1865 May 20: Confederate President Jefferson Davis Captured!
The following comes from The Prescott Journal of May 20, 1865. The official report by General James H. Wilson was also printed in the May 27, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
T H E E N D !
JEFF. DAVIS CAPTURED !
HE PUTS ON A PETTICOAT & RUNS !
The end is reached. The armies of the confederacy are dispersed–its chief is a captive in our hands. The invincible President Jefferson Davis, who a few weeks ago, declared his determination to carry on the war for twenty years in Virginia, has been captured in a Georgia Swamp. He has found the “last ditch.” He entrenched himself in his wife’s clothes, brandished a bowie knife, and caved. The following telegram give the most essential particulars of his capture :
MACON, May 13–9 AM.
To Hon. E. M. Stanton [Edwin M. Stanton], Secretary of War :
Lieut. Col. Harden,¹ of the 1st Wisconsin, has just returned form Irwinville. He struck the train of Davis at Dublin, Lawrence county, on the even of the 7th, and followed him closely night and day, through the wilderness of Alligator Creek and Green Swamp via Cumberland to Irwinville.
At Cumberlandville, Col. Harden met Col. Pritchard² with 150 picked men and horses of the 4th Michigan cavalry.—Harden followed the train directly South while Pritchard having fresh horses, pushed down the Ocmulgee [River] toward Hopswell, and thence by House Creek to Irwinville, arriving there at midnight on the 9th ; Davis had not arrived. From citizens, Pritchard learned that his party were encamped two miles out of the town. He made a disposition of his men, and surrounded the camp before day. Harden had camped at 9 P. M., within two miles, as he afterwards learned from Davis, the trail being to indistinct to follow. He pushed on at three A. M., and and [sic] gone but little more than one mile when his advance was fired up on by men of the 4th Michigan. A fight ensued, both parties exhibiting the greatest determination: fifteen minutes elapsed before the mistake was discovered.
The firing in this skirmish was the first warning Davis had. The captors report that he hastily put on one of his wife’s dresses and started for the woods, closely followed by out men. They at first thought him a woman, but seeing boots while he was running, they suspected his sex, at once. The race was a short one. The rebel President was soon brought to bay.
He brandished a bowie knife and showed signs of battle, but yielded promptly to the persuasions of Colt’s revolvers without compelling the men to fire.
He expressed great indignation at the energy with which he was ___, saying that he has believed our government too magnanimous to hunt down women and children
Mrs. Davis remarked to Col. Harden, after the excitement was over, that the men had better not provoke the President, as he might hurt some of them—“Regan” behaves himself with dignity and resignation. The party evidently were making for the coast.
. . .J. H. WILSON,
Brevet Major General.
Capture of Jeff. Davis.
Whatever dignity may have been attached to Mr. JEFFERSON DAVIS as the recognized head of the Southern rebellion, is thoroughly dissipated. His ignoble flight from Richmond, his alleged complicity with the atrocious crime of assassination, the price set upon his head and, to crown all, the ridiculous plight in which he was found by his captors, reduces his reputation to that of an ordinary felon.—St. Paul Pioneer.
1. Henry Harden, lieutenant colonel of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry.
2. Benjamin Dudley Pritchard (1835-1907).