tv American Artifacts White House of the Confederacy Part 1 CSPAN July 28, 2018 12:39pm-1:10pm EDT
for you. back here inou little over an hour. thank you so much. >> we are alive today from harrisonburg virginia for the confederate icons conference, hosted by the battlefield foundation. our live coverage will continue at 2 p.m. eastern time after this lunch break. more civil war history from our american artifacts series for a tour of the white house of the confederacy. you're watching american history tv on c-span3. during the civil war, confederate president jefferson davis and his family lived in this mansion in richmond virginia. now referred to as the white house of the confederacy, the fromence was saved demolition. since 1988 it has been restored
to its wartime appearance. american history tv visited the house to learn about the mexican war veteran and u.s. senator who became leader of the confederate states of america. this is part one of a two-part program. >> this house was built 1818. it was a private residence for a doctor and president of the bank of virginia. he lived here with his family until 1844. the house passed through several more private owners after that. in 1857, it was purchased by lewis crenshaw, a wealthy flour mill owner. he added the third floor, put in a bathroom on the second floor and completely refurnished the house with all the latest mid-victorian styles. in 1861, when he learned that the con federal government was moving from montgomery, alabama, here to richmond, he sold the house with everything in it to the city of richmond that rented it to the confederate government. in august of 1861, jefferson davis moved into the house from
august of 1861 until april of 1865. today, the house is restored to its wartime appearance or as close as we can come. we have a lot of the original furnishings, the things that were here when jefferson davis lived here. the other furnishings are period antiques. the only reproductions are tex tiles, carpets, wallpapers, draperies and upholsteries, the kind of things that don't last 150 years. so come on inside. >> this is then trains hall. visitors in the 1860s would have come in through these doors and stopped here to wipe their boots off. the streets were filthy, unpaved garbage dumps and what we have here is a cotton covering on the floor. it is a heavy cotton canvassing.
this one is painted to look like tile. people would wipe their boots off on to it before going on and walking on the nice, fancy, expensive carpets in the rest of the house. it is a practical thing. it is also a decorative object, a false surface. that was very popular in this time period. things designed to look like other things. very simply put, all around us, we have wallpaper designed to look like marble. we have comedy and tragedy. they are painted to look like bronze but they are made of plaster and have been here since the 1820s. they have never left the house. where a visitor went once they got here and cleaned up a little bit depended on who they were, why they were here, where jefferson davis was, if davis was receiving visitors, if a visitor was here to see davis specifically, they would probably be shown upstairs into the waiting room.
if davis wasn't here, the visitor might leave their calling card for him over here. if the visitor was here for a more social event, party, reception, they might be shown through those doors into the central parlor. if the visitor was here for a formal meal or maybe a military meeting, they might be shown around this corner into the state dining room. the white house of the confederacy or confederate white house is mostly a post-war name. i think there are one or two 1860s references to it being called that. it is really more of a museum period name. during the war, it was called many different things, the broken bra house after the first owner, the executive mansion, called jeff davis' house, generally not the white house of the confederacy. one point to make about that. this house wasn't meant to be the direct counterpart of the white house in washington. the white house in washington is a residence and office for the u.s. president. this house was really meant to
be just a residence for the con federal president and his family. davis did do a great deal of work here. it was intended to be just residence. his executive office was in a different building. mrs. davis referred to this room as the state dining room, partially to distinguish it from the family dining room down in the basement below where i am standing right now. the davises took most of their ordinary meals down there. this would have been reserved for special occasions, holiday meals with the family, parties, banquets and sometimes military meetings. we have the table, which is an original piece, set up for a military meeting. we happened to know a number of details about one particular meeting that took place here around this able on april 14th of 1862. the topic of discussion was the union army siege of yorktown, virginia. the men present at the discussion were president
jefferson davis, george wythe randolph, the confederate secretary of war. randolph was also a grandson of thomas jefferson. davis and randolph were meeting four confederate generals. robert e. lee, joseph johnson, james long street and gus ta vary smith. union general george mcclelland had an army at yorktown. the confederate was john mcgruder, prince john. he was quite clever, an interesting, flamboyant, theatrical man. magruder put on a show for george mcclelland. he marched his men in a circle around and around in front of a gap in the forest that separated the two armies. he told him men to be as noisy
as they possible could and shout out orders to nonexistence units. he had men in the back of the lines chop down trees, strip from branches, paint them black and set them up horizontally on hillsides so they looked like cannons. all this stuff worked. george and his spies were apparently fooled by these tricks being played on them by general magruder. davis and his advisers were pleased that magruder was holding mcclelland off but at some point, they knew they would probably have to face this threat to richmond. they were discussing overall strategy, what to do about this army that posed a threat to richmond and the confederacy. they discussed all sorts of options, whether they should hold at yorktown as long as possible or withdraw all forces here to the gates of richmond or
