This continues the letter dated Wednesday 19th May 1965 which began:
Sunday 23rd May
We did a bit more sightseeing today and went to the house where Jefferson Davis lived.
It is called the First White House of the Confederacy, and was his house during his office as President of the South. It was all very interesting to us.
The weather has been very hot all weekend, and humid too. We had a terrific thunderstorm yesterday afternoon and we saw a few trees that had been hit over by lightning.
We had heard about a terrific new motel which has just been opened here, so last night we looked it over – and decided to move in. It is probably the nicest motel we have been in. It has stables, a golf course and a fabulous pool – with a band playing at the edge!!
All around the pool are rose bushes and lawns like putting greens. We have been in the pool most of the day and I have got a terrific tan.
We often have a laugh at our new status in life. On Friday we visited our ‘stockbroker’ and then drove back to the pool, had a dip, and then sat in the sun, each reading a book called ‘Advice to Investors’ just like a couple of playboy millionaires!! Nobody would think that a few months ago we were picking up fag-ends for a living!!
We only have another five weeks at this job, and then who knows what? Still, I keep saying to myself that it was terrific to be able to live like this even for only six months, than never at all. One thing is for certain – we shall never, ever, forget these six months.
Our planned meeting with the Governor has fallen through, for this weekend at least. He is away on a lecture tour and won’t be back until late tonight. Still, we could be back in Montgomery again soon so we can try again next time.
Well, I haven’t really much else to add at the moment, so I will end this letter now. We are moving on to Selma tomorrow, so wish us luck.
So I will say goodbye for now and look after yourselves.
All my love,
PS don’t forget to let the H—s have the film!!!
PPS the film is a gift to you and needn’t be returned.
NOTES: Born to a family who owned cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana, Jefferson Davis owed slaves and supported slavery. After serving in the army, he had his own large cotton plantation in Mississippi with up to 113 slaves.
A bout of malaria killed Davis’s first wife and left him with ill health until he died. With his second wife, he had six children – only three reached adulthood.
Becoming a Democrat senator, then US Secretary of War, he initially urged the southern states not to secede from the Union, when the north and south grew bitterly divided over the morality of owning slaves.
After his own state declared independence, he declared it “the saddest day of my life” as he resigned from the senate, returned home and told the Governor: ‘Judge what Mississippi requires of me and place me accordingly.’
First, he was made major general of the Army of Mississippi, then in 1861, despite Davis’s reluctance, he was elected as President of the Confederacy.
Davis was extremely popular in the seven seceded states, as he was described as the ‘champion of a slave society (who) embodied the values of the planter class.’
But according to his wife, ‘reading that telegram he looked so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family.’
Davis knew the odds were against the south. Nearly 21 million people, almost all white, lived in the North compared to nine million in the South.
As only white men were allowed to enlist (the whites wouldn’t countenance arming anyone of colour) their fighting force was small – while they also had to police nearly four million slaves held against their will.
This left less than two million males of fighting age eligible to serve.
The North also had vastly greater navy, industrial capacity, transport and infrastructure, along with most of America’s munitions factories and resources.
When the Union blockaded the Confederate states, Davis hoped that Europe, which was reliant on the southern states for cotton, would come to their aid. But as most European countries objected to slavery, they declined to help.
Davis was a poor leader, and chaos reigned in the army and political circles. Hungry and deprived, the population grew resentful.
In 1865, the Union won the Civil War. Slavery was outlawed, the slaves of the south were declared free – and Davis was imprisoned for two years for treason.
By the late 1880s, although maintaining that secession had been legal, Davis was urging Southerners to support the Union, and was optimistic about America’s future. He died in 1889.
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