Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

Overview
Jefferson Finis Davis also known as Jeff Davis, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 statesman and leader of the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, serving as President
President of the Confederate States of America
The President of the Confederate States of America was the Head of State and Head of Government of the Confederate States of America, which was formed from the states which declared their secession from the United States, thus precipitating the American Civil War. The only person to hold the...

 for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane (Cook) Davis. After attending Transylvania University
Transylvania University
Transylvania University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky, United States, affiliated with the Christian Church . The school was founded in 1780. It offers 38 majors, and pre-professional degrees in engineering and accounting...

, Davis graduated from West Point and fought in the Mexican–American War as a colonel of a volunteer regiment. He served as the United States Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 under Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army...

. Both before and after his time in the Pierce administration, he served as a Democratic U.S. Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 representing the State of Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

.
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Timeline

1847   Jefferson Davis is elected to the US senate, his first political post.

1861   American Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.

1861   American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is elected the Provisional President of the Confederate States of America by the Confederate convention at Montgomery, Alabama.

1861   In Montgomery, Alabama, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America.

1861   American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederate States of America.

1861   American Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis appoints Judah Benjamin secretary of war.

1862   Jefferson Davis is officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia. He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.

1863   American Civil War: following his defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (which is refused upon receipt).

1865   American Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis and most of his Cabinet flee the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

1865   American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

 
Encyclopedia
Jefferson Finis Davis also known as Jeff Davis, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 statesman and leader of the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, serving as President
President of the Confederate States of America
The President of the Confederate States of America was the Head of State and Head of Government of the Confederate States of America, which was formed from the states which declared their secession from the United States, thus precipitating the American Civil War. The only person to hold the...

 for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane (Cook) Davis. After attending Transylvania University
Transylvania University
Transylvania University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky, United States, affiliated with the Christian Church . The school was founded in 1780. It offers 38 majors, and pre-professional degrees in engineering and accounting...

, Davis graduated from West Point and fought in the Mexican–American War as a colonel of a volunteer regiment. He served as the United States Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 under Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army...

. Both before and after his time in the Pierce administration, he served as a Democratic U.S. Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 representing the State of Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

. As a senator, he argued against secession
Secession in the United States
Secession in the United States can refer to secession of a state from the United States, secession of part of a state from that state to form a new state, or secession of an area from a city or county....

, but did agree that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to secede from the Union.

On February 9, 1861, after he resigned from the United States Senate, Davis was selected to be the provisional President of the Confederate States of America; he was elected without opposition to a six-year term that November. During his presidency, Davis took charge of the Confederate war plans but was unable to find a strategy to stop the larger, more powerful and better organized Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

. His diplomatic efforts failed to gain recognition from any foreign country, and he paid little attention to the collapsing Confederate economy, printing more and more paper money to cover the war's expenses. Historians have criticized Davis for being a much less effective war leader than his Union counterpart Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, which they attribute to Davis being overbearing, controlling, and overly meddlesome, as well as being out of touch with public opinion, and lacking support from a political party (since the Confederacy had no political parties). His preoccupation with detail, reluctance to delegate responsibility, lack of popular appeal, feuds with powerful state governors, inability to get along with people who disagreed with him, neglect of civil matters in favor of military ones—all these shortcomings worked against him.

After Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, he was charged with treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

. Although he was not tried, he was stripped of his eligibility to run for public office; Congress posthumously lifted this restriction in 1978. While not disgraced, he was displaced in Southern affection after the war by the leading Confederate general Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

. However, many Southerners empathized with his defiance, refusal to accept defeat, and resistance to Reconstruction. Over time, admiration for his pride and ideals made him a Civil War hero to many Southerners, and his legacy became part of the foundation of the postwar New South
New South
New South, New South Democracy or New South Creed is a phrase that has been used intermittently since the American Civil War to describe the American South, after 1877. The term "New South" is used in contrast to the Old South of the plantation system of the antebellum period.The term has been used...

. In spite of his former status as the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis began to encourage reconciliation by the late 1880s, telling Southerners to be loyal to the Union.

Early life and first military career


Both of his Davis's paternal grandparents had emigrated to North America from the region of Snowdonia
Snowdonia
Snowdonia is a region in north Wales and a national park of in area. It was the first to be designated of the three National Parks in Wales, in 1951.-Name and extent:...

 in the North of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, the rest of his ancestry can be traced back to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Evan married Lydia Emory Williams, also from Philadelphia. Samuel Emory Davis was born to them in 1756. Lydia had two sons from a previous marriage; along with his two half-brothers, Samuel served in the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. He later married Jane Cook, who was born in Christian County, Kentucky
Christian County, Kentucky
Christian County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It was formed in 1797. As of 2000, its population was 72,265. Its county seat is Hopkinsville, Kentucky...

 in 1759 to William Cook and his wife Sarah Simpson. Samuel and Jane were married in 1783 and had 10 children. Jefferson was the last and was born on June 3, 1808. Samuel died on July 4, 1824, and Jane on October 3, 1845.

During Davis' youth, his family moved twice: in 1811 to St. Mary Parish, Louisiana
St. Mary Parish, Louisiana
St. Mary Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The parish seat is Franklin. As of 2000, the population was 53,500.The Morgan City Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of St. Mary Parish.-Geography:...

 and in 1812 to Wilkinson County, Mississippi
Wilkinson County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 10,312 people, 3,578 households, and 2,511 families residing in the county. The population density was 15 people per square mile . There were 5,106 housing units at an average density of 8 per square mile...

