to dispel that illusion.
“Jefferson Davis graduated at West Point and joined the 1st Regiment of U. S. Infantry, a portion of which was stationed at Fort Winnebago, in 1828.
The notorious Twiggs was in command and many of the officers were Southern men, who, with him embraced the heresies of the Calhoun school of politicians. Davis had just then attained majority and remained at that post, where his private character was unexceptionable, until transferred to the new Regiment of Dragoons under Col. Dodge. Zachary Taylor was at the time in command at Prairie du Chien and there the marriage of Davis and Miss Jefferson (Sarah) Taylor took place against the remonstrance and without the previous consent of the lady's father. Many years afterwards, when the veteran Taylor and his son-in-law were thrown together on the battle field of Mexico, each displaying distinguished gallantry in sustaining the honor of our National flag, they became reconciled and were thenceforth warm friends.
“Jefferson Davis was never stationed at Green Bay and was never here, except on a brier visit to his West Point friends and associates of the 5th V. S. Infantry, during the winter of 1829. He was always regarded as a generous, hightoned, brave, and chivalrous gentleman. A brilliant political career, as member of both branches of Congress, and as Secretary of War, after acquiring distinction as a soldier during the Mexican War, should at least relieve him from the base charge of being considered a common thief.
“The writer of this article, though condemning unqualifiedly the heresies of Southern Politicians, which claimed the sovereignity of the states, denied the unity of our nation and culminated in rebellion against its authority, cannot refuse to admit the unblemished private character of the rebel chief, whom he has known and admired as soldier and citizen for the past fifty years until the estrangements resulting from the late Civil War."
shared in the final capture, all alike hailing from that region which had been known during the years of his residence in it as Michigan Territory, and all obeying the orders of the silent man from Galena to whom, next to President Lincoln, was due the preservation of the Union. This closing scene in the drama of the Confederacy possesses a broad historical significance. Davis' presidential career was terminated by soldiery from a section of the new Northwest which thirty years earlier he had known as an empty wilderness; so, too, it was the exuberant vigor and determination of this new Northwest, the creation almost wholly of Davis' mature lifetime, which, thrown into the military scale of the Civil War, doomed the Confederacy and rendered the hopes and schemes of its founders an evanescent dream.
A COLLECTION OF LETTERS FROM LYMAN TRUMBULL
TO JOHN M. PALMER, 1854-1858. Compiled and Edited by GEORGE THOMAS PALMER, M. D., a
Grandson of John M. Palmer.
Alton, Nov. 23, 1854. My Dear Sir:
I have just returned from Mt. Vernon where the Sup. Court is in session and was glad to find here yours of the 17th. We have mutual cause for rejoicing at the result of the recent election, at least so far as our individual interests were at „stake; but I fear that the great triumph which the cause of truth and right has gained will be lost unless great prudence and discretion are observed for the future.
At Mt. Vernon I met with a good many lawyers and a number of members of the Legislature from the South part of the State, and I was sorry to find that they seem to be filled with the most rindictive feelings towards all who do not endorse the Nebraska bill and submit to the Nebraska test. I was surprised at the bitterness manifested by some of these village politicians from below. They would, some of them, sooner vote for a Whig than an Anti-Nebraska Democrat.
For part of the information used in the footnotes I am indebted to Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber and Theodore C. Pease of the Illinois State Historical Library. G. T. P.
1 John M. Palmer had first been elected State Senator for an unexpired term in 1851. He came up for reëlection in 1854 in the fourteenth district composed of Greene, Macoupin, and Jersey counties, and ran on the Anti-Nebraska issue, beating Beatty J. Burke, the regular Democratic candidate 2896 to 2715. Trumbull had in the same issue been elected to Congress from the eighth, or Belleville, district by a decisive majority over Philip B. Fouke. Lincoln, in a letter to Joseph Gillespie, under date of December 1, 1854, says: "We have the Legislature clearly enough on joint ballot, but the Senate is very close, and Cullom told me today that the Nebraska men will stave off the election if they can. Even if we get into joint vote we shall have difficulty to unite our forces." Lincoln asks “whether Trumbull intends to make a push."
2 The Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed in 1854 under Douglas' sponsorship, provided for the organization of Kansas and Nebraska territories with a proviso repealing the Missouri Compromise that had forever excluded slavery from the territory. The passage of the act had made confusion in Illinois politics. The extreme anti-slavery men formed the Republican party; the Anti-Nebraska Democrats split off from their party; the Whigs divided more slowly, one group drifting into the know-nothing or Democratic parties, the other finally uniting with a portion of the Anti-Nebraska Democrats in the Republican party.