Fortress Monroe Va.
26 Sept. 1865
My dear Wife
Your much wished for letter of the 14th Inst. [Latin: short for instant (in the same month)] reached me yesterday and to day I have been furnished with writing materials to enable me to reply. Your well known and beloved hand brought comfort to me before the envelop was broken. The spirit which attends me waking and sleeping seemed to be brought more into a real presence. Your letter informs me of much which you did not intend to communicate. I hope you are better now than when you wrote, as the weather must be less oppressive. One of the causes of my anxiety that you should go with the children was the expectation that your health would suffer if you remained in that hot, crowded, and to you strange place. The assurance given on the Clyde that you were no longer under restraint, though it was modified when therefore I proposed that you should leave that ship and take passage on one bound to a northern port, still left me under the belief that when you reached Savannah [Georgia] you would be free to go elsewhere, and I have been always led to suppose that your stay there was voluntary. Though not so related, the logic of events leads to the conclusion that you too have been a prisoner. Your inquiry by telegraph was answered by Genl. Miles and from him I learned at the same time that your address was Augusta, [Georgia]: I hope his dispatch reached you and relieved your anxiety in regard to my health. My letter to you written at that time gave you so full an account of my disease that it will not be necessary in this to notice it further than to say, that though it has reappeared in a modified from there is no cause for apprehension. My kind Physician, called in the Chief Medical Director, who recently visited this Post, and the result of their consultation was that change to better quarters should be recommended. If their recommendation should secure to me a purer and drier atmosphere I think
there will be a prompt and material improvement in my health. But as I have said to you
heretofore have confidence in my ability to bear much and to bear long, above all be not
disturbed by the unwarranted statements of those newsgatherers who would earn their living
by coining the tears of the afflicted. Such people if they are here, have no access to me, and can
have no reliable information; if to make themselves acceptable to their employers they invent
stories painful to you, remember the motive and apply it as a test. It is true that I did not wish you to know entirely the rigors of my imprisonment and regret that you should have learned them; it is true that my strength has greatly failed me, and the loss of sleep has created a morbid
excitability; but an unseen hand has sustained me and a peace which the world could not give,
and has not been able to destroy, will I trust uphold me to meet with resignation whatever may
You do not mention Margaret [Howell, her sister] and by saying your Ma. has not written to inform you about the Children, it is to be inferred that Marga. did not go with them. Your praise of Robert [a servant] is very grateful to me, I felt sure of him when giving him a parting charge. That which seems in him to be bad temper is rather a spirit of independence, an uncourtly virtue but in time of trial, a better reliance than submissive compliance. I am glad that Billy is his favorite not only because he is most helpless, but also because I am haunted by the suspicion that Betsy treated him harshly when an infant and I thought I saw the effect upon him afterwards. When he is numbered in the little group of prayer, my heart usually starts convulsively as though he appealed to me for protection. I have not heard of MyEllen, but she might be very near without my knowing it, and this, however desirous she might be to serve. Catherine no doubt repented and if she could control her angry passions would be better; but that is improbable, and when angry she is as little to be trusted as an insane person. [See ref. to hymn about “angry passions” in Letter 1 (Aug. 21, 18650.] With you however, I rejoice in the truth and faithfulness of these humble friends: it is to your kindness and justice the best tribute which could be offered. It was similar manifestation on the part of the negroes at home that has caused me to feel so anxious for their welfare. Had they been willing to leave us and have done so without coercion it would have caused me for [sic] less regret. I should then have reckoned them greater losers by the change than ourselves. Their honesty will I trust be duly rewarded here and hereafter.
This is not the first time that we have found our humblest friends, the truest when no longer selfishly prompted. Yet I would not ascribe the defections of the higher class so much to
treachery and deceit, as to timidity and avarice. Wishing to be relieved of responsibility for the
past they offer in proof either of their little identification with the cause of the Confederacy or of
their repentance for such connection; their censure, their accusation or their avowed hostility to
the man on whom they lately conferred the highest office in their representative government, and
who by performing the duties of that station has been rendered the object of special vengeance. If
one is to answer for all upon him it most naturally and properly falls. If I alone could bear all the
suffering of the country and relieve it from further calamity, I trust our Heavenly Father would
give me strength to be a willing sacrifice; and if in a lower degree some of those who called me
(I being then absent) to perform their behests, shall throw on me the whole responsibility; let us
rejoice at least in their escape, expecting for them a returning sense of justice, when the
stumbling blocks of fear and selfishness shall have been removed from their path.
