1st "White House" of the Confederate Presidency
625 Washington Street (moved from Bibb & Lee Streets), Montgomery, AL
picture taken April 16, 1934
Post-War Residence of Jefferson Davis
200 West Beach Road
picture taken April 22, 1936
Portrait by Matthew Brady
OUR BELOVED DEAD
Jefferson Davis is dead. Perhaps no great man in the history of the world has lived life which has been so mingled
with love and censure of those that loved him did it with an unreservedness and unfaltering fidelity that was blind
to a single fault, and those that hated him – such hate! With this no man has walked across the stage of action
with --- strides or with every --- more closely guarded by ---ep reasoning. With him --- there is not another man
of the south who is generally known to the Northern press as being a leader of the Confederacy. The contemptuous
feelings of the North press will now have to cease, because the writers do not know of any other man in the South
who was prominent in the war. Full of ---- and honors he sleeps among those that love him in the “Sunny South.”
When another quarter of a century has gone he will have taken his proper place in history and Southern Congressmen
will not then be afraid to say that he was a great, good and true man and one that had the manhood and courage
to stand up for what he believed to be patriotism and a constitutional government. His death at this time will,
it is hoped bring out that earnest and honest expression of appreciation of his ---worth from the Northern press
which a generous man cannot help but feel. This will --- about a better era, and hope and prosperity will again
be the guiding stars of our common country.
[From The Vernon Courier - Lamar County, AL - Dec. 12, 1889 - Transcribed
and submitted by Veneta McKinney]
HE IS DEAD – Ex-President Jefferson Davis Passes Peacefully Away
New Orleans – Dec. 6 – From the beginning of his fatal illness Mr. Davis had insisted that his case was quite hopeless,
though a dread of pain or fear of death never appeared to take the slightest hold upon his spirits, which were
brave and ever buoyant from the beginning of the attack. In vain did the doctor strive to impress upon him that
his health was improving. H steadily insisted that there was no improvement, but with Christian resignation he
was content to accept whatever Providence had in store for him. Only once did he waiver in his belief that his
case showed no improvement, and that was at an early hour yesterday morning when he playfully remarked to Mr. Payne:
I am afraid that I shall be compelled to agree with the doctors for once, and admit that I am a little better.”
All day long favorably symptoms continued and late in the afternoon – as late as 4 o’clock – Mrs. Davis sent such
a cheering message to Mrs. Stamps and Mr. and Mrs. Farrar that they decided, for the first time since Mr. Davis
has been taken ill, to attend the French opera. At 6 o’clock last evening, without any assignable cause, Mr. Davis
was seized with a Congestive chill which seemed to absolutely crush the vitality out of his already enfeebled body.
So weak was Mr. Davis that the violence of the assault soon subsided for lack of vitality upon which to prey. From
that moment to the time of his death the history of his case was a gradual sinking. At 7 o’clock Mrs. Davis administered
some medicine, but the ex-president declined to take the whole dose. She urged upon him the necessity of taking
the remainder, but putting it aside with gentlest of gestures, he whispered, “Pay excuse me.” These were his last
words. Gradually he grew weaker and weaker, but never seemed to lose consciousness. Lying peacefully upon his bed,
and without a trace of pain in his looks, he remained for hours silently clasping and tenderly caressing his wife’s
hand. With undaunted Christian spirit he awaited the end. [From The
Vernon Courier - Lamar County, AL - Transcribed and submitted by Veneta McKinney]
Montgomery, Dec. 9 – The state house is draped in mourning in memory of Mr. Davis, Governor Seay, who has returned
to the city, sent the following telegram to Mrs. Jefferson Davis, at New Orleans:
I ask to convey to you for myself, and for all the people of Alabama, sincere
sympathy in your distress, and to express our veneration for the great dead. It is the wish of our people that
his grave may be made beneath the monument to the Confederate dead, on Capitol Hill at Montgomery, hard by the
very cradle of the Confederacy.”
It is probable that a delegation will go from this city to New Orleans bearing
the request that the burial be here.
[From The Vernon Courier - Lamar County, AL - Transcribed and submitted
by Veneta McKinney]
New Orleans, Dec. 7 – Three weeks ago, in the midst of a cold rain storm, on one of the dreariest mornings of the
year, Jefferson Davis was carried from the Steamer Leathers to the Payne Mansion.
Last night about 11:15 all that was mortal of Jefferson Davis was carried from the Payne mansion to the city hall
in a hearse.
The remains of Jefferson Davis are lying in the council chamber of the city hall. The coffin rests upon a catafalque
and is devoid of much ornamentation. The casket has a silver plate, upon which is the single inscription “Jefferson
Davis, At Rest.”
Badges of the Confederate Association, the flag of the Washington Artillery carried through the war, a bunch of
wheat and a pair of crossed Spanish daggers, as the plant is termed, fastened together with a purple ribbon, are
the only other ornaments. The desk of the mayor and clerk have been covered over and turned into a platform which
is a receptacle for floral offerings. The room is darkened and lit up by a cluster of electric lights, their brilliancy
being dimmed by the sable drapery. Soldiers in uniform stand guard stacks of arms and cannon fill the corners of
the chamber and all round the walls are rows of plants and shrubbery forming a beautiful contrast. Since early
morning the people have been pouring in to obtain a last look at the dead. No crowding is allowed, and visitors
are filed through the room in a regular. All classes are represented in the procession by the bier. The number
of colored people is marked.
IN HIS HONOR - Governor Seay Asks the People to meet and Do Homage to the Dead
Montgomery, Dec. 7 – Governor Seay issued the following proclamation late this afternoon:
Proclamation by the Governor
Whereas, the Hon. Jefferson Davis, by his gallant conduct as a soldier on numerous fields devotion to his ideal
of public duty; and by his stainless private character, his fame the common heritage of the people of every southern
Whereas, his recent death in New Orleans has carried a sense of profound bereavement to his fellow citizens throughout
south who once acknowledge him their chosen leader:
Now therefore, I Thomas Seay, governor of Alabama, in conformity to the desire of the people of this state, do
hereby make proclamation and name, Wednesday December the 11th 1889 at 12 o’clock noon, as a proper and fitting
time for them to meet together in their several places of public assembly and there show by appropriate exercise
of a solemn and patriotic character their reverence of the illustrious dead.
Done at the Capitol in the city of Montgomery on the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine
and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and fourteenth year.
By the Governor
J. D. Barron , Secretary of State
[From The Vernon Courier - Lamar County, AL - Transcribed and submitted
by Veneta McKinney]
Jefferson Davis, His Diseases
and His Doctors
A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Ewing Fox Howard
W. A. EVANS, M.S., M.D., D.P.H., LL.D. Aberdeen, and Jefferson Davis Shrine, Beauvoir House, Biloxi, Miss.
Reprint from The Mississippi Doctor June, 1942
[•Given before the Mississippi State Medical Association at Jackson, Mississippi, May. 1942. The Ewine Fox Howard
oration on medicine for 1942.]
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Miss Marshall and the Rudolph Matas Medical Library of Tulane
School of Medicine; Miss Williams and the Library of the Mississippi Department of Health; Mississippi Department
of Archives and History; Library of the Surgeon General's Office U. S. Army; Dr. Rudolph Matas; Dr. George K. Birchett;
Mr. V. B. Russell; Mrs. C. E. Boiling; Mrs. C. L. Barrow; Mrs. A. M. Fishburn; Dr. P. H. Jones, Sr.; Mr. Robinson,
and many others.
