Open main menu

Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/88

This page needs to be proofread.

80 Southern Historical Society Papers.

[From the New York Herald, November 11, 1903.]


The recent serious illness of Mrs. Jefferson Davis has had the effect of creating much interest in the history of the Confederacy. Mrs. Davis is one of a very few now alive who were closely connected with the Confederate government. The history of Danville as a seat of the Confederate government, which is recalled by the men- tion of Mrs. Davis' name, has a unique interest. On Sunday, April 2, 1865, General Lee, in command of the forces defending Richmond, notified President Davis that the main line of his defences had been broken, that it would not be judicious for him to attempt to longer hold the fortifications guarding the city, and that it would be advis- able for the government to evacuate simultaneously with him. The government, therefore, went South in the only direction open to it.

The party stopped at Danville because there were fewer Federal troops near there than any other place offering suitable accommoda- tions that could be reached, and because President Davis thought that he could direct a military coup which he had planned to the best advantage from that point.

The president and other prominent government officials were upon their arrival at Danville carried to the residence of Major W. T. Sutherlin, commandant of the town. For a week thereafter the Sutherlin residence was the capitol of the Confederate States.

The occupancy of the capitol by the president and his cabinet members ceased even more abruptly than it began. On Monday morning, April 10, information reaached Danville of the surrender of Lee on the previous day. Circumstances made the immediate evacuation of the place necessary.

It is a historic landmark, that old mansion, and its appearance is in keeping with its history. A large, square stone structure, with wings on both sides, it is set far back in grounds having a frontage the width of an entire block. It looks at the same time neat, trim and substantial. It has an almost human expression of cold, aristo- cratic dignity, however, that cannot fail to impress even the most casual beholder.