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Varina Davis

By

John T. Marck

  The Wife and Influence Behind Jefferson Davis



 

  Varina Davis

She was born at "The Briars," in Natchez, Mississippi on May 7, 1826, and would become the wife of Jefferson Davis. When they married in 1845, Jefferson Davis could not have selected a better choice for his wife, considering that his future would take him to the presidency of the Confederacy.

Varina was a very religious woman, and very intelligent, who received little formal education, having been tutored privately and by a close family friend. In her teens she did attend a finishing school where her social graces were enhanced. When she married Jefferson Davis at the age of nineteen, her mother objected, as Jefferson was eighteen years older than she. But, their married turned out to be a long and most happy one.

Varina had a strong interest in politics, therefore her adjustment to the political life as the wife of a politician in Washington, D.C. was easy. She also was a consummate hostess, and an exuberant conversationalist and a story teller. Unlike her husband, she handled condemnation well, which was an asset through the tough years as the First Lady of the Confederacy.

In 1862, when conditions in Richmond stated to deteriorate and food was becoming scarce, she found herself under public scrutiny for her entertaining at the White House of the Confederacy. Yet, others complained that her parties were not extravagant enough. She also was chastised by those who considered her influence on her husband too great, as well as would question her loyalty to the South, in that her father was born in the North. As history relates, these criticisms were not founded.

Jefferson and Varina would have six children together, one of whom was born during the troubled times of the war, and another who died tragically.

At warís end, when Jefferson Davis was captured and arrested in Irwinsville, Georgia, Varina was with her husband. Upon his confinement at Fort Monroe, Virginia, Varina sent their children to Canada, to guarantee their safety, to live with their maternal grandmother. As Varina was prohibited by the Federal government from leaving Georgia, she spent this time campaigning to free her husband. These attempts being unrelenting, Jefferson was finally released in May 1867.

The Davises lived in Canada for a short while, in virtual poverty, until the early 1870s, when a friend arranged for them to purchase the Mississippi estate known as "Beauvoir." They retired here, and following Jeffersonís death in 1889, Varina remained to write her memoirs.

Varina eventually moved to New York City, and gave Beauvoir to the state of Mississippi to be used as a Confederate veteranís home. While in New York, she supported herself by continuing to write articles for various magazines. Varina Davis died in New York City on October 16, 1905. Sadly, she was survived by only one of her six children.

Copyright © John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.