DAVIS, VARINA JEFFERSON. Wife of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States. ALS. (“V. Jefferson Davis”). 1½pp. 8vo. New York, June 19, 1892. On black-bordered mourning stationery. To Mrs. M.L. Oglesby in New Orleans.
“Yours of the 15th just was forwarded here from Beauvoir. My daughter has asked me to answer your note, as it was unpleasant to be obliged to refuse a request of yours. Mr. James S. Richardson is one of our oldest friends, and the acquaintance began when my daughter was a very small child and he just returned from college. She holds no nearer relations to him than this, and could not take the liberty of soliciting, or presenting the request of another, for a contribution of money from him for any purpose. We feel assured that no intervention on the part of any one could add to his desire to accede to a request preferred by you in your own personality. With the hope that you may meet with success in your effort and much regret that misfortunes in quick succession here prevented our offering our mites [a small coin of little value]. I am with my daughter’s kind regards…”
Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Varina Banks Howell was the granddaughter of New Jersey Governor Richard Howell; her mother came from a wealthy family of Virginia planters. Varina was educated in Philadelphia, an experience that further served to divide her loyalties between Northern and Southern family and friends. After returning to Mississippi, Varina met Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate, owner of Brierfield Plantation, and a widower; his wife, Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of future president Zachary Taylor, had died three months after their wedding. Varina’s parents objected to Davis’ courtship of their daughter because of their differences in age and in politics, but they were married in 1845, when he was 37 and she 19.