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June 26, 2014

The Flight and Capture of Jefferson Davis

By Joel R Kolander

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The flight and capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis can be told in the story of two revolvers, a London Armory Kerr that was presented to Confederate Captain Given Campbell during Davis' flight from Richmond, and a Beaumont Adams that was surrendered by Davis to Union Cavalryman John Hines of the 4th Michigan Cavalry.

Two revolvers from the flight of Jefferson Davis: A Beaumont Adams DA revolver for sale in RIAC's May 2023 Premier Auction that was captured from Davis (left) and a Londom Armory Kerr 44 that was auctioned by RIAC in September of 2014 that was presented to Confederate Captain Given Campbell during Davis' flight from Richmond. (right).

By April 1865, the Civil War was spinning out of control for the Confederate States of America. The first day of that month, Robert E. Lee, was forced to abandon his forces’ defense of Petersburg and, in turn, left the capital city of Richmond defenseless as a prize to the Union forces. A mere eight days later, Lee would be humbled again and agree to the terms of surrender with Ulysses S. Grant, at the the house of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, VA. By the end of that week, the villainous actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth had put a bullet into the head of President Abraham Lincoln.

After Lincoln's assassination, the North was out for blood and people were anxious to put a hasty end to this Civil War that had soaked too many fields with the blood of their kinsmen. Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, would go as far as to put a $100,000 reward for the capture of Jefferson Davis.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis Delivers his Final Proclamation

The Confederacy was reeling and in almost complete disarray, remaining intact in only the loosest sense of the word. Confederate President Jefferson Davis would remain vigilantly hopeful, though bordering on denial in his assessment of the situation. In the absence of Lee’s army, the Confederate capital had moved from Richmond, VA to Danville, but only held it from April 3 – 10. Davis was on the run for good reason; not only was Richmond a much-sought goal for the Union forces, but he was as well. In the minds of many Northerners, the capture of Jeff Davis would cut the head off the snake of the Confederacy. On April 4, Davis gave his final proclamation to the CSA in the house of the local quartermaster.

The Davis Revolver, #40568, is four serial numbers away from an almost identically embellished Beaumont-Adams revolver (blued rather than silver plated) presented to Stonewall Jackson from Robert Adams, #40572.

In all of these happenings, Confederate President Jefferson Davis seemed in remarkably good spirits. In fact, one of the brigadiers assembled on the night they departed from Richmond, notes of Davis that he had, “never seen Mr. Davis look better or show to better advantage. He seemed in excellent spirits and humor, and the union of dignity, graceful affability, and decision, which made his manner usually so striking, was very marked in his reception of us.”

A historic London Armoury Kerr's patent percussion single action revolver presented to Given Campbell by Confederate President Jefferson Davis on May 4, 1865 during his flight from Richmond with Civil War diary and documentation.

Jefferson Davis, of course, did not know that the proclamation he had given was to be his last. He assumed that the South would continue to fight and survive their current disasters, even if it meant moving the war from the holding and defense to a more guerrilla-style warfare in the deep South and/or Texas. This was perhaps an attitude enabled by men either in his immediate vicinity or who would write to him pledging their allegiance to the South and to continue the fight. However, Davis was also thinking of his country. In a letter to his wife, Varina, Jefferson Davis speaks quite candidly on the matter when he writes,

The issue is one which it is very painful for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of oppression which will follow the return of our people to the ‘Union’; among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the invader, and struggle, but to die in vain. I think my judgment is undisturbed by any pride of opinion, [for] I have prayed to our heavenly Father to give me wisdom and fortitude equal to the demands of the position in which Providence has placed me. I have sacrificed so much for the cause of the Confederacy that I can measure my ability to make any further sacrifice required, and am assured there is but one to which I am not equal – my wife and children.” Davis’ self-professed dedication to his family would eventually lead to his capture.

One of the most important war trophies of any American War: The historic, finely engraved and silver-plated, Beaumont-Adams revolver presented to Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis by Robert Adams of London and Personally Surrendered to Union Cavalryman John Hines of the 4th Michigan Cavalry at the capture of Jefferson Davis on May 10, 1865. Availible this May.

