Joe Davis Dies

April 30, 1864 – President Jefferson Davis’s five-year-old son Joseph fell off the second-floor rear balcony of the Confederate Executive Mansion.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit:

First Lady Varina Davis briefly left both Joe and seven-year-old Jeff alone to bring lunch to her husband in his office. Carpenters had left a plank against the balcony railing before breaking for lunch; Joe climbed it and fell into the brick courtyard 30 feet below. A house slave rushed into Davis’s office shouting that Joe had fallen. Davis raced to the scene and found his son unconscious, having suffered a fractured skull and two broken legs. He died minutes later.

Both parents were hysterical with grief. Varina screamed for hours, and Davis could not concentrate on dispatches from Robert E. Lee; he said, “I must have this day with my little son.” He spent most of the day and night pacing in the bedroom across from Joe’s saying, “Not mine, O Lord, but thine.” Thus, both Presidents Lincoln and Davis lost young sons during the war.




Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 398; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 2953-83; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 426; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 617-18; Jaynes, Gregory, The Killing Ground: Wilderness to Cold Harbor (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 45; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 490; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q264

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