Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Jefferson Davis Funeral Train Story

There is a highway that begins in Washington, D.C. and runs through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Oregon.
Some call it the largest monument to an American.
That (It) is the Jefferson Davis Highway in memorial to a man who graduated from West Point Military Academy, served in the United States Army, was elected as United States Senator and the Confederate States of America's first and only President-1861-1865.
This story is about a man who served his God, his family and his country. This is about the strong love the people of the South had for a man who never asked anything for himself, but was always ready to help his fellow man.
Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808, in Christian County now (Todd) Kentucky. He died at the home of a friend in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 6, 1889, from severe bronchitis, complicated by malaria.
The funeral of Jefferson Davis was no simple affair. Two hundred thousand attended the services at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. He was laid to rest in a temporary tomb of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The events of May 29, 1893, would overshadow all other news events covered by Dixie's Newspapers. It was the day the mortal remains of Jefferson Davis were removed from Metairie Cemetery, placed in a new casket and taken to Confederate Memorial Hall to again lay in state.
On the evening of May 29, 1893, Davis' funeral procession started toward the New Orleans railroad station where train Engineer Frank Coffin and his locomotive would start the 1,200 mile trip to Richmond, Virginia. Davis would be re-interred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Mrs. Jefferson (Varina) Davis began three years previous to secure a special funeral train and military escort.
The train was No. 69 of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Conductor was George Crammer.
Davis' body was placed on a catafalque inside a converted observation car. The windows of the car were removed so the people could view the casket.
The crowd was so huge that the funeral procession had a difficult time getting to the train station.
The L and N train 69 pulled of New Orleans at midnight.
Uncle Bob Brown, a former Servant of the Davis family and a passenger on the train, saw the many flowers that children had laid on the side of the railroad tracks. Brown was so moved by this beautiful gesture that he wept uncontrollably.
The train stopped near Gulfport, Mississippi at Beauvoir which was the last home of Jefferson Davis.
In Mobile, Alabama the train was met by a thousand mourners and the Alabama Artillery fired a 21-gun salute. Locomotive No. 25 was also added with C.C. Dewinney as Engineer and Warren Robinson as Fireman.
In Montgomery church bells rang as a caisson carried Davis to the Alabama Capitol. A procession carried the casket through the portico where Jefferson Davis had taken the oath of office as President of the Confederacy.
The casket was placed in front of the bench of the Alabama Supreme Court room. Above the right exit of the room was a banner with the word 'Monterey' and above the left exit was a banner with the words 'Buena Vista.'
The significance of these words were that Jefferson Davis was a hero at Monterey and wounded at Buena Vista in the War with Mexico.
The train continued to the Georgia State line going through West Point, LaGrange and finally pulling into Union Station in Atlanta. A caisson carried the Southern Leaders body to the Georgia Capitol and there laid in state.
The Jefferson Davis Funeral Train continued through South Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina and in Danville, Virginia a large throng gathered around the train and the people sang," Nearer My God To Thee" as city church bells tolled.
Finally the train reached Richmond, Virginia. On Wednesday, May 31, 1893, in the morning, and Mrs. Alberta Lee Thompson described it best as follows:
"On Arriving in Richmond on Wednesday morning, May 31, the body lay in state in the Virginia capitol building until final rites in the cemetery in the afternoon. With Mrs. Davis were her two daughters, Winnie and Margaret (Mrs. J. Addison Hayes) and Mr. Hayes. Six state governors acted as pallbearers. Thousands attended the service in Hollywood Cemetery, including Confederate military leaders and privates, where with the Presidential twenty-one gun salute the beloved leader was laid to final rest."
Lest we forget those who helped make America great!
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr

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