“As he strode off I threw over his head a little black shawl”

Varina Davis (1826-1906) to Montgomery Blair (1813–1883), June 6, 1865. Blair Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (202.00.00)

Just before day the enemy charged our camp yelling like demons. Mr Davis received timely warning of their approach but believing them to be our own people, deliberately made his toilette and was only disabused of the delusion when he saw them deploying a few yards off. He started down to the little stream hoping to meet his servant with his horse and arms, but knowing he would be recognized, I plead with him to let me throw over

Varina Davis (1826-1906) to Montgomery Blair (1813–1883), June 6, 1865. Blair Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (202.00.00)

him, a large water-proof wrap which had often served him in sickness during the summer season for a dressing gown, and which I hoped might so cover his person, that in the grey of the morning he would not be recognized. As he strode off I threw over his head a little black shawl, which was round my own shoulders, seeing that he could not find his hat, and after he started sent my colored woman after him with a bucket for water, hoping that he would pass unobserved. He attempted no disguise, consented to no subterfuge but if he had, in failure is found the only matter of cavil.

This blog complements the Library of Congress exhibition, “The Civil War in America.” This series of posts chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861–1865. To learn more about the object featured in this blog entry, visit the online exhibition.