Winnie Davis: Reluctant Figurehead for Confederacy

Author Heath Lee
Author Heath Lee
Biography of Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis

Jefferson David was the president of the Confederate States of America, a West Point graduate and a man many people know little about. Even lesser known is his youngest child, Varina Anne “Winnie, “ who through no effort of her own became the “Daughter of the Confederacy,” worshipped by defeated southern soldiers.

Winnie, born in the Richmond a year before the Civil War began and later educated in Germany, was a complex woman who hobnobbed with the likes of Joseph Pulitzer and had Oscar Wilde attend her 18th birthday party. Heath Hardage Lee, another Richmond native, but now living in Roanoke, traces the life of Winnie in “Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause.”

Lee, who spoke in late June at a Kegley Lecture sponsored by the Historical Society of Western Virginia and arranged by Society leader George Kegley, noted that Winnie was actually quite a modern woman. She was romantically involved with the northern grandson of an abolitionist, traveled with him largely unchaperoned in Europe and eventually made her way to New York where she pursued her real love—writing.

In addition to introducing the reader to a fascinating and little known woman of history, the book provides insight into the period right after the Civil War.

The book is for sale through traditional outlets. Lee currently is working on a book about the POW wives who helped get their husbands released from prison after the Vietnam War.