A Guide to the Pritchard Von David Papers, 1811, 1839-1888
An avid stamp collector, Dr. Pritchard Von David was searching for postal materials in Mississippi in the early 1930s, when he stumbled upon a trunk of papers addressed to Jefferson Davis in a deserted farmhouse.
Born in Kentucky, Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) grew up in Mississippi and attended West Point, the U.S. military academy. After graduation, Davis served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and resigned from the army in 1835. That year, he married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of Zachary Taylor, who died shortly after the marriage. Davis and his brother Joseph owned the Brierfield Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi, where he farmed cotton. In 1845, he married Varina Howell and became a representative in the U.S. Congress. With the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846, Davis returned to the military, commanding the 1st Mississippi Regiment. Following the war, the Mississippi governor appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 1847, and two years later Davis won another term. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis secretary of war. He returned to the Senate in 1857, resigning upon the secession of Mississippi in January 1861. The next month, a convention of the seven seceded states appointed Davis president of the newly formed Confederate States of America.
During the Civil War, Davis kept a close watch on battles and corresponded with his cabinet members and army commanders, including Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and John H. Reagan. On April 10, 1865, Robert E. Lee officially surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in General Orders No. 9, and Davis fled the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia. He was captured on May 10 and imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Following his release, Davis traveled throughout Europe and the Americas. He served on the boards of numerous financial institutions and was elected to the U.S. Senate, which he could not serve due to terms of the Fourteenth Amendment. He and his brother sold their plantation to their freed salve Ben Montgomery, and Davis published The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in 1881.
O’Quinn, Trueman. "Old Trunk Yields Rebel Mementos."Dallas Morning News, October 1, 1933.
Rafuse, E. S. "Davis, Jefferson (1808-1889)."Encyclopedia Virginia. Last modified on October 13, 2010. http://encyclopediavirginia.org/Davis_Jefferson_1808-1889.
Collected by Pritchard Von David, correspondence, ledgers, military documents, literary productions, and newspaper clippings comprise the Pritchard Von David Papers, 1811, 1839-1888, which document the activities of Jefferson Davis, particularly during his presidency of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Correspondence to and from Davis, 1842, 1861-1888, includes letters, telegrams, official orders and commissions, drafts, and official letter copies, describing the progress and activities of the Confederate Army, the appointment of government and military officials, the displacement of families during the Civil War, and the opinions of citizens and Confederate governors regarding Davis and his administration. Missives to Davis following the war discuss U.S. politics and his involvement in the war. Correspondents include S. R. Mallory, Louis Wigfall, J. E. Johnston, George W. Randolph, S. D. Lee, John H. Reagan, Fitzhugh Lee, and Braxton Bragg, among others. Correspondence also contains an official handwritten copy of General Orders No. 9 from Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and meeting minutes about the appointment of Davis’ cabinet members in February 1861.
Three ledgers chronicle the daily management of plantations in Texas and Louisiana during and immediately following the Civil War. Another Confederate ledger identifies lands belonging to "enemy aliens" in twenty-one Texas counties, including names of landholders, sketches of their property, abstracts from grants, and orders for confiscation of the lands. Furthermore, the collection includes a handwritten draft of the trial of Captain Juan Bautista Casas, 1811; an 1841 Texas land grant signed by Mirabeau Lamar; a manifesto from the New Mexico Legislature regarding Texans as enemies, 1862; an issue of the Army and Navy Herald, October 15, 1863; the Louisiana commission for Alfred Roman as colonel; 1861; and assorted pamphlets and newspaper clippings from the 1860s.
This collection is open for research use.
Pritchard Von David Papers, 1811, 1839-1888, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers