Jefferson Davis Desk

By Thomas Constantine (1779-1849)

Mahogany, 1819
Size: 32" h.

Senate Chamber

U.S. Senate Collection
Office of Senate Curator

In April, 1861, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment was camped temporarily in the Senate chamber. Isaac Bassett, the Senate's assistant doorkeeper, entered the chamber just in time to hear the sound of splitting wood. Rushing to investigate, he found a group of Union soldiers bayonetting the desk recently vacated by Jefferson Davis, who had resigned his Senate seat and become president of the Confederacy. "Stop! What are you doing?" Bassett shouted. "We are cutting that d___d traitor's desk to pieces!" They replied. Bassett stopped them, explaining that the desk belonged to the government, not Jeff Davis. "You were sent here to protect, not destroy," he said. To this day, two small squares of wood, inlaid in the side of the desk, show where the soldiers' damage was repaired.

In 1995, a Senate resolution linked Jefferson Davis to his modern successors, permanently assigning his desk to the senior senator from Mississippi.