|Ft. Monroe Cell
|This cell is very simular to the one that C.C. Clay Jr. would have spent his 8 months in.
C.C. Clay Jr. spend 8 long months of his like as a prisoner at Ft. Monroe. This section will document the
time and events from his surrender to his release.
The description below comes from C.C. Clays wife Virginia in her book:
A Belle of the Fifties
Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama,
covering Social and Political
Washington and the South, 1853-66
Put into narrative form by Ada Sterling
Illustrated from contemporary portraits
Doubleday, Page & Company
Copyright 1904, by
Doubleday, Page & Company
PRISONERS OF THE UNITED STATES
DAWN found us
haggard and ill. Our night ride to Augusta was a fatiguing one. Of our party, only the children slept. The air in the car
was of the foulest, and the discomforts of the trip were consequently most trying to our invalids, of whom there now were
three - Mr. Davis, Mr. Clay, and our venerable Vice-President, Mr. Stephens, we having taken the latter aboard during the
night; also, our late Postmaster-General Reagan, ex-Governor Lubbock, and General Wheeler and staff. Nor were we again permitted
to leave the car until our arrival in Augusta. Telegraphic orders having been sent ahead for our meals, these were brought
to the train and eaten en route.
Upon our arrival in Augusta, I asked Colonel Pritchard for
the privilege of driving in the carriage assigned to us to the home of a beloved friend, Mrs. George Winter. Upon my promise
that at the hour appointed I would be responsible for Mr. Clay's appearance on the boat which was to take us to Savannah,
Colonel Pritchard gave a somewhat reluctant consent and we drove rapidly away. As had been the case in Macon and Atlanta,
the town was in commotion. This visit to our friends was almost an error; for, greatly excited at our appearance among them,
they embraced us in hysterical alarm, and begged my husband even yet to fly. To add to the distress, neighboring friends,
hearing of our presence, hastened in and joined their pleadings to those of our hostess. The scene was unendurable to Mr.
Clay, and, literally tearing ourselves from their embraces, we re-entered the carriage. The
horses heads were turned at once toward the river where our custodians awaited us. Arrived there, though I
cannot admit that it was our intention or impulse to board the boat with a fond alacrity, our embarkation was not without
a misleading appearance of eagerness. The bank of the river was both steep and slippery, and, notwithstanding I was assisted
in my descent by two officers, my approach was neither stately nor awe- inspiring. In fact, it was precipitate, and I found
myself, most unexpectedly, in the arms of a soldierly little figure in undress uniform who stood close to the crude gangplank.
As I opened my lips to apologize for my unexpected onslaught, he turned and raised his hat. It was "little Joe!"
An episode of that trip in connection with General Wheeler
fixed itself indelibly in my mind. I was in conversation with this hero on one occasion, during which he leaned against the
side of the boat in a half-recumbent position. Presently a young officer, rude in the display of "his brief authority," approached
us, and rapping General Wheeler sharply with his sword, said, "It is against the rule to lean on the guard-rail!"
To my amazement, our hero, who had fought so nobly against
his peers and whose name alone had been a menace to his foes, merely touched his hat and said quietly, "I did not know the
rule, sir, or I would not have infringed it." I was thrilled with admiration.
"General!" I exclaimed, "you have taught me a lesson in self-control
and courtesy I can never forget! Had I been a man, that Yankee would have been exploring the bottom of the Savannah River,
or I, one!"
The discomforts to which we had been subjected during our
journey to and from the headquarters of General Wilson culminated in the wretched little craft on which we now were. Not a
chair was in the cabin for our invalids, nor an available couch. For Mr. Davis, who suffered intensely during the trip from
pain in his eye (for years a
chronic disability), two valises were stacked one on top of the other, being the nearest approach to a seat
it was possible to improvise. On these he rested during much of the journey, Mrs. Davis, Miss Howell or myself in turn acting
as support in lieu of a chair-back. From time to time we bathed his temples with cologne in vain attempts to lessen his tortures.
Our journey from Savannah may best be pictured by reference
to my pocket-diary, carried throughout those momentous weeks. We boarded the William P. Clyde on the fifteenth of May,
our destination still unknown to us, as we steamed out into the Atlantic. These are some of the brief records I made of ship
"May 16, 1865. William P. Clyde is a brig-rigged steamer,
quite comfortable. The Fourth Michigan is with us, and an armed convoy, the Tuscarora, escorts us. Her guns bear directly
upon us, day and night. Fears are entertained of the Stonewall or Shenandoah. My husband keeps well and heroic.