JEFFERSON DAVIS, HIS DISEASES AND HIS DOCTORS
Period 1808 To 1835 (birth to 27 years of age).
Of Jefferson Davis' disease history between 1808 and 1835, we know practically nothing. Nor do we know what physicians
attended him. Between 1808 and 1811, he lived in a rural community in what is now Todd County, Kentucky. In 1811
to 1812, he was in the Bayou Teche country in Louisiana. From 1813 to 1824, (5 to 16 years of age) he was in Wilkinson
County, Mississippi, about two-thirds of the time. The remainder of the time, he was in school in Springfield,
Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, and Washington, Mississippi. We know nothing of the physicians who attended him
in that period and there is almost no chance that we will ever know materially more than we now do.
Period 1824 To 1828 (16 to 20 years of age).
He was at West Point Military Academy. A search of official records might show whether any army surgeon was detailed
to look after the health of the student body at West Point, and if so, who he was.
Period 1828 To 1835 (20 to 27 years of age).
He served in the United States Army in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and present Oklahoma. It is possible
that a search of the U. S. Army records might reveal the names of army doctors who were detailed to the troops
in which he served.
As to his diseases in this period, we must depend largely on deduction. He was the tenth child borne by his mother.
Therefore, she had had large experience in bearing and caring for babies.
Nothing in the record shows that any of the ten children had any birth disorders or deformities or any unusual
childhood diseases. There was plenty of "pot-licker," collards, fresh meat and other fresh food and probably
none of the ten had scurvy, rickets or any other manifestation of vitamin deficiency.
The children of this large family must have been exposed to many forms of childhood contagion.
We have Mrs. Davis' statement that he failed to contract measles, scarlet fever, and membraneous sore throat, probably
diphtheria, when exposed to them in his own family. Every soldier not protected by a previous attack has measles
and mumps. Since Jefferson Davis escaped these diseases in his army life, he must have had them in childhood.
He was exposed to cholera twice in the army, and more than once he was exposed to yellow fever, and smallpox. The
record does not show that he had either of these diseases, in his childhood or later.
Jefferson Davis explained the short stay in Louisiana by this statement: "But as his (Sam'l Davis, his father)
children suffered from acclimatization, he sought a higher and healthier district." Whether or not Jefferson
was one of the sick children, we do not know.
While at West Point (1824 to 1828) he fell over a cliff and was pretty badly hurt but he soon recovered completely.
His very certain exposures to cholera occurred while he was in the army in 1832-1833.
In this period during one winter in Wisconsin, he had pneumonia. This pneumonia must have been accompanied by,
or followed by, pleurisy or there might have been an abscess, for some reason, the pneumonia resolved slowly. The
record shows he was sick several weeks and was very thin and weak thereafter.
Period 1835 To 1845 ( age 27 to 37)
In June, 1835, Jefferson Davis resigned from the U. S. Army, married Sarah Knox Taylor and went to Hurricane Plantation,
Davis Island, South Warren County, Mississippi, to raise cotton. General Taylor, and particularly Mrs. Taylor,
were very uneasy lest malaria should ruin the health of the daughter. Sarah Knox Taylor Davis wrote her mother
several reassuring letters relative to her health and the healthfulness of the region — which letters are in existence.
Nevertheless in September, 1835, both she and Mr. Davis were taken sick with a severe fever. Sarah Knox Taylor
Davis died from this fever on Locust Grove Plantation, West Feliciana Parish, La., between Jackson and Bayou Sara
on September 15, 1835. Jefferson Davis recovered.
There is considerable disagreement in the evidence as to the diagnosis on two points.
1. Were Mr. and Mrs. Davis taken sick before they left Davis Island?
2. Was the disease yellow fever or malaria? The first point is of minor importance but it has some value for the
light it throws on the second point. The bulk of the evidence indicates that the illness began at Hurricane Plantation.
Hoping to be benefited, Mr. and Mrs. Davis went down the river, probably as far as New Orleans, and then came up
as far as Bayou Sara where they left the boat and went to the home of Mrs. Smith, Jefferson Davis' sister. The
disease was probably malaria and not yellow fever. Mrs. Davis says it was malaria as do at least two-thirds of
those who have written on the subject.
We are helped in deducing a conclusion from collateral evidence.
1. The illness was too prolonged for yellow fever.
2. They would not have travelled as they did had the disease been known to be yellow fever.
3. The funeral was public and that would not have been the case had the diagnosis been yellow fever.
4. Monette says there was no epidemic of yellow fever in that region in 1835.
Dr. Benjamin Davis.
The attending physician was probably Dr Benjamin Davis. Some members of the Smith family think a nephew, Dr. Joseph
Davis Smith, was the medical man in the case. But Dr. Joseph Davis Smith was born in 1818 and did not commence
practicing medicine until 1842 and died in 1875. That rules him out as the attending physician of his uncle in
1835 and also in 1889.
Dr. Benjamin Davis was probably the third son and the fifth child of Samuel E. Davis, and Jane Cook Davis. He was
born in Georgia. That means he was several years older than Jefferson Davis. He married Aurelia Smith and moved
from Wilkinson County, Mississippi, to West Feliciana Parish, Louisana. He had no children. After his death, his
widow married General Eleazor Wheelock Ripley of the U. S. Army and she bore one Ripley child.]
Injuries In Washington In 1836.
After Jefferson Davis recovered from the severe attack of malaria which had been threatening his life when his
wife died, he went to Cuba to recuperate. From Cuba he went to New York and on to Washington where he remained
for several weeks. The streets of Washington were unpaved and unlit. One night he fell into a ditch and suffered
cuts and bruises about the head. This was a severe injury but it could not have been as severe as Mrs. Davis' account
of it indicated. These injuries were attended to by a physician who at the time was a U. S. Senator from Missouri,
Dr. T. F. Lunn.
Dr. T. F. Lunn.
Dr. T. F. Lunn, in 1836, was a U. S. Senator from Missouri. He was born Nov. 5, 1796; studied medicine at Louisville,
Kentucky, and at Philadelphia; served in the War of 1812; located at St. Genevieve. Mo.,where he practiced medicine.
Was appointed U. S. Senator from Missouri to fill a vacancy. Was elected to continue in service in 1836 and 1842.
Died in St. Genevieve Oct. 3, 1843).
Period 1835 To 1845 (age 27 to 37)
Jefferson Davis spent these ten years in the home of his brother, Joseph E. Davis, on Hurricane Plantation, operating
nearby Brierfield, and studying. Presumably in that ten-year period, he required some medical service, although
there is no record that he did. The indications are that if he did need medical service, he called on some physician
located at Yokena, Warrenton, Selcerton, or Palmyra. These towns were all in South Warren County.
There were good physicians in Vicksburg — our list includes many names — but Vicksburg was too far away and too
inaccessible. We shall presently see that in the Mexican War, he was attended by Dr. Birchett, but probably that
physician living first at Bovina and later at Vicksburg was too far away to have practiced on Jefferson Davis.
On the tax rolls of Warren County, 1835 to 1845, we find a Joseph E. Davis and a Joseph E. Davis, Jr., paying taxes
on Clear Creek near Bovina. We do not even know that the Joseph E. Davis who paid taxes on Clear Creek property
near Bovina was even Jefferson Davis' brother and it is quite certain that neither Jefferson Davis nor his brother,
Joseph, lived at any time near Bovina.
The physicians found as having practiced in South Warren in 1835 to 1845 were:
Dr. Hyland, Yokena — best chance of having been the Davis' medical standby.