In any event we have the satisfactory evidence that the class referred to is but a small
portion of the people. The great mass accepting the present condition of affairs as the result of
the War, and directing their attention to the future issues which are involved in the changes
produced, would bury the inevitable past with the sorrow which is unmingled with shame.
As in my former letters I can only say that I have no information as to the purpose of the
authorities in regard to myself. Neither as to accusation or proceeding.
I thank you for attention to my Brother, and grieve that it is not in my power to serve
him. Gladly would I labor for him. There can I suppose be no question as to the restoration of his
land. He did not leave home to enter the Service of the Confederacy, neither was the place
abandoned. Persons were left in charge at each of the three quarters [slave houses], and if they did not retain possession and cultivate some crop, it must have been because they were dispossessed by force. I refer to the River lands [Hurricane; Brierfield; Diamond Place (Papers of JD 12:38).] The amount of cotton which is promised on those places could have been easily produced without destroying the lawns. But will it be gathered? If my Brother would get some competent agent to attend to the division of the land and the receipt of rents, the place should yield a revenue sufficient to support him in comfort at some more agreeable residence than that will hereafter be. I hope you will soon have definite information as to the children, winter is approaching and they are in a very cold climate. Dear little P.C [Pie-Cake]: it is hard for me to realize that she has names for people. It must be a severe trial for her to teeth[e] in a hot climate and crowded as you must have been in Savnh [Savannah]. God grant that she may pass through the ordeal. Kiss her for one who loves her dearly though she does not know who he is. I did not doubt that your friends in Richmond would follow you with their prayers, and am glad that so
many wrote to you. What became of Mrs. O’Melia [the Davises’ housekeeper] and how did she
Our kind neighbors sent me some time since a bunch of cigars and a bottle of brandy. A
reminder of the big glass of julep. Dr. Simmons who you may recollect as a Surgeon in the old
Army, a friend of Dr. Wood, son in law of Mr. Giddings of Balto [Baltimore] is now Medical
Inspector of this Dept. & is stationed at Richd [Richmond]. He was here some time since and I
have cause to be thankful to him for subsequent kindness. My little friend [Dr. Cravens’s daughter, Anna] who has so kindly attended to sending my meals and looking after my clothes when sent to wash, has gone to the Moravian school near to Easton. I requested her Father to let Mary Jane [Bradford Brodhead, JD’s niece] know of her. She used to ride on horseback and in my daily walk I sometimes saw her. If I had known how to get it, I would have given your fine saddle to her.
My dear Winnie I felt how anxious you would be to with me if you know that I was sick
and in pain. Need I say that every pang reminded me how often your soft touch and loving words
have soothed me in like times of suffering. How sadly I felt that public cares and frequent
absence and preoccupation with disagreeable subjects had prevented me from making even the poor return which it was in my power to give. That time so long looked for when we should be
apart from the world, and quietly occupied with objects of common interest to us, seemed to rise
before me like the “convenient season” of the impenitent. I have prayed if it be the will of our
Father that it might yet be given to me to show you how much and how truly I am your’s, and
with such poor measure as I could mete to return when you were sick your services in kind. My
good Wife, the Lord will care for you, there always seems to me to be an assuring answer when I
pray especially for you. The needy and the sorrow stricken who have been relieved and soothed
by you, smooth you way to the favor of Him who shows mercy to the merciful. My heart is
sustained by the conviction that we shall meet again in this world, that even before human
judgement my innocence of wrong to my fellow man will prevail, though many seek my
presence of the Judges, though it lives, no longer reigns. Be hopeful and again I say “tarry thou
the Lord’s leisure.”
May the Lord guide and comfort you, ever prayers with all the fervor of devoted affection your Husband.
Jeffn ~.. Davis
Mrs. Varina Davis, near Augusta, Ga.
[Written longways on page 1, left side:] P.S. I met Mr. Clay in our walk, he asked me to give his love to you and the children. He is now in better health, but is much changed. Hair and beard quite grey. Jno [John] Mitchell [Irish leader and journalist] is here. I saw him in like manner. He looks thin and feeble, is said to be consumptive. We are not allowed to visit each other or to converse when we meet in the open air. When Mr. Clay was quite sick I earnestly desired to be with him.