Thursday, April 26, 2012

Video and photos: Charlotte and the Fall of the Confederacy

I did some walking around while in Charlotte, North Carolina four afternoons ago. And I encountered a marker on the sidewalk at 4th and Tryon Streets marking the spot--on April 18, 1865--where Jefferson Davis was informed of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He had just given a speech--then he was handed a telegram that gave him the news.

There's the marker.... sits in front of a McCormick and Schmick's restaurant. That discovery opened my eyes. What else would I be able to find that day?

This marker notes the site of the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet--although there is some controversy about that claim. In James Swanson's Bloody Crimes, The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, the author wrote that the Confederate president learned of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston's forces on April 24. This plaque states the Davis authorized Johnston's surrender to Union General William T. Sherman. Nevertheless, Davis quickly fled Charlotte afterwards.

He was captured by Michigan troops on May 10 in southern Georgia.

In his book, Swanson noted that Charlotte's reception for Davis was not a warm one. North Carolina had sent more soldiers to Gettysburg than any state except for Virginia. He remarked, "[a]nd the people of Charlotte no longer felt the enthusiasm for the Confederacy that the state's valiant sons had demonstrated at Gettysburg two years earlier. Only one man, Lewis F. Bates, a transplanted Yankee, would allow Davis to set foot in his home."

On the site of that possible final meeting of the CSA cabinet is the First Citizens Plaza Bank Plaza building. The Old South meets the New South.

And I have video! All of these locations pictured here, except for the church, are within one block of each other.

Judah P. Benjamin, a Sephardic Jew, was probably the most talented member of Davis' cabinet. He first served as the CSA's attorney general, then secretary of war, and lastly, he was the final secretary of state under Davis. This marker notes that Benjamin stayed at the home of Abram Weil while in Charlotte. Prior to the Civil War, Benjamin served as a US Senator from Louisiana.

The site of the Weil home is now a parking garage.

A few blocks northeast of 4th and Tryon is St. Peter's Episcopal Church, where Davis worshipped on the Sunday after he learned of Lincoln's death. The minister gave a sermon condemning the shooting, which led Davis to remark afterwards, "I think he preached at me. He seems to think I had something to do with the assassination." Historians agree that Davis was not involved in John Wilkes Booth's plot to kill Lincoln. Keep your eyes open, folks. You will find history.

 Related post:

 150 years ago: Civil War begins

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