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Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

By April 1865, the Civil War was spinning out of control for the Confederate States of America.  The first day of that month, the eventual hero of the South, 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.  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.

Northern animosity toward Jefferson Davis was fairly universal.  Here he is depticted wearing
women's clothing and brewing a "Treason Toddy" with the devil and Benedict Arnold.

The Confederacy was reeling and in almost complete disarray, remaining intact in only the loosest sense of the word.  CSA 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, to capture ol' Jeff Davis would be to cut the head off the snake of the Confederacy.  Besides, prisoners of war were not exactly known to receive the finest of accommodations.  On April 4, Davis gave his final proclamation to the CSA in the house of the local quartermaster.

In all of these happenings, 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."  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, he 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 ruin his escape.

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 Davis and his party to head even further south.  He 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 which 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 Davis and Rock Island Auction Company has that journal.  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.

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.  However, full transcriptions of this document are available and using such transcriptions I shall attempt to convey the last days of the Confederacy without resorting to a simple reproduction.  All quotes have had their errors left as they are.

Campbell's memorandum begins on April 15th and states much of what is already known from other sources.  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 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."    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 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."

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."

Davis seriously felt the South could rise again!  His armies in shambles, his staff and treasury being transported in a wagon train, separated from his wife and family, the capital overrun, and 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 poeple 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 as 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.'

Gen. Joseph Johnston
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 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 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 regroup what remaining forces were at his disposal.  At first his destination of escape was across the Mississippi, to garner support, potential 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.  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.  He then presented Campbell with a pair of London Kerr's Patent revolvers, one of which will be sold by Rock Island Auction Company.  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.

Campbell's journal makes no mention of the fact, but on May 5, 1865, 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 Davis nervous for the wagon train.

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.  Needless to say, the commotion woke Davis' train.  They had planned to leave at midnight that night, but slept through their intended hour of departure.  Now Davis, not expecting union troops, began heading toward the gunfire thinking it to be marauders. "I will go out and see if I can't stop the firing.  Surely I will have some authority with Confederates."  However, opening his tent flap revealed dark uniforms and boots.  Union troops were upon the camp!  Davis intent on escaping, 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 captured 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.

Yes, even several songs were eventually written about the event.

Upon not meeting the president that day, Captain Campbell, "...went out to forks of road & waited for him til near night & got uneasy and went back up the road.  Concluded that he had either been run in on or had taken the wrong road - went one & half mile off the road & stopped at the house of a deserter named Jack Fletcher & he told me Davis & co were captured at daylight."  Davis would then be taken as a Union prisoner to the impregnable Fortress Monroe, with its 30' granite walls said to be 100' thick at the bottom.  While Davis would eventually leave his cell there, the dream of the Confederacy would remain forever in that immense crypt.

-Written by Joel R. Kolander


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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The First & Last Confederate President

Today, Jefferson Davis is remembered by many as the enemy of the United States for his role as the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.  However, further examination reveals that his story is much more complex than that.  Jefferson Davis served the United States in several important roles, was temporarily considered delusional by his peers at the end of the Civil War for his refusal to accept defeat, suffered after his capture by the Union Army, and was an intelligent military officer with a West Point education.

The former leader of the Confederacy is our topic of discussion this week thanks to a fantastic addition to our September 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction - a London Armoury, Kerr's Patent percussion single action revolver, that was once presented by none other than Jefferson Davis himself.

Jefferson Finis Davis was born on June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky as the youngest of ten children.  He moved several times as a child, but never failed to receive a proper schooling courtesy of the income from the family's cotton plantation.  That education would take him to West Point where he would graduate in 1828, only one year ahead of Robert E. Lee.  He finished 24th in his class of 33, placing him nearly in the bottom 30% of his class.

After graduation, Davis was stationed at Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien in what was then the Wisconsin Territory.  There he would serve under future President Zachary Taylor and fall in love with his daughter Sarah Knox Taylor.  The commanding officer, knowing the hard life of Army wives, wanted better for his daughter and refused the couple's request to marry.  So Davis did what many a young man in love would do, resigned his commission on April 20, 1835 and married her against her father's wishes by June 17.

