The Burk-Stark Mansion, located in Abbeville, South Carolina, has seen its fair share of history. The home, named for one-time owner Armistead Burt, served as the last meeting site for the Confederate War Council on May 2, 1865. It was here that Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, uttered some of the last words of the South: “all is indeed lost”.
Jefferson Davis, John Breckenridge, Braxton Bragg, Basil Duke, Varina Davis
How did this lovely home come to be the site of such a meeting? Armistead Burt and Jefferson Davis’s wife, Varina, were friends from their days in Washington D.C., where Burt was a Congressman. When thing began getting (even more) ugly for the Confederacy during the final states of the Civil War, Varina knew it was time to high tail it out of the Confederate capital, and Burt invited Varina and her children to come stay in Abbeville. Varina only stayed a short time, but Davis and his associates made their way to Abbeville shortly after her departure to regroup and discuss their next move. The Confederate government was on the move after the surrenders of Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnson in April, both to rummage support and move into safer territory. Things were pretty much hopeless, but like any hopeful leader, Davis wanted to push through the South to rally the troops and keep on fighting.
The rest of Davis’s clan was not so sure if rallying the troops was such a good idea. Among the group present in Abbeville were John C. Breckenridge (who would later become the 14th Vice President under James Buchanan), the remaining Confederate cabinet members, and a few prominent generals. Everyone else now thought the war was now a lost cause, but Davis had to be convinced to give up. One can imagine the conversation that took place as everyone in the room attempted to persuade Davis that it was all really over. Some who tell the story report that Davis quickly left the room, shielding his eyes so no one would see him cry. Who can blame him? Only eight days later, Davis and his family were captured by the Union army in Georgia.
Visitors to the Mansion can see the room where Davis and his Council met and the bedrooms where they stayed afterward. The house is also outfitted with period antiques. The bed where Jefferson Davis slept is still in the house and in the same room and position where it was on May 2, 1865.
400 N Main St, Abbeville, SC 29620
Open Friday & Saturday 1 – 5 p.m. or By Appointment
From Greenville … 1 hour.
From Columbia … 2 hours.
From Charleston … 4 hours.
From Atlanta … 2.5 hours.