attack north into philadelphia or even new york city. all these things discussed that evening, april 14th, 1862, from about 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 in the morning around this table. you will notice a portrait of george washington. the confederates tried hard throughout the war to draw connections between themselves and the revolutionaries, especially george washington. washington's image was in the center of the great seal of the confederacy. it was on confederate currency and poseage stamps, letterheads, and envelopes and anything else they could think of. the confederates inaugurated jefferson davis for his term as confederate president on george washington's birthday, 1862. in front of the statue of george
washington in virginia's capital square just blocks from where they are. they felt they were fighting the second american revolution, the second war for independence. they felt that washington was something like the grandfather of the confederacy. they felt he would have been on their side if he had been arrive in 1861. -- alive in 1861. that's a theme that the con federal, political and to some extent military leaders hit upon throughout the war, especially jefferson davis. davis never lost sight of this concept that he and his fellow confederates were fighting a war much like the one that washington and his fellow revolutionaries had fought 80 some years earlier. back here is a mirror. that is an original and a small bust of thomas jonathan jackson, better known as stone wall jackson. general jackson died after being accidentally wounded by his own men at the battle of chancellorsville. he died a week later of pneumonia. his body was brought here to richmond.
a sculptor took a bust of jackson and it sat there through the rest of the war. in this room, we have a lot of original pieces. this table is an original. the gas alear is an original. the mirror as an original, the side board over here, this sofa and both of these tables. those are just bigger pieces. a lot of the smaller pieces around here are original too. several of those decanters, even the shot glasses are original. over here, the berry bowl and tripod to the right side is original. if you see the red goblets and the red decanter, those are original. those little demitasse cups are original and the white punch bowl. a lot of pieces were here when jefferson davis lived here. the draperies are exact reproductions.
we at the museum own one of the drapes that was hung in this room. it looks just like that. we used that to make exact reproductions. the wallpaper we know was this color. we did find a small scrap of the original to know about the color. i think, by and large, davis would recognize this room. i think it looks a great deal like what it looked like when he lived here. very large house. probably a large staff to serve a big dinner like this. tell us about the people who had worked here and how many of them would have been slaves and what do you know about them? >> first of all, we don't know as much as we would like to. the information about the slaves and the servants here is fragmentary at best in some cases.
an overview would be at any one point, they would have about 10 or 12 slaves and servants working here. they fell into nour categories, davis slaves, slaves owned by jefferson davis brought here from his home in mississippi. those numbered as far as we can tell just two. davis owned over 100 slaves back home in mississippi. he only brought two of them here. davis hired slaves from owners in this area. that was a practice more common in the upper south and more common in cities in the upper south. so richmond, it certainly happened in richmond a fair amount. that, of course, means owners of slaves would rent them out to other people and davis, we know, did that. he also employed free black servants. in the census of 1860, there were 2,500 free black people in the city of richmond and he employed white servants, typically european immigrants, especially from ireland. many didn't live here on the grounds.
many of them lived probably not very far from here. they would come here, do their work and go home to wherever home was. the ones that did live here. again, this is somewhat of a speculation. we knew there were out buildings along the east side of the house. we think that the ones that did live here slept on the second floors of those buildings. there is at least one exception to that. the nurse slept in the nursery, which is directly above us. this is the central parlor. the davises had a lot of parties and receptions in this room. one typical arrangement for a reception would be to have a receiving line down the center of the room with jefferson davis here at head of the line. visitors coming in from the street, into the entrance hall and then into here and shaking hands down the receiving line. in times like these, the windows would be opened up. these windows are triple hung. they are three sashes that go down to the floor.
the lower two would have been slid all the way up level with the top one. the shutters would swing out open on hinges like doors. these rear windows are also rear doors. visitors coming through during one of these events would see a lot of the things that we have here today. roughly half, more than half of the furnishings in these two parlors are originals. also, in these two rooms, the upholstery, the draperies and the red flocked wallpaper are exact reproductions of what was here. notice also this, border paper or architectural paper, used to simulate fluted columns. another very good false surface in this room. this is jefferson davis. this is the only wartime portrait of jefferson davis. it was done in this house from life in august of 1863 when he was 55 years old.