The young couple spent the next several months on property lent to them my Davis' brother Joseph.  It was the land adjacent to Joseph's Hurricane Plantation known as Brierfield, which should leave little to the imagination regarding its condition and vegetation.  However, Jefferson quickly turned it into Brierfield Plantation and began a life for himself.  The couple, now three months into their marriage, decided to visit his sister Anna in Louisiana for the summer, thinking the time in the country would be better for their health than time spent near the river.  Tragically, the couple caught yellow fever (or malaria, sources differ) and on September 15, Davis was left a widower.  He would not recover for at least a month and eventually went to Cuba in an attempt to further promote his healing.  It is said he traveled there with his only slave at the time, James Pemberton.

Having recovered adequately, Jefferson eventually returned to Brierfield and lost himself in his work to sooth the grief of having lost his young wife.  The calendar had barely turned to 1836 and Davis already owned 16 slaves and would continue to own more as the plantation thrived, up to 113 slaves by 1860.  In 1840 Davis' interest in politics would turn into involvement and, in addition to his military service, would be the second time he would serve his country.  Politics would ultimately give Davis the drive to exit his self-imposed seclusion after Sarah's death.  1845 would have Davis marry again to a 18-year old woman named Varina Howell (Davis was 37 at the time).

The 1845 wedding photograph of Davis and Howell
It would be the same year he won his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving more attention to the man already known for his potent and occasionally fiery speeches.  His success was to be short-lived, as Davis resigned his seat to fight in the Mexican-American War.  He would lead the 1st Regiment of the Mississippi Rifleman and served as a colonel under his former father-in-law, General Zachary Taylor.  What was undoubtedly an initially awkward assignment was turned into an opportunity by Davis who served valiantly in several battles and was injured at the Battle of Buena Vista.  General Taylor was forced to reconsider his position on Davis and is quoted as saying, "My daughter, sir, was a better judge of men than I."  In a true showing of what could later be called very Confederate values, Davis refused an appointment to the rank of brigadier general by President James K. Polk, standing firm in the belief the right to promote militia officers belonged to the states and not the federal government.  Within the month, he accepted the offer of another appointment, Senator of Mississippi.  The seat was temporarily vacant, but the very next month (Jan 1848) he was elected to serve the remaining two years of the former governor's term.  Later that year, he was even made a regent of the renowned Smithsonian Institution and after serving his two year stint as a senator, he easily won the election to serve a full 6-year term.  It seemed the relatively young politician's stock could not rise any more rapidly.

Perhaps overly confident due to his string of successes, Davis has barely served a year in his duties when he resigned in September of 1851, to run for the office of governor of Mississippi.  He lost by less than 1,000 votes to fellow Mississippi Senator Henry Foote and was left with no political office what so ever, but the up-and-comer wouldn't have to wait long.  In 1853 he was appointed as the U.S. Secretary of War by President Franklin Pierce, likely for Davis' strong support in his Pierce's presidential campaign.  Davis was again reluctant to accept the appointment, but popular Southern opinion demanded he take the seat to ensure states' rights were heard loudly by the president even if Pierce held almost all the pro-slavery and pro-states values that the southern states could possibly have wanted of any candidate, let alone one from the North.  For four years Secretary of War Davis would work with President Pierce to make a more organized, larger, faster, and more modernized army.  An army he would have to face in less than ten years time.

After his stint as Secretary of War, Davis would be re-elected to the Senate in 1857, a time when the country's leaders had passionate beliefs and tempers like a red hot poker.  Davis personally opposed secession of states from the Union, but fought fiercely for states' rights (including that of secession) and for slavery.  He held the office until again relinquishing those duties when Mississippi seceded, calling that January 21, 1861 "the saddest day of my life."  Having earlier sent a telegram to the Governor of Mississippi requesting to, "Judge what Mississippi requires of me and place me accordingly," Davis was made a major general of the Army of Mississippi not two days after this resignation.  On February 9, the Confederacy, still in its infancy, held a constitutional convention where both Davis and a man named Robert Toombs were considered to lead as president.  Davis easily won, was elected the first Confederate President by acclamation, and was inaugurated within a fortnight.  Davis' preference would have been to serve in the army, but his political skills combined with his military history made him the overwhelming favorite to lead.

