The Confederacy in Petticoats.

The Confederacy in Petticoats.

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In the spring of 1865, the Union Army increased its efforts to capture the Confederate President Jefferson Davis after the surrender of Lee and assassination of Lincoln. Suspecting him to be complicit in Lincoln’s murder, the U.S. War Department issued a $100,000 reward for the capture of Davis and his aides. Without his capture or surrender, many in the Union War Department would not recognize the war as officially ended. After fleeing Richmond, Davis was caught by members of Michigan and Wisconsin cavalry units at his camp outside Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. As Davis tried to flee from the Union soldiers, he had grabbed his wife Varina’s overcoat instead of his own, resulting in a widespread Northern rumor that Davis had attempted to escape disguised as a woman. Shortly after the incident images of Davis appeared in Northern publications, picturing him dressed in petticoats, a hoop skirt, and a bonnet. This cowardly depiction of Davis’ flight further demoralized the Southern cause and shattered its president’s aristocratic reputation.
In this print, a disguised Jefferson Davis attempts to leap over a fence, but a Union soldiers grabs ahold of his petticoats and aims a pistol at him. Another soldier arrives on the scene carrying his sword and a torch. Davis has dropped a piece of luggage, labeled “Davis / Mexico,” in reference to his presumed destination. The Confederate president looks back wielding a knife, exclaiming that he thought the Union was “too Magnanimous to hunt down “Women and Children.” To the right of Davis, his wife Varina remarks, “Don’t irritate the ‘President’ he might hurt somebody.” The soldier gripping Davis mocks, “Hold on old Jeff! The ‘last Ditch’ is not on that side of the Fence.” Dialogue bubble such as these are typical of political satirical cartoons. The lithographer and publisher of this satirical print are unknown.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date published
ca 1865
Davis, Jefferson
Davis, Varina Anne Howell
place made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
image: 10 in x 13 7/8 in; 25.4 cm x 35.2425 cm
ID Number
catalog number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Political Caricatures
Lighting, outdoor
Uniforms, Military
Civil War
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Clothing & Accessories
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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