Georgia On My Mind – Road Trip Part IV: Americus and the Capture of Jefferson Davis


My road trip around the state of Georgia continues…

georgia USA road map peach
Georgia on my mind

From the Civil War prison at Andersonville, I ventured south-west and just outside Americus (coolest name for a town I have come across in a while!) I discovered a unique snippet of history. At the towns airport there is a memorial to “The Lone Eagle“, famous aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902 – 1974). This just happened to be the location where he completed his first ever solo flight in early May 1923 at was then known as Souther Field.

Americus Memorial Charles Lindbergh first solo flight georgia
The memorial in Americus depicts Lindbergh on the wing of an aircraft in his barnstorming day
Charles Lindbergh Aviator
Charles Lindbergh Aviator

At 21 Lindbergh had just 20 hours of dual flying time under his belt and had not flown an aircraft for about 6 months when he found himself in Americus to purchase a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny biplane aircraft that was surplus at the former World War One training centre. He paid $500 for the aircraft and after 30 minutes flying with another pilot at Souther Field he decided it was time to fly solo. He spent the rest of the week practicing taking off and landing and clocked up 5 hours of solo flight time.

Satisfied that he had mastered the aircraft Lindbergh spent the rest of the year travelling around doing barnstorming shows under the name “Daredevil Lindbergh“! This set off an incredible aviation career including becoming a military flyer, US Mail pilot, flight instructor, author and explorer. He also managed to achieve world fame in the process when on May 20th to 21st, 1927 he became the first person to fly non stop from New York to Paris in his custom-built Ryan monoplane aircraft the Spirit of St. Louis. Quite a life indeed!

Charles Lindbergh with the 'Spirit of St. Louis' 1927
Charles Lindbergh with the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ in 1927
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis

Within an easy drive of Americus is another place of significance to the US Civil War. Near Irwinville is the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site which commemorates the spot where the Confederate President was captured at dawn by Union Cavalry troops on May 9th, 1865. In early May Jefferson Davis (1808 – 1889) and a handful of his supporters (including his wife Varina) had entered Georgia with the intention of keeping the Confederate government going in the western theatre of the war or possibly in exile overseas (previously it had operated from Richmond, Virginia but they were forced to flee from advancing Union troops in April 1865).

They camped in this location not realising the Union troops were so close behind. This decision turned out to be a big mistake as he spent the next 2 years in prison at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Interestingly there were two groups of Union Cavalry in the same area and neither knew about each other being there. They fired at each other with the death of 2 cavalry men as the end result!

Jefferson Davis Capture Memorial Irwinville Georgia
Jefferson Davis Capture Memorial

There are numerous tales about how during his capture Jefferson Davis was wearing a woman’s dress to hide his identity in a failed attempt to escape, but all in all it sounds more like he had his wife’s shawl over his shoulders (he and his wife later stated he had been unwell and it was to help him keep warm). No doubt rumour, Chinese whispers and so on spread the tale like wildfire. This didn’t stop the media of the day lampooning him in caricature!

The lampooning of Jefferson Davis following his capture on May 10th, 1865 NY Times
The lampooning of Jefferson Davis following his capture on May 10th, 1865 in the New York Times
Jefferson Davis was captured in Irwinville Georgia 1865
Jefferson Davis was captured right here in 1865
Follow a short trail to the location where 2 US Cavalry men died in a friendly fire incident during the capture of Jefferson Davis Georgia
Follow a short trail to the location where 2 US Cavalry men died in a friendly fire incident during the capture of Jefferson Davis

My trip around Georgia proved to be an interesting one. All in all a great place to travel around (the rain held out virtually for my whole visit until the drive home too which was kind) and one I can really recommend to visit!

Extremely limited visibility on the I-75 during a huge storm! Georgia
Extremely limited visibility on the I-75 during a huge storm!
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