On one trip we were headed from Andersonville to Macon and found ourselves with some extra time, so we detoured over to Irwinville, GA, site of the capture of Jefferson Davis.
After the fall of Richmond Jefferson Davis and various cabinet members and generals planned to shift the seat of the war to the West. They had no idea where they would make their stand but in hindsight it appears their best chance would have been in Texas. Along the way some members of the party conceded that the war was over but Davis continued on with his family, a few officers and Postmaster General John Reagan of Texas (who probably stuck with Davis since Davis was headed towards his home).
Assorted Union units were searching for Davis and on the morning of May 10, 1865 they caught up to him near Irwinville. The 4th Michigan Cavalry and 1st Wisconsin Cavalry actually skirmished with each other for a few minutes as they came upon the camp from opposite directions and did not know the other regiment was nearby. There was a reward to be had and there are some stories that the commander of the 4th Michigan had his men skirmish with the 1st Wisconsin so that the rest of his regiment could make the capture, and win the $100,000 reward.
There is also quite a few stories about the gold Davis took with him when Richmond fell. Some have said that there was still quite a bit of gold with Davis near Irwinville and that those two regiments made out quite well. The park ranger said that people come there every year to try to find the gold. There probably was gold with Davis though not in large amounts. I've heard that most of the gold was distributed to a large group of recently paroled soldiers the Davis party came upon. I forgot the name of the city but believe it was near Washington, GA, or across the border in South Carolina. In any respect by the time Davis reached Irwinville there was little gold remaining. If some Union soldiers got lucky and received an early retirement gift is unknown but does not seem too unlikely.
The park has one monument, a state historical sign and a museum. The museum is pretty neat. I think the highlight of the museum was chatting with the park ranger. We were there on a slow day and he was more than willing to chat with us. He was a treasure trove of information and I hope if I'm ever back there I will find him again and have another wonderful chat. He had said that he was from Resaca so if/when Georgia makes that a staffed state park he will probably try to be transferred there.
Interview With Dr. Joseph L. Harsh
2 days ago