God in mercy give us grace for the fiery ordeal."
"May 17th. Fairly at sea, and considerable fear of the Stonewall
evinced by the ship's crew. All the axes of the vessel are removed from their usual positions to the Colonel's room. Mrs.
Davis sent ashore for oranges for Miss Howell, who is ill. Poor girl!"
["It was Mr. Davis who called my attention to the removal
of the battle-axes. 'Cowards!' he said, 'They're afraid of this handful of Confederate men!' "]
"May 19. Nearing Fortress Monroe. We are boarded by Captain
Fraley, Commander of the Tuscarora, the man-of-war which has been our escort, her guns bearing directly on us from
Hilton Head. The Captain called on Mr. and Mrs. Davis, and husband and myself, and renewed an acquaintance of former years.
He proffered any attentions in his power. Just to our left is seen Fort Calhoun, built by Mr. Davis, while Secretary of War.
. . ."
"May 20. Anchored off Fort Monroe awaiting orders. General
Halleck to arrive on board at 11 A. M. I sadly
fear they will land my darling at this fort. God forbid! In sight are many vessels, some bearing the English
and some the French flags. The fort presents the same appearance as years ago, when I went to visit the spot. One week this
day since we bade adieu to friends. Two days have we been anchored. General Halleck said to be on Tuscarora."
"May 21. Last night at dark a tug was hailed. She replied,
"General Halleck!" She was alongside in a few moments with orders which were quickly known. Governor Lubbock, Colonel Johnston
and General Wheeler and staff left at six this A. M. for Delaware. At ten, Mr. Stephens and Judge Reagan were put aboard the
Tuscarora for Fort Warren. Mr. Stephen's servant detained. We are still in doubt, but Monroe is probably our destination."
"May 22. Mr. Davis, Mr. Clay and Burton Harrison are all left!
Preparations are going on at Fortress Monroe for them, 'tis said. Colonel Pritchard says I will not be allowed to land or
go to Washington or Baltimore or abroad!!! Terrible firing from a man-of-war!"
"May 23. Wrote letter to Judge Holt, and note to General Miles.
At ten we were boarded by Major Church, and two Yankee women and four guards, and all hands, luggage, berths and persons thoroughly
searched. A 'comico-serio-tragico' scene! Sailors our friends. Both nurses leave. Mrs. Davis's [man] Robert only left."
Our journey on the Clyde, though sorrowful, apprehensive
as we were concerning the fate to which the prisoners were being led, was otherwise uneventful. Mr. Davis was exceedingly
depressed, and moved restlessly about, seeming scarcely ever to desire to sit down. Always an intellectual cosmopolite, however,
he made observations on the natural phenomena about us, commenting from time to time on the beauty of sea or sky. Our meals,
which were served at a table reserved for the prisoners, by no means represented the fare of the coastwise steamers of to
day, but few of us were in a mood to take note of culinary deficiencies.
On the morning of May 22d a sultry, drizzling rain fell. It
was a day exactly calculated to induce melancholy even in the stoutest-hearted. To us, eagerly alert to learn what we might
of our fate, it was unspeakably distressful. Shortly after breakfast my husband came quietly into our stateroom. "There is
no longer any doubt," he said, "that this fort is the one destined for Davis and me! I have just been notified that we are
expected to take a ride on a tug. I am convinced we shall be taken to Fortress Monroe. I can't imagine why they do not come
out boldly and tell us so, but be sure this is our farewell, my wife!" We took leave of each other in our stateroom, nor did
I leave it to follow Mr. Clay to the deck. I stood, instead, at the fourteen-inch window of my cabin, alone with my thoughts.
As Mr. Davis passed the aperture, he stopped for a second
to say good-bye to me, then he, too, disappeared. A few moments passed, and then the weeping of children and wailing of women
announced the return of the stricken family. I heard a soldier say to Mr. Davis's little son, "Don't cry, Jeff. They ain't
going to hang your pa!" and the little fellow's reply, made through his sobs.
"When I get to be a man," he cried, "I'm going to kill every
Yankee I see!"
When the child approached my door and I caught him in my arms
and tried to cheer him, his resentment quickly changed to a manly tenderness; and, putting his baby lips up for a kiss, he
said, "My papa told me to keep care of you and my Mamma!"