Dr. Griffing, Dr. Selcer of Selcerto -- Doctors Griffins and Selcer were both killed by Dr. T. T. Bealt of South
Warren, later of Vicksburg.
Dr. Wm. Barnes, B. D. Nallor. Thos. Harper. H. B. Bay, Balfour, LeGrand Capers, Dr. Wm. Gwin, and Hutchinson. We
have not found record of any physician practicing medicine at Palmyra.
Period 1846-1847—Mexican War (38 years old)
There is no record of any illness or injury of importance suffered by Jefferson Davis in the Mexican War except
the wound to his foot inflicted at the Battle of Buena Vista.
Sometime during the day of the battle of Buena Vista, Col. Davis was shot in the foot below the tuberosities of
the tibia and fibula. Pieces of his spear and boot were carried into the wound. When the wound was received, the
position of his command was critical, and he remained in the saddle paying no attention to his wound until the
end of the day's fighting. When he stopped to have his wound dressed, it was found that there was much blood in
his boot and the swelling of his leg and foot was considerable. Mrs. Davis wrote that the danger of lockjaw was
averted by keeping the foot in a water bath all night.
Of the after-history she wrote, "He suffered intensely from his wound as indeed he did for five years, and
was unable to dispense with crutches for two years. The bone exfoliated and pieces that had been shattered, worked
out, or were extracted by a surgeon."
Dr. Harry says Mr. Davis did not limp when he knew him. The authorities are agreed that there was no stiffness
of the ankle joint nor any other impairment of the foot in after years. However, Mrs. Davis wrote that some of
Mr. Davis' nervousness in later life was attributable to the suffering caused by this wound at the time of injury
and for months thereafter. In this emergency and in the subsequent illness, Jefferson Davis was cared for by the
regimental surgeon, Dr. G. K. Birchett of Vicksburg.
The essayist is of the opinion that Jefferson Davis had a penetrating, rifle ball wound of the foot in which there
was a compound comminuted fracture of the os calcis which became infected. This opinion is based partly on deduction.
Since there was no stiffness of the joint, the conclusion is that neither the wound nor the infection reached any
joint membrane. The os calcis is the only bone in the vicinity which is large enough to suffer a wound followed
by infection and exfoliation of pieces of dead bone without involvement of some synovial membrane.
Dr. George Keith Birchett.
George Keith Birchett was the great-grandfather of our associate and friend, Dr. Birchett of Vicksburg. The present
Dr. George Birchett gave to the museum of Jefferson Davis Shrine, the surgical ?? (can't read) which his great-grandfather
used in the treatment of Jefferson Davis. We exhibit this set to you tonight. He also gave the Shrine the surgical
instruments used by his grandfather when serving as a surgeon in the Confederate Army. You can see these instruments
as well as those used in the Confederate service by visiting the museum of Jefferson Davis Shrine.
George Keith Birchett (the first) was born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1806. He died probably with yellow fever
in Vicksburg in 1866. He graduated in medicine in the University of Pennsylvania in 1827 or thereabouts.
He came to Vicksburg in 1830. He bought Mt. Albian Plantation near Bovina on Clear Creek and lived at times there
and at times in Vicksburg. He founded the institution which exists now as the Vicksburg State Charity Hospital.
Period 1845 To 1861 (except the Mexican War Period) (age 37 to 53)
At the beginning of this era, Jefferson Davis had married and embarked on his political career. He spent nearly
all of his time in Washington, but Brierfield on Davis Island was his legal home and there he spent a part of each
year. We do not know that he had any illness in this period, for which he or his family was treated in Warren County.
Such minor illnesses as called for attention were probably rendered by some of the physicians named as practicing
in Wokena or nearby south Warren villages.
In that civilization, many physicians of learning and culture lived in villages and on plantations.
Only one of the six Davis children was born in Mississippi and that was the oldest, Samuel E., born in 1853, and
also died in 1853. Mrs. Davis, in this confinement, may have been attended by some one of the south Warren physicians,
or she may have been attended by the Howell family physician in Natchez.
1851 (age 43 years)
In 1851, while canvassing the state against Foote at Pontotoc, Jefferson Davis was due to speak at Athens Campgrounds,
Monroe County, the next day or within a few days, and he wrote Judge Stephen Cocke that illness prevented him from
continuing the campaign for the time. Mrs. Davis wrote, "The exposure to the sun had its usual effect upon
Mr. Davis and he was stricken down with fever which brought on an acute inflammation of the left eye." Discussion
of this eye trouble will be postponed until a later paragraph.
When Mr. Davis was taken sick at Pontotoc, he inquired if a Dr. Dozier was not practicing somewhere in the county.
He went to the home of this Dr. Dozier and remained there until he was well enough to go home. This is the first
information we have as to Jefferson Davis' serious eye trouble.
Dr. Dozier was the grandfather of Judge W. D. Anderson of the present Supreme Court of Mississippi. He had been
a fellow student in Transylvania and Jefferson Davis' memory always held clear the boys with whom he had been associated
there. He remembered to have heard that his college friend, Dozier, now a physician, was practicing medicine in
Pontotoc County. He sought him out at his home a dozen miles in the country as he had sought out Jones in Iowa
and other Transylvania friends in other parts of the world.
Jefferson Davis in Mississippi was a strong, healthy man with a good digestion and few disorders.
In Washington, he was changing to a rather weak, nervous man, subject to facial neuralgia and nervousness. Probably
he was over-worked and over-worried and the strain was being felt. This subject will be further discussed in later
Three of his six children were born in Washington. In spite of the fact that no major illness of his in this period
is on record, except the laryngitis which ended in ulceration of the cornea, he and the family probably had the
services of several physicians. Among these were Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett, Dr. Stone, Dr. Miller and Dr. Hayes.
Mrs. C. E. Bolling, Richmond, Virginia, ex-President of the U. D. C, writes: "I learned recently from his
granddaughters that Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett, who lived in Washington prior to the Civil War and who came to Richmond
when Virginia seceded, was Jefferson Davis' physician in Washington and continued to be after he came to Richmond."
Mrs. Davis wrote, "Our family physician, Dr. Thomas Miller, brought the great specialist, Dr. Hayes, of Philadelphia,
to see our poor sufferer."
Period 1861-1865 (53 to 57 years old).
Jefferson Davis' stay in Montgomery was short and we have found no record of a medical history covering it.
He spent nearly four years of great strain in Richmond. Mrs. Davis wrote of Mr. Davis' spells of neuralgia of the
head, face and eye, and repeated brief attacks of fever perhaps similar to attacks of cold. He was over-taxed and
tired and his body showed that he was well on the way from the robust, full-faced, rosycheeked youth of great vitality
and strength to the hollow-cheeked, thin, pale, nervous, aging man.
In this period, there is no record of any severe illness which he developed, but his physician, Dr. Garnett, must
have come into the household with some frequency. Two of the children, William and Winnie, were born in Richmond,
and one, Joe, died during this period. He was killed by a fall from a porch. The children ranged in age from infancy
to six years — years in which there are many illnesses that call for physicians' services, although there are but
Dr. Thomas Miller.
Thomas Miller was born in Virginia in 1806. He died in Washington. D. C, in 1873 at 67 years of age. He studied
medicine in the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania from which he graduated in 1827. However,
he did not locate in Washington for the practice of medicine until 1835. He was a born leader and a man with originality
as well as force of character. As evidence of his willingness to pioneer, we have the facts that he was one of
the founders of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, that he caused the inauguration of the registration
of births and deaths and he established St. Elizabeth's Hospital. As evidence of his leadership, he was president
of the Medical Society of the District and president of the local Board or Health.
