Lunch and Learn: Why Didn’t the North Hang Jeff Davis?

Here’s Brianna Kirk (Gettysburg College, Class of 2015) speaking on why Jefferson Davis wasn’t hanged after the Civil War. I can’t say I agree with all she says, but she makes a good argument.

The video’s description reads, “Jefferson Davis led an effort to break up the United States, yet he never faced punishment or a trial for what many considered treason. Why was that? Lead Historical Interpreter Brianna Kirk explores Northern perspective in the immediate post-war period to determine why the North did not prosecute the man they labeled a traitor.”


  1. I thought convicting Jeff Davis of Treason was actually very easy. But they were pardoned. Which is not the same as “inability to convict”.

    1. The trial would have to be conducted in Richmond, where it would be difficult to find a jury that would impartially evaluate the evidence.

      1. I see. Are we allowed to know what you didn’t agree with since you mentioned you didn’t agree with everything?

        1. The few things with which I disagree are minor details. I think each of us should compare the presentation with our own research and see where we agree and disagree.

  2. bob carey · · Reply

    Although the presentation was excellent I didn’t hear any conclusions on her part as to why Jeff wasn’t put on trial. Perhaps this is because she didn,t get into the legal aspects. I’ll have to watch it again maybe I missed something.
    What amazes me is that todays’ neo-confederates never acknowledge the governments’ leniency toward the Confederate leadership this seems to slip their minds. They use the fact that there was no trial as proof there was no treason. What the Confederacy tried to accomplish is the textbook definition of treason.

    1. She’ll improve with more experience. It was a good presentation for such a young person. I would have gone in a different direction, stressing more the legal aspects, but her point was that those who do that are missing some important considerations. I’m not so sure I agree those considerations are important, or that they materially add to our understanding, but I give her credit for approaching it from a fresh angle. I agree with you completely about the neoconfederates, Bob. They think a conviction is necessary to establish a historical fact. By that lack of reasoning, nobody murdered Abraham Lincoln since no one was tried for pulling the trigger.

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