I referred in my diary to the serio-comic incidents of the
search of our party. The event occurred early in the morning of the day following that of my husband's removal. While gazing
sadly across the waters toward the grim fort, I espied what seemed to be a pretty shallop, dancing lightly over the waters,
in which were seated two women, brightly dressed. The little vessel seemed to be
making for the Clyde. When I observed this, I called Mrs. Davis's attention to the approaching party,
saying, "Thank God! Here, I do believe, are two Virginia ladies come to give us some comfort."
In a few moments one of our unknown visitors was at my cabin
door. In my eagerness to meet a friendly face, I had almost extended my hand, when something in the appearance of the person
before me struck me as peculiar. My surprise and curiosity was soon relieved, for my visitor said glibly, "We've been sent
by the Government to see if you have any treasonable papers on board!" I looked at her in amazement.
"Is it possible," I asked, "that the United States Government
thinks we are such simpletons as to have carried treasonable papers aboard this ship?" My indignation grew.
"I frankly confess that if I could sink the whole Yankee nation
in Hampton Roads I would do so; but carry valuable papers here? Pshaw!" and I turned away from her, full of contempt.
It was a hot, sultry day; one of those May days when the sun
strikes the water vertically, and even breathing becomes a fatiguing effort. Despite the weather, the women who had thus unexpectedly
presented themselves were greatly overdressed. Each wore an immense chignon on the back of her head, and was rouged and powdered
and befrizzed to an extent that was altogether unusual in ordinary circles. Bustles of the largest size, high-heeled shoes,
conspicuous stockings, and as freely revealed gay petticoats completed the gaudy costumes of these remarkable agents of the
Government. The person who had addressed me entered my cabin and proceeded to strip the pillowcase from the by no means immaculate
pillow. She shook and felt carefully each article of bedding; then opened my valise and as minutely examined every article
of borrowed finery therein. She commented
on their quality as she did so, but I speedily put an end to this. "Proceed with your work, Madam!" I said,
and I turned from the unpleasant sight before me.
As she emptied my gripsack, I heard her utter a half-shriek
"Oh!" she cried, "you have a pistol!"
"Of course I have," I said, complacently reaching for it and
taking it in my hand; and, a spirit of mischief seizing me (it has often been my salvation), I twirled the alarming firearm
in the air, taking care that the barrel should fall pointing toward her, saying, as I did so, "You may take everything in
the stateroom but this. If necessary, I shall use it!" As I marked the effect of my words, her shrinking and ejaculations
of fear amused me more and more, nor did she resume her work until, tired of the farce, the pistol was once more safely bestowed
in my bag. When she renewed her search, her manner was somewhat more timid.
Upon completing the overhauling of my belongings she turned
to me. "Will you please take off your dress, Madam?" she said. My answer was forceful and prompt.
"I will not! If you wish it taken off, you may disrobe me!"
And I added, in my indignation, "I've heard that white maids are as good as black ones!"
And now the comedy moved rapidly. The lady began by taking
off my breastpin and my collar. She unfastened my bodice and removed it, examining every seam with a microscopic care. She
then proceeded to remove my clothing piece by piece, submitting each to the same scrupulous examination. Coming at last to
my stays, she attempted to unclasp them.
The situation was so amusing I could not resist the growing
desire to accentuate it. I have alluded to the prevailing sultry weather. In the close little cabin, the heat was scarce bearable.
Already perspiration was trickling in streams down the cheeks of my unwelcome
visitor. Smiling within myself as the lady came forward to remove the last-named garment, I took a full, deep
breath and held it, expanding my form to the very utmost, tightening my clothing for the time being to such an extent that
I think she could scarcely have pried open the garments with hammer and chisel. The efforts of my tormentor (?) were entertaining.
Every now and then between a straining on my part and a futile tugging on hers, she would run out of the cabin, fanning herself
and gasping to the guards, "Oh! I am nearly dead!"
At first, I utilized these intervals "to gird on my armour"
still tighter; but, at last, when I was myself almost exhausted from holding my breath, I relaxed and allowed her to proceed.
By the time her examination of my apparel and belongings was completed, the lady's face was striped, and the path of the perspiration,
wending its way through layers of cosmetics, had quite destroyed her erstwhile dazzling appearance; but though I, too, was
almost fainting from the heat, and would gladly have been left alone, my determination to tease her was by no means appeased.
