Abbeville, Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy

The historic Burt-Stark Mansion in Abbeville.

You don’t have to go to Gettysburg to see Civil War history. A two-hour drive west to Abbeville will lead you to a place where many say the Civil War began and ended. Abbeville’s Burt-Stark Mansion is Abbeville’s historical and architectural jewel. Known also as the Armistead Burt House, it’s the place where the last Council of War cabinet members of the Confederate government met.

Abbeville is often referred to as the birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy. The birth took place at Secession Hill when local citizens gathered on Nov. 22, 1860, to adopt the ordinance of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. Four and a half years later the Burt-Stark Mansion is where the will to fight left the Confederacy’s leaders.

David Lesly, a prominent lawyer and planter, built this fine old mansion as a town house for his wife Louisa, circa 1840. It was built in the Greek revival style meant to impress and provide comfort. After Lesly died in 1855 the house went through several owners. In the spring of 1862 Armistead Burt purchased the house. Burt, a lawyer, planter and Congressman, had been friends with Jefferson Davis in Washington, D.C. That friendship brought a most historic event to Abbeville.

Historian and tour guide Fred Lewis gives an account of the key moment at the Burt-Stark Mansion. “As the Civil War approached its end, President Davis left Richmond, Va. on April 2, 1865 heading southwest. He reached Chester where he was invited to Burt’s home for a time of rest. He arrived in Abbeville May 2 accompanied by 900 to 2,000 Confederates. He arrived at the old home around 10 in the morning. After ‘supper’ that evening he met with Secretary of War John C. Breckenridge, military advisor Braxton Bragg and five field commanders in the men’s parlor. His attempt to obtain support for another effort against the Union failed. Convinced not to pursue a guerilla war against the Union, Davis says, ‘Then all is lost,’ and the CSA dies.” Reportedly a shaken Davis had to be helped upstairs where he rested in a four-poster bed. Contrary to legend, Davis did not spend the night here. You can tour the home and see the very parlor where the Confederacy’s hopes were dashed and the bed where Davis contemplated all that had happened.

For those who love history, architecture and antiques, this Southern home is a must see. Authentic Antebellum pieces fill the home. The grounds are splendid and have been referred to as a horticultural feast. See the old home’s kitchen out back. Get a close look at what a kitchen of the early 1800s looked like. Best of all, see where history took place.

Abbeville is a beautiful Southern town. The town has a beautiful square with restaurants and more and the drive there takes you through rustic countryside.

 Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

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