150th Anniversary “Sesquicentennial” of the War Between the States
Memorial Day farewell to Jefferson Davis
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Monday May 30th is Memorial Day
Jefferson Davis, born June 3, 1808, served the United States as a soldier, statesmen and Secretary of War. He was also the first and only President of the Confederacy.
On Sunday, May 28, 1893, a few days before “Memorial Day” in New Orleans, a story began that overshadowed all other news events.
Jefferson Davis died in 1889 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. Four years later, May 27, 1893, his body was removed and taken to Confederate Memorial Hall to lay in state in preparation for the 1,200 mile trip to Richmond for final interment.
At 4:30PM, May 28th, a Memorial service was held for Mr. Davis and a moving address was delivered by Louisiana’s Governor Murphy J. Foster as thousands listened. A reverent silence fell among the people as the casket was given to the commitment of veterans from Virginia.
The procession then formed for a slow march to the railroad station on Canal Street. The caisson drawn by four coal black horses came to a halt by the glassed in observation car.
Train No. 69, with Engineer Frank Coffin, waited patiently as the casket was taken to the platform and passed through an open observation car to a catafalque.
Train engine No. 69, of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad slowly pulled out of New Orleans Station at 7:50PM. L and N Railroad later became CSX Railroad.
After a brief stop at Bay Saint Louis, and a slow-down at Pass Christian, where hundreds of people lined the tracks, the Jefferson Davis Funeral Train stopped at Gulfport, Mississippi, near Beauvoir which was the last home of Jefferson Davis. It was here that Davis wrote his book, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”
Uncle Bob Brown, a former servant of the Davis family and a passenger on the train, saw the many flowers that the children had laid on the side of the railroad tracks. Brown was so moved by this beautiful gesture that he wept uncontrollably.
In Mobile, Alabama, the train was met by a thousand mourners and the Alabama Artillery fired a 21-gun salute. Locomotive No. 69 was retired and Locomotive No. 25 was coupled to the train. The new train’s Engineer was C.C. Devinney and Warren Robinson was its fireman.
Church bells rang in Montgomery, Alabama when the train pulled into the city at 6:00AM on May 29th. A severe rainstorm delayed the funeral procession to about 8:30AM when a caisson carried the body of Davis to Alabama’s state capitol. A procession carried the casket through the portico where Jefferson Davis, in 1861, had taken the oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America.
The casket was placed in front of the bench of the Alabama Supreme Court. Above the right exit was a banner with the word “Monterrey” and above the left exit was a banner with the words “Buena Vista.” During the War with Mexico Jefferson Davis was a hero at Monterrey and wounded at Buena Vista.
All businesses and schools closed, and church bells tolled during the procession to and from the capitol. In final tribute, thousands of people of Montgomery, including many ex-soldiers and school children filed by the casket.
At 12:20PM the funeral train departed over the Western Railway of Alabama and Atlanta and West Point Railroad for Atlanta. At West Point, Georgia the train stopped under a beautiful arch of flowers to pick up Georgia’s Governor William J. Northen and staff.
At 4:30PM the funeral train pulled into Union Station in Atlanta, Georgia. It is estimated that 20,000 people lined the streets as the funeral procession made their way to the state capitol. Atlanta’s Gate City Guard, which had served as Company F, 1st Georgia (Ramsay’s) during the War Between the States, stood guard over the president.
At 7:00PM the train went north on the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which later became Southern Railway and, today, Norfolk Southern Railroad. The train traveled through Lula, Georgia, Greenville, South Carolina, and stopped at the North Carolina capitol at Raleigh.
A brief stop was made in Danville, Virginia, where a crowd of people gathered around the train and sang, “Nearer My God To Thee” as city church bells tolled.
Finally, the train reached Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, May 31, 1893, at 3:00AM. It was Memorial Day. Mrs. Davis met the train and her husband’s casket was taken to the Virginia State House.
At 3:00PM, May 31st, the funeral procession started for Hollywood Cemetery.
With Mrs. Jefferson Davis were her daughters, Winnie and Margaret. Six state governors acted as pallbearers. It was estimated that 75,000 people attended this final salute to President Davis. The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and “Taps.