1862 Jefferson Davis Letter
Appraised Value: $15,000 - $20,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:38)
Books & Manuscripts
Senior Vice President & Senior Specialist, Rare Books and Manuscripts
GUEST: My great-grandfather was a judge and a lawyer and a kind of historian from Medina County, about 40 miles west of here. And he collected a lot of documents and things. So this letter was passed down to me through some letters and documents and things that were his.
APPRAISER: And you've been going through them, and very wisely, I think, you singled out this particular letter. Who's the signer of this letter?
GUEST: Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.
APPRAISER: Absolutely. The letter up here has the date: 12 September, 1862. It also says "Executive Office," which was the equivalent of the White House of the Confederacy. Richmond, Virginia. It's a very good official military letter. First of all, here's Jefferson Davis's signature. Nice, very neat, elegant signature. He really studied his penmanship. The body of the letter, of course, as you probably know, is in a secretarial hand.
APPRAISER: But the letter's addressed to... four different people. F.R. Lubbock is at the top and he was... The governor at the time. Governor of Texas. And we also have... copies of this letter were sent to Jackson of Missouri, Moore of Louisiana and Rector of Arkansas. And those four states were considered something called the Trans-Mississippi Division in the Confederacy. So it's what we call a circular letter. Sent the same letter to several different recipients. This particular one, though-- "Copy for Governor Lubbock."
APPRAISER: So we know that that's a Texas piece. And this letter is great because it really reminds us that Texas was one of the states that seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederacy. What does the letter say? For Jefferson Davis, who didn't write inspired letters, it's got some great phrases. First of all, he reassures these four governors that he has "Desire to spare no effort for the relief and protection of our fellow citizens in the Trans-Mississippi Department." He also says that, "I relied on your devotion to the cause of your country, and your determination to second every measure adopted for its defense." So he's thanking them for their role. But evidently, they had written to him complaining that they needed more support out there in the Trans-Mississippi. And Davis, very interestingly, gives a reason why the support has been sort of lackluster. He says, "While Virginia was pressed by the whole force of the U.S. government, with our capitol threatened..." So he's talking there about McClellan's Peninsula Campaign directed against Richmond, which never succeeded.
APPRAISER: And finally ended about two months before this letter. It's a wonderful thing, and rarely do you see important official correspondence of Davis like this. Condition is very good. A few little fold tears,
APPRAISER: which you could easily get mended. And I know that when we were discussing this earlier, you said you wouldn't take less than $250,000 for it.
APPRAISER: And I can identify with that sense of its importance. Jefferson Davis
Unfortunately isn't as widely collected as you'd think he would be as president of
the Confederacy. There's more interest in his generals, in fact.
APPRAISER: Based on other Davis letters I've handled at auction and seen in catalogs, I would probably value this at $15,000 to $20,000.
APPRAISER: That's a market price. You can set your value on it at whatever level you want.
GUEST: Okay, good.
APPRAISER: Thanks for bringing this in. It's a great piece.
GUEST: Thank you very much. I've enjoyed it.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.