Dr. Robert King Stone.
Robert King Stone was born in Washington, 13. C, in 1822 and died in the same city in 1872. He graduated in medicine
from the Medical Department of the University of Louisville in 1849. In 1847, he located for the practice of medicine
in Washington, D. C. marrying in the same year. He began teaching by filling the chair of anatomy in the National
Medical College in 1848. Soon he became professor of ophthalmology in the same college. After that, he specialized
increasingly in diseases of the eye.
Dr. S. C. Busey wrote. "For any reputation for which I may leave behind me for fluency of speech and readiness
in debate. I owe to Robert King Stone." He taught me how to express myself when on my feet, saying the secret
lay in two principles — first, know what you intend to say, and second, forget yourself. He was a broad-minded,
open-hearted, generous and forgiving man."
Jefferson Davis was lucky in that one of his Washington physicians was so pro-Southern in his sympathies that he
felt it advisable for him to spend the war period in Richmond. There among his other services for the Confederacy
was the care of the health of President Davis and his family.
A.Y.P. Garnett was born Sept. 19, 1819, and died July 11, 1888. He was the son of Muscoe Garnett; was born on the
Rappannock River in Essex County, Virginia. He graduated in medicine from the Medical Department of the University
of Pennsylvania in 1841. On June 13, 1848, he married Mary E. Wise, a daughter of Henry A. Wise, governor of Virginia.
He settled near Washington. D.C. where he enjoyed a large practice in the families of men prominent in public life,
including the family of Senator Davis. In 1851 he had some service in connection with the U. S. Navy.
He removed from Washington to Richmond in 1861 and returned to Washington in 1865.
In Richmond he was personal physician to Jefferson Davis and served in two military hospitals. Later, he was president
of the American Medical Association. He died at Rehabeth Beach, Delaware, of heart disease. Washington sketches
of physicians teem with fine reference to Dr. Garnett.
Prison Period (age 57 to 61 years)
In May, 1865, Jefferson Davis was placed in Fortress Monroe and held there in close confinement for about one year
and then he was in jail in Carroll Hall without much greater liberty for an additional year. For a short period
he was in chains.
From May to December, 1865
He was under the medical care of Lt. Col. J. J. Craven, Surgeon, U. S. Army, the author of The Prison Life of Jefferson
Davis. After 1865, he was under the medical care of Surgeon George E. Cooper. Surgeon Cooper's reports, and also
those of Col. Craven, are found in the bodies of volumes entitled The War of the Rebellion, Serial No. 136. During
this two-year period, one or the other of these physicians saw Jefferson Davis almost daily and officially reported
to the superintendent of the prison or to some other higher officer on the health of the prisoner. Their reports
are in substantial agreement. They found no evidence of any organic disease. The patient was emaciated, "little
more than skin and bones," skin color poor, skin tone poor, poorly muscled; sometimes handled his feet poorly;
some tremor, some tendency to fall or to stagger; poor appetite, poor digestion, very nervous, hypersensitive to
light and sound: sometimes had a rapid nervous pulse; had fever occasionally; face would flush; slept poorly; had
neuralgia of the face and head nearly every day.
To the honor of our profession, both Drs. Craven and Cooper extended Jefferson Davis every courtesy and did for
him every kindly act that they could. Dr. Craven insisted upon having his shackles removed. He discovered that
the prisoner had a fair appetite and fair digestion, when he was given appealing foods, properly prepared.
When he found that the presence of, and the noise made by sentinels was too much for the sensitive nerves of the
patient, he strove to have re-adjustments made. He got him from poorer quarters to better ones. At last, in December,
1865, he got warmer clothing for the poor, frail man. For these acts of kindness, Dr. Craven was demoted.
Do not fail to read The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis. You will learn much about science, political economy, sociology
and medicine. You will learn much of Jefferson Davis that you will otherwise miss, and you will close the book
determined to be more worthy of your profession.
When Dr. Craven was removed, Jefferson Davis became the patient of Dr. George Cooper, U. S. Army. At first, Dr.
Cooper was awed by Dr. Craven's experience. But presently, one finds him rising above this. Soon he, too, was all
that a humane physician should be.
In the summer of 1865, the prisoner had an attack of streptococcus infection. We quote the following from Craven's
prison days. "Carbuncles and erysipelas in August and September, 1865. A pustule somewhat malignant in character
was forming on prisoner's face. Called the same evening, prisoner in a high fever, the swelling of his face spreading
to his back and head with indications of latent erysipelas.
"August 16. — Prisoner suffering severely; the erysipelas now showing itself in his nose and forehead.
"August 20. — Mr. Davis suffering great prostration, a cloud of erysipelas covering his whole face and throat.
"August 21. — Erysipelas spreading. Informed Major General Miles. 'I find state prisoner Davis suffering severely
from erysipelas in the face and head. Also that he had a small carbuncle on his left thigh.'
"August 25. — Erysipelas subsiding.
"September 1.- Mr. Davis believed in a critical condition. The carbuncle on his thigh much inflamed. The erysipelas
which had subsided now reappeared.
"September 3. — Erysipelas again receding and the carbuncle commencing to slough out.
"September 6. — Healthy granulations forming in the carbuncle
A probable diagnosis of this attack is carbuncle of the thigh, and erysipelas or an erysipelas-like infection of
the face and neck.
After Jefferson Davis was released from prison on bail, he spent nearly two years in Canada in the North within
easy call of the courts. He regained his health but thereafter he was never robust. There is no record of any severe
illness during this period (1867 to 1869) nor of any service by physicians.
This point is chosen to discuss two of Jefferson Davis' disorders, some mention of which has been made in the sections
dealing with other periods.
These are 1) poor indigestion and 2) blindness in one eye.
Poor Digestion. Mrs. Davis reports that Jefferson was naturally indifferent to food. In his eating, he was not
"picky or choosey." By reason of training, breeding or natural inclination, he ate moderately of the
foods placed before him, having no great likes or dislikes, neither praising nor blaming. He was no epicure and
certainly he was no Falstaff. In this prison period, he was just the reverse of his natural self. He was a dyspeptic
and no food seemed to appeal to him, or few foods seemed to agree with him. He could not stomach prison food, or
any other coarse food.
What is the explanation? It has been said that the change resulted from an amoebic infection contracted in the
Mexican War. There is nothing in the record to prove this. He never had dysentery. He had chronic constipation
and all other symptoms of amoebic dysentery were missing.
In the present trend of medical opinion, there would be a strong tendency to say that the cause of Jefferson Davis'
ill health in these years was gall stones or infected gallbladder, or stomach ulcer. Such a patient today would
have his gallbladder or stomach operated on.
About all we can say now is that no diagnosis of gall stones or infected bile ducts or stomach ulcer was made then
or can be made now.
The best guess we can make is that the cause in this patient at this time was environmental—physical environment,
and mental, spiritual and social causes, inward and environmental.
Dr. Craven's diagnosis was dyspepsia.
What is dyspepsia? Dr. W. J. Mayo was fond of saying that the stomach was the only organ in the abdomen that could
talk. So-called dyspepsia, he said when it was not due to ulcer or cancer, was the effect of some dumb organ beyond
the stomach, trying to talk.
Blindness. At some time prior to 1850, Jefferson Davis lost the vision in his left eye.
For some years, he had been subject to violent attacks of facial neuralgia. In some of these, he had to remain
in a dark room. There might be suspicion that he had migraine. But the description of the symptoms does not fit
sick headache and the spells lasted too long for migraine. Some of these spells began with infections of the nose.