The Hunt for Jefferson Davis

On April 14, Sherman’s terms of surrender to Johnston, identical to the compassionate terms offered to Robert E Lee by Grant, were rejected by Washington, resulting in Jefferson Davis and his party heading even further south. Davis left Danville, the eight-day capital of the CSA, for Greensboro, North Carolina on April 15th with barely 3,000 cavalry, his entire Cabinet, “a number of officers and their attendants,” and several baggage wagons.

The ruins of the Armory at Richmond, VA

So far, the things you have read about Jefferson Davis have largely been provided by sources that document the fall of the Confederacy and the end of the Civil War. However, what you are about to read, which further details Davis’ flight from the Union forces, will come mostly from a first-hand account of someone who was with the president during that time. That person was Captain Given Campbell, who was in the Confederate service up until the very end, and whom Jefferson Davis, in his memoirs, recounts the readiness of Campbell and his entire command “to render any service needed in behalf of himself or the cause he represented.”

Cpt. Campbell kept a journal during his time with Jefferson Davis. Make no mistake, this is not a transcription (although a partial one does exist that covers Davis’ capture and several days prior), nor a copy. This is a fragile, Civil War-era journal, written in pencil almost 150 years ago, which describes the movements, spirits, and decisions of the men in that escort. If there are other similar first-hand accounts from the flight of Jefferson Davis, I have not encountered them in my research. This is a museum-quality document whose survival and disclosure is perhaps deserving of some celebrity and an expert trained in preservation to transcribe it before it is lost to time.

Confederate officer Captain Given Campbell left a detailed account of the Civil War in his journal, including the last days of the war and the flight of Jefferson Davis from Richmond.

There is also a second document created by Given Campbell entitled, “Memorandum of A Journal, Kept Daily During the Last March of Jefferson Davis.” It fleshes out many of the journal entries with more specifics and fewer abbreviations than when writing in a small military journal. The original of this document was gifted to the Library of Congress in 1934 by Campbell’s son, Dr. Given Campbell Jr.

Campbell’s memorandum begins on April 15th and states much of what is already known from other sources. Confederate President Jefferson Davis had already fled Richmond and reached Greensborough, NC with several specifically named divisions and regiments of cavalry. They did not leave that city until 6:00 p.m. the next day when they began toward Salisbury. The president and his Cabinet all were making the journey on horseback, except for Secretaries Tremholm and Benjamin, who made the journey “in ambulances, drawn by mules of inferior quality.” The next day’s journal entries would also bemoan what would become the recurring theme of the party’s lethargic pace when Campbell writes, “the roads were heavy, two of the ambulances broke down; the progress of the party was slow; they went into camp near Lexington for the night.”

The Confederacy imported about 7000 Kerr revolvers. This historic piece revolver was presented by Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis to his personal escort and noted Confederate officer Captain Given Campbell during Davis' flight from Richmond.

The next day, all partook in a “soldiers fare” breakfast before heading on their merry way. At this time, Davis’ confident demeanor is specifically described by Campbell, who writes, “President Davis appeared well on horseback; had a Marshal air, and road [sic] very erectly as he passed our Regiment; he appeared to be thin, but not to be in a frail or weak condition; his hair was iron-gray; we reached Salisbury that night.” April 18th’s entry backtracks a bit to record that the previous day, “about four miles south of Salisbury; all of the females of the party and most of the baggage were placed upon the railroad train for transportation southwestward.”

Last Days as Confederate President

They continued on to Concorde, NC when they received word that Union General Stone was threatening Charlotte, a bit over 20 miles away. The cavalry hurried to Charlotte, arriving there the next morning, but found the claims to be false and no Union forces present.

This London Armoury Kerr's revolver was presented by Jefferson Davis to Captain Given Campbell during Davis' final days as Confederate president.

