Jefferson Davis Trail Stop #6
Davis and his party partook of their noonday meal at the home of General William H. Wallace, whose father was a friend of Davis and had served in the United States Congress when Davis was Secretary of War. Here the President reportedly was served fresh strawberries, the first of the season. Following the meal, Davis departed in the afternoon and continued to the home of Captain J. R. R. Giles, a few miles southwest of Unionville, where he spent the night of April 29.
Here too, a portion of his escort parted with plans to rejoin him later. Here we were disbanded with eight days written permit, at the expiration of which we were to meet him at Cokesbury, S. C., and proceed to the trans Mississippi department. When the time expired things had so changed we did not deem it necessary or prudent to obey, and so far have not been court martialed as yet. Under no other consideration would we have failed the gallant and beloved General. I will here state that the permits were executed in the palatial residence of the honorable and greatly beloved T. B. Jeter of Union.
The President was pressed to keep on the move, he continued to stay in touch with his wife’s party, primarily through correspondence with Burton Harrison who was entrusted with their care. (See additional information of Davis’s stay in Union below – this page.)
Jefferson Davis in S.C. by Sam Thomas, 1998 the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (See book in PDF form this page.)
Following their meal at General Wallace’s home, Davis and his military escort, left for the Gile Plantation, about six or seven miles south of Union….
See additional information on Jefferson Davis as well as local history below…
“An important stop on the route taken by CSA President Jefferson Davis.”
City Directories and History: 1954 – Vacant
The home of General W.H. Wallace in downtown Union, has unfortunately not been cared for in decades. It appears that in 2013, little hope is left for shaving this magnificent architectural example. In April of 1865 shortly before his capture by Union troops, Confederate States of America – President Jefferson Davis and his official party stopped here.
This structure appears to be #97 on the accompanying 1917 Sanborn Insurance Maps of Union, S.C. It was reported to R&R that Union’s first jeweler, unnamed, constructed the home and it was later occupied by Judge William H. Wallace. The current porch was added in 1909.
The Jefferson Davis Trail: Roots and Recall believes re-traces the flight of the President of the Confederacy across South Carolina after the fall of Richmond in 1865, is important and as time and information is submitted, his route will be fully displayed. A brief summary: On the night of April 2, 1865, the Confederate Government evacuated Richmond, Virginia, when defense of the Confederacy capital became impossible. In the following weeks, the surrender of Confederate armies in Virginia and North Carolina forced President Jefferson Davis with his cabinet and military escort to retreat further south.
From April 26 to May 3, 1865, Davis and his party traveled southwesterly through the Piedmont region of South Carolina, where they were hospitably received by people of the area. The country through which they passed had escaped much of the destruction of the war and members of Davis’ staff long remembered the well kept gardens along the road and the people in small towns and hamlets who greeted the President wherever he went, offering flowers and strawberries, prayers and kind wishes.
Davis still refused to believe the Confederate cause was hopeless, but his generals finally persuaded him to accept reality. At a Council of War, held at Abbeville, South Carolina, on May 2, 1865, it was decided to abandon any purpose except President Davis’s escape across the Mississippi River. The party began to disperse after leaving Abbeville, with Davis and a small escort group traveling south into Georgia. One week later, in the early morning of May 10, 1865, Davis and his companions were captured by Federal troops near Irwinville, Georgia. (Information courtesy of the SC Trail Routes – SC Dept. of Archives and History)
R&R Notes: Ola Jean Kelly, the Ex. Director of the Union County Museum wrote R&R on 2.11.17 concerning the J.R. Giles House history and location: “It was in Union located in the area of Rose Hill ( Governor Gist’s home) and the Cross Keys Plantation. We (meaning the museum), have a picture of it and it is my understanding that it was destroyed by a storm. According to our information Jefferson Davis, Pres. CSA spent the night there after having had lunch at the home of General William Wallace in the city of Union and prior to his stop at the Cross Keys House. In the Museum we have dishes believed to have been used by Mrs. Douglas (formerly Mrs. Giles) in serving President Davis.” She also reported later: A side note about Mrs. Giles: “After her husband was killed in the war she married his best friend, Capt. James Douglass. Capt. Douglass built her a magnificent home in the city of Union on what is now Douglass Heights. At the time of construction that passage was their driveway. The house still stands and is in great condition.” (See the Douglass House for details on this home.)
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