We all know how the next four years would end for Davis, but many do not know what kind of president Davis was.  Regardless of one's opinion, there are many disadvantages he faced from the get go.  As a nation he faced the disadvantages of less food production, no standing currency, and depended on trade for a great number of necessities.  As a nation at war the disadvantages were even worse: outnumbered in (white) population around 4:1, outnumbered in guns 32:1, no navy, inferior railroads, no powder mills, no shipyards, no official recognition from other countries, among others.  If Jeff Davis wasn't directly behind the 8-ball, he could barely see around it.

Besides the problems inherent in a low-industrial region highly dependent on trade, were those the president himself faced.  Davis argued regularly with his vice president, Alexander Stephens, and suffered fallings-out with other important members of his cabinet such as Toombs, and his first Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker, each resulting in those men leaving their positions.  Unfortunately for Davis, these were only the beginning of a merry-go-round of advisors and cabinet members.  The President himself was also far from perfect as is often criticized for not utilizing his most talented people, over utilizing those less talented, practicing poor military strategy, refusal to delegate certain military duties, extreme impatience, poor coordination among arguably some of the more talented generals in the Civil War, lackluster fund raising, and ignoring many of the plights of those living in the South.  Many of the citizens whose rights they sought to preserve were suffering from food shortages and rampant inflation as the war progressed, which resulted in the large scale robbery, looting of stores, and a plummeting popularity.

This picture shows "Jefferson Davis And his cabinet" with "General Lee in the Council Chamber at Richmond"
L to R: "Malory," Benjamin, Walker, Davis, Lee, Regan, Memminger, Stephens, & Toombs.  This was not the original cabinet and depicts the group as it likely appeared in late 1863.
Despite the woes and disadvantages listed in the previous two paragraphs, the South enjoyed several victories in the Civil War, including several major battles such as the First Battle of Bull Run (a.k.a. "First Manassas"), Battle of Chattanooga, Battle of Fredericksburg, Second Bull Run, and others.  Fueled by their cause, excellent generals, and knowledge of the terrain, the Confederacy quickly dispelled rumors of a quick war.  However, the disadvantages and Davis' negative contributions ultimately led to the end of the Confederacy.  Almost two weeks after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, on May 5, 1865 Davis convened with his cabinet for the last time to dissolve the Confederate government.  5 days later Jefferson Davis would be captured by the Union and imprisoned for two years, despite his lifetime ailments that not only caused him pain throughout his life, but began to worsen in his less than desirable conditions.

Davis, 1885
The Union was truly in a tough spot regarding Davis' charge of treason: if he was found not guilty, then the secession was justified and if he was found guilty and hanged, he became a martyr. Between a rock and hard place, Davis was ultimately freed on bail and his case was dropped in February of 1869.  He then proceeded to live the rest of his life.  Quiet throughout most of the Reconstruction, Davis wrote his book "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" in 1881 and enjoyed much popularity in his autumn years.  He gave many speeches commending the people of the South for their sacrifice and bravery, while also preaching reconciliation, a dedication to the Union, and visions of a prosperous future.  He would also pen "A Short History of the Confederate States of America" in October of 1889, but in November he would catch a cold that would morph into bronchitis with a possible combination of malaria.  Appearing on the edge of recovery, Davis would slip into unconsciousness and pass away on December 6, 1889 with his friends and wife Varina by his side.  He would eventually be laid to rest at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Jefferson Davis gave plenty of ammunition to historians who wish to praise or criticize his legacy.  On one hand he was a dedicated servant to his country in several roles, an accomplished soldier, a silent sufferer despite intense health problems, and a man who stood by his principles while aiding the reconciliation of a nation.  On the other he is a slave-holder, an inadequate wartime president, a wealthy elitist, and a man who was never elected to a single position in his life nor finished a whole term to completion.  Even in this brief history of his life, it is easy to see a man whose legacy can be painted in many different shades depending on who holds the brush.

The London Armoury Kerr's Patent revolver shown above was presented by Jefferson Davis to Given Campbell on May 4, 1865, the day before the Confederacy was officially dissolved.  With little industrial might to their name the CSA (Confederate States of America) was forced to depend on a few stateside manufacturers and whatever imported arms they could get through the Union's blockade.  About 7,000 Kerr revolvers were received by the CSA, making them a rare and desirable firearms for military and Civil War collectors alike.

After Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse, Campbell was chosen by President Davis to lead his "escape team" as they fled the Union Army approaching Richmond.  Included in this lot are two journals kept by Campbell.  The first is an archival quality document - an original hand written journal kept by Campbell during the escape from Richmond!  This is truly a piece of national history that would easily earn its rightful place in any American History Museum.  The second is a microfilm transcription of Campbell's second journal, the original having been donated to the Library of Congress by Campbell's grandson.  The second is entitled, "Memorandum of a Journal kept Daily During the Last March of Jefferson Davis," and in it Campbell describes a scene of desperation as the union troops draw ever nearer to President Davis' party.  The impression is given that Davis would have had ample time and resources to escape Union forces at that time, were he only willing to be separated again from his wife and children and the larger train of wagons and ambulances.  Many options and opportunities are suggested by his escort, but none are heeded.

On May 4, Campbell writes that Davis gave him money to buy a horse and arms for a smaller escort that was to branch off from the rest.  That day, Campbell also writes that, "President Davis presented to me a pair of large revolvers, Kerr's Patent."  The whereabouts of the other pistol is unknown to this day.  A few days later, Davis commanded Campbell, after an initial refusal, to scout out ahead in order to find food, and safe crossing of the wagon train across the Alapaha River.  Campbell, wanting to stay with the president, reluctantly went ahead with another soldier of his choosing, Sgt. Minus Parcely to complete Davis' request.  They spent the night away from the group and left after breakfast the next morning to meet the party, but the party never came.  They road back further and became more anxious the entire time.  Only once they spoke to a Confederate deserter in the area, did they hear the awful news: Davis and his party had been captured by Union troops.  They immediately rode further and confirmed the story for themselves.

While one of the pistols may be lost to time, the pistol this article pertains to has nothing but an ironclad documentation since its presentation in the twilight of the Confederacy.  The pair of pistols are mentioned in Campbell's journal and the pistol shown here was then inherited by Given Campbell Jr. who held it until 1940 and its travels have been extensively documented ever since.  On the left side of the frame, the pistol has been engraved with the words, "Presented to Given Campbell by Jefferson Davis, Prest. C.S.A. May 4, 1865."  Since the pistol was presented to Campbell as the party was fleeing the Union Army, it is safe to say that the pistol was not engraved at the time it was presented.  Instead, this inscription was added later, perhaps by Campbell Sr. or another family member, who wished to permanently document the pistol's historic significance.  The style of the engraving is consistent with that of the latter 19th century.  The pistol itself remains in fine condition maintaining large portions of original bluing, crisp checkered walnut grips, and a functioning action.

This is truly a historic pistol marking the very end of days of the Civil War.  Its trove of supporting documentation ensures its authenticity, and the journal of Col. Given Campbell is in itself a museum worthy document dripping with historic significance and an exciting story to boot.  The documents included are notarized letters, original letters, transcriptions of Civil War diaries, information from the Library of Congress, death certificates, and an entire book written on Campbell.  Civil War collectors should be nearly besides themselves at the possibility of owning such an exciting piece of our nation's history.

This fascinating lot is just one of the thousands to appear in Rock Island Auction Company's September 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.  As always there will be hundreds of superior quality collector and investment grade firearms from a pleasing variety of manufacturers such as Winchester Colt, Browning, DWM, Mauser, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Walther, Henry, and more.  Multiple collecting genres will also be generously represented as we host a number of arms in the following categories: American military, Class III, German military, antiques, sporting arms, Civil War, European flintlocks, curiosities, and plenty of high end hunting pieces for beast or fowl.  Please stayed tuned in the coming months for more updates on the impressive pieces in this grand sale.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wandering the RIAC Warehouse

Often these weekly articles are reserved for particularly special firearms, fascinating histories, or some combination of the two, but when walking around the warehouse of Rock Island Auction Company, sometimes it's difficult to choose just one.  So for this week, I haven't chosen one; I chose a bunch!  I thought I'd give a sneak peek into our warehouse so you can see the selection of jaw-dropping items we receive for each and every auction.  The following pictures are items or sights that caught my eye from the last week or two.  Let's get started, but first for those who have not yet seen how massive our production floor is, here are a few shots that should illustrate that.