. Three of Jefferson’s older brothers served during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

. In 1813 Davis began his education at the Wilkinson Academy, near the family plantation
Plantations in the American South
Plantations were an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum .-Planter :The owner of a plantation was called a planter...

 in the small town of Woodville. Two years later, Davis entered the Catholic school of Saint Thomas at St. Rose Priory
St. Rose Priory
St. Rose Priory, a house of the Dominican Order, was the location of the first Catholic educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains....

, a school operated by the Dominican Order
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 in Washington County, Kentucky
Washington County, Kentucky
Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2000, the population was 10,916. Its county seat is Springfield. The county is named for George Washington. Washington County was the first county formed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when it reached statehood...

. At the time, he was the only Protestant student at the school. Davis went on to Jefferson College at Washington, Mississippi
Washington, Mississippi
Washington is a small unincorporated town in Adams County, Mississippi, United States, close to Natchez.-History:The town of Washington's namesake is George Washington...

 in 1818, and then to Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

 in 1821.

In 1824 Davis entered the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 (West Point). While at West Point, Davis was placed under house arrest for his role in the Eggnog Riot
Eggnog Riot
The Eggnog Riot, sometimes known as the Grog Mutiny, was a riot that took place at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, on 24–25 December 1826. It was caused by the smuggling of whiskey, two days prior to the incident, to make eggnog for a Christmas Day party in the North...

 in Christmas 1826, but graduated 23rd in a class of 33 in June 1828. Following graduation, Second Lieutenant Davis was assigned to the 1st Infantry Regiment and was stationed at Fort Crawford
Fort Crawford
Fort Crawford was an outpost of the United States Army located in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, during the 19th Century. The Second Fort Crawford Military Hospital was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1960....

, Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

. Lt. Davis was home in Mississippi for the entire Black Hawk War
Black Hawk War
The Black Hawk War was a brief conflict fought in 1832 between the United States and Native Americans headed by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader. The war erupted soon after Black Hawk and a group of Sauks, Meskwakis, and Kickapoos known as the "British Band" crossed the Mississippi River into the U.S....

 of 1832, but was assigned by his colonel, Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

, to escort Black Hawk himself to prison. It is said that the chief liked Davis because of the kind treatment he had shown.

Marriage, plantation life, and early political career



Davis served under Zachary Taylor starting in 1832. That same year, Taylor's family, including his daughter Sarah Knox Taylor
Sarah Knox Taylor
Sarah Knox Taylor was the daughter of General Zachary Taylor, later President of the United States and Margaret Taylor, and was married to Jefferson Davis before he became President of the Confederate States of America.While living at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin where her father commanded Fort...

, joined him at Fort Crawford, and Jefferson and Sarah became friends and fell in love. At first her father had nothing against Davis personally, but he did not want Sarah to be an army wife, having had first-hand experience with the combination of family and military life. Later, Taylor developed a dislike for Davis, but the couple continued to see each other and intended to marry. When Davis left Fort Crawford in 1833, he did not see Sarah for over two years. During this time he decided to leave the army and become a cotton planter with his brother Joseph; this may have been partly due to Zachary Taylor's concerns. Sarah and Jefferson were married on June 17, 1835, at the house of her aunt near Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096...

. The newly weds settled at the groom's brother Joseph Davis' plantation at Davis Bend in Warren County, Mississippi
Warren County, Mississippi
-National protected areas:* Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge * Vicksburg National Military Park -Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 49,644 people, 18,756 households, and 13,222 families residing in the county. The population density was 85 people per square mile...

, but the marriage proved to be short. While visiting Davis' oldest sister near Saint Francisville, Louisiana, both newlyweds contracted malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, and Sarah died three months after the wedding on September 15, 1835.

Joseph gave his brother 900 acres of land adjoining his property where Davis built Brierfield Plantation
Brierfield Plantation
Brierfield Plantation was a house located in Davis Bend, Mississippi, south of Vicksburg. It was the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The house was destroyed by fire in 1931....

. At the time Davis had only one slave, James Pemberton. Clearing the land and growing cotton required slave labor and by early 1836 Davis had purchased 16 slaves. The number increased to 40 by 1840 and 74 by 1845. Pemberton served as Davis' overseer, an unusual position for a slave in Mississippi.

For the next eight years, Davis was reclusive, studying government and history and engaging in private political discussions with his brother Joseph. In 1840 he attended a Democratic meeting in Vicksburg and, to his surprise, was chosen as a delegate to the party's state convention in Jackson. In 1842 he once again attended the Democratic convention, and in 1843 became a candidate for the state House of Representatives but lost his first election. The following year, 1844, Davis was sent to the party convention for a third time and his interest in politics deepened. He was selected as one of six presidential electors for the 1844 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1844
In the United States presidential election of 1844, Democrat James K. Polk defeated Whig Henry Clay in a close contest that turned on foreign policy, with Polk favoring the annexation of Texas and Clay opposed....

 and campaigned effectively throughout Mississippi for the Democratic candidate, James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...



That same year, Davis met Varina Howell
Varina Howell
Varina Banks Howell Davis was an American author who was best known as the First Lady of the Confederate States of America, second wife of President Jefferson Davis.-Childhood:...

, the granddaughter of the late New Jersey Governor
Governor of New Jersey
The Office of the Governor of New Jersey is the executive branch for the U.S. state of New Jersey. The office of Governor is an elected position, for which elected officials serve four year terms. While individual politicians may serve as many terms as they can be elected to, Governors cannot be...

 Richard Howell
Richard Howell
Richard Howell was Governor of New Jersey from 1794 to 1801.-Biography:Howell was born in Newark, Delaware. He was a lawyer and soldier of the early United States Army. He served as captain and later major of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment from 1775 to 1779. Richard was a twin, his twin brother was...

. Within a month of their meeting, Davis had asked her to marry him. They married on February 26, 1845. His political activity continued. On July 8, 1845 he received the party's nomination for one of the at-large seats in United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 and in November he was elected. He was sworn into office on December 8, 1845.

Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis had six children; three died before reaching adulthood. Their first son, Samuel Emory, was born July 30, 1852, and was named after his grandfather; he died June 30, 1854, of an undiagnosed disease at less than two years old. Margaret Howell was born the following year on February 25, 1855. She married Joel Addison Hayes Junior (1848–1919) and moved to Colorado Springs. They had five children; Margaret was the only child of Jefferson and Varina to marry and raise a family. She died on July 18, 1909 at the age of 54.

Their third child, Jefferson Davis Junior, was born on January 16, 1857. He died of yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 at age 21 on October 16, 1878, during an epidemic that swept the Mississippi river valley and claimed the lives of 20,000 people. Joseph Evan was born on April 18, 1859, and died at five years old as the result of an accidental fall on April 30, 1864. William Howell was born on December 6, 1861, and died of diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

 on October 16, 1872, before reaching the age of 11. Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis
Varina Anne Davis
Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis was an American author. A daughter of President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, she became known as "Daughter of the Confederacy", for her appearances with her father on behalf of Confederate veterans' groups.-Childhood:Varina Anne Davis was born...

 was born on June 27, 1864, several months after Joseph's death. She died on September 18, 1898, at age 34.

Second military career


In 1846 the Mexican-American War began. Davis resigned his house seat in June and raised a volunteer regiment, the Mississippi Rifles, becoming its colonel. On July 21, 1846, they sailed from New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

 for the Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 coast. Davis armed the regiment with the M1841 Mississippi Rifle
M1841 Mississippi Rifle
The M1841 Mississippi Rifle is a muzzle loading percussion rifle used in the Mexican–American War & the American Civil War.-History:When Eli Whitney Blake took over management of the Harpers Ferry Armory in 1842, he set about tooling up under his new contract from the U.S. government for making the...

 and trained the regiment in its use, making it particularly effective in combat. In September 1846 Davis participated in the successful siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 of Monterrey
Monterrey
Monterrey , is the capital city of the northeastern state of Nuevo León in the country of Mexico. The city is anchor to the third-largest metropolitan area in Mexico and is ranked as the ninth-largest city in the nation. Monterrey serves as a commercial center in the north of the country and is the...

.

On February 22, 1847, Davis fought bravely at the Battle of Buena Vista
Battle of Buena Vista
The Battle of Buena Vista , also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States Army use artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican army in the Mexican-American War...

 and was shot in the foot, being carried to safety by Robert H. Chilton
Robert H. Chilton
Robert Hall Chilton was an officer in the U.S. Army and then a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He served as Chief of Staff for the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee for much of the war.-Biography:Chilton was born in Loudoun County,...

. In recognition of Davis' bravery and initiative, commanding general Zachary Taylor is reputed to have said, "My daughter, sir, was a better judge of men than I was." On May 17, 1847, President James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

 offered Davis a Federal commission as a brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 and command of a brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 of militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

. Davis declined the appointment arguing that the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 gives the power of appointing militia officers to the state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s, and not to the Federal government of the United States
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

.

Senator



Because of his war service, Governor Brown
Albert G. Brown
Albert Gallatin Brown was Governor of Mississippi from 1844 to 1848 and a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1854 through 1861. Brown attended Mississippi College. He was a Democrat....

 of Mississippi appointed Davis to fill out the senate term of the late Jesse Speight
Jesse Speight
Jesse Speight was a North Carolina and Mississippi politician in the nineteenth century.Born in Greene County, North Carolina, Speight attended country schools as a child. He was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons in 1820, serving as Speaker of the House, and was a member of the North...

. He took his seat on December 5, 1847, and was elected to serve the remainder of his term in January 1848. The Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 appointed him a regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 at the end of December 1847.

In 1848 Senator Davis introduced the first of several proposed amendments to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

; this one would annex most of northeastern Mexico
Northeastern Mexico
Northeastern Mexico, is a geographic region of Mexico, composed of the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. The Northeast is one of the wealthiest and most industrialized regions of Mexico; with Nuevo León having the highest GDP per capita among the Mexican states, closely followed by...

 and failed with a vote of 44 to 11. Regarding Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, Davis declared that it "must be ours" to "increase the number of slaveholding constituencies." He also was concerned about the security implications of a Spanish holding lying a few miles off the coast of Florida.

A group of Cuban revolutionaries led by Narciso López
Narciso López
Narciso López was a Venezuelan adventurer and soldier, best known for an expedition aimed at liberating Cuba from Spain in the 1850s..- Life in Venezuela, Cuba, and Spain:...

 intended to forcibly liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. In 1849, López visited Davis and asked him to lead his filibuster
Filibuster (military)
A filibuster, or freebooter, is someone who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country to foment or support a revolution...

 expedition to Cuba. He offered an immediate payment of $100,000, plus the same amount when Cuba was liberated. Davis turned down the offer, stating that it was inconsistent with his duty as a senator. When asked to recommend someone else, Davis suggested Robert E. Lee, then an army major in Baltimore; López approached Lee, who also declined on the grounds of his duty.

The senate made Davis chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs
United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
The Committee on Armed Services is a committee of the United States Senate empowered with legislative oversight of the nation's military, including the Department of Defense, military research and development, nuclear energy , benefits for members of the military, the Selective Service System and...

. When his term expired he was elected to the same seat (by the Mississippi legislature, as the constitution mandated at the time). He had not served a year when he resigned (in September 1851) to run for the governorship of Mississippi on the issue of the Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

, which Davis opposed. He was defeated by fellow Senator Henry Stuart Foote by 999 votes. Left without political office, Davis continued his political activity. He took part in a convention on states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

, held at Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is the capital and the most populous city of the US state of Mississippi. It is one of two county seats of Hinds County ,. The population of the city declined from 184,256 at the 2000 census to 173,514 at the 2010 census...

