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1865 July 8: Report on the Confederate Prisoners in Fort Monroe

July 11, 2015

The following report comes from the July 8, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.


 The State Prisoners.

The Fortress Monroe correspondent of the Philadelphia Enquirer, of the 23d inst., gives the following sketch of Mitchell [sic: John Mitchel], Clay [Clement C. Clay] and Jeff. Davis [Jefferson Davis]:


Is treated very much in the style of the more important rebels.  He subsists on Government army rations, is closely guarded, and is not allowed the wherewithal to manufacture treasonable newspaper articles; nor is he furnished with papers or any reading matter, save the Bible, or any prayer book that he may desire.  John wiles away the weary hours of his prison life with smoking.  He brought a pipe with him, and is allowed tobacco.  No conversation is permitted with him, nor does he court any.  Thus far he has shown himself rather taciturn than otherwise.


Smokes with philosophic indifference.  He occasionally addresses a pleasant remark to his guards.  As a prisoner he has given very little trouble. From the beginning, he has subsisted on the army ration.  He eats but little, smokes a great deal, and has evidently made up his mind that neither fretting nor grumbling will help his case, and the best course to be pursued is to take things easily and quietly.


The chief of all offenders, has fully recovered his health.  He has not yet been returned to his first diet, the army ration.  His food is prescribed by Dr. Craven,¹ and is such as will conduce most to his health.  Since the tone of his physical health has been restored, he, too, has taken to puffing the Indian weed.  He uses an elegant meerschaum pipe, which he brought with him into the Fortress. The bowl is wrought in the semblance of a turbaned head a la zouave.  The stem and mouth-piece are of the pure amber.  This pipe is doubtless a relic of the pseudo royalty that Jeff maintained while presiding over the fortunes of the ignis fatuus² Confederacy.³

Not a word is allowed to be said to Davis, he speaks very little.  No one is allowed to see him.  Occasionally a highly imaginative or positively mendacious individual, passing through here, gives out that he has seen Jeff Davis.  These statements are utterly false; no one, whatever, excepting only the guards, and Gen. Mills [sic: Nelson Miles], have looked upon the “fallen Lucifer” since his incarceration.  Cabinet officers have visited the Fortress since Jeff’s imprisonment there, but not even to them was accorded the privilege of looking upon him.  Passes to enter the Fort can only be obtained by persons well known here, and these must have most urgent business.  Then, when within the coveted inclosure, they are obliged to transact their business and then leave, not even seeing the row of casements where Jeff’s cell is situated.  The Jeff Davis see-ers had better not be taken at their word.

1.  John Joseph Craven (1822-1893) was Jefferson Davis’ first, of two, doctors while he was at Fort Monroe. Craven was a carpenter, an inventor, a gold miner, a physician-soldier, a respected community physician and a tinkerer. When the Civil War started, he received a commission in the 1st New Jersey Militia, a three-month regiment. When his time was up, he was commissioned in the U.S. Volunteers Medical Staff and promoted to full surgeon on September 4, 1861. He was appointed Brigade Surgeon in General Sherman’s Expeditionary Corps, and in February, 1862, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of General Wrights Brigade and served in Florida and Tybee Island, Georgia. In September he became Medical Purveyor of the Department of the South, CMO to General Gillmore at Fort Pulaski, CMO to field operations against Forts Wagner , Gregg and Sumter. In January, 1865 he moved to the position of Medical Purveyor, and CMO of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. This included duties at Fortress Monroe. During this period, he attended lectures at Baltimore Academy of Medicine and was awarded an M.D. degree. Following his dismissal from Fort Monroe, he was honorably discharged a month later and returned home to New Jersey with a final rank of brevet lieutenant colonel.
2.  A Latin phrase meaning something deceptive or deluding.

Jefferson Davis' pipe

Jefferson Davis’ pipe

3.  Davis was suffering from tobacco withdrawal, among other things, when Dr. Craven first saw him, so Craven gave him tobacco to use. When Craven was dismissed in December 1865, for getting too friendly with the prisoner, Davis gave him the pipe. The pipe today can be seen in the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe National Monument.

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