This wide angle panorama STILL struggles to capture the entire floor.

This covers most of the area behind the camera.  Key word?  Most.

Fascinating Finds

This first batch of pictures are items that immediately made me walk over to them and get a closer look.  I believe that anyone will find a few of them as fascinating as I do.

This is the rear shot of the gun shown immediately above.

Four gorgeous butt caps from flintlock pistols in our facility

When you see three monster revolvers like this next to each other, you go over and take a look.

Close up of the "barrel" on the previous photo.

Gorgeous work on a flintlock pistol.
A curious piece that is far too heavy for handheld use, despite what appears to be a grip on the rearmost portion.
The rear of the above shown piece.  Note the loading gate.

Jack knife shown for scale.  Very small Stinger pistols.

That many mags protruding from the rack means a bunch of shooters are going to have some fun.

Glimpse of the Production Floor

The next few pictures have been posted on the "More Info" of our July Regional Auction page for some time, but I post them here in case some readers have not found or seen them yet.  They show off the great number of modern firearms appearing in this auction, and most of these shown are only the racks of handguns.  Just wait until you see some of the long arms!

There are literally dozens of racks like this.
The best part is that these photos were only the most visually impressive ones - they are by no means even close to showing them all!  There were also Glocks by the crate, Desert Eagles in a myriad of finishes, and... good grief, I can't even begin to describe them all.  There were so many that we couldn't even fit them all into one auction.  Meaning that if you like modern guns, the next few auctions will have a more than ample selection for you.  Oh, and as promised, here are some of the long arms.

To be fair, there are 3 more aisles like the one shown immediately above.  Oh and I didn't even count how many racks look like the photos below.  They're a clear indication that collectors will have an excellent selection of shotguns, rifles, antiques, C&R, military arms, and hunting pieces for some time to come.

The sheer volume of firearms in our July Regional Firearms Auction is boggling, the variety of firearms in upcoming auctions is astonishing, and the remaining sales of 2014 from Rock Island Auction Company should have the full attention of every single collector and investor of firearms, edged weapons, and military artifacts.  This article focused mainly on the immense number of guns, some fascinating oddities, and the ornamentation on several antique pistols.  What has not been covered, and what will likely earn their own articles in coming weeks, are several genres: historic pieces with ties to the Civil War, Old West, and strong military provenance, exquisite antiques, stunning U.S. & German military arms, and of course the jaw-dropping high dollar investment grade collector firearms that people around the world have come to expect from RIAC.  Stay tuned collector friends!  You'll be glad you did.

An upcoming item for sale.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Friday, June 6, 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

By the time you read this, much will already have been published about the men who landed in Normandy, France on what will be forever remembered as D-Day.  This 70th anniversary of that history altering occasion (labeling it a simple "military operation" seems cold) should stir the emotions of people in many nations; sadness and solemnity for those lost, pride and gratitude for their sacrifice, and joy because that sacrifice which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Axis powers and the end of a worldwide calamity.

This humble weekly column cannot hope to provide in one week what some scholars have dedicated decades of their lives to studying.  Much more thorough sources are available and should be consulted by the dedicated military history enthusiast.  Nor can we hope to provide a more vivid depiction of combat and all its resultant emotions than has already been done in war films such as The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One, or the Band of Brothers series.  However, perhaps we can provide an interesting "order of events" containing some details not commonly encountered in regular D-Day remembrances.  To that end, this article will try to delve beyond the courageous men who fought on the beaches and attempt to shine a light on the lesser known facets of the largest seaborne invasion in the history of man.

Before the Invasion

Operation Overlord, the code name for the land invasion of Normandy, obviously began many months before D-Day took place.  Months of planning were involved in an undertaking whose complexity the world had not seen before nor since.  The logistics and planning were one thing, but the first steps of the actual invasion were truly taken in the subterfuge known as Operation Bodyguard, an overarching campaign of misinformation.  Under Operation Bodyguard was Operation Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign designed to fool German military intelligence that an invasion would take place in Norway, and Operation Fortitude South, a similar campaign which also used false radio communications to lead German intel to believe that an attack would take place in Calais, a major French port.  There were also the lesser successful Operations Copperhead, Graffham, Ironside, & Zeppelin. Given that a large invading force was presumed to need a large port to provide support via sea (and the fact that it was one of the shortest routes from England to France), the Germans heavily fortified Calais for some time and anticipated its importance in any Allied invasion.  To prey on these assumptions, Allied forces would regularly broadcast their false transmissions from Kent, just across the English Channel from Calais, and had Patton himself stationed in England until July 6 to continue the ruse and keep some of the German forces there.  