, in January 1852. In the weeks leading up to the presidential election of 1852, he campaigned in numerous Southern states for Democratic candidates Franklin Pierce and William R. King
William R. King
William Rufus DeVane King was the 13th Vice President of the United States for about six weeks , and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama...

.

Secretary of War



Franklin Pierce won the presidential election, and in 1853 he made Davis his Secretary of War. In this capacity, Davis gave Congress four annual reports (in December of each year), as well as an elaborate one (submitted on February 22, 1855) on various routes
Pacific Railroad Surveys
The Pacific Railroad Surveys -A series of explorations of the American West to explore possible routes for a transcontinental railroad across North America. The expeditions included surveyors, scientists, and artists and resulted in an immense body of data covering at least on the American West....

 for the proposed Transcontinental Railroad
First Transcontinental Railroad
The First Transcontinental Railroad was a railroad line built in the United States of America between 1863 and 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Union Pacific Railroad that connected its statutory Eastern terminus at Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska The First...

. He promoted the Gadsden Purchase
Gadsden Purchase
The Gadsden Purchase is a region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that was purchased by the United States in a treaty signed by James Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico at the time, on December 30, 1853. It was then ratified, with changes, by the U.S...

 of today's southern Arizona from Mexico. He also increased the size of the regular army from 11,000 to 15,000 and introduced general usage of the improved guns which he had used successfully during the Mexican–American War.

The Pierce administration ended in 1857 with the loss of the Democratic nomination to James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

. Davis' term was to end with Pierce's, so he ran successfully for the Senate, and re-entered it on March 4, 1857.

Return to Senate


His renewed service in the senate was interrupted by an illness that threatened him with the loss of his left eye
Human eye
The human eye is an organ which reacts to light for several purposes. As a conscious sense organ, the eye allows vision. Rod and cone cells in the retina allow conscious light perception and vision including color differentiation and the perception of depth...

. Still nominally serving in the senate, Davis spent the summer of 1858 in Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

. On the Fourth of July, he delivered an anti-secessionist speech on board a ship near Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

. He again urged the preservation of the Union on October 11 in Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall , located near the waterfront and today's Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now part of...

, Boston, and returned to the senate soon after.

As Davis explained in his memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government is a book written by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Davis wrote the book as a straightforward history of the Confederate States of America and as an apologia for the causes that he...

, he believed that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to secede from the Union. He counseled delay among his fellow Southerners, because he did not think that the North would permit the peaceable exercise of the right to secession. Having served as secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce, he also knew that the South lacked the military and naval resources necessary to defend itself if war were to break out. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860
United States presidential election, 1860
The United States presidential election of 1860 was a quadrennial election, held on November 6, 1860, for the office of President of the United States and the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout the 1850s on questions surrounding the...

, however, events accelerated. South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860, and Mississippi did so on January 9, 1861. Davis had expected this but waited until he received official notification; then on January 21, the day Davis called "the saddest day of my life", he delivered a farewell address to the United States Senate, resigned and returned to Mississippi.

President of the Confederate States of America



Anticipating a call for his services since Mississippi had seceded, Davis had sent a telegraph message to Governor Pettus
John J. Pettus
John Jones Pettus was a United States politician. A member of the Democratic party, he was Governor of the state of Mississippi from January 5, 1854 to January 10, 1854, and later was elected to a full term, from 21 November 1859 - 16 November 1863...

 saying, "Judge what Mississippi requires of me and place me accordingly." On January 23, 1861, Pettus made Davis a major general of the Army of Mississippi. On February 9, a constitutional convention at Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

, considered Davis, Howell Cobb
Howell Cobb
Howell Cobb was an American political figure. A Southern Democrat, Cobb was a five-term member of the United States House of Representatives and Speaker of the House from 1849 to 1851...

, Alexander Stephens
Alexander Stephens
Alexander Hamilton Stephens was an American politician from Georgia. He was Vice President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. He also served as a U.S...

, and Robert Toombs
Robert Toombs
Robert Augustus Toombs was an American political leader, United States Senator from Georgia, 1st Secretary of State of the Confederacy, and a Confederate general in the Civil War.-Early life:...

 for the office of provisional president. Davis was unanimously elected and was inaugurated on February 18, 1861. He was chosen partly because he was a well-known and experienced moderate who had served in a president's cabinet. In meetings of his own Mississippi legislature, Davis had argued against secession; but when a majority of the delegates opposed him, he gave in. Davis wanted to serve as a general in the Confederate States Army and not as the president, but accepted the role for which he had been chosen.

Several forts in Confederate territory remained in Union hands. Davis sent a commission to Washington with an offer to pay for any Federal property on Southern soil, as well as the Southern portion of the national debt. Lincoln refused to meet it. Informal discussions did take place with Secretary of State William Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

 through Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell
John Archibald Campbell
John Archibald Campbell was an American jurist.Campbell was born near Washington, Georgia, to Col. Duncan Greene Campbell...

, an Alabamian who had not yet resigned; Seward hinted that Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

 would be evacuated, but nothing definite was said.

On March 1, Davis appointed General P. G. T. Beauregard
P. G. T. Beauregard
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was a Louisiana-born American military officer, politician, inventor, writer, civil servant, and the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Today he is commonly referred to as P. G. T. Beauregard, but he rarely used...

 to command all Confederate troops
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 in the vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

, where state officials chafed to take possession of Fort Sumter; Beauregard was to prepare his forces but avoid an attack on the fort. When Lincoln moved to resupply the fort, Davis and his cabinet directed Beauregard to demand its surrender or else take possession by force. Major Anderson did not surrender, Beauregard bombarded the fort, and the Civil War began.

