Author: Jim Flook

a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park and a PhD candidate at the University of Florida. He specializes in legal and constitutional history and the American Civil War era. His dissertation concerns the use of constitutional rhetoric in public policy debates in the North during the Civil War

Jefferson Davis’s Imprisonment

Union cavalrymen arrested former Confederate president Jefferson Davis near Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. Davis was taken into custody as a suspect in the assassination of United States president Abraham Lincoln, but his arrest and two-year imprisonment at Fort Monroe in Virginia raised significant questions about the political course of Reconstruction (1865–1877). Debate over Davis’s fate tended to divide between those who favored a severe punishment of the former Confederate political leaders and those who favored a more conciliatory approach. When investigators failed to establish a link between Davis and the Lincoln assassins, the U.S. government charged him instead with treason. U.S. president Andrew Johnson’s impeachment hearings delayed the trial, however, and in the end the government granted Davis amnesty.