In addition to the radio traffic, the Allies would utilize a number of other different methods to confuse the Germans.  False intel was also given to known spies and double agents.  Other misinformation was spread through diplomatic channels with the hopes it would be shared with Germany.  Even physical deceptions were employed, such as fake landing craft, airstrips, and decoy lighting (These physical deceptions are not to be confused with those of the U.S. Army's 23rd Special Troops or "Ghost Army" which often used inflatables, sounds, etc.  Their contribution came later and continued as the Allies moved east through Europe.).  In a final act of subterfuge strips of metal foil called "window" were dropped by British RAF pilots (Operation Taxable).  Window showed up on radar and was intended to be interpreted by German radar operations as invading ships.  It was supplemented by small ships towing around barrage balloons.

An inflatable tank used to trick the German recon.

Earlier still than all the counterintelligence, targeted bombings were happening in France earlier than the Fall of 1943, when the number is noted to have increased significantly.  Infrastructure as well as military targets were hit including radar stations, roads, bridges, railways, train stations, industrial and manufacturing facilities, harbors, coastal artillery, and fortifications of the Atlantic Wall.  Combined with the brave and disruptive activities of the French Resistance such as cutting telephone lines, destroying railroad tracks, and placing anti-tank mines on incoming roads, German transportation, communication, and defense capabilities were strongly compromised before the invasion started.

June 5 provided the Allies one final opportunity to make a feint at the German defenses in Calais.  Air raids are performed in the north of France, dropping thousands of tons of bombs in the Pas de Calais region.  Ships performed maneuvers to indicate an imminent attack.  Again a small fleet of boats is used to mimic a larger attacking fleet, making radio transmissions like larger ships.  More "Window" is dropped by planes to give the appearance of an even larger fleet.  German radio and radar operators take the bait and sound the alarm for an invasion at Calais, believing the other alerts coming from Normandy to be a diversion.  This held a bay 19 divisions of the German army, including panzer tank divisions, either of which could have gone a long way to pushing the Allies back into the sea.

Crossing the Channel

The physical crossing of the channel and resultant actions could have began on several different days.  In fact, most preparations were nearly finished on Saturday, June 3, to the extent that many men were already on their ships, but a storm arose and the English Channel could not be crossed.  On June 4, bad weather forced the fleet to turn around.

Gen. Eisenhower then sent a communication that read, "Overlord will take place tomorrow, June 5."  The date would have provided an advantageous full moon to help pilot visibility as well as tide conditions that would have helped the landing craft avoid the obstacles and fortifications meant to impede or destroy them.  However, Eisenhower is convinced on the evening of June 4 by his chief meteorologist, Group Capt. James Martin Stagg from the U.K. Met Office, to postpone yet another day.  It is a fateful and fortunate decision for the future president, as weather on June 5 was still atrocious and the weather on June 6, while far from perfect, was adequate to carry out the invasion.  Other alternative dates in the future, such as June 18-20, not only would have given the Germans additional possibilities to discover the invasion fleet, but were also subject to a major 4-day storm that would have single-handedly derailed the operation.

With his now famous order of "OK, we'll go," Eisenhower started the fleet on its journey to France shortly after 0400 on June 5.  It is comprised of ships from 8 navies and consists of 6,939 vessels, including 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing crafts, 736 support ships, 864 cargo/freight bearing ships, and around 195,000 soldiers.  Minesweepers had begun sweeping the path around midnight and encountered no enemy activity.

