On December 6, 1889, the Christmas Season in New Orleans was saddened when Jefferson Davis died of unknown causes at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was one of the largest ever staged in the South.
The body of Jefferson Davis laid in state at the city hall of New Orleans from midnight on December 6th to the 11th. He was dressed in Confederate gray and flowers adorned the city hall. Confederate flags and the Union flag were hung from above. Thousands of mourners came from out of town to join the residents of New Orleans to pay their respects to the man who once was the South’s beloved leader. The men saluted their former leader and the women bowed their heads in prayer. Tears filled the eyes of young people who were born at the time Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy. The church bells rang throughout the city.
On December 11, 1889, twenty thousand people lined the streets of New Orleans as the body of Jefferson Davis was taken, by funeral carriage, to Metairie Cemetery in the crescent city. The funeral procession included those who wore the gray during the War Between the States.
All flags flew at half mast. It is sad that the War Department of the United States did not lower the United States flag in his honor. Jefferson Davis was the only former Secretary of War who had ever been denied the honor.
Eighteen months after his death and temporary burial in New Orleans Metaire Cemetery, Davis’ widow, Varina, decided the final burial place was to be Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery, considered the National Cemetery of the Confederacy. His remains were removed from the vault in New Orleans and placed on a flag-draped caisson escorted by honor guards composed of his old soldiers to Memorial Hall, where he lay in state. The next day, as thousands of people silently watched from the sidewalks and balconies, the caisson bore his body to a waiting funeral train. On the way, bonfires beside the tracks lit up ranks of Davis’ old soldiers standing at attention beside stacked arms. In Richmond, gray haired veterans escorted him to the Virginia statehouse, where thousands filed past in respect before interment.