Jim Limber's Story for Black History Month
Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
1064 West Mill Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia 30152
Phone: 770 428 0978
The Women of America love and protect their
children. They also care about the children who live in poverty
and those who are abused. America has always led in efforts to
save the children.
It is my belief that women excel in the field
of literature. This is about a writer who writes from the heart
and tells stories that are hidden to history.
In 1989, a magazine article caught my eye
which I had to read from beginning to end. This was not an
ordinary story but about a black child, a Confederate President's
First Lady and the Southern Presidential Family. The story was
written by Gulfport, Mississippi freelance writer Mrs. Peggy
Robbin's and is entitled, "Jim Limber Davis."
While Black History Month mostly focuses on
black adults in history, this story is about a black child. This
is a summary, in my own words, of Mrs. Robbin's splendid story.
On the morning of February 15, 1864, Mrs.
Varina Davis, wife of Southern President Jefferson Davis, had
concluded her errands and was driving her carriage down the
streets of Richmond, Virginia on her way home. She heard screams
from a distance and quickly went to the scene to see what was
Varina saw a young black child being abused by
an older man. She demanded that he stop striking the child and
when this failed she shocked the man by forcibly taking the child
away. She took the child to her carriage and with her to the
Southern White House.
Arriving home Mrs. Davis and maid 'Ellen' gave
the young boy a bath, attended to his cuts and bruises and feed
him. The only thing he would tell them is that his name was Jim
Limber. He was happy to be rescued and was given some clothes of
the Davis' son Joe who was the same size and age.
Joe was tragically killed in an accidental fall
later that year.
The Davis family were visited the following
evening by a friend of Varina's, noted Southern Diarist-Mary
Boykin Chesnut, who saw Jim Limber and wrote later that she had
seen the boy and that he was eager to show me his cuts and
bruises. She also said, "the child is an orphan rescued yesterday
from a brutal Negro Guardian." and "there are things in life that
are too sickening, and such cruelty is one of them."
There were some children who addressed Jim as
Jim Limber Davis for fun. This was fine with him because he felt
he was indeed a member of the family. The Davis letters to friends
are indication of his acceptance and they said he was a member of
their gang of children.
The Christmas of 1864, would be memorable for
the Davis family and probably the best Christmas Jim Limber would
ever have. A Christmas tree was set up in Saint Paul's Church,
decorated and gifts placed beneath it. On Christmas evening
orphans were brought to the church and were delighted with the
presents they got. Jim was happy that he helped decorate the tree.
Mrs. Robbin's wrote, in her story, that Mrs.
Jefferson Davis was a very good story teller who was able to make
sounds of different animals in the stories about the critters. Jim
was always eager to help.
The end of the War Between the States was
coming and Richmond was being evacuated. Varina and the children
left ahead of Jefferson Davis. The president and his staff left
just hours before the occupation of Union troops.
Varina and the children were by the side of
Jefferson Davis at his capture near Irwinville, Georgia and again
the family was separated. Jefferson Davis was taken to Virginia to
spend two years in prison.
Mrs. Davis and her children were taken to
Macon, Georgia and later to Port Royal outside of Savannah. At
Port Royal their Union escort, Captain Charles T. Hudson, made
good at his earlier threats to take Jim Limber away.
As the Union soldiers came to forcibly take
young Jim, he put up a great struggle and tried to hold onto his
family as they to him. Jim and his family cried uncontrollably as
the child was taken. His family would never again see him or know
what happened to him. The Davis' tried in later years to locate
Jim but were unsuccessful. They prayed that he grew to manhood and
did well in life.
The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond,
Virginia is home to a portrait of Jim Limber Davis in the Eleanor
S. Brookenbrough Library. I thank Mrs. Peggy Robbin's who wrote
the Jim Limber Davis story in 1989 and the Southern Partisan
Magazine for publishing her story in the second quarter
Issue-Volume IX of 1989.
For more information about Jefferson Davis go
www.beauvoir.org the website about the last home of
Jefferson Davis and his family.