When Virginia joined the Confederacy, Davis moved his government to Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 in May 1861. He and his family took up his residence there at the White House of the Confederacy later that month. Having served since February as the provisional president, Davis was elected to a full six-year term on November 6, 1861 and was inaugurated on February 22, 1862.

In June 1862, in his most successful move, Davis assigned General Robert E. Lee to replace the wounded Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 in command of the Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

, the main Confederate army in the Eastern Theater. That December he made a tour of Confederate armies in the west of the country
Western Theater of the American Civil War
This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.-Theater of operations:...

. Davis largely made the main strategic decisions on his own, or approved those suggested by Lee. He had a very small circle of military advisers. Davis evaluated the Confederacy's national resources and weaknesses and decided that in order to win its independence the Confederacy was going to have to fight mostly on the strategic defensive. Davis maintained mostly a defensive outlook throughout the war, paying special attention to the defense of his national capital at Richmond. He attempted strategic offensives when he felt that military success would shake Northern self-confidence and strengthen the peace movements there. The campaigns met defeat at Antietam
Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...

 (1862) and Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

 (1863).

Administration and Cabinet



Since the Confederacy was founded on states’ rights, one important factor in Davis’ choice of cabinet members was representation from the various states. He depended partly upon recommendations from congressmen and other prominent people, and this helped maintain good relations between the executive and legislative branches. As more states joined the Confederacy, though, this also led to complaints when there were more states than cabinet positions.

When Davis became the provisional president in 1861, he formed his first cabinet. Robert Toombs of Georgia was the first Secretary of State, and Christopher Memminger
Christopher Memminger
Christopher Gustavus Memminger was a prominent political leader and the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederate States of America.-Early life and career:...

 of South Carolina became Secretary of the Treasury. LeRoy Pope Walker
LeRoy Pope Walker
LeRoy Pope Walker was the first Confederate States Secretary of War.-Early life and career:Walker was born near Huntsville, Alabama in 1817, the son of John Williams Walker and Matilda Pope, and a grandson of LeRoy Pope. He was educated by private tutors, then attended universities in Alabama and...

 of Alabama was made Secretary of War after being recommended for this post by Clement Clay
Clement Claiborne Clay
Clement Claiborne Clay was a U.S. senator from the state of Alabama from 1853 to 1861, and a C.S.A. senator from the Alabama from 1861 to 1863...

 and William Yancey
William Lowndes Yancey
William Lowndes Yancey was a journalist, politician, orator, diplomat and an American leader of the Southern secession movement. A member of the group known as the Fire-Eaters, Yancey was one of the most effective agitators for secession and rhetorical defenders of slavery. An early critic of...

 (both of whom declined to accept cabinet positions themselves). John Reagan
John Henninger Reagan
John Henninger Reagan , was a leading 19th century American politician from the U.S. state of Texas. A Democrat, Reagan resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives when Texas seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. He served in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis as...

 of Texas became Postmaster General, and Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah Philip Benjamin was an American politician and lawyer. Born a British subject in the West Indies, he moved to the United States with his parents and became a citizen. He later became a citizen of the Confederate States of America. After the collapse of the Confederacy, Benjamin moved to...

 of Louisiana became Attorney General. Although Stephen Mallory
Stephen Mallory
Stephen Russell Mallory served in the United States Senate as, Senator from Florida from 1850 to the secession of his home state and the outbreak of the American Civil War. For much of that period, he was chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs...

 was not put forward by the delegation from his state of Florida, Davis insisted that he was the best man for the job of Secretary of the Navy, and he was eventually confirmed.

Once the war began, there were frequent changes to the cabinet. Robert Hunter
Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter
-References:* Patrick, Rembert W. . Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 90–101.-External links:* – A speech by R. M. T. Hunter before the U.S. House of Representatives, May 8th, 1846...

 of Virginia replaced Toombs as Secretary of State on July 25, 1861. On September 17 Walker resigned as Secretary of War; Benjamin left the Attorney General position to take his place, and Thomas Bragg
Thomas Bragg
Thomas Bragg was a politician and lawyer who served as the 34th Governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1855 through 1859. During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate States Cabinet. He was the older brother of General Braxton Bragg...

 of North Carolina (brother of General Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg was a career United States Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army—a principal commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was...

) took Benjamin’s place.

Following the November 1861 election, Davis did not announce the permanent government’s cabinet until March 1862. Benjamin moved again, to Secretary of State; George W. Randolph
George W. Randolph
George Wythe Randolph was a lawyer, planter, and Confederate general. He served for eight months in 1862 as the Confederate States Secretary of War during the American Civil War, when he reformed procurement, wrote the conscription law, and strengthened western defenses...

 of Virginia had been made the Secretary of War. Mallory continued as Secretary of the Navy and Reagan as Postmaster General; both men kept their positions throughout the war. Memminger was still Secretary of the Treasury, while Thomas Hill Watts of Alabama was made Attorney General.

In 1862, Randolph resigned from the War Department, and James Seddon of Virginia was appointed to replace him. In late 1863, Watts resigned as Attorney General to take office as the Governor of Alabama, and George Davis
George Davis (politician)
George Davis was a Confederate States of America political figure and the last Confederate Attorney General, serving from 1864 to 1865.He was not related to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.-Early life and career:...

 of North Carolina took his place. In 1864, Memminger withdrew from the treasury post due to opposition from the congress and was replaced by George Trenholm
George Trenholm
George Alfred Trenholm was a prominent politician in the Confederate States of America and served as the Secretary of the Treasury during its final year.-Biography:...

 of South Carolina. In 1865, congressional opposition likewise caused Seddon to withdraw, and he was replaced by John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge was an American lawyer and politician. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the 14th Vice President of the United States , to date the youngest vice president in U.S...

 of Kentucky.

