What Confederate President Jefferson Davis Wrote to His Brother

Jefferson Davis became the president of the Confederacy on Nov. 6, 1861.
Jefferson Davis became the president of the Confederacy on Nov. 6, 1861. (National Endowment for the Humanities)

Jefferson Davis was elected the president of the Confederacy on Nov. 6, 1861. In February 1862, he wrote a letter to his brother, Joseph E. Davis.

Richmond, Virginia, Feb. 21, 1862

My Dear Brother:

I am in possession of your ever-welcome favors of the 2d and 6th insts. Among my many causes for painful anxiety created by recent disasters in Tennessee, none perplexes me more than your condition. I had realized the embarrassment and loss of removal before your reference to it, and had believed it would not be necessary, but recent events shake my faith.

The enemy are for the time occupied with the interior, and I have directed Captain Hollins to move up the river with his fleet. In two or three weeks, it is expected that some fourteen vessels, to be manned by "river men," will be ready to leave New Orleans for operations against the enemy's gunboats. Beauregard was sent to command and direct the troops and defences on the river above Memphis -- and in the adjacent country.

I am the object of such special malignity that the neighborhood would suffer because of my residence there if the enemy should get so far down the river. Your property would be the next to my own an attraction to the plunderers. It therefore seems to me that it might be well to send away as far as possible all which is mine, to send away, even up the Big Black, your cotton and valuables, and be ready to move your negroes and part of the stock, should a descent be made.

O! how I wish to be with you, and fervently do I pray that you were in some place of absolute safety, with your family and mine. All I have, except my wife and children, I am ready to sacrifice for my country. We have very imperfect intelligence of the disaster at Fort Donelson. I cannot believe that our army surrendered without an effort to cut the investing lines and retreat to the main body of the army. General Johnston's messenger has not reached me; in the meantime I am making every effort to assemble a sufficient force to beat the enemy in Tennessee, and retrieve our waning fortunes in the West.

With love to sister Eliza and the children, and a solemn appeal to you to take counsel of your prudence rather than your courage, I am ever, affectionately,

Your Brother

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