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Montgomery: First
Capital of the Confederacy

1. The following excerpt is from the "Correspondence of T. R. R. Cobb, 1860-62," Publications of the Southern Historical Association, XI (May 1907), 159-83; reprinted in Malcolm C. McMillan, The Alabama Confederate Reader (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1963), pp. 54-55. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press.

Montgomery, February 17th

The whole city is agog on account of the arrival of President Jefferson Davis who reached here last night about eleven o'clock. The parlor of the Hotel was crowded with ladies and the passages and streets with men, I mingled with neither. Mr. Davis made a speech from the balcony of which I heard only a part. Mr. Yancey followed him in a few words well put up. Davis has remained in his room all day and is supposed to be preparing his inaugural. I learn that he avowed himself bitterly opposed to reconstruction [returning to the Union] in several speeches on the way and I hope he will put the question at rest in his inaugural. Crowds are pouring in from every direction . . ..

2. William Howard Russell was a London Times war correspondent who earned his reputation on the battlefields of the Crimean War. He arrived in Montgomery by train from Macon, Georgia, on May 4, 1861, to cover the Confederate government. The following is taken from his My Diary North and South (1863), 164-70, reprinted in McMillan, Alabama Confederate Reader, pp. 71-72. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press.

May 4th [1861]—Towards evening, having thrown out some slight outworks, against accidental sallies of my fellow-passengers' saliva [tobacco spitting], I went to sleep, and woke up at eleven p.m., to hear we were in Montgomery. A very rickety omnibus took the party to the hotel, which was crowded to excess. The General [P.G.T. Beauregard] and his friends had one room to themselves. Three gentlemen and myself were crammed into a filthy room which already contained two strangers, and as there were only three beds in the apartment it was apparent that we were intended to "double up considerably;" but after strenuous efforts, a little bribery and cajoling, we succeeded in procuring mattresses to put on the floor, which was regarded by our neighbors as proof of miserable aristocratic fastidiousness. Had it not been for the flies, the fleas would have been intolerable, but one nuisance neutralized the other. Then, as to food—nothing could be had in the hotel—but one of the waiters led us to a restaurant, where we selected from a choice bill of fare, which contained, I think, as many odd dishes as ever I saw, some unknown fishes, oyster-plants, `possums, raccoons, frogs, and other delicacies, and eschewing toads and the like, really made a good meal off dirty plates on a vile table-cloth, our appetites being sharpened by the best of condiments.

Colonel [John T.] Pickett has turned up here, having made his escape from Washington just in time to escape arrest—traveling in disguise on foot through out-of-the-way places till he got among friends.

I was glad when bedtime approached, that I was not among the mattress men. One of the gentlemen in the bed next to the door was a tremendous projector in the tobacco juice line; his final rumination ere he sank to repose was a masterpiece of art . . . .

May 5th—Very warm, and no cold water, unless one went to the river. The hotel baths were not promising. This hotel is worse than the Mills House or Willard's [in Washington]. . . Montgomery has little claim to be called a capital. The streets are very hot, unpleasant, and uninteresting. I have rarely seen a more dull, lifeless place; it looks like a small Russian town in the interior. The names of the shopkeepers indicate German and French origin. I looked in at one or two of the slave magazines, which are not unlike similar establishments in Cairo and Smyrna. A certain degree of freedom is enjoyed by some of the men, who lounge about the doors, and are careless of escape or liberty, knowing too well the difficulties of either . . .

The environs of Montgomery are agreeable—well-wooded, undulating, villas abounding, public gardens, and a large negro and mulatto suburb. It is not unusual, as far as I can judge, to see women riding on horseback in the South, but on the road here we encountered several.

After breakfast I walked down with Senator Wigfall [Louis T. Wigfall of Texas] to the capitol of Montgomery—one of the true Athenian Yankeeized structures of the novo-classic land, erected on a site worthy of a better fate and edifice. . . .