Strategic failures


Most historians sharply criticize Davis for his flawed military strategy, his selection of friends for military commands, and his neglect of the homefront crises. Until late in the war he resisted efforts to appoint a general-in-chief, essentially handling those duties himself. On January 31, 1865, Lee assumed this role, but it was far too late. Davis insisted on a strategy of trying to defend all Southern territory with ostensibly equal effort, which diluted the limited resources of the South and made it vulnerable to coordinated strategic thrusts by the Union into the vital Western Theater, such as the capture of New Orleans in early 1862. He made other controversial strategic choices, such as allowing Lee to invade the North in 1862 and 1863 while the Western armies were under very heavy pressure. Not only did Lee lose at Gettysburg but simultaneously Vicksburg fell and the Union took control of the Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy. At Vicksburg, the failure to coordinate multiple forces on both sides of the Mississippi River rested primarily on the inability of Davis to create a harmonious departmental arrangement or to force such commanders as generals Edmund Kirby Smith
Edmund Kirby Smith
Edmund Kirby Smith was a career United States Army officer and educator. He served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, notable for his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy after the fall of Vicksburg.After the conflict ended Smith...

, Earl Van Dorn
Earl Van Dorn
Earl Van Dorn was a career United States Army officer, fighting with distinction during the Mexican-American War and against several tribes of Native Americans...

, and Theophilus H. Holmes
Theophilus H. Holmes
Theophilus Hunter Holmes was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate Lieutenant General in the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 to work together.

Davis has been faulted for poor coordination and management of his generals. This includes his reluctance to relieve his personal friend, Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg was a career United States Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army—a principal commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was...

, defeated in important battles and distrusted by his subordinates. He did relieve the cautious but capable Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 and replaced him with the reckless John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

, resulting in the loss of Atlanta and the eventual loss of an army.

Davis gave speeches to soldiers and politicians but largely ignored the common people and thereby failed to harness Confederate nationalism by directing the energies of the people into winning the war. More and more, the plain folk
Plain Folk of the Old South
The Plain Folk of the Old South refers to the middling class of white farmers in the Southern United States before the Civil War, located between the rich planters and the poor whites. At the time they were often called "yeomen". They owned land and had no slaves or only a few. Most of them were...

 resented the favoritism shown the rich and powerful. Davis did not use his presidential pulpit to rally the people with stirring rhetoric—he called instead for people to be fatalistic and to die for their new country. Apart from two month-long trips across the country where he met a few hundred people, Davis stayed in Richmond where few people saw him; newspapers had limited circulation and most Confederates had little favorable information about him. In April 1863, food shortages led to rioting in Richmond, as poor people robbed and looted numerous stores for food until Davis cracked down and restored order. Davis feuded bitterly with his vice president. Perhaps even more serious, he clashed with powerful state governors who used states' rights arguments to withhold their militia units from national service and otherwise blocked mobilization plans.

Final days of the Confederacy



On April 3, 1865, with Union troops
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 under Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 poised to capture Richmond, Davis escaped for Danville, Virginia
Danville, Virginia
Danville is an independent city in Virginia, United States, bounded by Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina. It was the last capital of the Confederate States of America. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Danville with Pittsylvania county for...

, together with the Confederate Cabinet, leaving on the Richmond and Danville Railroad
Richmond and Danville Railroad
The Richmond and Danville Railroad was chartered in Virginia in the United States in 1847. The portion between Richmond and Danville, Virginia was completed in 1856...

. Lincoln sat in his Richmond office 40 hours after Davis' departure. On about April 12, he received Robert E. Lee's letter announcing surrender
Conclusion of the American Civil War
This is a timeline of the conclusion of the American Civil War which includes important battles, skirmishes, raids and other events of 1865. These led to additional Confederate surrenders, key Confederate captures, and disbandments of Confederate military units that occurred after Gen. Robert E...

. Davis issued his last official proclamation as president of the Confederacy, and then went south to Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the third-largest city by population in North Carolina and the largest city in Guilford County and the surrounding Piedmont Triad metropolitan region. According to the 2010 U.S...

.

After Lee's surrender, there was a public meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport is the third largest city in Louisiana. It is the principal city of the fourth largest metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana and is the 109th-largest city in the United States....

, at which many speakers supported continuation of the war. Plans were developed for the Davis government to flee to Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

, Cuba. There, the leaders would regroup and head to the Confederate-controlled Trans-Mississippi area by way of the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

. None of these plans was put into practice.

President Jefferson Davis met with his Confederate Cabinet for the last time on May 5, 1865, in Washington
Washington, Georgia
Washington is a city in Wilkes County, Georgia, United States. The population was 4,295 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Wilkes County...

, Georgia, and the Confederate government was officially dissolved. The meeting took place at the Heard house, the Georgia Branch Bank Building, with 14 officials present. Along with a hand-picked escort led by Given Campbell
Given Campbell
Given Campbell was a Confederate officer best known for leading the final escape of Jefferson Davis in the last days of the Civil War.- Early life :Campbell was born at Salem, Kentucky to James and Mary Campbell...

, Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, at Irwinville
Irwinville, Georgia
Irwinville is an unincorporated community in Irwin County, Georgia, United States. It is best known as the site of Jefferson Davis's capture at the end of the Civil War. On May 9, 1865, Jefferson Davis and a small group of officials camped in this pine forest, not knowing that Union cavalry...

 in Irwin County, Georgia
Irwin County, Georgia
Irwin County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. It was created on December 15, 1818. As of 2000, the population was 9,931. The 2007 Census Estimate shows a population of 9,934...

