The photo above is L and N Railroad's No. 69 that started the Jefferson Davis Funeral Train from New Orleans, Louisiana. Jefferson Davis was laid to rest in Richmond, Virginia on Memorial Day May 31, 1893. The following is the story of The Jefferson Davis Funeral Train Story....
If you listen closely, and the wind blows the right direction, you may hear
a train whistle in the distance.
As a youngster near Atlanta, this and the sound of "taps" from nearby
Fort McPherson were special sounds. Today, air conditioners and closed
windows segregate the sounds of trains, owls and all the wonderful
sounds of the symphony of the night. We do not hear our community's soul,
we hear only it's machines.
Please share this story with your family!
Many songs have been written about the passenger trains. On Sunday, May
28,1893, in New Orleans, a story began that overshadowed all other events
reported in the newspapers of the South and was heavily reported in
Northern papers as well.
This was the day when the remains of Jefferson Davis, former president
of the Confederate State of America, lay in state at Confederate Memorial
Hall in the crescent city.
Davis died in 1889 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. Four
years later, May 27, 1893, his body was moved from the burial
site of the Army of Northern Virginia, placed in a new oak casket and taken
to Confederate Memorial Hall.
At 4:30PM, May 28th, a funeral service was held for Mr. Davis and a moving
memorial address was delivered by Louisiana's Governor Murphy J. Foster as
thousands listened. There were no sounds of cars, planes, go-carts,
sirens, cell phones, sound systems or electric guitars. They did not
exist. A reverent silence fell among the people as the funeral
procession made their way to the railroad station.
Train No. 69, with Engineer Frank Coffin, waited patiently as the
casket was taken up a platform and passed through an open observation
car window to a catafalque. The cars wall could not be seen due to
the many flowers.
This was the vision of Mrs. Varina Davis when she began three years
previous to secure a funeral train and military escort for a 1,200 mile
funeral train trip from New Orleans to Richmond.
Train engine No. 69 of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad slowly
pulled out of New Orleans Station at 7:50PM. L and N later became CSX
Newspaper reporters from New Orleans, Richmond, Boston, New York
and the Southern Associated Press were guests on the train.
The train stopped near Gulfport, Mississippi at Beauvoir which was the
last home of Jefferson Davis. It was here Davis wrote his book, "The
Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government." The Davis' beloved dog
"Traveller" is buried here. Traveller was named after the famed horse of
Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Uncle Bob Brown, a former Servant of the Davis family and a passenger
on the train, saw the many flowers that children had laid on the side
of the railroad tracks. Brown was so moved by this beautiful gesture
that he wept uncontrollably.
In Mobile, Alabama the train was met by a thousand mourners and
the Alabama Artillery fired a 21-gun salute. Locomotive No. 69 was
retired and locomotive No. 25 was coupled to the train. The new train's
Engineer was C.C. Devinney and Warren Robinson was its fireman.
Church bells rang in Montgomery, Alabama when train pulled into
the city at 6:00AM on May 29th. A severe rainstorm delayed the
funeral procession to about 8:30AM when a caisson carried the body
of Davis to Alabama's state capitol. A procession carried the casket
through the portico where Jefferson Davis, in 1861, had taken the
oath of office as President of the Confederacy.
The casket was placed in front of the bench of the Alabama Supreme
Court room. Above the right exit of the room was a banner with the
word "Monterrey" and above the left exit was a banner with the words
"Buena Vista." During the Mexican War, Jefferson Davis was a hero at
Monterrey and wounded at Buena Vista.
At 12:20PM Davis' train left Montgomery and a brief stop was made at
West Point, Georgia to pick up Georgia's Governor William J. Northenand his escort.
At 4:30PM the funeral train pulled into the Union Station at Atlanta,
Georgia. It is estimated that 20,000 people lined the city streets as
the funeral procession made their way to the state capitol. Among
those in attendance was ex-Confederate General and former Governor
John Brown Gordon.
At 7:00PM the train went North on the Richmond and Danville
Railroad, which later became Southern Railway and, today, Norfolk-Southern.
The train traveled through Lula, Georgia, Greenville,
South Carolina and stopped at the North Carolina capitol of Raleigh. Davis'
remains were taken to the capitol building to lie in state.
A brief stop was made in Danville, Virginia where a crowd of people
gathered around the train and sang, "Nearer My God To Thee" as city
church bells tolled.
Finally, the train reached Richmond, Virginia on Wednesday, May 31,
1893, at 3:00AM. It was Memorial Day. Mrs. Davis met the train and her
husband's casket was taken to the Virginia state house.
At 3:00PM, May 31st, the casket was placed on a caisson taken to
Hollywood Cemetery which overlooks the historic James River. It was
reported that earlier rains kept the dust for stirring on Richmond's
With Mrs. Jefferson Davis were her daughters Winnie and Margaret.
Six state governors acted as pallbearers. It was estimated that
75,000 persons attended this final salute to President Davis.
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and "Taps."
It had been 28 years since the war ended, but they came by the
thousands to pay tribute to their former president. In truth, they
came to remember a hope and a dream. And all across the South
hundreds of thousands heard that train.
Lest We Forget!
Sources of information:
Copy of Louisville
and Nashville Railroad
Magazine article from 1955 by Edison H. Thomas.
History of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1894-1955.
Confederate Veteran Magazine of 1893.
Special thanks to Beauvoir.
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