This left the escort’s forces diminished, though it is not specified by how much. It seems highly unlikely that they would leave their president and a large portion of the South’s bullion undefended from Yankee soldiers. Campbell was separated from the president and his escort for some time, until April 27 when he was directed to report to General John C. Breckinridge at Yorkville, two miles distant. The next day he reported in and was ordered back to the president’s escort. He “promptly reported to President Davis” and the escort continued on to a residence outside of a town called Ford near the Broad River. Despite their flight and the tense situation their country was in, Jefferson Davis conversed on the porch with Secretary Breckinridge (change in Breckinridge’s title as written by author), while Secretaries Mallroy and Regan were “in the front of the house in the garden pitching silver half dollars for five cents – ‘Eleven-Up.'” Even the most tightly wound must reset from time to time so perhaps yard games and conversation is just what the evening called for. Such relaxing chats would not be uncommon for Davis, whom Mallory recalled when, “He talked very pleasantly of other days and forgot for a time the engrossing anxieties of the situation” In fact, he maintained his “singularly equable and cheerful” demeanor throughout the party’s subsequent six day journey, making stops in Scaifes Ferry, Unionville, South Carolina; Gists Bridge, and Cokesverry where Campbell notes that, “President Davis was greeted by a large assembly of ladies and prominent citizens who manifest profound respect and regard for this distinguished, but unfortunate man…the affection of the people was manifested by generous gifts of fruits and flowers, and the warmest expressions of sympathy and affection.”

After the Civil War, the revolver had "PRESENTED TO/GIVEN CAMPBELL/BY/JEFFERSON DAVIS/ PREST. C.S.A/ MAY 4/1865" engraved on the left side of the frame in front of the cylinder. It was passed on to Given Campbell, Jr. by his father.

In Abbeville, Davis had hoped to reunite with his wife and daughters, but they had moved on to Georgia three days prior (and encountered many stragglers from Lee’s and Johnston’s defeated armies). Letters exchanged between husband and wife revealed she also wished to see him though never at his own peril, and she gave him whatever information and thoughts on continuing the fight she could – the picture of a supportive spouse even in the bleakest of hardships. According to noted Civil War scholar Shelby Foote, that evening, Davis, in his usual and excellent mood, summoned the Brigade commanders to the basement of a house that had housed them the previous night. Foote describes the meeting best,

After welcoming and putting them at ease, as was his custom at such meetings…he passed at once to his reason for having called them into council. ‘It is time that we adopt some definite plan upon which the further prosecution of our struggle shall be conducted. I have summoned you for consultation. I feel that I ought to do nothing now without the advice of my military chiefs.’ He smiled as he said this last: “rather archly,” according to one hearer, who observed that while ‘such a term addressed to a handful of brigadiers, commanding altogether barely 2,000 men, by one who so recently had been the master of legions, was a pleasantry; yet he said it in a way that made it a compliment.’ What followed however, showed clearly how serious he was. ‘Even if the troops now with me be all that I can for the present rely on, 3,000 brave men are enough for a nucleus around which the whole people will rally when the panic which now afflicts them has passed away.

His armies in shambles, his staff and treasury being transported in a wagon train, separated from his wife and family, the capital overrun, and Jefferson Davis still sought military advice from this “advisers” – the few men he had remaining. Again, a quote from Foote,

‘A tense silence ensued; none of the five wanted to be the first to say what each of them knew the other four were thinking. Finally one spoke, and the rest chimed in. What the country was undergoing wasn’t panic, they informed their chief, but exhaustion. Any attempt to prolong the war, now that the means of supporting it were gone, “would be a cruel injustice to the people of the South,” while for the soldiers the consequences would be even worse; “for if they persisted in a conflict so hopeless they would be treated as brigands and would forfeit all chance of returning to their homes.” Breaking a second silence, Davis asked why then, if all hope was exhausted, they still were in the field. To assist in his escape they replied, adding that they “would ask our men to follow us until his safety was assured, and would risk them in battle for that purpose, but would not fire another shot in an effort to continue hostilities.” Now a third silence descended, in which the gray leader sat looking as if he had been slapped across the face by a trusted friend. Recovering he said he would hear no suggestion that had only to do with his own survival, and made one final plea wherein, as one listener said, “he appealed eloquently to every sentiment and reminiscence that might be supposed to move a Southern soldier.” When he finished, the five merely looked at him in sorrow. “Then all is indeed lost,” he muttered, and rose to leave the room, deathly pale and unsteady on his feet. He tottered, and as he did so Breckinridge stepped forward, hale and ruddy, and offered his arm, which Davis, aged suddenly far beyond his nearly fifty-seven years, was glad to take.’