I, therefore, demanded that, having undressed me, the lady complete her work and put my clothing on again. This, with various
delays, amusing and otherwise, she at last accomplished, much to her satisfaction if not wholly to mine. Once rehabilitated,
I stepped to Mrs. Davis's stateroom, mine being between those of Mrs. Davis and Miss Howell. I found the former in tears and
reduced to the lightest of deshabille. I tried to comfort her, but she still wept, saying:
"Oh, 'Ginie! What humiliation!"
"But I would die before they should see me shed tears!" I
"Ah, you haven't four little children about you," said Mrs.
Davis. Nor did this search end the trials that
befell us while we lay in Hampton Roads. Upon leaving my stateroom the following morning I met Mrs. Davis,
baby Winnie in arms. She was greatly agitated.
"What has happened?" I asked.
"That man!" she replied, pointing to an officer near by, "has
come to take away my shawl. It's the last wrapping I have! He declares it is part of Mr. Davis's disguise!"
"You're not going to let him have it?" I asked, my indignation
rising at once.
"What can I do?" asked Mrs. Davis, wringing her hands.
"Tear it into shreds as fine as vermicelli!" I cried, "and
throw it into Hampton Roads!"
As I spoke the officer stepped toward us. Raising his hand
and shaking his finger in my face, he asked, threateningly, "You dare counsel resistance, Madam?"
"Yes!" I retorted, returning the finger-shaking, "To the shedding
of blood, and I'll begin with you!"
The scene must have been a ludicrous one to all save the two
participants. Mrs. Davis's spirits certainly rose in contemplating it, for, as the officer strutted off, his sword dragging
at his side, she smiled as she said, "Puss-in-boots!" In a second, however, her anxiety returned.
"What shall we do?" she asked. "He will surely come back for
the shawl." Bent upon foiling him, I quickly suggested an expedient.
"My shawl," I said, "is almost a counterpart of yours. Let's
fold them both up and make him guess which is which. Perhaps he'll take mine!" and we laughed heartily at the device.
It was not long ere Lieutenant Hudson returned, this time
with another shawl, a coarse thing such as the small stores nearby afforded. Upon his repeated demand we complacently handed
him Mrs. Davis's shawl and mine.
To our amazement he took them both. Then, as the old saying puts it, we "laughed on the other side of our
faces." For, by the aid of one of Mrs. Davis's former maids, Lieutenant Hudson was enabled to identify Mrs. Davis's shawl,
which he retained, returning mine. The first, for many years, was preserved among the curios of the Smithsonian Institution.
During the morning of the day made memorable by the visit
of the Government's searching party, General Miles and his staff boarded the Clyde. It was my first meeting with the
handsome young officer who was destined to incur so much odium in the near future for his treatment of the unfortunate ex-President
of the Confederate States. I can recall no particular of that first meeting with my husband's jailor, save that he and his
staff made an impressive group as they stood bowing respectfully, while a few civil words were spoken by their leader.
Upon the question of the latter, as to whether he might serve
me in any way, I answered, "Yes! let me know, from time to time, whether my husband lives or is dead. If you will do this
it will relieve me from an insupportable suspense!" To this he kindly agreed.
In the interim, I had sent to my husband his valise, containing
some gold and my Bible, which, being set in a specially large type, I knew he would be glad to have. These were brought back
to me shortly after General Miles's visit, by an officer who found us still at the mess table. My Bible was returned to me
because of the following "communication from Mrs. Clay, written on the fly-leaf."
"2 P. M. Ship-board. May, '65. With tearful eyes and aching
heart, I commend you, my precious husband, to the care and keeping of Almighty God. May He bless you, and keep you, and permit
us once again to meet, shall be my unceasing prayer. Farewell,
the officer dropped the gold upon the table beside me, he said, "Please count it, Madam!" I instantly declined to do this,
however, saying, "If General Miles sent it, I presume it is correct," and swept it into my lap without further examination.
This next excerpt comes from"
The Prison Life Of Jefferson Davis
The Trying Experience of the Ex-President at Fort Monroe
Prevarication of General
Actual Instructions of Assistant Secretary of War as to Shackles.
By Colonel William
[excerpts from the Times-Dispatch, February 12, 1905.]
The steamer William P. Clyde, with President Jefferson Davis, Mrs.
