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Southern Historical Society Papers.
Richmond, Va., January-December.
[From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, June 4, 1901.]
ANNIVERSARY OF THE
BIRTH OF PRES. JEFFERSON DAVIS.
Celebrated by Various Organizations of Southern Women
AT NEW ORLEANS, LA., JUNE 3, 1901,
With the Eloquent Oration of Hon. Charles E. Fenner.
The ninety-third anniversary of the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the great leader of the Confederacy, whose memory is enshrined in thousands of hearts throughout the South, was celebrated in a fitting manner in New Orleans yesterday.
Some weeks ago the loyal daughters of Louisiana undertook to make the day the occasion of a demonstration of love and devotion to the memory of Jefferson Davis, and a beautiful all-day celebration was planned, which for patriotism and loyalty has seldom been equaled in the South.
The sun shone in all its brilliancy yesterday, out in the meadows the flowers were blooming, and over in Metairie cemetery, where for two years the remains of the South's great hero reposed, flowers placed by loving hands marked the spot henceforth sacred to his name alone.
The old veterans assembled at different hours during the day to honor the great chieftain. At 11 o'clock the celebration began by a memorial meeting in the banquet hall of the St. Charles Hotel. It was held under the auspices of the Jefferson Davis Monument Association, of which Mrs. A. W. Roberts is president. At Memorial Hall, at 3 o'clock, the New Orleans Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held their celebration. This was the occasion also of the presentation of a badge of honor to General Joseph Adolph Chalaron, whose gallant services during the war and unswerv
ing faithfulness to the cause ever since entitled him to this distinction from the chapter.
At both these celebrations the venerable Confederate chaplain, Dr. B. M. Palmer, was present, and delivered the prayer. The presence of this faithful Confederate hero is always the occasion of joy and loyal demonstration from the men who followed him in the dark days of '61 and '65, and whose love has grown stronger as the years have rolled away.
At night the day closed with a magnificent celebration at Memorial Hall. It was fitting, indeed, that the Ladies' Confederate Memorial Association of New Orleans, the oldest of all the Confederate organizations of women in the South, should close the celebration. The devotion of these women to the cause which, though lost, is not dead, was never more truly exemplified than in the programme they prepared for the birthday of their martyr president. From beginning to end it glowed with the truth and eternal strength of the cause for which their husbands, fathers and relatives fought through fire and blood, and for which thousands of the noblest of the South laid down their lives. The feature of the opening was the grand oration on the "Life of Jefferson Davis," delivered by Judge Charles E. Fenner, the distinguished Southerner and jurist, at whose residence Mr. Davis passed from earth to the eternal camping grounds above. Another interesting feature was the presentation to Memorial Hall of the sword of a private soldier who laid down his life on the field of Shiloh. With this sword the box containing the Confederate relics was opened in the presence of the assembly. In this beautiful ceremony the memory of the private soldier, no less than the memory of the great leader, was beautifully combined, for the one led, the other followed, and no one paid more glorious tribute to the worth of the Confederate private than the immortal Jefferson Davis.
So the day was kept; it was fragrant with love and flowers, and rich in precious memories. But no thought was more beautiful than that which closed the day, and which showed that the loyal daughters of the South, while honoring the memory of their greatest hero, do not forget the men whose deathless deeds crowned even him with glory-the Confederate private.
JEFFERSON DAVIS MONUMENT
ASSOCIATION HOLDS THE FIRST
CELEBRATION OF THE DAY OF MEMORY.
With loving thought the Jefferson Davis Monument Association
kept the anniversary of Jefferson Davis' birth yesterday. The association is pledged to the erection in this city of a monument to the first and only president of the Confederacy, and was among the first organized for that purpose after the death of Mr. Davis.
The foremost leader is Mrs. A. W. Roberts, a niece of Mr. Davis. She has gathered about her a band of earnest women, and through many months they have labored for the cause so dear to their hearts.
The celebration on the part of the Association took place at 11 A. M. in the banquet hall of the St. Charles Hotel. The hall was beautifully and patriotically decorated. The union flag and the Confederate flag entwined served as a drapery above the picture of Jefferson Davis, around whose memory the entire celebration revolved. beautiful entourage of palms and ferns completed the tasteful decorations. Beneath the picture was the autograph of Jefferson Davis, taken from the last letter that he wrote to Mrs. Roberts, and above was a card with two Confederate flags entwined—the army and navy, also given to Mrs. Roberts by Mr. Davis..
The hall was well filled with ladies, a delegation from the Soldiers' Home was present, members of the Ladies' Confederate Memorial Association, with Mrs. Wm. J. Behan, president, and members of the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The programme opened with a beautiful invocation by Dr. Palmer, and all heads were bowed as the venerable divine lifted his voice to the God of Hosts and prayed for the South, for the united country, for the living and the dead.