. In the confusion, Davis put his wife's overcoat over his shoulders and attempted to flee the Union soldiers, leading to caricatures of him being captured while disguised as a woman. Meanwhile, Davis' belongings continued on the train bound for Cedar Key, Florida
Cedar Key, Florida
Cedar Key is a city in Levy County, Florida, United States. The population was 790 at the 2000 census. According to the U.S Census estimates of 2005, the city had a population of 958. The Cedar Keys are a cluster of islands close to the mainland. Most of the developed area of the city has been on...

. They were first hidden at Senator David Levy Yulee
David Levy Yulee
David Levy Yulee, born David Levy was an American politician and attorney from Florida, a territorial delegate to Congress, the first Jewish member of the United States Senate, and a member of the Confederate Congress during the American Civil War...

's plantation in Florida, then placed in the care of a railroad agent in Waldo
Waldo, Florida
Waldo is a city in Alachua County, Florida, United States. The population was 821 at the 2000 census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2004 estimates, the city had a population of 784....

. On June 15, 1865, Union soldiers seized Davis' personal baggage, together with some of the Confederate government's records, from the agent. A historical marker now stands at this site.

Imprisonment and later years



On May 19, 1865, Davis was imprisoned in a casemate
Casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

 at Fortress Monroe
Fort Monroe
Fort Monroe was a military installation in Hampton, Virginia—at Old Point Comfort, the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula...

, on the coast of Virginia. He was placed in irons for three days. Davis was indicted for treason a year later. While in prison, Davis arranged to sell his Mississippi estate to one of his former slaves, Ben Montgomery
Ben Montgomery
Benjamin T. Montgomery was an influential African American inventor, landowner, and freedman.-Early life:In 1837, before the outbreak of the Civil War, Montgomery was sold as a slave to Joseph Emory Davis. Davis' brother, Jefferson Davis, later became the President of the Confederate States of...

. While he was in prison, Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

 sent Davis a portrait of himself on which were written the Latin words "Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et ego reficiam vos, dicit Dominus", which comes from Matthew 11:28 and translates as, "Come to me all ye who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest, sayeth the Lord." A hand-woven crown of thorns associated with the portrait is often said to have been made by the Pope himself, but in fact it may have woven by Varina Davis.

After two years of imprisonment, he was released on bail of $100,000 which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

, Cornelius Vanderbilt
Cornelius Vanderbilt
Cornelius Vanderbilt , also known by the sobriquet Commodore, was an American entrepreneur who built his wealth in shipping and railroads. He was also the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and one of the richest Americans in history...

 and Gerrit Smith
Gerrit Smith
Gerrit Smith was a leading United States social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist...

 (a former member of the Secret Six
Secret Six
The Secret Six, or the Secret Committee of Six, were six wealthy and influential men who secretly funded the American abolitionist, John Brown. They were Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Samuel Gridley Howe, Theodore Parker, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, Gerrit Smith, and George Luther Stearns...

 who had supported John Brown
John Brown (abolitionist)
John Brown was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the...

). Davis visited Canada, Cuba and Europe. In December 1868 the court rejected a motion to nullify the indictment, but the prosecution dropped the case in February 1869. That same year, Davis became president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

. He turned down the opportunity to become the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University is a coeducational public research university located in College Station, Texas . It is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. The sixth-largest university in the United States, A&M's enrollment for Fall 2011 was over 50,000 for the first time in school...

).

During Reconstruction, Davis remained silent; however, he privately expressed opinions that federal military rule and Republican authority over former Confederate states was unjustified. He considered "Yankee and Negroe" rule in the south oppressive. Davis held contemporary beliefs that Blacks were inferior to the White race. Historian William J. Cooper stated that Davis believed in southern social order that included "a democratic white polity based firmly on dominance of a controlled and excluded black caste." In 1876, Davis promoted a society for the stimulation of U.S. trade with South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. He visited England the next year, returning in 1878 to Beauvoir
Beauvoir (Biloxi, Mississippi)
Beauvoir is the historic post-war home and Presidential library of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, begun in 1848 at Biloxi, Mississippi. The main house and library were badly damaged, and other outbuildings were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005...

. Over the next three years there, Davis wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.
Davis' reputation in the South was restored by the book and by his warm reception on his tour of the region in 1886 and 1887. In numerous stops he attended "Lost Cause" ceremonies, where large crowds showered him with affection and local leaders presented emotional speeches honoring his sacrifices to the would-be nation. The Meriden Daily Journal stated that Davis, at a reception held in New Orleans in May, 1887, urged southerners to be loyal to the nation. He said, "United you are now, and if the Union is ever to be broken, let the other side break it." Davis stated that men in the Confederacy had successfully fought for their own rights with inferior numbers during the Civil War and that the northern historians ignored this view. Davis, however, firmly believed that Confederate secession was constitutional. The former Confederate president was optimistic concerning American prosperity and the next generation.

Davis completed A Short History of the Confederate States of America
A Short History of the Confederate States of America
A Short History of the Confederate States of America is a memoir written by Jefferson Davis, completed shortly before his death in 1889. Davis wrote most of this book while staying at Beauvoir along the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi....

in October 1889. On November 6 he left Beauvoir to visit the plantation at Brierfield. On the steamboat trip upriver, he became ill; on the 13th he left Brierfield to return to New Orleans. Varina, who had taken another boat in order to reach Brierfield, met him on the river, and he finally received some medical care. They arrived in New Orleans on the 16th, and he was taken to the home of Charles Erasmus Fenner, an Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Though he remained in bed, he was stable for the next two weeks, but took a turn for the worse in early December. Just when he appeared to be improving, he lost consciousness on the evening of the 5th; he died at age 81 at 12:45 AM on Friday, December 6, 1889, in the presence of several friends and with his hand in Varina's.