Little known facts:
  • To protect the convoy, orders had been given to shoot down ANY plane flying over the fleet at low altitude.
  • The purpose of the balloons often seen flying over the boats in the armada were to discourage low strafing attacks on the ships.  The balloons were attached with steel cables, which would damage the wings of low-flying fighter planes that might attack the ships.  Those planes never came as the Allies had launched an aggressive air campaign in the prior 6 months, greatly weakening Nazi strength in the air.
  • The BBC broadcast hidden messages to the French Resistance so they could perform their tasks prior to the invasion.  The week of the invasion the first three lines of the Verlaine poem "Chant d'automne" were broadcast.  When the next three lines of the poem were broadcast, it was understood by the Resistance that the invasion would start in 48 hours and they were to begin their sabotage operations.
  • A smoke screen was placed in front of the armada by Allied speed boats.  Just off of Le Havre, four German S-Boots (Schnellboots or "fast boats") came across the armada through the smoke and stared face to face with the section of the fleet reserved for Sword Beach (S Force).  The S-Boots unloaded their torpedoes and wisely hightailed it home.  The torpedoes claimed the Norwegian warship, the Svenner, but the survivors were rescued by neighboring ships.
  • Gen. Eisenhower penned a note in the event of Overlord's failure accepting full responsibility (see photo below).  

It reads,
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

Superiority in the Air

As the fleet conquered the rough seas en route to France, American, British, and Canadian paratroopers had already been deployed, the earliest of which began their assault just after midnight.  For the invasion to succeed, two things would have to happen: (1) the Allies had to secure the beaches to ensure the arrival of supplies of men to continue to press further inland and, (2) the Allies would also have to prevent a quick German counter-attack which could push them back into the sea before they'd have a fighting chance.  To satisfy the second of those objectives, the paratroopers dropped into enemy held territory were to do as much as possible to impede the inevitable German assault on the invasion force.  This involved securing or destroying bridges, setting up beacons for future paratroop drops, destroying artillery and anti aircraft guns capable of firing on the invasion forces, disabling radar stations, securing crossroads and towns, destroying obstacles on the ground designed to prevent glider landings, and similar tasks.  The troubles of the paratroopers to land on or even next to their designated targets are well known, however their wide dispersal also helped confuse the Germans who did not know where to focus their forces.  Other missed landing zones resulted in paratroopers falling into swamps or fields the Germans had previously flooded.  Many men drowned before they could start the fight.

Also around midnight is when the 300+ heavy and light bombers made their way to the Norman coast and began releasing their deadly payloads onto the coastal defenses, radar stations, troop concentrations, and railroads near the Atlantic Wall.  Many of these had their intended effect, but as is well documented, the fortifications at Omaha Beach remained nearly untouched due to cloud cover and pilots who did not want to hit their own troops or landing craft.  It would prove to be a fatal misstep for thousands of Allied servicemen charged with taking the beach.  Despite these missteps and the loss of 127 Allied aircraft, the paratroopers successfully carried out a number of their missions (though some would still not be completed for days) and the bombings softened up the German defenses.  It was time for the landings to take place.

Taking the Beach

The Naval bombardment of the French coast began just after dawn at 0550.  Designed as much to further soften defenses as it was to eliminate German minefields, it was a necessary precursor to the landings.  With landing craft beginning their journeys from 10 miles out in choppy seas, it would take them longer to find their destination then originally planned upon.  It was a small delay, only around 30 minutes, but enough to give the Germans a small window in which to regroup before Allied troops began landing.  Many of the supporting amphibious tanks also had troubles. Launched from as far as 6,000 yards from shore they were to lead the assault and provide some much needed firepower, but the Duplex Drive tanks or DD tanks (nicknamed "Donald Duck" tanks as much for their amphibious nature as their cantankerous dispositions) were not accustomed to the rough waters.  Many were swamped, but others encountered calmer waters, few issues and were able to make viable contributions to their objectives.  Of the tanks dedicated to providing firepower at Omaha Beach, nearly all were lost - another contributing factor to the heavy losses and sluggish progress at that beachhead.

