|Last Capitol of the Confederacy
The historic Sutherlin Mansion in Danville, Virginia,
served as the last capitol of the Confederate States
of America from April 3-10, 1865.
Confederacy's Last Capitol
The Third National Flag no longer
flies at the Sutherlin mansion. It was
lowered despite heated opposition
from heritage groups.
Major William T. Sutherlin was a
delegate to the Virginia Secession
Convention and served as
Quartermaster of Danville, Virginia.
Major William T. Sutherlin
The engraved name of the
mansion's builder can still be
seen on its doors.
DANVILLE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS & HISTORY
Last Capitol of the Confederacy
Following its flight from Richmond after the
fall of Petersburg, the government of the
Confederate States of America reassembled
in Danville, Virginia. There, in the historic
Sutherlin Mansion, President Jefferson Davis
and his full cabinet met for the last time (less
Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge).
Now home to the Danville Museum of Fine
Arts and History, the Sutherlin Mansion is
generally considered the last capitol of the
The Southern government would go on for
days to come, operating from cities in North
Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, but it
was last fully functional in Danville. It was
here that Jefferson Davis issued his last
formal proclamation and it was here that key
decisions were made regarding the gold and
silver of the Confederate treasury, some of
which is rumored to be buried in the city to
this day. It was also in Danville that Southern
leaders learned of the surrender of General
Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern
Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
When completed in 1859, the beautiful
Sutherlin Mansion was regarded as the most
impressive in Danville. The home of William
T. Sutherlin, the mayor of Danville at the
outbreak of the Civil War and a self-made
industrialist who owned the second largest
tobacco factory in Virginia, the house once
stood at the center of a four acre estate.
Sutherlin gave up his duties as mayor after
he was elected to the Virginia Secession
Convention in 1861. He initially opposed the
breaking up of the old Union, but then
President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000
volunteers to invade the South after the
bombardment of Fort Sumter.
When this news reached Richmond,
Sutherlin and the other delegates reacted
angrily. Virginia left the Union and cast her lot
with her fellow Southern states.
The former mayor was in poor health and
could not serve in the field, but served as the
Confederate Quartermaster of Danville and
eventually rose to the rank of major in the
Confederate army. The city, with its railroad
connections, was a major supply center for
the Confederacy and Sutherlin's job was one
of considerable responsibility.
When Petersburg fell in the spring of 1865
and Robert E. Lee recommended the
evacuation of Richmond, Danville was a
logical choice for relocating the capital of the
Confederacy. Despite the disaster that had
befallen them, President Davis and his
officials remained confident that Lee would
find a way to prevail and that the war for
Southern independence would continue.
Loading the Confederate Treasury aboard a
train, along with as many supplies and
official papers as possible, the government
left Richmond for Danville. As the President
and his party arrived, Major Sutherlin offered
the use of his home.
President Davis occupied a bedroom at the
rear of the house on the second floor from
April 3-10, 1865. On April 4th, as he resumed
the business of the Confederacy, Davis
signed his final proclamation on a desk that
can still be seen in the mansion.
The proclamation noted the "great moral, as
well as material injury to our cause" from the
occupation of Richmond by Union troops.
It went on, however, to point out that Lee's
army was now free to maneuver again and
that so long as the people of the South
remained committed, they could never be
conquered. "Let us but will it," Davis wrote,
"and we are free."
Later that day the President met in the
Sutherlin Mansion with his full cabinet for the
last time. The only cabinet officer not present
was Secretary of War John C. Breckenridge
who was still outside of Richmond.
The Confederate officials hoped that a
junction of the armies of Robert E. Lee in
Virginia and Joseph E. Johnston in North
Carolina would provide the manpower for
victory. It was not to be. Lee was trapped at
Appomattox Court House and surrendered to
Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.
The Sutherlin family went on with life after its
brush with history. Major Sutherlin later
served in the Virginia State Legislature and is
remembered today for his role in the
establishment of Virginia Tech.
The Sutherlin Mansion is now home to the
Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.
Please click here to visit the museum's
website for information on tours and more
details about the house itself.
A plaque on the building includes the words,
"If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem."
|Copyright 2011 & 2017 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: 6/14/2017