Jeff Davis, a Sour Apple Tree, and Treason: A Case Study of Fear in the Post-Civil War Era

Brianna E. Kirk '15, Gettysburg College


The end of the Civil War raised many questions, one being how to piece back together the violently torn apart Union. With such an unprecedented war in American history, the exact course of how to do so was unknown. Would the country survive through Reconstruction, and how would sectional reconciliation be achieved? An even larger question was who to blame for the four long years of violence. In the minds of many northerners, that man was Jefferson Davis. Davis had not only led the secessionist movement, but was a traitor to the Union. By analyzing the calls for and against Jefferson Davis’s trial and execution, the fear and uncertainty over the Union’s future that existed in 1865 and years after depicted the conflicting and paradoxical ways to heal a nation.