Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    Varina Davis Letter Archive of Letters to John Taylor Wood. Eleven letters spanning the years 1868 through 1904. All but one of the letters is written by Varina Howell Davis (1826-1906), the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who signs her letters "V. Jefferson Davis" and often calls herself "your aunt."

    In the letters, she discusses her insurance and how it is to be divided should she die; conflict with her publishers, "The Publishers here cheated me out of every dollar for my book ["Jefferson Davis, A Memoir by His Wife"] & also I fear cheated me out of my copyright"; her hopes that John will attend a memorial to her husband, "I appreciate fully all the sacrifices you make in coming, but I also remember that no one beside his children was so much respected and beloved as you were by my husband"; her shock at the news of the death of John's youngest son, Charles Carroll Wood, who was the first Canadian officer killed in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa; "I have seen with intense sympathy and bitter tears that your brave boy was killed in battle. I have suffered so intensely from the loss of all my children except one, that I seemed to be the one singled out to suffer for all those I love and I hoped all the sorrows of our family had fallen upon me"; and her grief at the news of John's death in 1904, "I am greatly shocked to see in a newspaper . . . that your dear faithful devoted husband is no more. To me it is a great grief . . . I thought I was dear enough to you and him to have been told of his illness before its fatal termination . . . John was like a precious brother to me and I feel his death only less than you do. He was at all points the best man I ever knew, and had his govt lasted in pertuity [sic] his fame would have been immortal."

    Also included is one letter from Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis (1864-1898), the daughter of Jefferson and Varina Davis, addressed to John Wood, who was her godfather, declining an invitation to visit her godparents in Halifax.

    Condition: All of the letters show the expected folds. The letters exhibit very little age toning or wear and are in remarkable condition.


    More Information:  

    John Taylor Wood (1830-1904), the son of Union General Robert Wood and Anne Taylor, the daughter of twelfth president, Zachary Taylor, began his career in the United States Navy in 1847 and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1852, second in his class. Initially maintaining a neutral stance following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, his sympathies headed South after the Battle of Fort Sumter. On April 21, 1861, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Navy and retired to his Maryland farm. The farming life did not last long, however, as life was becoming too dangerous. Fearing for the safety of his family, the Woods moved south to Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the new Confederate States where his uncle, Jefferson Davis, was now president (Jefferson Davis' first wife, Sarah Taylor, was Wood's mother's sister).

    By April 1865, the situation looked grim for the Confederacy. Wood was with his uncle on April 2, attending St. Paul's Church in Richmond, when a telegram from Lee arrived informing the president that Petersburg would soon fall and the government must evacuate. That evening, he, Davis, and other members of the Confederate government boarded a train for Danville, Virginia. They continued their flight south, where, on May 10, 1865, near the town of Irwinsville, Georgia, Davis and Wood were both captured by Union forces. Wood soon made his escape, with his uncle's permission, by bribing one of his captors and hiding in a nearby swamp until the Federals and their prisoners left the area.

    Wood made his way south to Florida and met up with Major General John C. Breckinridge. Acquiring a small boat, Wood, Breckinridge, and several other men first attempted to row east to The Bahamas, but abandoned the plan and decided to instead make their way south toward Cuba. He managed to trade with a crew of Union deserters his boat for their slightly bigger sloop. They reached the north shore of Cuban on June 10. He remained in Cuba for two weeks before heading north to Canada, where his family soon joined him. Reunited, they settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and remained there for the rest of their lives. John Taylor Wood died on July 19, 1904.

    Lots 49094 through 49099 in this auction relate to Wood's service during the war.



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 848

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 September 14 - 15 Americana & Political.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    The Collection of James Kwis Leonard Internet Rare Books Auction
    The Collection of James Kwis Leonard Internet Rare Books Auction
    REALIZED SO FAR $300,884