On April 30, 1864, tragedy struck at the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia when the 5-year-old son of Jefferson Davis, Joseph Evan Davis, fell to his death. Joseph Evan Davis was born in 1859 in Washington, D.C., while his father, Jefferson Davis was serving as a senator from Mississippi. When Davis was named president of the Confederacy, his family moved first from Mississippi to Montgomery, and eventually to Richmond.
Prior to the Civil War, Lewis Dabney Crenshaw sold what would become the White House of the Confederacy to the City of Richmond. During the Civil War, the home was rented to the Confederate government to serve as the executive mansion and the Davis family moved in. Along with wife Varina, Davis lived there with his 6-year-old Margaret, 4-year-old Jefferson Davis Jr., and 2-year-old Joseph. Two more children, William and Varina (Winnie) were born in the Confederate White House.
On April 30, 1864, Joseph fell 15 feet from the railing of the Confederate White House's east portico. The accident occurred in the early evening, when neither Davis parent was at home. Joseph was discovered lying on the pavement on which he had fallen. Jeff Jr. asked for help of people passing by on the street. A Confederate officer stopped to help, writing later that Joe's "head was contused and I think his chest much injured internally."
Joseph died as his parents reached the house. It was said that Davis refused to see visitors and could be heard pacing the floors of the Confederate White House all night. Some say that he never recovered from the loss.