According to the journal, the party would remain in Abbeville until 11:00 p.m. when word reached them that enemy troops were approaching the Savannah River. Hearing this sent the party in a race to reach and cross the river first. They rode through the night and reached it the next morning, but again found the reports to be baseless.

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

The flight of Jefferson Davis continued toward Washington, GA with many more false alarms of Union troops and scouts. It seemed at every turn they would risk capture by imaginary Union soldiers. One can only imagine the added stress and toll on the already weary party. This was only compounded when at lunch, General Johnston mentioned he would be withdrawing his troops from Atlanta to increase their mobility and leaving the city’s defense to the militia. Davis, visibly angered, appointed General Hood to the defense of the city as “a man in Command of the Army there, who would at least strike one manly blow in defense of [that] important point.” They would reach Washington, GA at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon and there it seems Jefferson Davis encounters a change of heart.

His mind turns from that of reversal of fortune for the Confederate cause to one focused on escape, or escape to a place of safety and then possibly regrouping what remaining forces were at his disposal. At first, his destination of escape was across the Mississippi, to garner support, potentially fight in Texas, and if all else failed escape into Mexico. To aid his escape, Davis had to lighten his load. Part of this was done by distributing the Confederate treasury that they carried with them. $39,000 of it was left in Greensboro for Johnston to pay his men ($1.15 each). The rest was divvied up among the troopers, cadet guards, and cavalrymen still with the president at Washington – each was given a $26.25 share paid in silver coins. The other $86,000 in gold bullion and $30,000 in silver bullion was concealed in banks or warehouses, intended to eventually find its way to England and withdrawn once the “government” of the CSA reached Texas. Much was also carried with them to cover expenses.

The next day, May 4th, Davis summoned Captain Given Campbell into his private room to relay his plan to venture forth with a smaller, faster party. Jefferson Davis “knew that his fortunes were desperate and that he would not order any one to go with him, but that he desired to entrust his safety to a few faithful hearts who would be willing to go as his escort.” Campbell accepted and with that Davis gave him some money from what remained of the treasury to buy any needed horses and pistols. Davis then presented Campbell with a pair of London Kerr’s Patent revolvers. Despite Davis’ desire to travel more quickly, he keeps the slow carts in his group. This was mentioned by Campbell to Davis when Campbell writes, “In asking me the feasibility of the plan I told him that there was one feature of the scheme that I did not like & that was having wagons with him & I would not guarantee his safety if he went with them otherwise I would.” Two days later, President Davis would leave the wagons behind in a delayed action that was clearly on the minds of those traveling with him.

The Capture of Jefferson Davis

Campbell’s journal makes no mention of the fact, but on May 5, 1865, Jefferson Davis is said to have met with his Cabinet (or what was left of it) one final time to dissolve the Confederate government. Some sources cite this as happening at the “Heard House,” a Georgia Branch Bank Building. The only mention of a “Bank owner” mentioned by Campbell (the first person source) is on May 3rd, when Davis stops there to pare down his entourage and treasury. All Campbell mentions happening on May 5 is him journeying ahead to Sparta, finding no news of the enemy closer than Macon, GA, and then camping for the night “about six miles north of Sandersville.”

