January 4, 2013

Island Connection to the President of the Confederate States

An earlier post on the Kempe family addressed the descendants of this family who made their homes in Catahoula and Tensas parishes. These lines of the family came through Thomas Byrd Kempe who was the son of Colonel James Kempe and Margaret "Peggy" Graham Kempe.

The Island connection to Jefferson Finis Davis, the President of the Confederacy, comes through one of Thomas Byrd Kempe's sisters, Margaret Louisa Kemp.

Margaret Louisa Kemp was born January 16, 1806 in Prince William County, Virginia.  After moving to Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi with her family, she met and later married William Burr Howell on July 17, 1823.  William was the son of New Jersey Governor, Richard Howell.

Varina Anne Banks Howell Davis
Varina Anne Banks Howell was born to the marriage of William and Margaret Kempe Howell on May 7, 1826 in Natchez, Mississippi.

On February 26, 1845, Varina married Jefferson Finis Davis who was born on June 3, 1808 in Christian County, Kentucky.  They were married in the parlor of her family home, The Briars.  William Howell gave his daughter The Briars as a wedding gift.

The Briars (source:  http://www.thebriarsbb.com)

Varina Davis gave the following description of The Briars:
A large, old-fashioned house on a bluff near Natchez.  The ground slopes on each side to a dry bayou about one hundred feet deep, the sides of which are covered with pine, oak and magnolia.  On the west, deep, caving bayous that are washed by drainage to the river.
(source:  Van Court, Catharine.. In old Natchez. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1937)

Varina Anne Banks Howell Davis died on October 16, 1906 and Jefferson Finis Davis died on December 6, 1889.  Both are buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photograph is courtesy of Garver Graver at FindAGrave.com)

From a bio posted by Donald Greyfield at FindAGrave.com:
President of the Confederate States, Military Man, Author.  Jefferson Davis was the unrepentant highest ranking confederate leader of the South.  The only Southern leader shackled in a dungeon and sacrificed as atonement for the sins of many.  He refused to apply for a pardon because, he said, "I have not repented." 

In 1978, the United States Congress posthumously restored Davis' citizenship.  By the time his peaceful death occurred while visiting New Orleans, he was the symbol of the Lost Cause and the most revered man in the South.  Eighteen months after his death and temporary burial in New Orleans Metairie Cemetery, Davis' widow, Varina Howell Davis, decided the final burial place was to be Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery considered the National Cemetery of the Confederacy.  His remains were removed from the vault in New Orleans and placed on a flag-draped caisson escorted by honor guards composed of his old soldiers to Memorial Hall where he lay in state.  The next day, as thousands of people silently watched from the sidewalks and balconies, the caisson bore his body to a waiting funeral train.  On the way, bonfires beside the tracks lit up ranks of Davis' old soldiers standing at attention beside stacked arms.
Jefferson Davis had years of political service in Washington before secession propelled him into hapless leadership as President of the Confederacy.  He served in both houses of the U. S. Congress as a Representative and a Senator and was United States Secretary of War during the administration of President Franklin Pierce.

His military career was both extensive and honorable starting with a completed four year term as a West Point cadet.  Jefferson served as a colonel in the Mexican-American War and lead the South during the Civil War.  He was captured at Irwinville, Georgia without a fight and placed under arrest.  Although under indictment for treason, he was released after two years in poor health.  The federal government dropped the charges of treason because of constitutional concerns.  However, he was stripped of his citizenship and his remaining property confiscated.  He spent his last twelve years in retirement at his Beauvoir Estate located between Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. 
Jefferson Davis wrote a two volume book, "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" and then only two months before his death, completed "A Short History of the Confederate States of America."

 (source:  http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org /media_player?mets_filename=evm00001179mets.xml)

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