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Jefferson Davis - from old Alabama textbook

Christopher Rice
Sunday, September 27, 2015 19:09 PM


This was taken from 'History Stories of Alabama', Alabama State Textbook.  Originally printed 1924, Reprinted 1952.  This was a textbook used in schools to educate on the history of Alabama.
It is reprinted here exactly as it appears within the pages of the textbook.

Jefferson Davis
Memories Recalled by Mrs. Mary Phelan Watt

From our home back of the Capitol down what was then Main or Market Street, our father, Judge John D. Phelan, took us with him in the family carriage to the Exchange Hotel.  That was in 1860 when I was a very young girl and it was several months before Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederate States.
"The Capitol was brightly lighted.  Every window was filled with candles in holders tacked to the window frames.  All down the street the same thing appeared in every window.  Bonfires in every direction were kept ablaze by men and boys, who used balls of cotton, boxes, barrels, and pine wood which had been soaked in turpentine.  The exchange hotel was crowded with beautiful woman and brave men of the South.  Montgomery then boasted of three companies of soldiers, and all of them were on parade this occasion.
"As Mr. Davis appeared on the hotel balcony,  bands played, drums beat, and cheers filled the air.  That was my first sight of the man who later became our President.  He was tall, thin, and straight as an Indian.  I almost wept with excitement when William Lowndes Yancey introduced Jefferson Davis, saying, "The man and the hour have met."
"After the speeches were over, Mr. Davis came back into the hotel and shook hands with every one present, not forgetting the children.
"The next time I saw Jefferson Davis was on that great occasion when he was made President of the Confederate States of America.  He was standing on the porch of the State Capitol between two large columns.  A brass star now marks the spot.  On the large platform built in front of the Capitol for the occasion, the President's Cabinet and the Confederate Congress met.  A great crowd of people from all over the South filled the grounds and the streets near by.  Soldiers were there from all over the South.  The cadets from Tuscaloosa especially delighted my young eyes.  I thought that they presented the grandest sight I had ever seen.
"On a table in front of 'The Man of the Hour' lay a big Bible.  My father, who was Clerk of the Supreme Court, lifted the Bible.  Then, in the solemn manner which suited the occasion, Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederate States and kissed the book.  Every Sunday after that while the Davis family remained in Montgomery, I saw them in their pew at St. John's Episcopal Church.  The pew is marked with a silver plate.
"Many years passed before I saw Mr. Davis again.  He stopped over in Montgomery to lay the cornerstone of the Confederate Monument at Capitol Hill.  Never before in our history had so many people united to honor a great hero.  The carriage in which he rode from the station was lifted from the ground and carried on the shoulders of men.  At no time in the history of the world has a hero been given more expressions of love and respect than were given to this great man."

Note:  This story was written by Mrs. Mary Phelan Watt of Montgomery.  She was little Mary Phelan when she first saw the President of the Confederacy.  She was so small that she had to stand on tiptoe to kiss her four big brothers good-bye when they marched away to war.

Things to think About
What was the War Between the States?
When did it begin?  When did it end?
How did it end?
Describe Montgomery when Mr. Davis first visited it.
Would we think that candles make a brilliant light today?  Why not?
What did Mr. Yancey mean when he said "The man and the hour have met"?
What do you mean by the Confederate States of America?
Write a paragraph describing the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America.
What are the rights of a citizen?

Something to Do
If you ever go to Montgomery ask to be shown the gold star on the front portico of the Capitol.  Why?
Look, also, for the Confederate "White House".
The governors of Alabama take the oath of office on the same Bible that Jefferson Davis used.  Why?
Collect all the pictures you can find of Alabamians who were prominent during the Confederacy, and make a chapter in your note book about Alabama as a Confederate State.

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