Jefferson Davis to William Mercer Green
Memphis Tenn 18th Aug. 1875
My dear Bishop & Friend,
Please accept my sincere thanks for your kind letter of the 14th Inst. and for the slip enclosed which had not and as you suppose probably would not have been seen by me. The writer is remembered as a drunken thief distinguished even among his fellows for both vices. His story of conversations with my Wife are false and to any one who ever knew her must appear absurd. Even a weaker woman would not /have/ entered into explanations of her conduct to a subaltern of the Guard, and he a man whose conduct had necessarily created a feeling of contemptuous disgust. He did ask Mrs. Davis to let him take a little negro orphan who she had in pity rescued from the ill treatment of a negro woman in Richmond who claimed that the boy’s Mother had left him to her. This application Mrs. Davis refused not considering Hudson worthy of trust. We /afterwards/ heard of his threatening to take the boy when we reached Fortress Monroe, and to save the child from such a fate, when we were at the harbor of Port Royal, he was sent with a note to Genl. Saxton who we learned was at that station, and who we considered a man on whose integrity and humanity we could rely. He was an Officer of the Regular Army, and I had known him before the War. Hudson states that he was not the first to see me, my first view of him was when Secty. Reagan pointed him out to me as the man who had stolen his saddle-bags. This was perhaps an hour after our capture. Enclosed I send to you a slip cut from a newspaper, and which is the statement of one unknown by me, but who is shown by his published letter to have integrity and truth, and who after branding the story, that I was captured in the disguise of a woman’s clothes as a lie, he in forgetfulness of Hudson assumes that no Officer or Soldier can be found who will testify so falsely. You no doubt observed that want of coherence in Hudson’s story which usually attends falsehood. He says I was dressed in female attire, and
said that Mrs Davis in her own justification told him “she did dress Mr. Davis in her attire and would not deny it.” But that attire appears by his own statement to have been a water proof cloak and a shawl; now where is the hoop skirt and the petticoat and the sun-bonnet, which has been the staple of so many malignant diatribes and pictorials. This Hudson did go to the transport ship /in Hampton Roads/ where my Wife and children were detained after my removal to the Fort, and he and others with him broke open my Wifes trunks and pillaged from them articles of her clothing and the clothing of her children, also various little articles, among others /such as/ an Album /of Family & Friends photographic likenesses/ which has been recently found by a friend of mine in Iowa, the possessor to improve /enhance/ it's value having stated where and when it was procured; also a medal, a photograph of which was sent to me through the mail from New York /with a modest request for its history./ Among the articles of female attire so stolen was a hoop skirt which had never been worn and was packed in a trunk which had not been opened /since it was packed, until/ after our capture until it was broken open by these missionaries of civilization. / From when my Wife’s trunks were pillaged, first at Camp and afterwards on the ship, there may have been all of those since paraded as worn by me for purpose of disguise./ I had no trunk there, had gone /on-horseback/ to protect my Wife and children from robbers who it was reported were in pursuit of them; and thus was diverted from the course I was pursuing to join the army in the South West. Having travelled with them /my family/ for several days and seen them as was supposed beyond the infested region /danger/; I had notified my little party /consisting of a Secty, three staff officers, four Soldiers & a Servant/ that after my family and the paroled soldiers who had volunteered to escort them, had gone into camp for the night, that we /we/ would leave them and resume our route to the west; but just at night fall Col. Johnston of my staff came to me with the information that he had heard in the village near by, that a party of robbers were to attack the camp that night. My horse was saddled to start and my pistols were in their holsters, but I countermanded the order to leave and remained to protect my Wife and young children. A short time before day I went to sleep in my travelling dress, grey frock coat and trousers the latter worn inside of heavy cavalry boots, /on which remained a pair of conspicuous brass spurs of unusual size,/ In the grey of the morning my coachman who had remained faithful and followed my family, came to my Wife’s tent and aroused me with the announcement that there was “firing over the creek”. I stepped out and by the dim light saw cavalry deployed around our camp, then turning back told my Wife that we were surrounded by the Enemy’s cavalry. She entreated me to leave, and to a water proof “Raglan” which I threw over my shoulders added one of her shawls. /as I stepped out of the tent, she followed and put on me one of her shawls./ The water proof was afterwards found to be her’s but it was so like my own /there being little light in the tent and every thing in confusion within it/ that it was taken up by mistake. She told the servant woman to go with me /follow me/ to the stream near by and bring a bucket of water. /The Coachman had been previously directed to take my horse to a fringe of wood skirting the stream towards which I was going./ I had gone but a short distance when I was ordered to a surrender, and I replied “I will never surrender to a band of thieves,” the man dropped his carbine on me as I approached him /simultaneously throwing off the cloak & shawl,/ as my intent was not executed it is /therefore/ needless to state it. Just then my Wife who had been intently watching, ran up behind me and threw her arms round me. There was nothing more to be attempted. The Soldier showed then no disposition to fire. I said to my Wife “God’s will be done”, and we turned back to her tent. I then walked on to a fire in rear of it and sat down. After a short time, say half an hour, a man came round to get the names of the Captives, he did /not/ or at least seemed not to know who I was and after the Indian custom I left him to find that out from some body else. Col. Pritchard /the Comdg officer subsequently/ told me that he did not learn for three hours after the capture of the camp that I was present. /He also claimed credit for the forbearance shown by the men in not shooting me when I refused to surrender/ The “firing over the creek” was between the two wings /Regts/ of the Enemy’s Brigade and we remained for some time waiting for the burial of those killed. There is an irrepressible conflict between this Hudson and truth, so he claims to have led the charge as though a camp of say twenty persons nearly all of them non combattants, and by whom not one shot was fired could be the object of a charge by a Brigade of Cavalry. I hope to make the record you suggest, but never /not in it/ to notice the drunkard, thief, liar, whose statement has found place in the newspapers. The truth has been told many times by men who were with me, and published in all parts of the country, but for political ends the “lie” continues to be circulated and tests the adage that when well stuck to it is as good as the truth. As ever I am faithfully your friend
P.S. I have tried in the interest of the South to avoid all controversy which might embarrass our political friends, & though I feel as you expected in regard to this new version of the scandal, I am not willing now to notice it, or ever to stoop to the level of the vile wretch Hudson. To you I could not be silent when you willed it otherwise, but must ask
to regard /you not to permit/ this letter as private /to be published./ Please return the newspaper slips, as they have been preserved for future use—J.D.
ALS, draft (OOxM, Richey Coll.).