They were certainly neuralgic in type. In some spells, photophobia was an outstanding symptom.
We have two descriptions of the eye condition, each based on statements by physicians, and each is definite enough
to serve as the basis of a diagnosis.
Mrs. Davis wrote: "In the winter of 1858, Mr. Davis, in the midst of the session, caught a very severe cold,
which gave him laryngitis; and before it subsided, his left eye became intensely inflamed. About this time, there
was a congress of medical men in Washington, and our family physician, Dr. Thomas Miller, brought the great specialist,
Dr. Hayes, of Philadelphia, to see our poor sufferer. A procedenture of the pupil had taken place; the eye was
in imminent danger of bursting. Dr. Hayes said to me, 'I do not see why this eye has not burst.'
These statements would indicate that Dr. Hayes, the distinguished eye specialist of Philadelphia, thought that
Mr. Davis had glaucoma and that was the cause of the blindness. He does not say what kind of glaucoma it was, or
what underlay it. Mrs. Davis wrote: "In 1857, exposure to the sun caused Mr. Davis to have fever which brought
on an acute inflammation of the eye and this caused ulceration of the cornea. For three weeks, he was forced to
keep in the dark and to refrain from reading and writing."
Talking with Dr. J. J. Craven in Fortress Monroe, May 28, 1865, Jefferson Davis said: "I lost the sight in
one eye from leucoma or an ulceration of the cornea. I can see light with this eye, but I can not distinguish objects."
This statement leaves no doubt that Jefferson Davis was blind in his left eye, as the result of corneal ulcer,
and that some physician, we know not who, had made that diagnosis. It is entirely possible that he had had both
corneal ulcer and secondary glaucoma possibly at the same time, or possibly at different times.
Dr. J.J. Craven.
Dr. J. J. Craven was born in 1823 somewhere north of the Mason and Dixon line, we do not know where. He went into
the United States Army at Trenton, New Jersey, as surgeon of the First New Jersey Infantry. This was a three months'
volunteer regiment and Dr. Craven was back in private practice in New Jersey by August 1861. He again volunteered,
re-entering the U.S. Army October 16. 1861, at Washington, D. C. In the course of his military duties, he was detailed
to serve at Fortress Monroe in 1865, and in consequence of this detail, purely as a matter of service the duty
of caring for the health of Jefferson Davis and other prisoners fell to his lot.
In December 1865, because of alleged undue kindness to the prisoner, Davis, he was virtually released of all active
duty. After a month of inaction, he was honorably discharged from the United States Army with the rank of Brevet
Lt. Colonel on January 27, 1866. He then retired to Patchogue, Long Island, New York, where he wrote his Prison
Life of Jefferson Davis and where he afterward practiced medicine until his death. This occurred February 19, 1893,
when he was 65 years of age.
When Jefferson Davis in prison needed better food, Mrs. Craven and her daughter, Annie, cooked it for him and sent
it to him from their own table. When he needed warmer underwear and an overcoat, Dr. Craven saw that he got what
he needed and from outside sources. The overcoat episode was too much for the prevailing spirit of intolerance.
For that Christian, medical service, Dr. Craven was relieved from duty.
No medicine that ever came out of a bottle was better for the patient than the clothing and delicacies which Dr.
J. J. Craven and his family gave to this poor old prisoner.
Would that it were possible for the physicians of Mississippi and other Southern states to place somewhere a tablet
to the memory of this man — he honored medicine.
A copy of Craven's Prison Days of Jefferson Davis belongs to the library of Jefferson Davis Shrine. It is here
for your inspection.
Dr. George E. Cooper was detailed to take care of the health of Jefferson Davis in prison when Dr. J. J. Craven
was relieved of that duty. He was disposed at first to be harsh to the prisoner but in a short time, the record
shows that he was contending for the rights of his patient in a way that brought him under some suspicion.
George E. Cooper was born in Pennsylvania and was appointed from that state to medical service in the United States
Army. He served from 1847 to 1869. Starting as an assistant surgeon, he served in that capacity during the Mexican
War and until 1848. He was stationed at Fortress Monroe from 1853 to 1861. He was again at fortress Monroe in December
1863, and he served there as post surgeon. In 1866 and 1867, he was brevetted lieutenant colonel and then made
Dr. J. K. Barnes.
Dr. Barnes' only medical service to Jefferson Davis was as a referee, on reports made by military surgeons. J.
K. Barnes was born in Pennsylvania. He was appointed from Pennsylvania to the position of Assistant Surgeon United
States Army In 1840. He served in the Mexican and Civil wars. He was made brevet brigadier general while at Army
headquarters in Washington. In 1863, he was made major general.
The record shows that several other physicians were detailed to examine and report on the health of the prisoner
Davis, but none had any more contact with him than was required for that service.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., July 5, 1796, just twenty years after the promulgation of the Declaration of
Independence and as George Washington was preparing to leave the Presidency for private life.
His entire education was obtained at the University of Pennsylvania, from which institution he received the arts
degree in 1816 and the medical degree in 1820.
In 1830, he married Miss Sara L. Minnis of Savannah, Ga. Hence the name of his son, L. Minnis Hayes, who founded
the American Journal of the Medical Science.
As a general practitioner of medicine, Dr. Isaac Hayes was an indifferent success. He decided to try specializing
in the eye. He studied in Wills Hospital and Infirmary for diseases of the eye. He wrote a section of Lawrence's
Diseases of Eye; edited Annot's Elements of Physics, Wilson's American Ornithology and Hoblyn's Dictionary of Medical
Terms. With Dr. E. Griffiths, he translated two volumes of Physiological Medicine. He wrote on chronic phlegmeasia,
and in 1843 he started Medical News. He was a frequent guest at the Wistar parties and was on intimate terms with
the scientists of the period and with Prince Lucian Bonaparte. His death on April 12, 1879, was attributed to Influenza.
Period 1869 To 1877 (age 61 to 69)
During this period, Jefferson Davis lived in several places and engaged in several activities.
His longest period of residence was at Memphis, Tennessee, but he also lived at Brierfield and possibly for a while
in New Orleans, and he travelled abroad. He suffered no illness that is on record during the period. One son, Willie,
died of membranous croup (diphtheria) in Memphis. We do not know the names of his physician or physicians during
With the exception of one experience in 1875 and also with the exception of the last illness in November and December,
1889, there were no illnesses during this period.
During this period, Jefferson Davis remained quietly at Beauvoir writing, receiving visitors, and occasionally
going somewhere to make a speech.
In October, 1878, his son, Jefferson, Jr., died with yellow fever at Buntyn Station near Memphis. He did not go
to see his son when he was sick nor did he attend the funeral. These facts indicate that he was not a yellow fever
immune, although his age and infirmities and the difficulties imposed by that appalling epidemic must be considered
as causes for his staying away from Memphis.
His principal occupation at Beauvoir was writing, although he spent some of his time growing grapes, figs and oranges.
Cullum's Register of West Point Military Academy graduates gives his occupation as "farming." He had
many visitors and he occasionally went somewhere to give an address. All in all, in this period his surroundings
and meter of life were conducive to good health and long life.
During most of the period, he was attended, when a physician was needed, by Dr. J. J. Harry, of Handsboro. Another
neighbor, Dr. Hollingsworth, called to see him socially from time to time. They discussed things and exchanged
books but we have no evidence that Dr. Hollingsworth rendered any medical service.
