May 1

Jefferson Davis

May 1, 1886 - Atlanta, Macon, Savannah

It was a comeback tour for the man who had been Confederate president.

Jefferson Davis lived quietly at his Mississippi home in the decades after the Civil War. But in 1886, he laid the cornerstone for a Confederate memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Henry Grady, the enterprising editor of the Atlanta Constitution, invited Davis to Atlanta to dedicate a monument to Georgia politician Benjamin Harvey Hill.

More than 50,000 people jammed the corner of Peachtree and West Peachtree to see Confederate Generals John B. Gordon and James Longstreet join Davis at the ceremony. Other stops in Macon and Savannah met with the same enthusiasm. Gordon, who was running for governor, said it was the first time he witnessed the power of the lost cause.

Davis’ re-emergence attracted national media attention and what began as a trip to dedicate Confederate monuments turned into a sort of national affirmation of the South’s reunion with the nation.

The man who led the Confederacy made his triumphant return to Georgia on May 1, 1886, Today in Georgia History.