The May 6 entry mentions the leaving behind of the pack mules and ambulances as the group embarked toward the Blackshears ferry to cross the Oconee River. Within one mile of the ferry, the group received word that the wagon train of Mrs. Davis, separated from her husband for several weeks, had coincidentally passed down that same path, but that “a party of disbanded soldiers intended on plundering it.” Obviously, hearing this distressed President Davis very much, so much so that he endeavored to go on ahead alone to protect his family, remounting his horse and saying, “I do not feel that you are bound to go with me, but I must protect my family.” It is the first of several decisions made by Davis that prioritize his family above his escape. The president would ride all night with several men whose horses could keep up and would eventually arrive in Dublin to find a darkened camp alongside the road around 2:00 p.m. on May 7. It held his family, their escorts, and the rest of the party. It was the first time husband and wife had seen each other since he put his family on a train in Richmond, nearly five long weeks prior. When the rest of the group with slower horses arrived, Campbell asked if he planned on staying with his wife’s wagon train and Davis replied in the affirmative. At this point readers are treated to a lengthy passage in Campbell’s journal regarding his opinion of his president’s actions.

“I made no comment – but thought it madness & folly to get rid of a small train and that because it was unsafe and in two days to fix himself to a much larger one – he excused this, on the ground of anxiety for the safety of his wife. I told him four resolute men could defend it & he need not stay with it but my objections and suggestions were useless – and he went on in his wife’s ambulance his wife had her sister 7 children – & servants & was passing them as the family of General Smith going to Florida. She is a very nice woman but evidently shows a great lack of sense in wishing her husband to risk his life staying with that cumbrous train. I told him & urged his aids to do so that he could not protect but his presence might damage his wife’s train & that he would be caught but he would stay – and it was the first thing that made me regret that I had come with him…”

Later that same day, Campbell rode ahead and discovered a group of soldiers “organizing to take the train” thinking it was a quarter master’s train. Davis later came to find out they heard the train to be Mrs. Davis’ & Co, but didn’t believe it. Then a former Lieutenant under Morgan told the soldiers that it was, in fact, the President’s wife’s train and that Jeff Davis was with them! Knowing that enemy encampments were near by, Campbell announced himself to the men as a defender or the train “and that if they desired to try to take it they might do so but that they would get more balls (bullets) than horses.”

This allegedly put a stop to the soldiers’ plans, though hearing of the incident spurned Mrs. Davis to urge her husband to travel on without her. The group camped that night “below Dublin & Abbeville” and multiple sources mention Jefferson Davis spending the night in his wife’s tent, while his aides weary from weeks of riding, shared their mixed feelings: doubts about being two days behind schedule thanks to the train, but also their hope at being only 70 miles away from the Florida border.

Campbell was often used to scout the route ahead of the president and the next few days would prove no exception. May 8 he rode ahead, took a ferry across the Ockmulgee River and then waited three hours for the train followed by Davis. For the group of men willing to risk their own lives for the president, it was almost too much to bear! Davis seemed to care little for his own safety and was willing to sacrifice it at every turn to provide some meager protection for his family. To his credit, Campbell made no mention of it to Davis, but did again try to impart the urgency of the situation by mentioning the nearby Union presence at Hawkinsville, some 25 miles away. The news only made Jefferson Davis nervous for the wagon train.

Cartoons satirizing the Capture of Jefferson Davis spread throughout the North.

May 9, Campbell is again sent off ahead to scout and he takes Sgt. Parsely with him. They set off toward Nashville [Berrien County, GA] to recon the route. Campbell notes that he left Davis, “with his train – thinking that the chances were two to one that he would be attacked.” The pair of scouts found no food in Irwinville and so rode eight miles further and stayed at a Widow Paulk’s house all night. The next morning they set off again and rode about ten miles and “concluded to wait for the president. He did not come…”

The morning of May 10 in the president’s train was not nearly as peaceful as that of Campbell and Parsely. As Davis’ train slept, two regiments of Union cavalry – the 4th Michigan and the 1st Wisconsin – were closing in on their camps location. They had been tipped off in Hawkinsville that the president’s train had left Abbeville that morning and was bound for Irwinville, some 40 miles away. One regiment circled around and approached from the south while the other bore down from the northwest.  It seemed all too easy a capture until the fighting broke out. Gunshots clapped rapidly in the last battle east of the Mississippi as troops were thrown into an unexpectedly violent battle. Unfortunately, all participants were Union troops and it would be around fifteen minutes before the sides took notice.