His funeral was one of the largest in the South, and included a continuous cortège, day and night, from New Orleans to Richmond. Davis was first entombed at the Army of Northern Virginia tomb at Metairie Cemetery
Metairie Cemetery
Metairie Cemetery is a cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The name has caused some people to mistakenly presume that the cemetery is located in Metairie, Louisiana, but it is located within the New Orleans city limits, on Metairie Road .-History:This site was previously a horse...

 in New Orleans. In 1893, Mrs. Davis decided to transport his remains for burial at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. After the remains were exhumed in New Orleans, they lay for a day at Memorial Hall of the newly organized Louisiana Historical Association
Louisiana Historical Association
The Louisiana Historical Association is an organization of professional historians and interested laypersons dedicated to the preservation, publication, and dissemination of the history of the U.S. state of Louisiana, with particular emphasis at the inception on territorial, statehood, and the...

, with many mourners passing by the casket, including Governor Murphy J. Foster, Sr.
Murphy J. Foster
Murphy James Foster, Sr. , was a Louisiana politician who served two terms as the 31st Governor of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900.Early and personal life...

 The body was then placed on a Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was a Class I railroad that operated freight and passenger services in the southeast United States.Chartered by the state of Kentucky in 1850, the L&N, as it was generally known, grew into one of the great success stories of American business...

 car and transported to Richmond.

Legacy


Many memorials to Jefferson Davis have been made throughout the United States. One notable example is the 351 feet (107 m) concrete obelisk located at the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site
Jefferson Davis State Historic Site
-External links:***...

 in Fairview, Kentucky
Fairview, Christian County, Kentucky
Fairview is a small unincorporated community on the boundary between Christian and Todd Counties in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It is about halfway between the cities of Hopkinsville and Elkton. It was founded about 1793 by Samuel Davis who opened a post office in 1802 and called it Davistown; it...

, which marks the site of his birth (which was part of Christian County at that time). Construction on the monument began in 1917 and was finished in 1924. Another example is the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library
Jefferson Davis Presidential Library
The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library is a library and museum in Mississippi with the purpose of preserving, housing and making available, the papers, records, artifacts and other historical materials of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. Despite its name it is not an...

 at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was dedicated in 1998, suffered heavy damage during Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 in 2005, and reopened in 2008.

Based at Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

 in Houston, Texas, The Papers of Jefferson Davis is an editing project that has been gathering and publishing documents related to Jefferson Davis since the early 1960s and has published 12 volumes, the first in 1971 and the most recent in 2008; 3 more volumes are planned. The project has roughly 100,000 documents in its archives.
The birthday of Jefferson Davis is commemorated in several states. His actual birthday, June 3, is celebrated in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee; in Alabama, it is celebrated on the first Monday in June. In Mississippi, the last Monday of May (Memorial Day
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War...

) is celebrated as "National Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis' Birthday". In Texas, "Confederate Heroes Day" is celebrated on January 19, the birthday of Robert E. Lee; Jefferson Davis’ birthday had been officially celebrated on June 3 but was combined with Lee's birthday in 1973.

In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy
United Daughters of the Confederacy
The United Daughters of the Confederacy is a women's heritage association dedicated to honoring the memory of those who served in the military and died in service to the Confederate States of America . UDC began as the National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy, organized in 1894 by...

 conceived the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway, a transcontinental highway that would travel through the South. Portions of the highway's route in Virginia, Alabama and other states still bear the name of Jefferson Davis. On September 20, 2011, the County Board of Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The land that became Arlington was originally donated by Virginia to the United States government to form part of the new federal capital district. On February 27, 1801, the United States Congress organized the area as a subdivision of...

 voted to change the name of "Old Jefferson Davis Highway" (the original route of the road in the County) after the chairman of the Board, who was originally from the Northeast, stated: "I have a problem with 'Jefferson Davis' ... There are aspects of our history I'm not particularly interested in celebrating".

Secondary sources

  • Allen, Felicity (1999). Jefferson Davis: Unconquerable Heart. Columbia: The University of Missouri Press.
  • Ballard, Michael B. (1986). Long Shadow: Jefferson Davis and the Final Days of the Confederacy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
  • Collins, Donald E. (2005). The Death and Resurrection of Jefferson Davis. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Cooper, William J. (2000). Jefferson Davis, American. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Cooper, William J. (2008). Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Current, Richard, et al. (1993). Encyclopedia of the Confederacy. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Davis, William C. (1991). Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Dodd, William E. (1907). Jefferson Davis. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Company.
  • Eaton, Clement (1977). Jefferson Davis. New York: The Free Press.
  • Escott, Paul (1978). After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Hattaway, Herman and Beringer, Richard E. (2002). Jefferson Davis, Confederate President. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
  • Neely Jr., Mark E. (1993). Confederate Bastille: Jefferson Davis and Civil Liberties. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.
  • Patrick, Rembert W. (1944). Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Rable, George C. (1994). The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Stoker, Donald, "There Was No Offensive-Defensive Confederate Strategy," Journal of Military History, 73 (April 2009), 571–90.
  • Strode, Hudson (1955). Jefferson Davis, Volume I: American Patriot. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company.
  • Strode, Hudson (1959). Jefferson Davis, Volume II: Confederate President. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company.
  • Strode, Hudson (1964). Jefferson Davis, Volume III: Tragic Hero. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company.
  • Swanson, James L. (2010). Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Thomas, Emory M. (1979). The Confederate Nation, 1861–1865. New York: Harper & Row.

External links