we believe that this portrait hung in the house somewhere. we are not sure where, after it was finished. we do know that davis took it with him when he left richmond in april of 1865 and gave it to someone in south carolina when he was passing through that state and the museum got it back later and we have displayed it ever since. jefferson davis was born in kentucky, the same state that abraham lincoln was born in actually. both men were born in kentucky. neither of them stayed there that long. davis' family moved south soon after davis' birth. they moved to louisiana and then over to mississippi. davis grew up mostly in mississippi. although, he returned to kentucky a couple times both for educational reasons. he went to boarding school in kentucky and then later to transylvania university in kentucky before going off to the u.s. u.s. military military academy at west point. lincoln, by contrast, spent whatlincoln, by contrast, spent about the first seven years of
his life in kentucky until his you parents moved to indiana, which is where lincoln grew up. 20 he didn't move to illinois until he was 21. below davis, on the mantle, are various things that were made by confederate prisoners of war in union prison camps, out of anything they could find, shells, wood, bones, glass, and whatever they could pick up in those northern prison camps. throughout roughly the middle two years of the war tharks was a regular prisoner exchange service. many confederate prisoners who had been exchanged for union prisoners would come through richmond and give the davises things like this that they made in the camps and the davises displayed them like this. these two flags are replicas of the first and second national flag of the confederacy. this was the first called the stars and bars, adopted in march of 1861 as the national flag of the confederacy. that's before the war started.
when the war did start, they used this on the battlefield. that proved to be pretty confusing. on a battlefield with smoke and fire and other confusion, it looked like the u.s. flag. so after the first big battle of the war at manassas, virginia, they stopped using this on the battlefield. however, they kept it as the national flag for almost two more years. in the wake of the failure of this one on the battlefield, they came up with ear designs specifically for battlefield use. by may, 1863, however, they completely did away with this one and came up with this one to replace it. this is the second national flag of the confederacy. this was created by taking one of the battle flags, this square by itself was the battle flag of the army of northern virginia. they put this on a field of white. this became the second, the new national flag of the confederacy. it is sometimes called the stainless banner.
also, no good for a battlefield. they kept it off the field but kept it as their national flag until march, 1865, very late in the war when they created a third national flag by essentially taking this flag but then putting a red bar down one side of that flag to take away a lot of that white. so that flag was the third national flag of the confederacy. this is the second national and this is the first national. >> how is it that the flag that everyone thinks of as the confederate flag is part of that? >> that has more to do with what's happened since the war. this design and really more often today we see it in a rectangular design, just caught on as caught on as the emblem of the confederacy. one of the reasons is that this is robert e lee's army flag. his was the most successful of armies.
it is a striking design and it certainly achieved the stated goal of being difference from this flag and also from the u.s. flag. now, i mentioned that we usually today see a rectangular design. that is the battle flag of the army of tennessee or the confederate naval jack. technically speaking, during the war, the square pattern was the battle flag of the army of northern virginia another thing to comment about that, sometimes that is called the stars and bars. that is not correct in terms of the terminology the confederates used. the confederates called this the stars and bars. the next room is the west parlor which looks a lot like this room actually. this is the west parlor, also known as the ladies parlor or mrs. davis' parlor or the
drawing room. as you can tell, deck rat tifl, -- tell, decoratively, it is quite similar as the center parlor. the two rooms were often used together as one big room with the pocket doors open and they could shut those for more privacy typically when a group of people split by gender. during one of the receptions, most of the guests would file through and go on outside. mrs. davis and the female vip guests, you might say, would withdraw into this room where as mr. davis and the men would stay in the center parlor or perhaps go back into the dining room for cigars and brandy and that sort of thing. behind me is another image of mr. davis. this was done in 1862. when he was preparing to evacuate richmond, he was worried about this bust. he didn't want to leave it here for the union army to find. he also didn't want to take it with him. he knew he would be moving around a bit and he wanted to travel light. so he left this bust in town
with a friend of his who wrapped it up in cloth and buried it in some ashes in his yard and left it there for years until he thought it was safe enough to dig it back up. here it is. we have had it since 1907. back. here it is. we have had it since 1907. richmond,n he left was not running away, not fleeing. he was moving the confederate government to a different location. that is what he did. he evacuated richmond and established the confederate capital at danville, virginia. it lasted for one week and davis kept moving. he went into north carolina, south carolina, and georgia. it seems he is looking west. he was trying to cross the mississippi river. there was a confederate army in
texas. to hope to link up with the army, presumably start army in texas. he was captured. it ended the war for jefferson davis. pieces.e, original is never -- the mirror original. the cloth is original. an original. is it was installed by the first owner. mrs. davis wrote about this in her memoirs. she said her young boys would shower's these ladies -- our these ladies with kisses. this board belonged to a fascinating man. for the tiny general confederacy at the beginning.