An eye-witness account of the events was related by Private William Linsley of the 4th Michigan was submitted to, and published by the “Then and Now Historical Society” in Dorr, Michigan by Mrs. Ann VandenBerg, a direct descendant of Private Linsley:

“We were in the pine woods. We charged about 20 rods and came right into camp. John Hines and Charlie Tyler and myself went into a tent and no one was up in this tent there was one man and two women. The old man rose up to see what was going on. 'I surrender' he said and reached down in the bed and got a revolver and handed it to John Hines. We did not know who they were and some of the boys knew who they were after and this proved to be Jefferson Davis and the women proved to be his wife and sister.
We did not know it at the time we went out of the tent. Just as we got into the road bang, bang went the guns about 40 rods up the road and they kept a going all excited. Prichard ordered us to fall in. We did and went up the road... Then we formed in line and then we went into the fight. I fell in behind a pine tree. I had fired two shots and was putting a load in my gun when they hollered cease firing. You are firing on your own men. We had two killed and three wounded. They proved to be the 1st Wisconsin and the 1st Ohio. They had seven wounded and then we went back to camp... Some of the boys was getting a barrel out of a wagon. They called for me to help and it proved to be a barrel of whiskey. We soon made a hole in it and I was filling my canteen when Frank Carpenter came rushing out. 'Say Bill, we have got old Jeff' and I spoke up, 'Hell we have' and said, 'Where is he?' Right where the crowd is. I rushed up, there he was. The same old man that was in the tent with the women...
Just at this time someone touched me on the shoulder. I turned around to see who it was and it was Charlie Tyler. 'Bill, John Hines has been killed.' I spoke up and said, 'My God, is that so. Where is he?' 'He was over where we formed in line a fighting. He was shot in the mouth, come right out the back of his head.'"

The primary provenance documentation for this Beaumont-Adams revolver taken during the capture of Jefferson Davis comes directly from the Hines family in the form of affidavits and a bill of sale (2018) from Linda Lee Hines Inman, the great granddaughter of John Hines' brother Edwin Hines (1840-1905), (contained in our provenance folder).

As Private Linsley recounted, the same soldier who received the surrendered revolver of Jefferson Davis was John Hines of Company E of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, who was shortly thereafter killed by friendly fire. The death of John Hines is well-documented in U.S. Official Military Records and eyewitness accounts. The brother of John Hines, Edwin Hines, was also a member of the 4th and present during the capture of Davis. Edwin Hines received the Davis revolver after his brother's tragic death.

As the skirmish between the two Union companies broke out, Jefferson Davis took advantage of the confusion. He grabbed a sleeveless raincoat made from the same oilcloth material as his wife’s, and his wife threw a shawl over his head to preserve what poor health he had left. As Davis was quietly making his way to the trees, he was recaptured and did not resist, or rather wasn’t given the chance. Davis writes that he was approached by a Union cavalryman with his carbine at the ready, but that the president kept walking toward the soldier. “I expected, if he fired, he would miss me and my intention was in that event to put my hand under his foot, tumble him off the other side, spring into his saddle, and attempt my escape.”

This plan was dashed when Varina, seeing a rifle pointed at her husband, ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. The capture was reported far and wide in the North that Davis, “had been captured wearing his wife’s clothing.” It did not matter that it was only her raincoat and shawl, the press had a field day and many cartoons were dedicated to the embarrassing fiction.

Secretary of War Stanton and others reported Davis was trying to escape in his wife's clothes. The story was heavily embellished in the press, with some going so far as to suggest Davis was actually wearing a woman's bonnet and a full hoop dress.

Documenting the Jefferson Davis Captured Revolver

The story of the second revolver related to the flight and capture of Jefferson Davis started with John and Edwin Hines. Both brothers served in Company E of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, the regiment famous for capturing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Hines brothers are listed in various official sources on the unit including "Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Vol. 34" published by the State of Michigan.