Davis, son and two daughters; Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens, Hon. C. C. Clay and Mrs. Clay, Hon. John H. Reagan, Confederate
Postmaster-General; General Joseph Wheeler, and other prisoners, convoyed by the United States ship Tuscarora, arrived
in Hampton Roads on the 19th of May, 1865, from Port Royal, S. C.
was immediately wired to Washington, and that afternoon Secretary of War E. M. Stanton ordered Major-General H. W. Halleck
to proceed to Fortress Monroe, take charge of the prisoners, and to imprison Messrs. Davis and Clay securely in that fortress;
to send Messrs. Stephens and Regan to Fort Warren by sea in a gunboat; General Wheeler and staff, Colonels Lubbock and Johnston,
aids to President Davis, to Fort Delaware, also in a gunboat; Colonel Harrison, secretary to Mr. Davis, to Washington, and
the remainder of the prisoners to Fort McHenry, in the Clyde, under convoy. He was also instructed to allow the ladies
and children of the party to go to such places in the South as they might prefer, but forbid their going North or remaining
at Fortress Monroe or Norfolk. He was also directed to prevent any one from visiting or holding communication with President
Davis or Mr. Clay, either verbally or in writing. This was to deny them any communication either with their wives or children.
Other "Prisoners" Depart
The Maumee, Commander F. A. Parker, sailed with General Wheeler and
party on the 21st of May for Fort Delaware, and the Tuscarora, Commander James Madison Frailey, sailed at the same
time with Messrs. Stephens and Reagan for Fort Warren.
The orders for the Clyde
were changed, and she was directed to take the ladies and children to Savannah, Ga., without restraint, and arriving
there to give them perfect liberty.
As the prisons could not be prepared for
Messrs. Davis and Clay at once, they were held on the Clyde until the 22d of May; then the prelude to the infamy
of the nineteenth century began.
General Halleck ordered Major-General Nelson
A. Miles to proceed at 1 P. M. on a tug with a guard from the garrison to bring the prisoners from the Clyde to the
engineer's wharf, thence through the battery to their prisons.
Miles on the Scene
At precisely 1 o'clock General Miles left for the Clyde, and at 1:30
o'clock the tug left the Clyde, landing' at the engineer's wharf. The procession to the prison was led by cavalrymen
from Colonel Pritchard's command, and moved through the water battery on the front of the fortress and entered by a postern
leading from that battery. The cavalrymen were followed by General Miles, holding Mr. Davis by the right arm. Next came half
a dozen soldiers, and then Colonel Pritchard with Mr. Clay, and last, the guard of soldiers which Miles took with him from
The distinguished prisoners asked to see General Halleck, but
were denied. They were incarcerated, each in a separate inner room of a casemate, with a window heavily barred, and a sentry
was placed before each of the doors leading into the outer room. These doors were secured by bars fastened on the outside,
and two other sentries stood outside of these doors, and an officer was put on duty in the outer room, with instructions to
see the prisoners every fifteen minutes. The outer door of all was locked on the outside, and the key kept exclusively by
the general officer of the guard, and two sentries were also stationed without that door.
A strong line of sentries was posted to cut off all access to the vicinity of
the casemate; another line stationed on the top of the parapet overhead, and a third line posted across the moats on the counterscarp
opposite the places of confinement. The casemates on each side and between those occupied by the prisoners were used as guard
rooms, so that soldiers would always be at hand. Mr. Davis occupied casemate No. 2; Mr. Clay, No. 4; Nos. 1, 3 and 5 were
occupied by guards of soldiers. A lamp was kept constantly burning in each of the prisoners' rooms. The furniture
of each prisoner was a hospital bed with iron bedstead, a stool, table and a movable stool closet. A Bible was allowed each,
and afterwards a prayer-book and tobacco were added.
These regulations must
have been directed or supervised by C. A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, who was present, for he says: "I have not given
orders to have them placed in irons, as General Halleck seemed opposed to it; but General Miles is instructed to have fetters
ready if he thinks them necessary."
On the 24th of May, 1865, Miles reported
to Dana: "Yesterday I directed that irons be put on Davis' ankles, which he violently resisted, but became more quiet afterward.
His hands are unencumbered."
These fetters remained on five days, although Dr.
Craven urged their removal, because the irritation caused by the chains was counterpoising whatever medicine he might give
the sick captive.
Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.
XXXII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1904.