CROSS KEYS — The visit of Jefferson Davis, the first, last, and only president of the Confederate States of America, to Union County will be reenacted this weekend during the annual “Living History” program at the Cross Keys House.
April 1865 was the month that the Civil War began to come to an end, beginning with the fall of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, to Union forces on April 2. A week later, on April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederate States of America’s most important army, to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Army of the Potomac, the most important army of the United States of America, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Clearly, the Confederacy’s days were numbered, but one person who didn’t see it that way was Davis who had fled Richmond with his government prior to the city’s fall, heading south, first to escape the pursuing Union army and, second, to continue the southern war effort. His hopes of doing so, however, suffered another blow when, on April 26, 1865, General Joseph E. Johnson surrendered the Army of Tennessee and all other remaining Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, to Union General William T. Sherman, Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, at Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina.
Davis continued his flight south, however, and it brought him, along with four members of his cabinet and their military escort, to Union County where, on April 30, 1865, they stopped at Cross Keys House, the home of Mary Ann Bobo Davis who invited Davis and his cabinet members in for lunch. Even though he was the president of the Confederate States of America of which she was a citizen, Mrs. Davis did not at first recognize her most important guest until, as he and his remaining loyalists were preparing to leave, he told her they shared the same last name.
Even though the Confederacy’s two most important armies had surrendered, Davis still hoped to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by rallying the people of the South to wage a war of national resistance against the Union. After leaving the Cross Keys House, Davis continued south, but his hopes for eventual Confederate victory came to an end when he was captured by Union forces in Irwinsville, Georgia.
Davis’ visit to the Cross Keys House has been the subject of the annual “Living History” program sponsored by the Union County Historical Society. This will be the 11th Living History event at the Cross Keys House and, as in previous years, will feature a reenactment of Davis’ visit and lunch served him and his remaining cabinet members by Mary Ann Bobo Davis. The reenactment will be held at the Cross Keys House at 2 p.m. this Saturday and 2 p.m. this Sunday.
The reenactment of the lunch will be followed by a battle between Union forces determined to capture Davis and Confederate forces covering his escape.
As with previous Living History programs, there will also be other recreations designed to provide those attending with glimpses into life in the Civil War era including a blacksmith station, cannon firings, and even an embalmer.
Food vendors will be on site both days and there will also be other vendors with items for sale.
Handicapped facilities will be available.
Living History will be open to the public from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day and the Cross Keys House itself open for tours.
The event is free, but those attending are asked to make a donation to help ensure the Living History program continues.
As with past Living History events, local 8th grade students will visit the encampment set up by the reenactors on Friday. The purpose of the visit will be to enable the students learn about what life was like during the Civil War.
This year’s Living History, however, will also feature something new, something that is distinctly not a part of the 19th century, but the 21st.
Union County Museum Executive Director Rozelle Bramlett said that Melissa Youngblood, Media Information Technology Director of The Union Connection Cable Channel 192, will use a drone to fly over the encampment and make a video of it. She said plans are for the Historical Society to sell copies of the video as a fundraiser.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis addresses a crowd attending the 2016 Living History Event at the Cross Keys House. Davis delivered a lecture on the flags flown in South Carolina from colonial days to the present including the flags flown during the Civil War. Here Davis is speaking about the banner bearing the Great Seal of the Confederacy. Sponsored by the Union County Historical Society, Living History features reenactors portraying people from the Civil War Era including Davis who visited the Cross Keys House in 1865. This year’s Living History event will be held this Saturday and Sunday.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.