Dr. Harry says that he, then a young doctor, was somewhat over-awed by having the ex-President as a patient. He
did not consider that Jefferson Davis had any organic trouble. Every little while, he would have an attack of slight
fever and neuralgia. He was a chronic dyspeptic with a mild constipated habit. Dr. Harry thought he had a bilious
temperament with a tendency to develop fever readily. Seldom did he consider the attacks due to malaria. He thought
they were the result of the patient's poor digestion and sluggish liver. He had a chronic cough, but it was not
bad, and he did not prescribe for it.
Very early in his care of Jefferson Davis, he found that quinine did not help him any. Therefore, he rarely gave
him any. The remedy which he found most helpful was a prescription containing one-fourth grain of Dover's powders,
two grains of calomel and two grains of soda. This generally relieved him within 24 hours. On one occasion, he
had a spell that was somewhat more obstinate than the usual attack. In addition to the other symptoms, there was
some jaundice. The Dover's powder-calomel-soda prescription had not worked. A consultation with a New Orleans physician
was suggested. Dr. Harry was willing and when asked to suggest a consultant, he recommended Dr. W. G. Austin. He
had served with Dr. Austin in a yellow fever epidemic in Ocean Springs and he had confidence in him.
Dr. Austin came over from New Orleans and examined his distinguished patient. He thought the attack was malarial;
there was slight jaundice, and the patient should have five grains of quinine at regular intervals until he was
rather heavily quininized. Dr. Harry did not agree but he was a young country doctor, and Dr. Austin was more experienced.
Jefferson Davis wanted to follow Dr. Harry. They compromised by agreeing that the patient would take one five-grain
dose of quinine. Dr. Harry would take Dr. Austin to town to the train and then he would come back to Beauvoir to
see how the quinine was serving. When he got back, Mr. Davis was very nervous and restless and was perspiring profusely.
The quinine was discontinued. Another dose of Dover's powders-calomel-soda was given and the patient was much improved
the next day. Dr. Harry thought the basis of Jefferson Davis' attacks was mental plus a digestive disorder. There
was not much scar in the eyeball and he has no recollection of what was the trouble with the eye.
The probability is that Jefferson Davis rarely suffered from malaria. He probably took quinine many times when
that drug was not indicated. Those frequent mild spells of fever and pain were probably due to infections, but
not malarial infections.
Discussion Of Two Conditions
Very briefly let us mention rather than discuss two other matters that concern physicians although it is not on
record that any physician to Jefferson Davis gave them any thought.
The first is the change in Jefferson Davis' face as age and the experiences of life wrought them.
The second, the change in his mental type.
Mrs. Davis thus describes her husband's physical appearance and especially his facial expression:
"Lt. Davis had, at this time, no beard or so little as to be scarcely perceptible and his smooth face, fresh
color, and gay laugh gave the impression of a boy of nineteen."
In the museum of the Jefferson Davis Shrine, you will find a series of pictures of Jefferson Davis at different
ages. The first in the series is a picture of Lt. Davis, United States Army, age about twenty-three. He was then
a robust young man with pink skin and full cheeks. The pictures show that his growing old was marked most notably
by a shrinking of the cheeks. Presently he was hollow-cheeked.
The cranium of man matures speedily and never thereafter change much in size or shape. On the other hand, the structures
of the face undergo constant change from the cradle to the grave. Most subject to change is the nose. Changes in
the cheeks especially of the type and degree noted in the case of Jefferson Davis are unusual at least prior to
the drying out and shrinking of senility.
Jefferson Davis, mentally prior to 1835, was a rollicking, fun-loving prank-playing convivial, not overly studious
boy, and man preparing for life as a soldier.
The same man, subsequent to 1835, was of a different mental type. He was a studious, solitary crowd-shunning student
of statecraft and constitutional law. He was not a mixer nor were there any of the qualities of a playboy. This
change not only in objectives but also in mental type is worthy of further study.
Macon, Georgia, Incident (about 1884) (age about 76).
While on a visit to Macon, Georgia, Mr. Davis had some sort of a breakdown, which Mrs. Davis wrote of as follows:
"He was stricken with heart failure. After days of suffering, and imminent danger, Dr. H. McHatton, his able
physician, ordered him back to Beauvoir and enjoined quiet upon him for the future."
We hope that the diagnosis "heart failure" was not made by Dr. McHatton.
That Jefferson Davis pushed himself beyond his physical and mental capacity, drove beyond his endurance and had
some sort of "failure" is no doubt true. But he did not have heart failure. Heart failure is loosely
used to indicate myocardial degeneration, failure of compensation, dilatation, malignant hypertension or some form
of heart block.
Jefferson Davis lived more than five years after this diagnosis was made. He never developed oedema of the feet
or anasarca, or dyspnea or any form of heart block. Dr. Harry nor the physicians who attended Jefferson Davis in
his last illness noted any trouble with his heart or any heart symptoms that could be tied in with a history of
"heart failure" in 1884.
When are we justified in making a patient who has some kind of a "failure" without progressive organic
disease, change his life from one of usefulness or pleasure, to one of uselessness or apprehension? Even if we
are certain there is an organic heart disease which we might call heart failure should we not study the progress
long and carefully before we have a patient buy a year or two of life at the price of loss of usefulness or pleasure?
Dr. H. McHatton.
About all that we have been able to learn about Dr. McHatton is that he was a regular physician in Macon, Georgia,
in 1884, and that he graduated from Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1881. From this, we guess that he was
born between 1855 and 1861. He was not a Confederate veteran nor an old acquaintance of Jefferson Davis.
Period 1877 To 1889 (age 69 to 81)
In this twelve-year period, Jefferson Davis was living quietly at Beauvoir. Occasionally he would go away to give
an address or to attend some meeting. Probably once a year, he would go into Warren County, Mississippi, and Tensas
Parish, Louisiana, to settle with the hands and to make contracts for the next year with the plantation labor.
He was now a feeble old man, but he was able to write books and magazine articles, to greet callers and friends
and to meet the duties and responsibilities demanded of him.
He had periodic spells for which he consulted Dr. J. J. Harry, of Handsboro. Dr. Harry treated him for his facial
neuralgia and the occasional spells of fever, maybe for constipation, and occasional spells of dyspepsia and for
symptoms as they arose. He was proud that Jefferson Davis honored him with his confidence. He admits that he was
awed by the prominence of his patient and in consequence, he was glad to have consultations whenever they were
proposed. Whenever a consultant proposed something that he did not think would work out, he, Dr. Harry, was accustomed
to letting the consultant's opinion stand until it was proved incorrect.
He thought Mr. Davis' attacks were malarial but he also thought that in his case, quinine made matters worse.
Dr. Harry handled successfully his minor ills, protected him against nervousness due to quinine, and kept him in
moderate comfort. He never carried him through a severe illness. While he thought he had some malaria, he minimized
the importance of that infection in his case. He did not find a cause for his facial neuralgias. He did not get
back of the neuralgia in the search for vitamin deficiency or back of the dyspepsia. For those adventures in diagnosis,
the curtain had not risen.
Dr. J.J. Harry.
Dr. J. J. Harry is living at Handsboro, Miss.
He was born near Garlandsville, Jasper County, Miss., May 18, 1854, his father being a farmer. He went to the State
University at Ovford for two years, and then finding that the family resources were being overtaxed, he switched
to medicine. He was graduated in medicine from the University of Louisiana, now Tulane. in 1878, and then located
in Ocean Springs. He saw service there in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. This experience qualified him for
membership on, and president of, the Gulf Coast Health Board — largely a wall against yellow fever for Harrison,
Hancock and Jackson counties. In this position he had many experiences, some serious and some amusing.
