John Breckinridge’s Unforgettable Get-Away!
Newspaper transcriptions are amazing projects. These advertisements are believed to have appeared in The Richmond Joker on April 1, 1865….
It’s April 1865 the final days of the Confederacy. Let’s just acknowledge it. You’re going to have some choices in the days and weeks ahead. If you’re Confederate military you can probably surrender and go home, but if you’re a politician you might be starting a marathon for your life.
Don’t leave Richmond without a plan!
Now, John C. Breckinridge—former U.S. Vice President, Confederate General, and Confederate Secretary of War—is offering an exclusive escape to allow you to create a new life where your Confederate past is celebrated without the threat of rope or chains. Worth every golden penny, this Caribbean adventure includes shore excursions in Florida and several near-death experiences which will help you reflect on your life choices and purpose for the coming years.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some Confederate gold on your way out of Richmond (or when you finally leave Jeff Davis) and come for an unforgettable experience with Breckinridge on his private yacht for the escape of a lifetime! (Details below. Ask if you are eligible for promotions***.)
To get in the proper frame of mind as your journey to the river to meet your cruising vessel, we recommend reading The Rise and Fall of Athens. (This is a sponsored advertisement from the publisher.)
You’ll spend the first part of the journey tramping through the woods and swamps of south Georgia with inexperienced guides to reach Florida. Be sure to bring lots of bug spray!
You’ll find your exclusive boat waiting for you at Fort Butler and launching into the St. John River. It’s a delightful “small, open craft, only 17 or 18 feet long, with a place in front to ‘step’ a very small mast, so as to use a sail when there was wind, by holding the end of the rope in the hand.” The boat is equipped with a traditional work-out option: four oars for daily rowing exercises. Crewed by paroled Confederates, you’ll definitely be in secure hands for your voyage downriver and into the Gulf of Mexico. Launch is on May 26, 1865 – don’t miss it.
As you paddle along the St. John River, you’ll have the opportunity to get lost in the narrow passages and take part in an on-shore excursion to hunt alligator. Fishing is allowed from the boat.
For food—there are so many options crammed into the boat that you won’t be able to lie down! (Literally) For the first week, you’ll enjoy corn mush for breakfast, fish at other meals, and a drink made with our signature brand of “dirty brown sugar” that some of our guests have called “a very miserable lemonade.” There’s also cornbread and sweet potatoes. During “starve week” (awful grim name, isn’t it? Really need to talk to the marketing department about that), you’ll hunt for turtle eggs and even try a bite of pelican.
After cruising the river, you’ll have a unique opportunity of making a 28 mile, overland journey to the Indian River. You’ll have to take part in the excursion with a willing heart (or at least without complaining) because otherwise Breckinridge will tell you: “No work, no grub.” It’s all part of his exclusive character-building exercises.
You’ll catch a glimpse of Cape Canaveral on May 31 as you begin to cruise the Indian River (which is actually an arm of the Atlantic Ocean). Then on June 2, hold your breath with anticipation, as your boat slips past real, live Federal guards at Fort Pierce.
Spend some time exploring on shore and help decide on your destination: Grand Bahama Island, which is just 70 miles away by now.
Heart-pounding adventures on the second week of the cruise include seeing and hiding from a U.S. Navy steamer and role playing pirates to capture a boat of Federal deserters to get provisions and commandeer a much nicer cruise vessel for the voyage in the Caribbean. You’ll even be dressed appropriately by this time if you follow your leader’s example and wear a ragged blue flannel shirt and a huge straw hat that “flapped over his head like the ears of an elephant.”
You’ll decide to make your destination Cuba instead of the Bahamas and then spend the next few days avoiding Federal patrols and foraging on shore for enough provisions for the voyage.
Sailing in the gulf will test your endurance with days under the hot sun, near capsizes into shark-infested waters, begging for supplies from a U.S civilian merchant ship, and navigating by a compass and the stars. You’ll finally sight a lighthouse but still get stuck on a reef.
Finally, on June 11, 1865—after just over two weeks in a boat—you’ll anchor safely and enjoy a brief religious service before setting foot on Cuba to re-make your life. You’re still a traitor, according to the U.S. Government, but you’re an Escaped Traitor with a whole world of opportunities ahead of you. We recommend the cruise to Canada or Britain as your next move and definitely see if they are offering publishing deals for you to write about your Southern cause, battlefield victories, or harrowing escapes.
***Since Breckinridge is still the Confederate Secretary of War, ask him if you can get a signed promotion. Trust us, it might help with the pension thing later on…or at least give you better status as the Confederate Veteran Club organizes. And don’t be shy! If he’s promoting you to major on paper, tell him you really want to be a Kentucky Colonel and you have an awesome recipe for fried chicken.
[End of Advertisement]
Skip the mosquitoes in Florida, my friends! Travel Mexico with Lee’s Bad Old Man and then cruise the Gulf to Cuba. Never mind the details, but get ready for another adventure to escape your old life. (No religious services at the end.)
Signed, Jubal Early
[End of Advertisement]
April Fools from Emerging Civil War!
Author’s Note: Most of these details are based on the real historical escape of John C. Breckinridge. Please reference Book 2, Chapter 11 in William C. Davis’s book Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol for a proper account of his escape and voyage to Cuba after the Civil War.
And, yes, Breckinridge really did sign some promotion papers during his escape.
3 Responses to John Breckinridge’s Unforgettable Get-Away!
What a great way to start my day. Thanks for that, Sarah!
Great post, Sarah Kay!! Breckinridge’s “escape” [ the real one; see also Burke Davis’ The Long Surrender (1985) with detailed maps of the routes of Jefferson Davis, Breckinridge and Judah Benjamin and an interesting Epilogue on both North and South leaders post-bellum and Clint Johnson’s Pursuit (2008).] is one of my favorite legendary exploits of the end of “the War.”
Your well-chosen humor was the perfect balance.
Nobody could escape like JCB! My man!