Jefferson Davis in Europe


Jefferson Davis appeared on Richmond, VA for trial in March, 1868. The trial was postponed, and subsequently set for 23 November 1868. Davis's attorney felt sure that no trial would ever take place, and Davis determined to make a trip to Europe. This trip was undertaken for several reasons. Davis had few funds. The cost of living in Canada was high, his children needed education, which he was ill-equipped to provide, and he needed to find some kind of income or employment. He had invested $2000 in a copper mining venture. Investors were few, and his associates decided the Davis name could be used to attract buyers for the property.

His brother, Joseph, suggested that he connect with a commission house in Liverpool, and try to partner with a successful merchant. Davis contacted friends in an attempt to obtain commitments to represent them as their agent for shipping cotton and tobacco.

Below chronology is from "Jefferson Davis, American," by William J. Cooper, Jr., Random House, 2000.


1) Davis, his wife, and children sailed from Quebec on the "Adriatic" on 25 July 1868, docking in Liverpool on 4 August at 11 PM. His biographers report that they were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, and they "stayed a few days at a hotel." They became house guests of Norman Walker, who had held Confederate post in Bermuda, and had moved to Liverpool, opening a "successful" shipping and cotton-buying business. They went with the Walkers to their summer home located somewhere in Wales. It is said that Davis himself , "remained only a few days." Where he traveled is not known.

The Davis sons were "enrolled in school in nearby Waterloo." One assumes that they entered at the beginning of the school term, and one would assume that it may have been the same school attended by James Bulloch's sons. At any rate, in September, 1868, William Howell Davis contracted typhoid fever, and both parents were in Waterloo while he was ill. Jefferson Davis's pocket diary records that they were in Waterloo on 11 Sept 1868.

He did not establish a place for his family until November, when he set up residence at Leamington, in Warwickshire.

While the family remained in Leamington, Davis made some short visits to London, Birmingham (for an agricultural exposition), to Manchester, where "he visited a cotton mill," and to Chester.

In early January, 1869, the Davis's moved to London. At first, they stayed with Dr. O. L. Blandy and his wife. In March, 1869, they moved to 18 Upper Gloucester Place, Dorset Square.

They made a trip to France late in 1868, visiting Ambrose Dudley Mann, who had an apartment in Paris and a country house in Chantilly. They visited with John Slidell, but refused an invitation from Emperor Napoleon III, whom Davis felt he could not meet, due to Napoleon's lack of support of the Confederate war effort.

Varina returned to London in mid-January, 1869, while Davis traveled in Switzerland, until returning to London via Paris in mid-February. While in England, the Davis's received many invitations, from Alexander Beresford Hope, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Abinger, Lady Lothian, Lord Henry Percy, annd the Duke of Northumberland. Davis accepted a few invitations, on one occasion spending a few days at the Earl of Shrewsbury's country house, but Varina Davis was unable to afford clothes suitable for interacting with the upper crust. Mrs. Davis did record that they saw Judah Benjamin often while in London.

On 26 Feb 1869, charges against Davis were dropped. In the summer, Davis traveled to Scotland with Dr. Charles Mackay, at the invitation of James Smith of Glasgow, John and William Blackwood, in St. Andrews, and Lord Abinger, who lived near Ft. William. While Davis was in Scotland, Varina and the children visited Yarmouth. By 26 Aug 1869, they reunited in London. No business ventures had turned up in England, and Davis decided to return alone to the United States. He took the train from London to Southampton, and arrived in Baltimore, MD on 10 Oct 1869.

In February, 1870, Varina's sister Margaret Howell became engaged to a Mr. (or Herr) Stoess, described as "a widower of German descent who lived in Liverpool."


2) Davis departed New York City on 10 Aug 1870 aboard the "Russia" for Liverpool, arriving on 31 Aug., where he "stayed in the home of his sister-in-law, Margaret Howell Stoess." All this time, the Davis boys had remained in school in Liverpool. Varina maintained housing in London.

Margaret Davis (Polly) remained with her aunt in Liverpool when the remainder of the family departed Liverpool 8 Oct 1870. They put ashore in Queenstown. Davis returned to the US, but Varina and the children remained in Ireland for a few weeks. "Polly" was present in Memphis for Christmas, 1871.


3) Carolina Life Insurance Company in Memphis was sold, and Davis resigned as President. Still seeking employment, he left New Orleans aboard the "Alabama" on 25 Jan 1874, docking in Liverpool 16 Feb. Davis stayed the first few days with the Norman Walkers, and them moved into the home of sister-in-law Margaret Stoess. He hoped to secure employment with the Royal Insurance Company, but was told that northern animosity toward him would hurt their business in the US. He traveled to London, only to find that no insurance company wanted to enter the American market with Jefferson Davis as their representative.

He went to Paris to visit Dudley Mann and the Slidells, returning to London in other futile search in mid-April. He returned to Liverpool, visited James Smith in Scotland, and departed Liverpool 4 June 1875 on the "Adriatic" for New York.


4) In January 1876, Davis agreed to become president of the american branch of the "International Chamber of Commerce and Mississippi Valley Society," which had offices in London and at 33 Camp Street, New Orleans. The board decided Davis should go to London to obtain specific information on what the English owners intended to do about financial support. Davis, Varina, Winnie, and friend sailed from New Orleans about 24 May 1876, arriving in Liverpool in "late June." Varina stayed with Margaret Stoess while Davis continued on to London. In August, they enrolled Winnie in school in Karlsruhe, Germany. Varina remained in Liverpool, while Davis departing for New York on the "Adriatic" in early November. Varina remained in Liverpool until October, 1877.


5) Davis made his final trip to Europe with Varina in August, 1881, sailing from New Orleans for Liverpool on the "Bernard Hall." From Liverpool, they went almost directly to Paris to reunite with Winnie. They visited Dudley Mann, and Judah Benjamin. Davis spent his time at Chantilly, while Varina and Winnie shopped in Paris. The Davis's departed from Southampton 22 Nov 1881 for New York, and were back in Mississippi before years end.