he briefly served as a secretary of war. most of the war, he was confederate secretary of state. he worked closely with president davis. he was friendly with mrs. davis. when he left richmond, he left the cribbage board. we acquired it, but it would be appropriate to have something in this house since he was a frequent visitor. jefferson davis and judah benjamin became acquainted in lated states senate in the 1850's. jefferson davis was a senator from mississippi. mexican warpi and a veteran. militaryjamin had no experience. they were discussing an appropriation bills and things got heated. jefferson davis a pair we made a sneering reply to something
judah benjamin said. benjamin asked davis if he had made that remark. replied yes, indeed, he has. there are some records that hegest jefferson davis said was not expecting to be met with the arguments of a paid attorney in the senate chambers. this was a serious insult. suggesting davis benjamin was bought and sold by , perhaps aerests slap at his jewish heritage. benjamin challenged davis to a dual -- to a duel. davisacteristically, backed away. he said i was wrong in this. on the senate floor, apologized publicly to benjamin and the
entire u.s. senate. the two of them became acquainted. during the war, they worked closely together. benjamin was here a lot. unfortunately, benjamin burned all of his papers. one of his biographers said he left six pieces of paper when he ofd, meaning only six pieces paper. he was a secretive guy about many things, especially about his service during the war. it seems clear that he was here a lot, working with mr. davis, but also socializing with mrs. davis since the two of them were friendly. benjamin was well-suited for a diplomat's role. he was small and elegant, well spoken, charming, had a way with both men and women.
we call this the library. the davis' called it the snuggery. it is used by the family for private affairs. generalhe met with robert e. lee in this room at least wants to discuss military strategy. it seems clear he met with other people in this room as well. mrs. davis probably used it to have breakfast, have a cup of coffee, meet with a friend. the children had some of their tutoring sessions in this room. thenow a fair amount about meeting davis had with lee. mrs. davis wrote about it in her memoirs. restore this room. she wrote one day, general leak came to this house through the front door and apparently walked directly into this room without
wiping off his boots sufficiently. a bow andds, with excuse for walking on the white boots,in his splash general leak sat down and plunged into discussion of the military situation with president davis, reclining. later, lee noticed a saucepan in front of the fireplace. this is the original fireplace. he said to mrs. davis, this is a comfortable and pretty little thing. what do you use it for? she took it as a hit as he was 30. she heated up a coffee and served it to him. -- he was thirsty. a coffee and served it to him. we know they had carpet. we know they had wool. we have no idea what it looked like with this one partial exception.
we had to make lots of guesses. --r here, we selected reclining ill. we set up a table for coffee. this is the original fireplace. this is painted to look like marble. it is actually made of cast iron. another famous visitor is in him lincoln. is in was here april 4 of 65. jefferson davis left town april 2, 1865 at 11:00 p.m. the union army took over the city and this house on the morning of april 3. herem lincoln was april 4 -- abraham lincoln was here april 4. he had lunch somewhere. we do not know where. it is safe to say he saw every room on the floor and spent most of his time in this room.
he met with a man who took over richmond at the head of the corps -- he6 also met with john campbell. campbell was a former justice of the u.s. supreme court. he was the assistant secretary of war for the confederacy. he was the only high-ranking for -- high-ranking confederate left. when lincoln got word campbell wanted to stay with him, lincoln was pleased to speak with campbell. d for surrender, a possible end to the war. when campbell got here, it was clear he was speaking for himself. he was turned to get virginia back into the union as quickly and painlessly as possible. lincoln listen to him, but he was disappointed he was not here
to talk about a surrender of the confederate government or an end to the war. campbell saw the writing on the wall. he knew the war was almost over. that was part one of a two-part look of the white house of the confederacy. >> during the civil war, jefferson davis and his family lived in this mansion in richmond, virginia. in the second of a two-part tour --the sum, the night -- of two-part tour, dean knight -- hout it is -- how it is preserved and restored. 1865, int: april 4, him lincoln was here. the union army took over the city and the