Varina Davis
Historical Figure
Nationality: United States (Confederate States, 1861-5)
Date of Birth: 1826
Date of Death: 1906
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
Religion: Episcopalianism
Occupation: Socialite, Author of Non-Fiction
Spouse: Jefferson Davis (d 1889)
Children: Six, five of whom predeceased her; also reared several younger siblings
Political Party: Whig Party
Fictional Appearances:
The Guns of the South
POD: January 17, 1864
Type of Appearance: Direct
Nationality: Confederate States
Political Office(s): First Lady of the Confederate States (1861-1868)

Varina Banks Howell Davis (May 7, 1826 - October 16, 1906) is best remembered as the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the American Civil War.

Varina Banks Howell was born and raised on a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. Though her family was aristocratic, financial success eluded them and money was often tight.

She married Jefferson Finis Davis, a widower, in 1845. The early years of their marriage were strained, but when Davis began to rise to prominence in the US Congress, and Varina moved with him to Washington, DC, they became much happier.

During the Civil War, she lived in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, as First Lady of the Confederate States. She kept a very low profile, especially when compared to her sensational and overbearing Union counterpart, Mary Lincoln.

After the war Jefferson Davis was arrested and imprisoned in Georgia for two years. Varina was not incarcerated but she was prohibited from leaving the state of Georgia. After Davis was paroled, she traveled with him through Europe and Canada as he sought to rebuild his lost fortune.

Davis died in 1889 and Varina published a biography of her husband in 1892. The biography was not successful, but in writing it she became acquainted with Joseph Pulitzer, who recognized her literary talents and helped her to launch a career as an author. She moved to New York City, much to the annoyance of Lost Cause apologists, who were further offended by her close friendship with Julia Grant, her cordial meetings with Booker T. Washington, and her general lack of nostalgia for the Old South.

Varina Davis died of pneumonia in 1906. Only one of her six children was alive at the time.

Varina Davis in The Guns of the South[]

Varina Davis was the hostess of Jefferson Davis's fortnightly levees at the presidential mansion in Richmond. Her responsibilities included greeting each of the President's invited guests as they arrived, including, when he was in town, Robert E. Lee.

After Lee succeeded Mrs. Davis' husband as President, he continued the custom of levees and it was he along with his daughter who would host the Davises along with others at the mansion. Mrs. Davis was a regular at these events.

Political offices
Preceded by
Office created
First Lady of the Confederate States
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Political offices
(The Guns of the South)
Preceded by
Office created
First Lady of the Confederate States
Succeeded by
Mary Anna Custis Lee