Mrs. A. W. Roberts presided. As president of the association she read a short sketch of the organization, showing how it was organized on April 18, 1896, by four ladies, Mrs. Jefferson Davis Weir, Mrs. S. J. Fowler, Mrs. M. A. Farwood and herself. The charter was drafted by Colonel L. P. Briant, Mrs. Weir having been appointed a committee of one to attend to that important detail. Mrs. Varina Jefferson Davis is an honorary member of the chapter.
The programme was very beautiful. Miss Florence Huberwald sang, as only Miss Huberwald could, that grand old Southern war song, "Maryland, My Maryland." The tears coursed silently down the eyes of many as her beautiful voice rose and fell in exquisite modulation of the patriotic melody.
The feature of the celebration was the eloquent address of Hon. E. Howard McCaleb. Mr. McCaleb said that he would not attempt, on this ninety-third anniversary of the birth of Mr. Davis, to give even a brief outline of a life and character which are so intimately
interwoven with the history of the country, but rather to recall a few personal reminiscences which he cherished of this great and noble leader. Mr. McCaleb said that the first time he saw Mr. Davis was when the speaker was a mere child. Mr. Davis was returning from the sanguinary fields of Mexico crowned with honors. The people of his adopted State had turned out en masse to welcome him. The boys threw up their hats as he passed, riding erect as an arrow, his face wreathed with smiles as he received the plaudits of his fellow
It was at Manassas that Mr. McCaleb next saw the great president. It was the day after the battle of Bull Run. And again he saw him in the last dying hours of the Confederacy, when he learned more and more to esteem, honor and love him. The Confederate government had abandoned Richmond, and was temporarily stationed at Danville, Va., when General Extra Billy Smith brought the sad news of Lee's surrender. All was confusion, and in hot haste. Mr. McCaleb said, we hurried to Charlotte, N. C. "There Mr. Davis sent for me, and told me that the Confederate cabinet was about to begin its journey southward, and in command of a brave band of Mississippians belonging to Harris' and Humphreys' Mississippi brigades. I accompanied him as far south as Washington, Ga. In that distinguished cavalcade was President Davis himself, General John C. Breckenridge, Secretary of War; Hon. Stephen R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy; Hon. Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State; Hon. John H. Reagan, Postmaster General, and the President's personal staff: Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston, Colonel Thos. L. Lubbock, Colonel Burton N. Harrison, private secretary, and Colonel John Taylor Wood. It was on this journey that Mr. Davis heard of the asssassination of President Lincoln. He denounced the assassination from the start, because he believed that the Confederate government, in the heated state of the Northern mind, would be censured for the assassination and because he believed that in case of defeat the people of the Confederacy could have expected better treatment from Mr. Lincoln, who was personally a kinder and more humane man than his successor, who was both an enemy and a traitor to his country.
Mr. McCaleb indulged in some very interesting personal reminiscences, telling how Jefferson Davis believed that, though the cause was lost, the principles lived, and would reassert themselves at another and more favorable time.
One morning when Mr. McCaleb went to him to express his fears about the condition of the Secretary of State, who was not an expert
horseman, Mr. Davis said: "Captain, do not trouble yourself about the Secretary of State, if one of us escapes it will be he."
He could never forget the night when, with guns cocked, the company which he commanded rode behind the President's ambulance from Abbeville, S. C. to Washington, Ga., where they were expecting a dash of the Confederate Cavalry any moment. They crossed the Savannah river bright and early on the morning of May 6, 1865, and entered Washington, Ga., where they remained two days. Colonel Johnston instructed him to report with his men to the President, who wished to bid him good-by. He stated that he had determined to disband his escort, because a small body of men could more easily elude the vigilance of the enemy than a large one, that a prize of $100,000 in gold had been offered for his capture, and every effort would be made to take him prisoner. "Meet me," he said, "south of the Chattahoochee, avoid all garrison towns, throw out your van guard and rear guard, as General Johnston has surrendered this department without my knowledge and consent. We will go to Mississippi and there rally on Forrest, if he is in a state of organization; if not, we will cross over the Mississippi river, induce all Confederate soldiers who have not surrendered to come to us there, and join Kirby Smith and carry on the war forever."
Mr. McCaleb said he obeyed the President's instructions, and when nearing Meridan he saw then the first published accounts of the capture of Mr. Davis, and that historic thrice told lie, which has so often been refuted, that he was disguised in a woman's dress at the time. of his capture. He referred to the incarceration of Mr. Davis in Fortress Monroe, how he was manacled and chained by order of General Miles and that, though he was great in victory, he was still greater in defeat.
Mr. McCaleb afterwards saw Mr. Davis frequently during his residence at Beauvoir." In one of these visits Mr. Davis had stated that he had never desired to wear the honors or assume the responsibilities of President of the Confederate States, but that his ambition was rather to lead the sons of Mississippi on the battle-field, as he had been trained and educated in military affairs, and desired to give his best services to his country in that capacity.
With what poignant grief all heard of his death in this city. When the remains were being prepared for sepuchre one of the gentlemen present noticed a scar upon his left hand, and his old friend, Mr. J. U. Payne, told of an event in his life which to that time was unknown. He said that while Mr. Davis was living at Briarfield, Miss., on his