The Last Days of the Confederate GovernmentThe Illustrated London News, vol. 47, no. 1325, p. 70.
July 22, 1865
Though published at a somewhat late period, the series of four Illustrations which we give this week cannot fail to prove of much interest to our readers. It must be taken into consideration that our Special Artist at the head-quarters of the Southern army had numerous difficulties to contend with in the transmission of his correspondence to this Journal, and it is only now that, by his arrival in this country, we are placed in a position to avail ourselves of the last of his experiences in the Southern States of America.
After the capitulation of General Johnston there was virtually no armed force left east of the Mississippi; and President Davis, already a fugitive from Richmond, having been driven from the capital of Virginia by the surrender of General Lee, found himself again a wanderer by the wayside, seeking some means of escape from the Federal columns which were closing in upon him in all directions. Our Special Artist, as we have already stated, accompanied Mr. Davis in his flight to within forty-eight hours of his capture. A few of the sketches he made, while following the ex-President, are now given to the public.
One of these Illustrations shows the ex-President's train crossing the Pe-Dee River, in North Carolina. This was a long and tedious operation. There are usually no bridges over the swift watercourses in this part of America, and very frequently no fords. Each waggon, with its team of mules, had in this instance to be ferried across separately, and this delay, with an enemy following in the rear, was, to say the least of it, a very anxious affair. In fact, more than one alarm of the approach of the Federal cavalry was given before half the train had crossed the river, and the excitement amongst the rearguard and teamsters was excessive. The horses of the cavalry escort were made to swim the stream, being stripped of their saddles and their riders of most of their clothes. The confusion at the landing-place was enormous, as many of the frightened animals were scarcely in the water before they threw their riders and struggled to the bank, charging through the crowd of attendant cavalrymen. Notwithstanding all this, the entire train passed safely over the Pe-Dee and many other streams while our Artist was in its company, and the only misfortune that happened to him was two or three good duckings.
Another Illustration shows Mr. Davis and his Cabinet halting by the roadside; the ex-President engaged in signing papers which Mr. Benjamin, his Secretary of State, is handing to him. This was probably the last official business transacted by the Confederate Cabinet, and may well be termed "Government by the roadside." Our readers must bear in mind that at any moment the alarm might be given of the enemy's advance, and, to say the least, such a condition of matters was scarcely calculated to give calmness to the deliberations of the fugitive Government.
The subject of another Illustration is the scene presented by a sudden alarm, or stampede, which was a very frequent occurrence, owing to the proximity of the Federal cavalry, who were frequently within three miles of the camp of the flying President. A scout had only to dash in and give the alarm when everything went helter-skelter along the road--President, Ministers, cavalrymen, four-muled waggons, and terrified negro servants, all jumbled up together.
The last of these Illustrations shows the farewell of Mr. Davis to his escort and staff in the square of Washington, Georgia. It was here that he determined to continue his flight almost alone; and, assembling those round him who had sacrificed everything to the defeated cause, he, with tears in his eyes, begged them to seek their own safety and leave him to meet his fate. Undoubtedly, it was an ill-advised arrangement which brought an escort of 1500 men in the train of a man fleeing for his life; and, when too late, Mr. Davis saw the error of thus attracting the attention of the entire country through which he passed, and disbanded them but forty-eight hours before his capture.