One-tank trips: Hollywood Cemetery – Part 1
Jefferson Davis served as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America and presided over Southern fortunes during the Civil War years. A widely known national figure in antebellum days, he had served with valor in the Mexican War, served multiple terms in the U.S. Senate, and was the Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. His administration of the Confederacy was marked by controversy, frequent changes to his Cabinet, and much criticism from the army, the media, and the populace.
He fled Richmond with the fall of the Confederacy and was the object of an intense manhunt before being captured and imprisoned in Fort Monroe, Virginia. Reports of abuse by Union guards began to change the public attitude for Davis, who eventually rose in stature in his old age as his constituents reflected on the Lost Cause and the war.
I recently visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from my home near York, Pa. Over the next few weeks I will present a series of photographs of the tombs and headstones in this venerable “garden cemetery.” It includes the final resting places of many Confederate generals, including several with connections to the Gettysburg Campaign and the invasion of York County, including J.E.B. Stuart and William “Extra Billy” Smith.
It also includes Jefferson Davis’s grave.
Davis, while a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, personally opposed the idea of secession from the Union. However, he agreed with many fellow Southerners that each state was a sovereign entity and had an unquestionable right to secede if it so chose, but cautioned against exercising that right.
Davis’s grave is on a bluff overlooking the broad James River, with downtown Richmond off in the distance. It is near several other Southern notables, including Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Robert E. Lee’s nephew and a postwar Governor of Virginia.
During the war, the polarizing Davis made many enemies, both in the North and the South. Union soldiers were fond of singing a popular ditty, “We’ll Hang Jeff Davis from a Sour Apple Tree,” and some in the South would agree.
Davis, according in a passage in Wikipedia edited by California-based historian Hal Jespersen, “was charged with treason, though not tried, and stripped of his eligibility to run for public office. While not disgraced, he was displaced in Southern affection after the war by the leading Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. However, many Southerners empathized with his defiance, refusal to accept defeat, and resistance to Reconstruction. Over time, admiration for his pride and ideals made him a Civil War hero to many Southerners, and his legacy became part of the foundation of the postwar New South. Until his death he said the North was totally responsible for the Civil War and the South had been totally in the right in opposing the despotism threatened by the North, thus giving fuel to the die hard ex-Confederates. In the 1880s, however, the mood in the South shifted to reconciliation and Davis went along, telling Southerners they had to be loyal to the Union.”
Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808 – December 6, 1889)
To get there:
Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (412 S. Cherry Street) is an easy drive from Interstate 95. Take Exit 76B toward US-1/Belvidere St/US-301 for about 0.1 mile. Turn left on W. Leigh Street and then right onto US-1 South/US-301. Drive about a mile and turn right on Spring Street. In 0.2 miles, turn right onto S. Cherry Street. The entrance to Hollywood Cemetery will be on your left.
Stop at the main building and purchase a tour map.
To read the rest of this series on Confederate graves at Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery: