Lewis Miller’s version of Jefferson Davis capture
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the capture of the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis. Keenly interested in the progress of the Civil War and rejoicing at its end, York native Lewis Miller (1796-1882) recorded the scene as he imagined it.
As I pointed out in previous posts on Lewis Miller’s illustrations of the Civil War, he drew many scenes at which he was not present. These Civil War drawings are his own version of news accounts he would have read in papers, or seen depicted already in periodicals such as Harper’s or Leslie’s.
The quote that Miller attributed to Mrs. Davis appeared in the May 15, 1865 account in the New York Times, and it surely appeared in many other newspapers.
Some accounts of the surrender of Jefferson Davis to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Harnden of the 1st Wisconsin and others say that Davis dressed in women’s clothing, trying to escape. Other sources say that is and exaggeration, but still others say he had thrown his wife’s overcoat or duster over his shoulders; whether or not he was hoping it would serve as a disguise is anyone’s guess.
Davis had tried to elude capture because he feared he would be tried for treason and executed. He, however, was never tried. After serving two years at Fort Monroe in Virginia, he was released on bail furnished by some wealthy northerners, including Horace Greeley, newspaper publisher and abolitionist. Davis’s wife Varina is said to been instrumental in raising the bail.