A "Donald Duck"

The beaches from west to east were: Utah (to be taken by the Americans), Omaha (Americans), Gold (British), Juno (Canadians), and Sword (British and Free French forces).  In between Utah and Omaha was what many recognize as an additional landing site, Pointe du Hoc: a vertical cliff of some 25-30 meters crowned with 6 French 155 mm howitzers.  Utah was a last minute addition by English General Bernard Montgomery because it would help capture a deep-water harbor, in turn allowing easier importation of additional troops and supplies.  It was a wise decision, providing the Allies a great advantage and coming at the relatively small loss of 197 casualties out of nearly 21,000 troops.  Strong currents at Utah also provided benefits.  It pushed landing troops about 2,000 yards south, putting them in front of only one German defense point instead of two.  The currents also washed away many of the obstacles stationed there.  These factors combined with the high percentage of tanks that reached the beach (28 tanks in all) aided the success at Utah, the most easily taken of the beaches.

Other beaches would not fare so well.  The woes and heroic efforts of those at Omaha beach are well known and rightfully so.  Over 2,000 casualties were suffered on that stretch of sand, nearly double that of any of the remaining beaches, most of which would see casualties around 1,000.  To read the experiences of the men on those beaches, even in the most dry and scholarly texts, is simply terrifying.  The predicament they were placed into against such damning odds, renders many who read or study the event left speechless.

Many medics also performed selfless acts of courage by working under the deadly interlocking fields of German fire and by braving those killing fields to rescue wounded men from the beaches who would have otherwise drowned in the rising tides.  Engineers are also an oft unsung hero of the day.  Working under the same relentless German fire, their work forcing them to remain stationary at a time when to do so placed even greater risk on their lives, engineers were responsible for removing many of the German obstacles so that additional friendly armor and landing crafts could reach the shore and continue their advance.  Many also continued to serve as infantry in between their engineering duties.

The objectives of many landing forces on D-Day would not be complete for days (and a few even longer), even though the beaches themselves would fall by that afternoon, even Omaha.  While their task was far from over, the invasion was a success albeit a fragile one.  With the beaches secure it was now a race to import as many men and supplies as possible before the Germans could counter.  By evening the Allies casualty count reached around 12,000 with 4,414 confirmed KIA, but over 100,00 men now occupied the beaches and surrounding countryside.  Brits had yet to take cities such as Caen, and the Americans had yet to clear the German guns still capable of touching the newly established loading zones, but the footholds had been dug for further Allied supplies and fighting men.  By the end of the month, Omaha and Utah beaches were averaging 20,500 tons of supplies per day!  July 1st reports show the Allies controlled a beachhead 70 miles wide used to bring around one million men and over 177,000 vehicles to the war.

The Allies' ability to adapt to the chaos of the battle, combined with the rigorous misinformation campaigns, decent weather, air superiority, and the delay of a counterattack caused by the German chain of command, were all keys to the operation's success.  The collaboration of American and British leaders was well-communicated and, although far from perfect, accomplished its goals in due time.  The German losses were staggering as they were pushed out of Paris and back across the Rhine.  Gen. Erwin Rommel, in letters to his son Manfred, talks of the German losses and says, "It was casualty reports, casualty reports, casualty reports wherever you went... I have never fought with such losses... And the worst of it is that it is was all without sense or purpose."  He goes on to state that some days resulted in the loss of what what would equal an entire regiment of men, more than he had lost in an entire summer while in Africa in 1942.   Allied losses were significant, but far less than planners had estimated; not only had they achieved what they wanted, they did it at less of a cost than anticipated.

It is another testament to the soldiers and sailors who fought for the man next to them.  That despite their challenges, heavy tolls, and a mighty foe, they persevered and brought about what Eisenhower phrased as, "the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world."

Ike had painful memories of that death-filled day. His command placed the unfathomable burden of thousands of young men's lives on his shoulders and despite that fact, he only wept openly on a pair of known occasions.  One time during his presidency when speaking to a group of World War II veterans about the soldiers of D-Day, grief gripped him so tightly that the military man was forced to cover his face with a handkerchief.  Perhaps it is this internal agony that only let the general and 2-term president make a single visit to the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy.  In 1964, five years before this death, he visited those hallowed grounds and said,

". . . these men came here - British and our allies, and Americans - to storm these beaches for one purpose only, not to gain anything for ourselves, not to fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest, but just to preserve freedom. . . . Many thousands of men have died for such ideals as these. . . but these young boys. . . were cut off in their prime. . . I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I think and hope, and pray, that humanity will have learned. . . we must find some way . . . to gain an eternal peace for this world."

- "Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life" by Carlo D'Este, p. 705.