This incredibly historic Beaumont-Adams revolver comes with complete, detailed, and documented provenance from the moment it came into the possession of Union Cavalryman John Hines at the capture of Jefferson Davis until its consignment in this auction through official military records O.R.’s, published accounts, newspaper articles, family letters and full, chain-of-ownership. Availible this May.

Both Hines brothers are listed as from Manchester, Michigan, and as enlisting in Company E on July 23, 1862 for three years and as mustered on August 28, 1862, with the regiment in Detroit. Edwin is listed as enlisting as a sergeant and as promoted to first sergeant on Sept. 13, 1864, and as mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee, on July 1, 1865. John is listed as promoted to corporal on Sept. 13, 1864, and as killed in action at Irwinsville, Georgia, during the capture of Jefferson Davis on May 10, 1865. He was buried in the Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia after originally being interned at Abbeyville.

A historic revolver from the capture of Jefferson Davis. Availible this May.

A commemorative marker is placed at the sight of Davis's final camp noting the death of John Hines and John Rupert on May 10, 1865, from shots fired by the Wisconsin cavalry during the capture of the Confederate president. Rossbacher’s research provides several incredible primary accounts of the Jefferson Davis revolver, No. 40568 including a newspaper article in the Detroit Free Press less than a month after its surrender stating, “Major Hudson brought with him Jeff Davis’ pistol, now on exhibition at Mr. S. Smiths. It is an elegant silver plated instrument, costing about $45. The case contains the initials J. D. together with the letter of the admiring donor, a gift from a friend, the maker of the pistol in London, altogether forming a delicate morsel and most significant exhibition of British 'Neutrality.'”

This description certainly matches the engraved, silver-plated and British-made Adams Revolver from the Hines family. A second newspaper article in The Michigan Argus, February 1875 describes Edwin Hines as still owning “a silver mounted revolver, taken by him, from Jefferson Davis at the time of his capture. The revolver is a self-cocker and originally cost $100.”

A historic revolver acquired during the capture of Jefferson Davis. Provenance: Jefferson Davis, John Hines, Edwin Hines, LaVerne Hines Sr., Linda Lee Hines Inman, Michael Simens, Private Collection Property of a Gentleman. Availible this May.

It further states Hines had been offered $1000 for the property. Again, a silver-plated and now the more descriptive “self-cocking” revolver matches the Hines family gun, the Adams being a double-action. A third article from The Alma Record on Friday, June 25, 1886 reported that “One of the revolvers upon the person of Jeff Davis, when he was captured, is in the possession of Edwin Hines, a Grass Lakes soldier.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis was quite aware that this .45 caliber Adams had far superior stopping power compared to his .36 caliber Colt, and, in close quarters, he could empty the Adams into any assailants in a third of the time it took to empty the Colt, producing the desired effect of personal protection in a very short period of time. Availible this May.

A report by Adjutant Julian G. Dickinson relayed a similar story but included that "a man dressed in woman's clothing" was captured while trying to sneak away with his wife and a female servant and was revealed to be Jefferson Davis.

The Beaumont-Adams Davis Revolver #40568

The Davis Revolver #40568 is 4 serial numbers away from an almost identically embellished revolver (blued rather than silver plated) presented to Stonewall Jackson from Robert Adams, #40572, cased with accessories that have been housed in The American Civil War Museum in Virginia and placed there by Jackson’s wife over a century ago. Additionally, a third Confederate presentation is reported to have been presented to General Robert E. Lee, evidenced by his known “thank you” acknowledgment delivered to Adams through CSA Agent Caleb Huse in early 1864.

A Beaumont-Adams revolver, serial no. 40568. The revolver is signed "ROBERT ADAMS. No. 76 KING-WILLIAM STREET. LONDON" along the top strap and breech end of the barrel. Availible this May.

