DAVIS, VARINA

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DAVIS, VARINA - Varina Davis ALS Requesting the Restoration of Paintings Including One Suffering from “a bayonet thrust during the war”
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DAVIS, VARINA - Varina Davis ALS Requesting the Restoration of Paintings Including One Suffering from “a bayonet thrust during the war”

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DAVIS, VARINA. (1826-1906). Jefferson Davis’ wife; first lady of the Confederate States of America. ALS. (“(Mrs.) Jefferson Davis”). 1½pp. 8vo. Beauvoir House, October 31, 1889. To Messrs. Dawson & Co.

 

Mr. John M. Tracey recommended your house to me as the best place for the restoration of old pictures, and I requested a dealer in New Orleans to ship to you carefully boxed by express a fine copy of Raffaelles [sic] Angel of the Annunciation. It has a hole in the hand, a bayonet thrust during the war which may enable you to identify the picture with certainty. I wish it carefully restored except the hand which can be left as is unless the painting requires to be transferred to canvass, in this case please have the canvass bare at that place. I have also a little painting about four feet square which has been rolled or rather folded until it is worn entirely through. The face however is intact. Some of the pieces are entirely separated across. Do you think you could restore it? An early answer is requested by Yours respectfully…”

 

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Varina Banks Howell was the granddaughter of New Jersey Governor Richard Howell; her mother came from a wealthy family of Virginia planters. Varina was educated in Philadelphia, an experience that further served to divide her loyalties between Northern and Southern family and friends. After returning to Mississippi, Varina met Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate, owner of Brierfield Plantation and a widower; his wife, Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of future president Zachary Taylor had died three months after their wedding. Varina’s parents objected to Davis’ courtship of their daughter because of their differences in age and in politics, but they were married in 1845, when he was 37 and she 19.

 

Davis entered into a political career with his election to Congress and the couple moved to Washington, D.C. where Varina flourished. Davis went on to serve as President Pierce’s secretary of war from 1853 until 1857 when he was elected to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. Davis spoke out on slavery and secession, issues that had become increasingly difficult following Lincoln’s election in November 1860. When Mississippi withdrew from the Union in January 1861, Davis resigned his seat and became the provisional (and later elected) president of the Confederate States of America. Varina attempted to fulfill the responsibilities of first lady and moved first to the Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama and, later in 1861, to the new capital of Richmond, Virginia, where the couple lived in the Presidential Mansion until 1865.

 

With the evacuation of Richmond, the mansion was abandoned and seized by Union forces. Their Brierfield Plantation in Mississippi was also captured and served at various times as a field headquarters, hospital and Union supply house. When the family returned, they found the house uninhabitable. The Davises attempted to flee to Europe but were captured and Jefferson Davis was imprisoned for two years, during which time Varina was left impoverished and banned from leaving the state of Georgia. After working tirelessly to secure her husband’s release, the family spent several decades attempting to regain their fortunes. They finally moved to Beauvoir in 1876, the guest of novelist Sarah Anne Dorsey, who bequeathed the property to Davis. He died on December 6, 1889, just over a month after our letter was penned. Following Varina’s death, Beauvoir House eventually became a museum and National Historic Landmark, although it was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

 

Folded and in very good condition.

 

 

Item #13892

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This autograph will be auctioned live on October 25, 2017. For more information and to place your bid click the "BID NOW!" button above.
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