ALABAMA STATE CAPITOL
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH,
JAMES B. SIMPSON,
Late Recording Secretary to the Governor
Roemer Printing Co., Montgomery, Ala, Printers
INAUGURATION OF JEFFERSON DAVIS
Mr. Davis, at the time of his election, was at his home at Brierfield, Miss. The fact of his election was made known to him and he reached the city of Montgomery on Saturday, February 16th. in time for his inauguration on the 18th. That event was one of the grandest pageants ever witnessed in the city of Montgomery.
At noon or a little earlier on Monday, the 18th of February, 1861, the inaugural procession was formed in front of the Exchange Hotel and the line of march was up Dexter avenue, then known as Market street, to the Capitol.
Mr. Davis, the President-elect, rode in a magnificent carriage drawn by four splendid gray horses. The carriage was the property of Mrs. C. A. Lomax, who is still a resident of this city, she having tendered its use for that occasion. In the carriage with Mr. Davis were Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens, Rev. Basil Manly, the chaplain of the day, and Capt. George Jones, of the First Alabama Cavalry, who was the personal military escort of the President. Of the company in the carriage on the ride from the hotel to the Capitol, only Captain Jones is now alive. (1898) He is at this time a resident of this city. Park Watson, then proprietor of the Montgomery Hall, was the Grand Marshal of the parade, and the military was under the command of Capt. Paul J. Semmes, of Columbus, Ga., who with his company, the Columbus Guards, came to this city for the purpose of participating in the ceremonies. The other companies in the line of march were the local companies, the Montgomery Grays, the Montgomery True Blues and the Metropolitan Guards.
True Blues Dexter Avenue at Perry Street, looking west toward Court Square; Montgomery True Blues on parade ca. 1850 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
The carriage of the President was followed by a number of carriages containing members of the Confederate Congress visiting Governors and distinguished citizens. Thousands followed on foot, and the procession is said to have extended from the hotel to the Capitol entrance.
When the head of the procession reached the Capitol it was found that the grounds in front of the building contained an immense throng of people gathered to witness the ceremony. The military was drawn up in a double line at the entrance to the Capitol grounds, and the President-elect and the distinguished visitors marched through the lines to the steps leading up to the grounds, while Captain Jones went ahead to open up a passage way, in the throng, to allow them to reach the building.
Inauguration of Jefferson Davis on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, Feb. 18, 1861 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
A large platform had been erected in front of, and to the left of the center of the portico, and on this the members of the Confederate Congress and of the Alabama Legislature sat during the ceremony. Mr. Howell Cobb, President of the Congress occupied a chair at a small table which sat near the left column of the two immense columns standing at either side of the main door of the Capitol building.
The invocation was by Rev. Basil Manly, and after it Mr. Davis took his position, facing the people, immediately in front at the door and between the two columns, Mr. Cobb being to his left, while Mr. Stephens, the Vice-President, occupied a chair to his right, but a little in the rear. Mr. Davis delivered a short address to the people which was received with outbursts of applause, and at its conclusion turned to Mr. Cobb, saying- I am now ready to take the oath of office.”
The oath was then administered by Mr. Cobb, and the fact was announced by the booming of cannon. The whistles of the foundries and shops of the city and of the steamboats at the wharf gave shrill blasts announcing the birth of a new nation. A new flag was spread to the breeze and was raised to the top of the Capitol, where it floated from the flag staff.
After the inauguration ceremony the Congress repaired to the Senate chamber, Mr. Davis accompanying the members. A brief executive session was held, after which the body adjourned for the day, and Mr. Davis left to return to the hotel. The procession back to the hotel was in much the same order as that on the march to the Capitol. On the way back Rev. Mr. Manly gave up his seat in the carriage with Mr. Davis to Mr. Howell Cobb. Vice-President Stephens and Captain Jones were the other occupants of the carriage on the return trip.
Jefferson Davis portrait painted from a life sitting by Enoch Wood Perry ca. 1861 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
A brilliant reception was tendered on the night of that day to Mr. Davis at Estelle Hall, at the corner of Dexter avenue and Perry street. The entire business portion of Dexter avenue was illuminated in honor of this reception.
Many of the facts as to the inauguration of Mr. Davis heretofore unpublished, were obtained from Capt. George Jones, who participated in the ceremony, and stood immediately in the rear of Mr. Davis while he delivered his address.
The exact spot on which Mr. Davis stood while the oath was being taken, has been recently marked by a star placed in position by the members of the Sophia Bibb Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. In the Supreme Court library is a picture of the scene of the inauguration of Mr. Davis.
The provisional seat of government of the Confederate States remained in Montgomery until May 22nd, 1861, when Congress decided to move the Capital to Richmond, Va., for the prestige the Virginia influence would give the new government. While here the headquarters of the various departments were located in the building now the Hotel Mabson, at the corner of Commerce and Bibb streets and in the old Commercial Hall building, which stood, then, on the site now occupied by the Western Union Telegraph office. This building was destroyed by fire in 1887.
During the time the provisional government of the Confederate States was located in this city the home of the President was in the frame residence standing at the comer of Bibb and Lee streets, which is still known as the White House of the Confederacy. The Alabama Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy are now negotiating for the purchase of this house for the purpose of making it the repository of a collection of relics of the Confederacy. The sessions of the Confederate Congress were held in the Capitol building, the Senate meeting in the Senate chamber, and the House in the hall of the House of Representatives.
The first four Alabama Footprints books have been combined into one book,
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Settlement
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation
From the time of the discovery of America restless, resolute, brave, and adventurous men and women crossed oceans and the wilderness in pursuit of their destiny. Many traveled to what would become the State of Alabama. They followed the Native American trails and their entrance into this area eventually pushed out the Native Americans. Over the years, many of their stories have been lost and/or forgotten. This book (four-books-in-one) reveals the stories published in volumes I-IV of the Alabama Footprints series.