Although persuasive gifts were commonplace for Colt, it is now certain that Adams took the same route although on a much smaller scale. A most interesting fact of note is that Robert Adams also presented at least one revolver to a major Union figure, none other than Commanding General of The United States Army, George B. McClellan.

The Beaumont-Adams Davis revolver features fine English engraving including a braided border design at the muzzle and front of the cylinder as well as the edges of the trigger guard, floral designs on and around some of the screws, and primarily classic scroll engraving and lined borders. Availible this May.

Photos of this recently discovered casing showing its inscribed brass lid-ring (identical to the Jackson inscription) and lid interior (also identical and embellished with gold leaf) is contained within the provenance folder. It is therefore unquestionable that Adams presented such revolvers to key military and/or political figures, both North and South, and with the three that can be accounted to major Confederate players, plus the McClellan gun, there’s little doubt that a few other high ranking Union figures also received such gifts, possibly to include United States President Abraham Lincoln with all likely in the same serial range.

A 2018 bill of sale from Linda Lee Hines Inman, the great granddaughter of John Hines' brother Edwin Hines to a private entity lists the revolver as "An Antique Adams Revolver, serial number 40568, surrendered by Jefferson Davis, President of the C.S.A. to Corporal John Hines of the 4th Michigan Cavalry during his capture at or near Irwinville, Georgia, May 10, 1865." Availible this May.

The revolver is signed "ROBERT ADAMS. No. 76 KING-WILLIAM STREET. LONDON" along the top strap and breech end of the barrel. Robert Adams was located at that address from 1858 to 1865 per Blackmore's "Gunmakers of London." The frame is marked "ADAMS PATENT, No. 40568" on the right side, and the number is repeated on the cylinder. The loading lever and face of the cylinder are numbered with the assembly number "727." The revolver has Birmingham proofs, a dovetailed blade front sight, fixed notch rear sight, silver plated finish, and checkered walnut grip.

After exhaustive research performed by renowned historian and managing editor of "North South Trader Civil War Magazine" Nancy Dearing Rossbacher, in tandem with additional research performed by celebrated historical artifact dealer/collector Michael Simens, Rock Island Auction is proud to tell the story of this historic Beaumont-Adams revolver. Availible this May.

Jefferson Davis' career, and the Confederacy, officially ended when he handed this revolver to John Hines. Had Corporal Hines lived, he would have no doubt been heralded as one of the Union's great heroes, being recognized as having received Davis’ surrender gun and officially ending the Civil War. Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis is one of the most famous individuals in American History, being loved or hated by millions for over a century. This revolver is one of the most historic and important American artifacts ever offered at public sale and is perhaps the most important Confederate artifact known to be privately held.

The Beaumont-Adams Davis revolver, serial number 40568, has been documented by the Hines family since its surrender to Michigan 4th Cavalry Trooper John Hines (1843-1865) during the capture of Jefferson Davis on May 10, 1865, in Irwinsville, Georgia. Availible this May.

This was Jefferson Davis' personal revolver of choice under the direst conditions and is similar in historical scope to The War Pistols of Hamilton, The Bull Moose Colt of Theodore Roosevelt and the President U. S. Grant Remington Revolvers, all previously sold by Rock Island Auction. There are now two Civil War revolvers known to have been the property of President Davis, his presentation Colt and this, his presentation Adams. The Colt, now housed in one of the most important museums in the country, will never leave that venue. This, his surrendered Adams revolver, is the only chance for any collector to own such history. It would be an iconic and quintessential addition to any major arms or Civil War collection, public or private.


Campbell, Cpt. Given. Memorandum of A Journal Kept Daily During the Last March of Jefferson Davis. N.d. Raw data. N.p.
Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative – Red River to Appomattox. New York, NY: Random House, 1974. Print.
Lasswell Crist, Lynda. Partial Transcription of the Given Campbell Diary. 30 Mar. 2011. Raw data. Rice University, Houston, TX.
Wolf, Wayne, Paul Faeh, and Jack Simmerling. Colonel Given Campbell C.S.A. N.p.: McGraw-Hilll, 1995. Print.

Etching of Davis in his cell.

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