Phunny Phellow– July 1865

Of the many villains on Nast’s lifetime list, Jeff Davis probably ranked first. He hated and despised Davis as a cowardly traitor who should have been tried, convicted and hanged for treason. Davis, a year younger than Lincoln, was a West Point graduate who after serving in the Mexican War, became a Mississippi planter, Congressman, Secretary of War (under Franklin Pierce), and Senator (the office he held when Mississippi seceded). He was inaugurated as provisional president of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama in February 1861, and as president of the permanent government in Richmond a year later. Considered dictatorial and autocratic, he suffered from both ill health and ill temper.

After Petersburg fell to Grant, Davis fled south through Georgia and was captured on May 10 in Irwinsville, wearing his wife’s overcoat and shawl. Cartoonists and illustrators, not including Nast, had great fun with that in Harper’s Weekly and elsewhere. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton reportedly encouraged the cartoons, recognizing that humiliating Davis would dampen chances of the public’s seeing him as a hero or a martyr.

However, the topic was too humorous for Nast to ignore entirely. His crude unsigned cartoon appeared on the cover of the July issue of Phunny Phellow.