By the end of January 1865, the armies of the Confederacy were seeing more defeats than victories. Union General William T. Sherman had marched through the South, taking Atlanta, Savannah and Wilmington. He then set his sights on Columbia, South Carolina. His march through the South was devastating to the Confederacy. They not only lost key cities, but most of their supplies and supply routes as well. Possibly worse than the loss of cities and supplies, Sherman’s march was demoralizing to many southerners.
By the end of February 1865, Sherman had captured and burned Columbia. Charleston, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina had fallen to Sherman’s Union forces. Confederate President Jefferson Davis proposed a meeting with American President Abraham Lincoln, to discuss peace terms. However, Davis insisted that Lincoln formally recognized the independence of the Confederacy. Lincoln refused and the peace meeting never took place.
On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was sworn in for his second term as President of the United States.
By the end of March, Davis, in an act of desperation, signed a law allowing blacks to serve in the Confederate army. Sherman continues his march through North Carolina on his way to join Union General Ulysses Grant in Virginia.
By the April 8, 1865, Grant and Sherman launch their final assault on Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The Union ends the siege of Spanish Fort in Alabama by defeating the Confederate forces.
On April 9, 1865, Lee surrenders to Grant at the Court House in Appomattox.
On April 12, 1865, Union troops capture Mobile, Alabama.
On April 14, US troops raise the American flag over Fort Sumter, South Carolina where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. Later that night, John Wilkes Booth shoots Lincoln in the back of the head at Ford’s theater.
On April 15, 1865, Lincoln dies and Vice President Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.
By the end of April 1865, Union forces capture West Point. Sherman and Confederate General Johnston sign an armistice.
On May 2, 1865, The United States offers a $100,000 reward for the arrest of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, believing that he was complicit with the assassination of Lincoln.
Still believing that he could reinforce his Confederate troops and take the battle with the Union to the western frontier, Davis found it necessary to leave the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. He took the core of his advisors with him, consisting of John H. Reagan, Judah P. Benjamin, John Breckinridge, Burton Harrison and a small detachment of troops. Davis first headed to Danville, Virginia but realized that he had to move further south due to most of Virginia being occupied by Union troops.
On May 3, 1865, Davis and his exiled government arrived in Washington, Georgia which is just over 50 miles northwest of Augusta and about 40 miles east of Athens.
On May 4, 1865, Davis disbanded his Confederate Cabinet and authorized their pay out of the remaining treasury. Afterwards, Davis header further south to Sandersville, Georgia, a small town just over half way from Augusta to Macon.
On May 6, 1865, Davis placed Captain Micajah Clark in charge of what was left of the Confederate treasury.
On May 7, 1865, Davis met up with his wife and three children.
On May 8, 1865, Davis and his family fled from the Union troops that were hot on their trail. They traveled another 80 miles south southeast to Abbeville, Georgia.
On May 9, 1865, the Davis family reached Irwinville, Georgia, about 25 miles south of Abbeville.
On this day, May 10, 1865, the First Wisconsin and Fourth Michigan Cavalries surrounded Davis’s encampment. Reportedly, Davis tried to slip away to a nearby creek wearing his wife’s raglan or overcoat, but Davis was quickly captured by a member of the Fourth Michigan Calvary. His choice of grabbing his wife’s overcoat led to public mockery by a number of northerners. A song titled ‘Jeff in Petticoats’ became quite popular at the time.
Davis was charged with treason and imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia, being released on May 13, 1867. After turning down the offer to be president of Texas A&M, Davis ran for the Senate, but was unable to serve due to provisions in the Fourteen Amendment.
In 1881, Davis tried to defend his political stand against the Union by writing ‘The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.’ He lived the rest of his life on an estate known at Beauvoir in Mississippi.
On December 6, 1889, Jefferson Davis in died in New Orleans at the age of 81 from bronchitis. Initially, he was buried in a New Orleans cemetery but was later interred in a specially built memorial site at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Just a trivia note, Kentucky is the only state, or rather commonwealth to have produced two concurrent sitting presidents as both Lincoln and Davis were born in Kentucky.
Sources for the above includes: Jefferson Davis Captured; Jefferson Davis; Jefferson Davis Biography; Capture of Jefferson Davis; Jefferson Davis Was Captured, May 10, 1865; 1865: Key Events; American Civil War Timeline 1865; Today, April 14, 1865: Assassination; Today, March 31, 1865: Final Union Offensive Against Robert E. Lee; Today, March 19, 1865: Confederate General’s Desperate Attempt to Stop Union General Sherman.