Winnie Davis


Winnie Davis

Daughter of the Lost Cause

Heath Hardage Lee
With a foreword by J.E.B. Stuart IV
Epilogue co-authored by Bertram Hayes-Davis

248 pages
21 photographs, 1 genealogy


April 2014


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October 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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April 2014


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About the Book

Winner of the Colonial Dames of America Book Prize
Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis was born into a war-torn South in June of 1864, the youngest daughter of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his second wife, Varina Howell Davis. Occurring only a month after the death of beloved Confederate hero general J.E.B. Stuart during a string of Confederate victories, Winnie’s birth was hailed as an omen of victory by war-weary Southerners. But after the Confederacy’s ultimate defeat, Winnie would spend her early life as a genteel refugee and expatriate abroad.

After returning to the South from German boarding school, Winnie was christened the “Daughter of the Confederacy” in 1886. For Confederate veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Winnie became an icon of the Lost Cause, eclipsing even her father. Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause is the first published biography of this little-known woman who unwittingly became the female symbol of the defeated South.

Winnie’s controversial engagement in 1890 to a Northerner lawyer whose grandfather was a famous abolitionist and her later move to work as a writer in New York City shocked her friends, family, and the Southern groups who worshiped her. Faced with the pressures of a community that violently rejected the match, Winnie desperately attempted to reconcile her prominent Old South history with her personal desire for tolerance.


Author Bio

​Heath Hardage Lee is an independent historian, biographer, and curator. She is the author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home.


“Heath Hardage Lee does a masterful job of introducing the world to Winnie Davis, one of the most enigmatic figures in American history. . . . A terrific story, beautifully told.”—Ellen F. Brown, author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood

"Heath Lee has produced an engrossing, fast-paced account of one young woman's brush with a celebrity that she was unable to renounce."—Jane Turner Censer, Virginia Magazine

“Heath Hardage Lee has captured thoroughly the tale of the shy, unassuming [Winnie Davis] who was involuntarily thrust into a role as an icon for the defeated South.”—James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

“[Lee’s] recurring use of loss as a unifying theme effectively engages the reader and places Winnie Davis firmly within the context of both her family and the Lost Cause.”—Casey O. Shellman, Journal of Southern History

"Lee makes the most of Davis' brief life and accomplishments by grounding her subject firmly in historical context."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

“Can there be any major Civil War story that we haven’t heard? The answer is, yes! Here comes Heath Lee with the fascinating—and surprising—life of Varina Anne ‘Winnie’ Davis. . . . Clear, strong writing brings the history, mores, and manners of the day brilliantly to life.”—Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth and Fair and Tender Ladies

“Heath Lee has written a beautiful and thoughtful biography of Winnie Davis. . . . This is, in a sense, a biography of America in the aftermath of a civil war as much as it is a captivating story of a young woman who struggled to preserve her individuality when others elevated her to an icon.”—Carol Berkin, author of Civil War Wives and Wondrous Beauty

“Heath Lee tells this tale with simple elegance and matter-of-fact sensitivity. She makes you understand that neither of Winnie Davis’s two worlds—the languor of the Mississippi Gulf Coast or the hustle of downtown New York—would ever bring her peace.”—Guy Gugliotta, author of Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

"A fascinating story of a woman who sought to reconcile her own family history with her own beliefs in the virtues of tolerance, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause is highly recommended especially for personal and public library biography collections."—Midwest Book Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                                       000

Foreword                                                        000

by J.E.B. Stuart IV      

Preface                                                            000

Acknowledgments                                          000

Introduction                                                    000

1. A Tragic Fall                                               000

2. My Name Is a Heritage of Woe                  000

3. Escape, Capture, and Fort Monroe             000

4. A Fatal Romance                                        000

5. Scandal and Sickness                                  000

6. Boarding School Blues and the Dorsey Dilemma  000

7. Yellow Fever                                              000

8. Portrait of a Lady                                       000

9. Daughter of the Confederacy                     000

10. Life in a Fishbowl                                     000

11. I Will Never Consent!                               000

12. Engagement Issues                                   000

13. Italian Idyll                                               000

14. Dear Diary                                                000

15. A World on Fire                                        000

16. Queen of a Mystic Court                          000

17. New York, New Woman                          000

18. The Last Casualty of the Lost Cause        000

19. Death and Maiden                                    000

Epilogue: The Great-Great-Grandson of the Confederacy and the Daughter of New York 000

coauthored by Bertram Hayes-Davis

Notes                                                               000

Bibliography                                                   000


2015 The Colonial Dames of America Book Award
2015 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold winner in Mid-Atlantic/Best Regional Nonfiction

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