There is room for only one of these. Once they had some suspicious cases which Dr. Murray, yellow fever expert
assigned to Florida, reported to the surgeon general were an ephemeral fever rather than yellow fever. When the
surgeon general replied asking "what was an ephemeral fever?". Dr. Murray telegraphed back. "Damfino."
In 1880, Dr. Harry married Miss Lienhard and moved to Handsboro.
In the latest panic, 1929, Dr. Harry lost more money than any doctor is supposed to have. It made him sick and
he went to New Orleans to consult Drs. Hume and Vlckery at Touro.
One day the doctors spent five hours trying to find something wrong. Their conclusion was that Dr. Harry's only
disease was depletion of the pocket book. Their prescription was diversion and play. "But," said Dr.
Harry. "I have never done anything but work and I do not know how to play." Let me see. Can I fox hunt?"
"Every day," the doctor replied. He got a pack of hounds and he commenced to take his medicine. He is
not well — that money disease is hard to cure — but he is taking his medicine regularly and feels certain he will
get well, if he lives long enough. He is only eighty-eight years old, and he has a good pack of hounds and there
are plenty of foxes around Popp's Ferry: the prognosis is good.
Dr. W.G. Austin.
So far as is known, Dr. W. G. Austin rendered medical service to Jefferson Davis only once. He was somewhat in
disfavor with Mr. Davis thereafter because of the large doses of quinine which he gave his patient on that occasion.
W. G. Austin was born in Somerset County. Maryland, in 1814 and died in New Orleans June 15, 1894. He was the son
of Dr. John Austin of Loudon County, Virginia. He received his preliminary education at Kenvon College, Ohio, and
his medical education at Baltimore College of Medicine and Surgery, graduating in 1836. In that year, he located
in Yazoo City, Miss. In 1839, he married Miss Porter of Mississippi and moved to Bayou Sara, La. Some years later,
he moved to New Orleans. In 1862, he was president of the State Board of Health and superintendent of Charity Hospital.
After that, he served in the Confederate Army. In 1877, he was again on the State Board of Health and in 1879,
he was acting president. After that date, he was connocted with the yellow fever quarantine and was active in various
yellow fever epidemics.
He was long regarded as one of our best yellow fever experts and he was conspicuous in all epidemics.
1889 — Last Illness (age 81 years and six months)
Jefferson Davis may have had a little chronic cough when he went from Beauvoir to Brierfield the latter part of
November, 1889. In these years, he generally had a mild cough which caused no one any worry. He landed from the
boat rather late at night. He always had a decided conviction that many human diseases were due to poisonous substances
in the air and he was especially apprehensive about exposure to night air. He thought such exposure caused malaria
and resulted in other diseases. He contracted a cold and this resulted in a cough. In a few days, he was sick enough
to cause some friends to place him on a river boat that he might be cared for in New Orleans, and notified his
family. Dr. Stanford E. Chaille was called in to give medical care to the sick old man and he arranged to have
Dr. C. J. Bickham in daily consultation.
Mrs. Davis' statement of the last illness: "He arrived at the landing (near Brierfield) late at night but
had been attacked on the boat (going up the river) with something which now appears to have been grippe and was
too ill to get off the boat, but went on to Vicksburg and returned the next day. He arrived again at night, and
drove several miles home through the malarial atmosphere. After a few days they started to New Orleans with the
sick man by boat. Two physicians whom we consulted at Bayou Sara, declared he had acute bronchitis complicated
with grave malarial trouble."
Dr. Chaille's statement: "I was the family physician of Mr. Davis for several years. He had chronic bronchitis
and chronic indigestion. I was in attendance during the last twenty days of his fatal illness. The cause of death
was chronic bronchitis coupled with malaria fever and old age. Thursday, when his digestion broke down, I gave
up all hope."
Dr. C. J. Bickham's statements "Acute bronchitis, age, undernourishment and suffering probably from malaria.
He never rallied after being seized with the congestive chill which was probably easily brought on in consequence
of the malaria in the system."
They referred to a "congestive chill" followed by hours of coma, terminating in death.
In that day, it was the custom to call certain conditions congestive chill. We might try to split the conditions
lumped together as congestive chill into a half dozen states, some of which would be designated hypostatic pneumonia,
passive congestion of the lungs, dehydration, coma. In that day, most of these congestive chills were regarded
as of malarial origin. Dr. Chaille was quite certain that the complication in Jefferson Davis' case was malaria.
Dr. Bickham was far less certain about it.
This frail old man had an acute bronchitis and his lungs filled up as the lungs of an old person are so prone to
do. It is not probable that he had malaria. In fact, probably very few of the many spells which he had after 1835,
and which were called malarial were due to that disease.
One of the great pandemics of influenza prevailed in 1890 and 1891. The trend of medical opinion now is toward
the theory that the infective colds of a pre-pandemic period of influenza, build up into the substratum of a world
epidemic form of the disease. Is it not likely that the pandemic of 1890-91 was brewing in December, 1889? And
is it not possible that Jefferson Davis was one of the earlier victims? That pandemic was especially hard on old
persons. A little later, I saw influenza kill five of the older professors in Rush Medical College in less than
Your essayist is of the opinion that Jefferson Davis died from pandemic influenza, complicated by senility and
some chronic bronchitis.
The pandemic of 1890-91 was just beginning to build up from an epidemic in December, 1889. In 1890, it was a pandemic.
The feeble old man, worn out and suffering from a mild chronic bronchitis, was just in line for that pandemic.
Stanford E. Chaille.
This audience embraces many people who knew Dr. Chaille. So impressive was he in manner and speech that no one
who was exposed to Chaille ever forgot him.
Dr. Chaille was born July 9, 1830, in Natchez and was of Huguenot stock. His immediate forbears went to Natchez
from Maryland, although he had many kinsmen in New England. He graduated at Harvard with A.B. in 1857 and M.A.
in 1853. His father having died early, he was taken to New England and there received his basic education, but
he returned South to graduate in medicine from the University of Louisiana in March, 1853. He entered the Confederate
Army as a private in 1861, but in, 1862, he was acting surgeon general of Louisiana. He served as an interne at
Charity Hospital and afterward was resident physician of the United States Marine Hospital. His first teaching
position in the University of Louisiana was in the department of obstetrics and anatomy, but you and I remember
him in Tulane as Professor of Physiology and Dean.
His family consisted of a wife and daughter. At least one of his grandsons now ornaments the medical profession.
Or. Matas wrote of Dr. Chaille, "To him more than any other of my teachers next to my parents, I owe the greatest
inspiration of my professional life."
Whether at table or informal conference with official delegates, his remarks and observations were keen pointed
and pithy. They immediately gave him precedence and commanded the most respectful attention." With this, every
student who listened to Chaille teach physiology will agree.
Dr. Chaille was often on boards of health and few public health investigating commissions in his day failed to
number Chaille as a member.
He could he pointed and eloquent in fields other than physiology. In welcoming the ex-Confederate Surgeons to New
Orleans in 1903, he spoke: "In those woeful days, it seemed to Confederate patriots that hell had disgorged
all its friends to devastate the South and that Satan had at last vanquished God. Then the torturing irons of humiliation
seared your souls and then the solid South was born. "Change the words to fit but retain the style and force
and you have Chaille teaching physiology."
Dr. C.J. Bickham.
Charles Jasper Bickham was born at Covington. Southwestern University of Texas in 1854 and that of M.D. from the
Medical Department of the University of Louisiana in 1856. He served as house surgeon under the great surgeon,
Warren Stone. This explained the fact that Dr. C. J. Bickham's surgeon — and author — son bore the name Warren
Stone Bickham. Dr. C. J. Bickham began the independent practice of medicine at Shreveport, La. In 1867, he became
connected with the Medical Department of Louisiana and he retained some connection with this Institution and its
successor, Tulane University, until 1896. Dr. Bickham was kind, gentle and considerate. He built up one of the
largest clienteles in New Orleans and did a large consulting business. He died February 14, 1898 and was buried
at Sewanee, Tenn.
Mrs. Davis wrote: "Two physicians whom we consulted at Bayou Sara declared that he had acute bronchitis complicated
with grave malarial trouble."
Who could the physicians have been who were practicing medicine between Bayou Sara and Jackson, Louisiana, November,
1889, and were close enough to the Davis family to command their confidence?
The best we can do is to guess who these two physicians were. Among the physicians in the region in 1889 whose
names have been supplied us are: Dr. Smith, Dr. James Leake, Dr. A. A. Carruth, Dr. James Kilburne, Dr. R. G. Sterling,
Dr. Barrows. It seems to be probable that the two physicians were Dr. Kilburne and Dr. Leake, although there is
almost no basis for the guess.
Dr. S. A. Cartwright.
The writer hoped to find that one or both of two eminent Natchez doctors of the period had attended Jefferson Davis.
Of these J. W. Monette was available but no mention of him as a Davis doctor has been found.
The only connection with the other, Dr. S. A. Cartwright, is roundabout and impersonal.
Across the river from Brierfield in Tensas Parish were two plantations which in 1848 and 1849 were owned by S.
W. Dorsey, but which Jefferson Davis later owned. As the crow flies, it was less than ten miles from Brierfield
to these plantations Last Retreat and Elkridge. In 1848 and 1849, there was a severe epidemic of cholera up and
down the lower Mississippi River. It reached Last Retreat and Elkridge.
In 1848, Dr. S. A. Cartwright, of Natchez, wrote an article on the treatment of cholera. A part of this article
was a booklet of instructions to plantation owners remote from physicians. This gave a prescription for cholera.
In the library of Jefferson Davis Shrine are two plantation records of Elkridge and Last Retreat for 1848 and 1849.
In one of these records the Cartwright prescription for cholera is given.
Jefferson Davis As An Amateur Doctor
This discussion is brought to a close by a quotation as to Jefferson Davis' qualifications to practice medicine.
Craven relates several conversations with Jefferson Davis on medical subjects. On one occasion, President Davis
told Dr. Cravens about salicylic acid and salicylates and willow tea and other substitutes for quinine and what
the people of the South did for medicines when quinine and other drugs were made contraband of war.
On another occasion, Dr. Cravens, wondering at Mr. Davis' knowledge of medicine, asked him how it was that he knew
so much on the subject. Davis replied that in the days of slavery, the plantation operators and slave owners had
to practice medicine on their slaves because in the new country there were but few doctors.
President Davis gave another illustration of his medical qualifications when on December 9, 1875, he wrote to General
R. H. Chilton, "Having been for many years a sufferer by your present tormentor neuralgia, let me suggest
to you to diminish your office work, increase your outdoor exercise and eat at regular hours. Like many quack prescriptions,
this may be recommended as not injurious if not beneficial."
Jefferson Davis, giving advice from the doctor's side of the table, gave as good advice as was possible in those
pre-vitamin, pre-focal infection days. Jefferson Davis, sitting on the patient's side of the table, did not heed
Biographical Sketch Of Dr. Ewing Fox
Ewing Fox Howard was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 31, 1874, and died of what was termed angina pectoris
June 6, 1933. His undergraduate collegiate work was done at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., where
he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science.
He studied medicine at the Medical Department of Tulane University of Louisiana, from which institution he received
the degree of M.D. in 1897.
He began the practice of general or internal medicine in Vicksburg at once, after being licensed, and continued
in this activity until 1916. He took up the specialty eye, ear, nose and throat, after several years of training
for his special work.
He had the advantages of preceptership under the friend of some who are still in this society, Dr. B. A. Quin,
and also the advantage of membership in the Howard and Birchett medical families.
In 1907 he married Miss Reber of New Orleans.
He was known to the membership of the Mississippi Medical Association as well as any man in it for he served as
its secretary for twenty years — from his joining in 1897 until 1917 — and he was a regular attendant and faithful
He died in the harness of his society, for he was historian in 1932-33. As a practitioner, he fell at work in 1933.
His tombstone bears the simple legend: "Of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven."
I commend you to read the eloquent eulogy of Ewing Fox Howard spoken by Dr. Matas, his friend, at Biloxi in May,
1941, and published in the Mississippi Doctor for July, 19411, and to follow with the tribute paid him by Dr. W.
H. Anderson in the same publication in July, 19332.
That tribute is expressed in simple words arranged in short sentences and can not be surpassed. We quote from it
as follows: "He was thoroughly educated. He possessed the student mind. He worked with dogged determination
and with precision. He had the mental endurance to keep going on. He would focus on a subject until he burnt a
hole in the contents. He was not a lawyer but he had a fine legal mind. He was an able organizer and he believed
in it. He was a man of the deepest convictions. He was not quick to decide but when he did his decisions were like
the tap root of a tree and no gentle zephyr could shake them. He was an untiring student. He was thorough in his
professional work and doggedly he gave much of his time to organized medicine. His view was not always that of
the majority but the majority always respected him and gave him heed."
1. Mississippi Doctor, July, 1941.
2. Mississippi Doctor, July, 1933.
3i. Mrs. Jefferson Davis, by Eron Rowland.
4. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife. Vol. 1. Belford Company.
5. Jefferson Davis, an Autobiography, Betford's Magazine, Jan., 1890.
6. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife. Vol. I, Belford Company.
7. J. W. Monette. Southwestern Journal of Medicine and Surgery. Vol. IV. 1842.
8. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife.
9. Congressional Directory.
10. Personal Communication from V. B. Russell. Vicksburg.
11. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife. Vol. 1, pp. 332-359.
12. Personal Communications from Dr. G. K. Birchett and V. B. Russell.
13. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife. Vol. I. p. 469.
14. Personal Communication from Judge W. D. Anderson.
15. Personal Communication from Mrs. C. K. Bolling.
16. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife
17. The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis. J. J. Craven, M.D.
18. The War of the Rebellion. Serial Number 136.
19. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife.
20. Personal Communication from Major General Adams. Surgeon General's Library.
21. The Military Record of CiviIian Appointees U. S. Army. Vol. 1. p. 65.
22. Cullom's Register of West Point Military Academy Graduates.
23. Personal Communication from Dr. J. J. Harry.
24. Jefferson Davis, a memoir by his wife. Vol. II. p. 832.
25. Polk's Medical Directory. Vol. I.
26. Transactions. Louisiana State Medical Society, 1895, p. 70.
27. Personal Communication Dr. R. Matas.
28. Universities and Their Sons. Vol. Ill, 1899, R. Hendon.
29. Polk's Medical Directory, 1886.
30. New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, 189S.
31. Reprint in Library. Tulane University Medical School.
32. Plantation records in library Jefferson Davis Shrine.
33. S. C. Busey, Recollections on 46 years in Washington.
34. Atchison Biographical Sketches of Physicians.
35. Transactions American Medical Ass'n. V. 241-873.
36. Kelly and Burgess, Biographies of Medical Men.
[Source: Pamphlets on Biography (Kofoid collection) - Transcribed by K.Torp]
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